Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Eleven

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

This chapter has four primary elements, each informing one another. It begins with the triumphal entry, where Jesus makes an announcement of sorts that he has come and he is the messiah. Following the triumphal entry, two next two stories are sandwiched together. These two stories are the cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the temple. Given their relationship together within the gospel, they are clearly meant to inform one another. Finally, the chapter ends with Jesus in conflict with some of the temple leaders. They are questioning Jesus about what authority he has to clear the temple the way he did the day before.

This chapter teaches us about Jesus' identity and the coming kingdom. It doesn't have as much teaching about what it means to be a disciple. Part of the reason is because by this point Jesus has done most of his disciple-making activity and is now heading toward the cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem with a procession that communicates his Davidic Kinship. He also communicates something about the coming kingdom, and that the time of God's Kingdom is upon them. This requires a reorientation about kingdom priorities and kingdom purposes. No longer can they abuse their privilege. God's Kingdom does not function like that. Jesus has come to communicate that message and also be the means for its implementation and expansion.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

(11:17) In this verse, Jesus references a passage from Isaiah 56. In this chapter of Isiah, it has a strong emphasis upon the importance of the nations and the salvation that is available to them. In Jesus' time, the area that was meant for foreigners is the same area that the money-changers and pigeon sellers had set up shop. Jesus was not pleased by the way that people used God's house to make a profit. It also was extremely unfair to the non-Jews who traveled from far away to seek God. It was dishonorable to God and unloving to the foreigners.

(F) Relates to God the Father

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to God the Father in this chapter.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

(11:15-19) Jesus Clears the Temple: This chapter doesn't lend itself well to this particular category. Jesus' intention in clearing the temple is multi-layered. He was motivated by the purity of the temple, for the sake of God's name. He also wanted to make a point about the fact that God's Kingdom was going to leave these Jews behind who had made a mockery of God and his commands. Unless people changed their heart's toward God, they were not going to be included in God's coming Kingdom. In this way, Jesus loves them enough to give a warning, a chance to repent and turn toward God. Unfortunately, they have heeded this call for many years, and do not hear it yet again.

It was also an expression of God's desire to include the nations. This is not an ethnic or nationalistic movement. God's Kingdom is for all nations, for all people. Jesus continues to push the boundaries of what it means to be part of God's people. As we learn from other portions of scripture, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 ESV)." God's house was meant to be a "house of prayer for all the nations." Jesus continues to communicate that all are welcome in God's Kingdom - so long as they follow Jesus as Lord.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

The Mighty Messiah King: The Triumphal Entry has many allusions to the Old Testament, to Jewish tradition and Jewish writings. Jesus enters the city on a colt. Two specific OT prophecies would have had resonance here - Genesis 49:8-12 and Zechariah 9:9-10. Both reference a colt and both point to Jesus as the messiah. Further, the colt has not been ridden - it is a pure colt. Animals that had not been used for common tasks were considered pure, and reserved for sacrifices and ritual practices. Jesus commandeers a pure colt to make his entrance upon. As Jesus enters the city, he rides in on the colt. The combination of him riding in on a colt and also the people throwing down garments and leaves would have called to mind Solomon entering the city on a donkey (1 Kings 1:33-35), Jehu being crowned as king (2 Kings 9:12-13) and the intertestimental history of Simon Maccabeus (1 Maccabees 13:51). The people had waited for the return of their Davidic King. They had heard many prophecies over the years (2 Samuel 7; Isaiah 9:6-7, 11:1-16, Jeremiah 23:5-6, 33:14-16; Micah 5:2), and they would have waited in joyful expectation for their coming king. Jesus rides into the city as though to clearly state that he is the messiah, the christ, the Davidic King who was to come.

The Peaceful Suffering Servant: Jesus is the Mighty Messiah King, but he is also the peaceful suffering servant. Jesus has already explained three times that he would suffer, die and rise again (Mk 8:31, 9:30-32, 10:32-34). Each time, the disciples did not fully understand what Jesus was trying to tell them. On one occasion they responded by arguing about who was greatest among them (9:33-34) and in another, two of them asked for privileged seats when Jesus comes into his glory (10:35-37). In both instances, Jesus explains that being great in the kingdom is about serving one another (9:35 & 10:42-45). All this leads to the point when Jesus enters the city, and he does so on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Entering the city on this humble animal displays Jesus' desire to bring peace, not war or oppression. The Zechariah prophecy (Zech 9:9-10) tells of a king who would come on a colt, and would bring peace to the nations. That is what Jesus is doing, offering peace to the nations. He is bringing peace between people and God through his own suffering, service and sacrifice. Jesus is not only the mighty messiah, he is also the humble and peaceful servant.

Jesus has authority from God: At the end of this chapter, Jesus has a confrontation with the priests, scribes and elders. This begins a series of confrontations, similar to the ones found in Mark 2:1-3:6. In this conflict, Jesus is questioned about the authority with which he cleared the temple the day before. Jesus, recognizing that it is a trap, asks a question in return. His question suggests that his own authority comes from the same place that John the Baptist's authority comes from, which is God. The leaders see the bind they are put in themselves. They cannot in good conscience attribute John's authority to God, but fear the crowds response do not want to deny it either, so they chose not to answer. In kind, Jesus does not answer their question either. The message of the conflict is clear though, Jesus is saying that his authority comes from God Himself.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

Point people to God: Jesus came to reorient people's lives. He came to bring peace to the nations, and help people to connect with God in a way they had not done before. Jesus has come to serve humanity, through his humble sacrifice, to bring peace between God and the nations.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

Pray with confidence The passage in Mark 11:22-26 can often be generalized in ways that Jesus did not intend. The discussion about the moving of mountains was likely in reference to the geographical location they found themselves. They were on between the Mount of Olives and Zion, the Temple Mount. When Jesus says "this" mountain, it would have most likely referred to one of those two locations. "Given the eschatological symolism of the Mount of Olives being split in two (Zech 14:4) and given the symbolism of the withered fig tree and the related incident in the temple, it is far more likely that Jesus is calling his disciples to trust in his promises that a new world order replacing the temple is imminent (Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, pg. 368)." While these verses may sometimes be taken out of context, it does not preclude us from the lesson that we should pray with confidence. This charge would be consistent with other Biblical content. We must simply remember that our confidence is grounded in Jesus. His command to the disciples is founded upon the face that Jesus was the curator of this new world order. We should pray with confidence, recognizing that Jesus is the one whom we put our trust in. Not the temple, or religious institutions, or anything else. When we pray, we can know that God hears, and will work things for His glory and for our good.

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

(1) In my sermon this week, I challenged us all to consider the confidence and humility Jesus displays. Jesus is confident in who he is as the messiah, and humble enough to sacrifice himself in service to the peace he will bring between us and God. I believe that we are also supposed to exhibit confidence and humility as Christ's followers. Confidence in who we are because of Jesus, and humility to recognize our need for Jesus. A great action step this week would be to take account of how your own confidence and humility as a result of your faith in Jesus.

(2) Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.