In that which follows (chap. 11) Jesus presents Himself to Jerusalem as King. His reception shews the extent to which the testimony He had rendered had acted on the hearts of the simple. God ordained therefore that it should take place. There is little difference between the narrative here and in Matthew. Only the kingdom is more simply presented as such: "The kingdom of our father David."
With what dignity, as the Judge of all things, Jesus now takes knowledge of all that was being done in the temple, and goes out without saying anything! The Lord had visited His temple, as also He had entered the city riding on the ass's colt, whereon never man sat. Israel is judged in the condemned fig-tree. [See Footnote #15] The glory of the Lord, of the house of Jehovah, is vindicated with authority-an authority which He claims, and which He exercises in His own Person. The scribes and chief priests draw back before the ascendency that His word had given Him over the people, and He goes out of the city without being molested, notwithstanding their malice. The next day He assures His disciples, who were astonished at seeing the fig-tree withered away, that whatsoever they asked in faith should be accomplished; but that they must act in grace, if they would enjoy this privilege. The scribes and priests and elders are confounded, and demand His authority. He addresses their conscience, but in such a manner as to demonstrate their incompetency to ask Him such a question, exposing at the same time their insincerity. They could not decide with respect to the baptism of John: by what right then could they subject Him to their questions respecting His own claims? They could not decide when the case was before them. On the other hand, they must either sanction His work by their reply, or lose their authority with the people by denying the baptism of John who had borne testimony to Christ. It was no longer a question of winning these men; but what an empty thing is the wisdom of man in the presence of God and His wisdom!
The change of dispensation has a more definite place in Matthew, and the sin which rejected the King. In Mark, it is more the service of Christ as the Prophet. Afterwards, as we have seen, He presents Himself as King. And, in both Gospels, we see that it is Jehovah who fills the office which He has deigned to undertake.
Consequently we find in Matthew more personal accusations, as in the parable of the two sons (chap. 21:28-32), and the detail of the change of dispensation in the parable of the marriage feast (chap. 22:1-14 ); neither of which is in Mark. In our Gospel, the unchangeable dignity of His Person, and the simple fact that the Prophet and King were rejected (rejection that led to Israel's judgment) are set before us by the Spirit of God. Otherwise it is the same general testimony we have reviewed in Matthew.
The Lord afterwards gives the substance of the whole law, as the principle of blessing between the creature and God, and that which formed the touchstone for the heart in the rejection of Christ. I say for the heart, because the trial was really there, although it was in the understanding that it appeared. Even when there were really orthodox principles (Christ being rejected), the heart that was not attached to His Person could not follow Him in the path to which His rejection led. The system of God's counsels which depended on that rejection was a difficulty. Those who were attached to His Person followed Him, and found themselves in it, without having well understood it beforehand. Thus the Lord gives the pith of the law-the whole law as essentially divine instruction-and the point at which the counsels of God are transplanted into the new scene, where they will be fulfilled apart from the wickedness or ill will of man. So that in these few verses (chap. 12:28-37) the law and the Son of David are presented, and the latter taking His place as Son of man-the Lord-at the right hand of God. This was the secret of all that was going on. The union of His body, the assembly, with Himself was all that remained behind. Only in Mark the Prophet recognises the moral condition, under the law, that tends towards entrance into the kingdom (v. 34). This scribe had the spirit of understanding.
The picture of the condition that would bring in judgment, which we find in Matthew 23, is not given here (see Synopsis about Matthew 23 ). It was not His subject. Jesus, still as the Prophet; warns His disciples morally; but the judgment of Israel, for rejecting the Son of David, is not here before His eyes in the same manner (that is to say, it is not the subject of which the Holy Ghost is here speaking). The real character of the scribes' devoutness is pointed out, and the disciples are warned against them. The Lord makes them feel also what it is that, in the eyes of God, gives true value to the offerings that were brought to the temple.
Footnotes for Mark 11
15: That is man under the old covenant, flesh under divine requirement, and no fruit to grow on it for ever.