READ: Mark 11
BACKGROUND: By Verse –
9 – Hosanna is actually a transliterated (just sounded out and not translated) compound Hebrew word from the Old Testament that means “save please” or “save now.” Originally it was a plea for help, but it became – by the time of the Triumphal Entry in Jesus’ time a cry of expectancy, as though the salvation was all but assured. This is what people were crying out to Jesus. It is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9
15 – The merchants originally set up shop there to help people out, but they became corrupted. They sold animals that were not up to God’s requirements and they charged crooked taxes and too much money so that they could profiteer off the poor.
26 – Many early manuscripts do not contain this verse.
30 – Jesus cleverly placed them in a no-win situation
33 – Jesus didn’t tell them because the question didn’t require an answer. They all knew it already.
THINK: In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey Odysseus left to fight in the Trojan War and through a series of adventures and detours wasn’t able to return home for twenty years. When he finally made it back home to Ithaca dressed as a beggar, no one but his dog recognized him. Even worse, he found his house in disarray, a band of men competing for his wife, and the loyalties of some servants wandering. Little did they know in that moment that the king had arrived and a day of judgment was coming!
In Mark 11, the Creator of trees, the Lord of the Temple, comes to His own creatures and finds them straying. The tree is without fruit; the Temple is without reverence.
Note Jesus’ two different responses to His creatures’ unreadiness. When hungry Jesus finds the fig tree fruitless, He curses it (v. 14). It doesn’t get a second chance to bear fruit, but withers from the roots. The money changers and worshipers in the Temple, however, do get a second chance. Jesus rebukes them by throwing over their tables, but He also teaches them from the Scriptures (v. 17). His actions prune. He cuts away weeds that choke out true worship and gives those with ears to hear a second chance to bear good fruit!
Jesus’ actions elicit several responses: the religious leaders, who are afraid, plot His death; the crowds stand amazed (v. 18). The disciples, on the other hand, accept Jesus’ authority over the Temple, but they show surprise at Jesus’ authority over nature. They think He should be surprised, too: “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” (v. 21).
The fig tree had a different response altogether. Unlike humans, it wasn’t surprised at Jesus’ authority; it recognized Him as its Maker. Its roots heard His voice saying, “I came and you weren’t ready for me: bear no more fruit.” Its withering reflects not only punishment (since its purpose, as well as ours, is to bear fruit), but also unwavering obedience to its great Creator.
PRAY: This passage gives us these lessons in prayer: have faith in God; believe, do not doubt, that God will act; forgive others. This last command also appears in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus stressed the importance of forgiveness for effective prayer. As a sign of obedience, forgiveness fosters humility before God and belief in God’s authority to judge and to forgive us. As you pray today, ask God to reveal what you “hold against anyone” (v. 25) and release it to Him, forgiving the other person. Make a point to pray for the well-being of that person this week.
Adapted from Moody Bible Institute’s Today in the Word