Mark 11




The Triumphal Entry (11:1-11)

(Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-16)

1 Up until this point, the events of Jesus’ life that Mark has described have taken place over a period of three years. Now Mark begins the account of the final week before Jesus’ death.

Jesus and His disciples arrived in Bethphage and Bethany, two small villages near the Mount of Olives, a large hill just outside Jerusalem.

2-3 The prophet Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey70 (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:5). Jesus knew that a colt would be ready for Him and sent two of His disciples to fetch it. According to Matthew 21:2,7, the disciples brought back both the colt and its mother, but Jesus rode on the colt, on which no one had ever ridden before.

4-7 The disciples brought the donkey and its colt to Jesus, and spread their cloaks on the animals (Matthew 21:7). Jesus then sat on the cloaks, and rode on the colt into Jerusalem.

8-10 Many people spread their cloaks on the road. Some of the people had followed Jesus from Galilee; others were disciples of Jesus who lived in Jerusalem. They spread their cloaks on the road as a sign of their subjection to Christ (2 Kings 9:13). Others spread palm branches before Him as a sign of joy and victory.

The people shouted, “Hosanna!71 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:25-26). According to Luke 19:39-40, there was so great a tumult that some of the Pharisees in the crowd told Jesus to rebuke His disciples for creating such a disturbance. But Jesus answered them, “… if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). Jesus entered Jerusalem openly as the Messiah, the Son of God. It was impossible that there should be silence during such a great event!

According to John 12:16, Jesus’ disciples did not at first understand the significance of His riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. Only after Jesus was glorified—that is, raised from the dead—did they understand that in this way the prophecy of Zechariah had been fulfilled (see Luke 24:25-27,45; John 12:12-16). Only after Jesus’ death and resurrection did the Holy Spirit guide them into all truth (John 16:13).

The Messiah did not ride into Jerusalem on a great horse at the head of a grand army like an earthly king. He had come as one righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He had come to proclaim peace to the nations (Zechariah 9:10).

11 During this last week in Jerusalem, Jesus returned each evening to Bethany and spent the night there.


Jesus Clears the Temple (11:12-19)

(Matthew 21:12-19; Luke 19:45-48)

12-14 On the way into Jerusalem the next morning, Jesus saw a fig tree on which there was no fruit. He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then Jesus cursed the fig tree, and according to Matthew 21:19, the fig tree immediately withered (see verses 20-21).

Why did Jesus do this? It wasn’t the tree’s fault there was no fruit: it was not the season for figs. Jesus cursed the fig tree in order to give an illustration of what was about to happen to ISRAEL, the Jewish nation. He did this as a warning to the Jews. The Old Testament prophets had often compared Israel with a fig tree (Jeremiah 8:13; 29:17; Micah 7:1-2). From a distance, Israel looked good—covered with “leaves.” But when one looked closely, there was no “fruit” of righteousness to be seen. From henceforth, no one would ever eat fruit—that is, obtain blessing—from Israel again. Israel should have been a light, a blessing, for the nations of the world. Instead, it had become spiritually dead, without spiritual fruit. It had become like a barren fig tree. And just as Christ caused the fig tree to wither, so forty years later God’s judgment fell on Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. In 70 A.D. it was totally destroyed by the Roman army.

Many who call themselves Christians are also like this barren fig tree. Where there are leaves, there ought to be fruit. If our religion is only outward, our spiritual life—like that fig tree—will soon wither and die. A religion that does not bear fruit is a dead religion.

15-16 For all Jews there was one great temple, which was in Jerusalem. Around the main temple building there was an outer compound called the courtyard of the Gentiles, where Gentiles could come to pray. In this courtyard the Jewish temple authorities had set up small booths where pilgrims coming to the temple could buy doves to sacrifice and where money could be changed. (The temple tax could only be paid with special coins.) But those operating the booths were cheating the people and taking large profits for themselves. Therefore, Jesus drove them out and overturned their tables and benches.72

17 Then Jesus, quoting from Isaiah 56:7, taught the people that the temple should be a house of prayer for all nations; but instead, the Jews had turned it into a den of robbers (Jeremiah 7:11). Like the fig tree, the temple was an illustration of the Jewish nation. On the outside it was splendid; on the inside it was a “den of robbers.”

18-19 Naturally, the Jewish leaders were furious at what Jesus had done. Jesus had embarrassed them and exposed their greed and hypocrisy. Therefore, they began looking for a way to kill him. They couldn’t seize Him openly, because they feared the people. Most of the people respected Jesus, and considered Him to be a great prophet (Matthew 21:10-11). Indeed, many thought that He was the Messiah.

According to Matthew 21:14-16, after Jesus had driven out the money changers, He began to heal the blind and the lame who had come to the temple. Even children shouted in the temple area: “Hosanna to the Son of David.73 The chief priests and teachers of the law didn’t want to believe that Jesus was the Messiah; they were already jealous of His fame. They were offended that even children should be calling Him the Son of David, that is, the Messiah. But Jesus answered them that this was the fulfillment of one of the prophecies concerning the Messiah: From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise74 (Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:16).


The Withered Fig Tree (11:20-26)

(Matthew 21:20-22)

20-21 On the next morning Jesus and the disciples again saw the fig tree that had withered the day before.75 Peter was amazed that at the word of Jesus the tree had withered from the roots.

22-24 Jesus then used the fig tree to teach a further important lesson to the disciples. That is, if one has faith, whatever he asks will be done (verse 24). If one has faith, he can say to a fig tree, “Wither,” and it will wither. If one has faith, he can say to a mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,76 and it will happen. Jesus’ meaning is that God can do anything, if we pray in faith. Truly, all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27).

Jesus does not mean here that we can pray for anything we want and God will do it. Certain conditions must be fulfilled in order for our requests to be granted. First of all, we must pray in faith. Without faith, prayer accomplishes nothing. Second, we must pray according to [God’s] will (1 John 5:14-15). God will not do anything that contradicts His purpose. Third, we must pray in Jesus’ name—that is, for Jesus’ sake, not for our sake (John 14:1314; 16:23). Fourth, we must remain in Christ and His words must remain in us (John 15:7). To be “IN CHRIST” means that we are in His love, that we are under His authority, that we are obedient to His will (1 John 3:22). In short, it means that Christ is the Lord of our life. It means that His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is in us, directing us. Indeed, the Holy Spirit not only teaches us what to pray for, but He gives us the faith to pray for it. Thus, when we are “in Christ” in this way, then all that we ask in faith on Christ’s behalf He will do.

From this we understand that praying in faith to God is not some kind of magic formula, or ritual, or merely words. To pray in faith in the right way releases the infinite power of the living God. When we pray, God listens, God acts.

We must remember one other thing: God always answers our prayer of faith, but He may not answer it in the way we expect. We may pray for one thing, but God in His wisdom will give us something better. God desires to enrich and bless our lives even more than we desire it. We can trust Him to answer our prayers in the best way.

Jesus says in verse 24: “… whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” God will certainly fulfill our request; He has promised to do so. And what God promises, He will always do. King David’s son, Solomon, said in praise of God: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his hands has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to my father David” (2 Chronicles 6:4).

However, even though we have the assurance that God has answered our request, we sometimes do not experience the answer immediately. Sometimes God waits for a while before showing us the answer. He knows the best time for fulfilling our prayer. He knows when we are ready to receive His answer. Therefore, until we receive the answer, we must continue praying for it in faith. Elijah had to pray for rain seven times, and only then did rain come (1 Kings 18:41-45). We may have the assurance that our request has been granted, but we must continue in prayer until we actually receive the answer in our experience—in our hand. Both faith and patience (persistence) are necessary to receive the answer to our prayer (see Luke 18:1-8; Hebrews 6:12 and comments).

If the answer to our prayer is slow in coming, it may be that there is something in our own life that is keeping our prayer from being fulfilled. We must always be examining ourselves. Are we walking in God’s will? Is there a brother whom we have not forgiven? (verse 25). Do we have an unconfessed sin hidden in our hearts? (Psalm 66:18). Are we really crying out day and night? (Luke 18:7). Are we seeking Christ Himself—or only His blessings? Let us examine ourselves. Let us seek only Christ and His will. Believe on Him completely, and whatever you ask for in prayer … will be yours.

25-26 Here Jesus gives a fifth condition for effective prayer: we must not be harboring any resentment or bitterness against anyone. If there is anyone whom we have not forgiven, God will not hear our prayer. To refuse to forgive someone is to disobey God. David wrote: If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18).

If we refuse to forgive someone, not only will God not listen to our prayer, but He will also refuse to forgive us (see Matthew 6:1415). God forgives us as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12). It is true that when we first come to God and believe in Christ, God forgives us freely (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). But after that, if we continue to live in disobedience to God, if we refuse to forgive someone else, then God will withdraw His forgiveness from us and will refuse to hear our prayers.

From these verses77 we can understand a further truth. To forgive is one of the chief proofs of love. If we want God to answer our prayers, we must not only forgive others, we must love them. In these verses, Jesus is saying to us: “First go and forgive and love your neighbor, and then God will hear your prayer.” In order to come to God in prayer, we must love Him. But if we do not love our neighbor whom we can see, we certainly cannot love God, whom we cannot see (see 1 John 4:20-21).

During times of prayer, we are tempted to feel that we are more than usually righteous. But God does not look at our lives only during times of prayer. God looks to see what our lives are like all day long. Does our loving and forgiving spirit toward our neighbor last all day long? Do we continue walking in faith all day long? This is what God is looking to see. God will hear our prayers according to our daylong behavior.


The Authority of Jesus Questioned (11:27-33)

(Matthew 21:23-27; Luke 20:1-8)

27-28 The Jewish leaders asked Jesus who gave Him authority to teach and to heal, and to drive the money changers and dove sellers out of the temple. They asked Him this to trap Him. If He said, “Some man gave me authority,” the people would lose respect for Him. If He said, “God gave me the authority,” then the Jewish leaders could accuse Jesus of “blasphemy”—that is, of claiming to have the authority of God. Because in the Jews’ sight, to claim to have God’s authority was the same as claiming to be like God.78 And for a man to claim to be like God—for a man to presume to stand in the place of God—was a great insult to God. According to the Jewish law, any man who insulted God in this way was to be given the death sentence (Leviticus 24:16). Therefore, whatever answer Jesus gave to their question about His authority, the Jewish leaders would be able to use it against Him.

29-30 It was a common custom among the Jews to answer one question by asking another (see Mark 10:3). Therefore, Jesus asked the Jewish leaders to first tell Him where John the Baptist got his authority—from God or from man? If they said John’s authority was from God, then they would have to acknowledge that Jesus’ authority came from God also.

31-32 Just as they had tried to trap Jesus, so Jesus trapped them. Almost all the people at that time believed that John the Baptist was a great prophet, whose authority came from God. Therefore, if the Jewish leaders answered that John’s authority was only from man, the crowds would mock and abuse them.

However, the Jewish leaders did not want to admit that John’s authority was from God. John had told them to repent and prepare for the coming of the Messiah (Mark 1:4,7-8). He had told them that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:29-34). If they answered that John’s authority was from God, Jesus would say, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” (verse 31).

33 Therefore, the Jewish leaders answered, “We don’t know where John’s authority came from.” Of course, they knew; only they refused to say. Therefore, Jesus refused to say where His authority came from.