Welcome back my friends – this is Simple Faith and I am your host – Cathy Merritt.
We continue in Mark 11 with the entry in to Jerusalem. Let’s pick up the story that Mark is sharing with us.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 21:1-12, 14-17; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19
As we have come to expect, Mark gives us the simple facts of the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem as King and Messiah
the very manner of Jesus’ entry into town was a statement of whom He was and why He had come.
Verses 1-6 tell of the arrangements, Jesus sending a couple of disciples out to get the donkey for Him to ride into town, and everything being just as Jesus had told them, yet we shouldn’t rush through this quite so fast.
If you’ve been following along with this radio program, you will have noticed that Jesus, while He went around the countryside preaching the Kingdom, shied away from announcements of who He was, and often told the recipients of miracles to keep quiet about what had happened between them. Now by contrast, Jesus has a donkey to ride into town, and considering the fact that a donkey colt, never ridden, would be his method of transportation into the city, was exactly what had been prophesied for the entry of Messiah, (Zech. 9:9) Jesus was now “coming out.”
Zechariah 9:9New International Version (NIV)
The Coming of Zion’s King
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
It strikes most of us as odd that a King would ride into the city on a donkey, rather than on a mighty steed, and many have misunderstood this to be a show of humility, but that is a Western notion.
For the Jews, horses were reserved for warfare and a king would ride a donkey in peacetime; they were highly prized in fact for they are more durable and reliable than a horse. Jesus was making a statement, there’s no doubt about it, that He was King and Messiah.
When the colt was brought to Jesus, people took their cloaks and placed them on His mount for Him to sit upon, while others spread their cloaks out on the ground before Him, an honor reserved for a king. (2 Kings 9:13) Notice that Jesus no longer objected to this sort of thing. As Jesus began His procession into the city, people began to pour out to greet Him and others poured in with Him, there were shouts…
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Mark has recorded and interesting combination of shouts here! “Hosanna” literally means “save” and the people used it in the sense of a praise. They recognized that Jesus had come in God’s name, and then they tie this together as a sort of bridge between the past and future glory of Israel with the reference to Jesus as the son of David and rightful king. If you take a step back from the scene, turbulent as it no doubt was, and reflect on the things Mark records here, there is an interesting picture:
Jesus came to Jerusalem to save the people, He was the Anointed One of God, coming in peace to God’s city, and He was transforming the throne of David from an earthly to a heavenly one. In the end, that was exactly what would happen in one week’s time.
Jesus travelled all the way to the Temple court, but when He arrived there, nobody from the Temple greeted Him. Mark mentions politely that it was late, but if the Chief Priest had been doing his job, the entire court would have rolled out the red carpet for the Messiah. Of course, they had other plans for God’s Anointed One.
Jesus quietly returned to Bethany.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 21:18-19, 11-13, 20-22; Luke 19:45-48; 21:37-38
Few people teach this text from Mark, they usually use the parallel verses in Matthew or Luke, but Mark’s timeline is much clearer than the other two. My approach for today is to leave these events within Mark’s timeline.
Remember that after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus proceeded to the Temple court and, finding the area deserted, returned quietly to Bethany for the night. The next morning, He sets out once again for the city. On the way, He sees a fig tree and walks over to it hoping to find some figs to eat. Seeing none there, He curses the tree, saying “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” (v. 14)
He continued into town and went to the Temple courts.
This time, He found them full of activity, mostly of the buying and selling variety, and He drove out the money changers, the vendors and all the rest saying,
‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ (v. 17)
Now, catch the next verse:
The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
Mark has already told us that the Pharisees were plotting to kill Jesus, along with the allies of Herod; now the chief priest join the conspiracy… but notice why: “because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.”
Jesus walks into the Temple and shuts down the business operation and reminds the people that the Temple is supposed to be a house of prayer,
and not a profit center… and the people are amazed!
It almost sounds like prayer at the Temple was a novel concept, which it probably was.
When evening came, Jesus returned to Bethany.
The next morning, as they went past the fig tree from the previous morning, the disciples notice that it has withered, and now they are amazed. Peter calls the tree to their attention, and Jesus sums up the point of this entire section: prayer, faith and forgiveness.
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Jesus responds to Peter by speaking of faith and prayer, you can almost say that He is really referring to our relationship with God here:
Faith in Him, interaction with Him in prayer. He also mentions that when we interact with God, we need to forgive our brothers and sisters if they have wronged us in any way; sounds like love your neighbor, don’t you think? Hmm… love God, love your neighbor: see the parallel?
Back to the beginning again: Jesus wishes for the fig tree to bear no more fruit, goes to town and chases the worldly business out of the Temple, which is God’s dwelling place on earth and the center of the Jewish relationship with God, stating that it is a place of prayer (interaction/relationship) and the chief priests want Him killed for interrupting their business. The next day, the fig tree is dead, and Jesus teaches an object lesson on putting your relationship with God first and foremost in your life, which is the same thing He was teaching at the Temple.
What comes first in our lives, work, money, profit; the things of this world?
That seems to be the view of the chief priests who had a great little business going in God’s house.
Do we have our priorities right.
Could it be that this is the cause of a weak prayer life for us individually, and for why our churches are
not very effective for the cause of Christ?
Maybe, maybe not, but that was the lesson Jesus was teaching on that Monday and early Tuesday morning, and I hope we will reflect and pray on it.
After Jesus’ discussion of the fig tree, He and the disciples enter the Temple courts and are observed by the priests and their entourage; the priests waste no time in challenging Him…
Parallel Texts: Matthew 21:23-27; Luke 20:1-8
The Chief Priest demands to know by what authority Jesus is saying and doing the things He’s been up to, and I’m sure that His attack on their little Temple gold mine was foremost in their minds. Jesus, a tough customer, isn’t going to play their game, so He asks them a question of His own: By what authority did John the Baptist do what he did?
Pay close attention to verses 31-32
and look at their reasoning: Pure politics!
They settled on “I don’t know” in an attempt to dodge the question, so Jesus told them that He wouldn’t answer them either. Notice in His wording that He fully recognized their dodge. The text tells us they feared the people who believed John, but they also must have known that John testified concerning the identity of Jesus;
He really had them in a corner.
Then, remarkably, Jesus answers their question in a parable.
Parallel Texts: Isaiah 5:1-7; Matthew 21:33-46; Luke 20:9-19
The Chief Priest, the other priests, teachers, Pharisees and all the rest of them, knew exactly what Jesus was saying in the Parable of the Tenants;
He was telling them the history of their people in a nutshell. Just as in Isaiah 5, the vineyard is Israel,
they themselves are the tenants who beat and killed all of the servants God sent to them, yes,
for those servants were the very prophets these guys talked about all the time. Now, God (the owner) has sent His Son to them, and they will kill Him too… and they will pay quite a price for their evil deeds.
Jesus finishes the parable off with a quote from Psalm 118 for good measure; they knew instantly who the “cornerstone” was… the stone the builders rejected. Jesus wasn’t going to play their games, but He was most assuredly speaking their language, and they were not pleased.
It’s interesting don’t you think, that nobody stopped to consider the likelihood that Jesus was telling them the truth and offering them a way out of their jam.
At this point, they retreated. Jesus has fought off the first attack, but there were more coming, after all, it wasn’t even lunch time yet!
Parallel Texts: Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-26
The second wave began later that same Tuesday. Jesus had already repelled the attack of the Chief Priest, and this time, the Pharisees and their Herod allies come at Him. As you recall, these two groups have been plotting to kill Jesus for some time now, and they have come to snare Him in a political trap.
“Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
The phrasing of this question is rather childish to say the least.
First of all, they butter Him up a bit with a compliment by saying that he is a teacher of the truth who cannot be swayed by anybody; He always sticks to the truth. Then they ask if it is lawful to pay the tax to Caesar; this is the real question. This is a terribly unpopular tax among the Jews because it isn’t honest, as we’ve covered before. It is also unpopular because it isn’t a tax imposed under Jewish law, but by a Romans. If Jesus wants to remain popular with the crowds, He must say “no.” However, if He does that, they will report Him to the Romans, and He will be taken away in chains and not heard from again. At this point, they make a tactical blunder when they ask the redundant question, “Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus of course, is several steps ahead of them, and asks to see a Roman coin, asks them who is pictured there and whose inscription is on the coin and has now turned the tables on His attackers.
“Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a Roman Coin and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
He taught something very important in the process… this was Jesus after all… and that is that our priority must be on the things of God and not on the things of this earth.
Jesus isn’t telling the people they should be thrilled to pay, nor is He making an endorsement of the welfare state; He is telling us to focus on God and the things of heaven, and not on the earthly and materialistic, the very opposite of the welfare state.
At any rate, everyone was amazed at his answer, for once again Jesus’ perspectives were so entirely in opposition to their own perspectives that they hadn’t even considered that He might say what He did, for even then, following Jesus was entirely counter-intuitive, just as it is today.
On that busy Tuesday, Jesus came under assault first by the chief Priest, then by the Pharisees, and now the third wave of attacks, this time from Sadducees and the teachers of the law.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-39
The Sadducees don’t believe in a resurrection, so their trap is designed to get Jesus to either side with them, or wander into some kind of legal mistake, and frankly they ask a better question than the Pharisees did earlier.
The flaw in their logic is this: If a man has several wives during his lifetime, and then rises from the grave at the last day and has multiple wives in heaven, that is one thing, but for a woman to have had multiple husbands, as can happen without any indecency, as they demonstrate, the thought of a woman with multiple husbands is just too shocking… so it must prove that there is no resurrection.
As a note, the Pharisees were the ones who believed in a resurrection, and their rivals were the Sadducees. Actually, the Pharisees were about the only ones in authority who believed in a general resurrection in the Jewish community at the time; it isn’t one of the promises of the Law as we have seen many times in previous programs. Could it be that the Sadducees secretly hoped to use Jesus’ popularity against the Pharisees?
In verses 24-25, Jesus disarms their presupposition about marriage in heaven… their straw man, really… and then in the remaining verses, blows their no resurrection views out of the water by simply observing that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a God of the living and not a God of the dead; sorry boys.
The Sadducees retreat and the teachers of the law advance in attack:
Parallel Texts: Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 20:40
The teacher of the law who asked Jesus the next question had noticed that Jesus gave the Sadducees a good answer to their question, so he asked Jesus which of the commandments is most important, and it seems to me from Mark’s account that the man was actually asking an honest question; not to trick or trap Jesus but to find out what He would say. Of course we all know the answer that Jesus gave in verses 29-31
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
What happens next is really interesting. The teacher speaks to Jesus as though Jesus were a bright pupil and compliments Him on His answer, and goes on to teach Jesus in verses 32-33
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Jesus told the man that he had answered wisely and that he wasn’t far from the Kingdom of God, for the man had told Jesus that the two greatest commandments were more important than all of the sacrifices.
The tide begins to turn in this battle, and Jesus is poised to take the offensive and He has one more observation for His disciples that will just about put the day into context.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 22:41-46; Luke 20:41-44
On that fateful Tuesday, Jesus has fought off three waves of attack from Jewish authorities who each peppered Him with questions designed to entrap Him into a mistake they could use as a pretense to arrest and kill Him. Now, Jesus moves to counter-attack.
His opening round comes in the form of a question in verse 35: “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David?
To be fair, the teachers of the law were not wrong about the Messiah being the son of David in the sense that Messiah would clearly be of the House of David, the royal house of Israel, the house of kings. So, while they were technically correct as legalists usually are, they missed the larger point that Messiah would also be the Son of God, here on earth to establish an entirely new kind of kingdom; one that is not of this world at all.
David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’
Mark 12:36; c.f. Psalm 110:1
Take careful notice, dear reader of this statement of Jesus, for many in our time seem to miss its ultimate significance. Jesus is making the point that David himself in the Psalm refers to this Messiah as “lord” and the son is not the lord over his father; it’s the other way around under the Law (Honor your father and mother). Therefore, the Messiah is not merely of the clan of David, because He is also the Son of God, and being God’s Son entirely supersedes the fact that He is of the House of David.
Here’s an example of this relationship: Suppose the president had a son who was also a brigadier general. Everyone calls the son “general” and he receives the honor and respect of that rank. If a brigadier general walks up to the southwest gate of the White House, and his name is not on the guest list, he is turned away. If the son of the president walks up to the gate, he is always admitted because he is the president’s son, for being the president’s son supersedes his military rank when it comes to access to the president. So also does the fact that Jesus is the Son of God supersede his rank in the House of David.
probably for all of the wrong reasons, the crowd was delighted.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 23:1-39; Luke 20:45-47
Jesus denounced the teachers of the law in this brief passage. His bill of particulars contains several charges:
They dress richly and expect to receive respect from the people.
They expect to get the best seats at public gatherings.
They “devour widows’ houses.”
They make long public prayers for show.
The other accounts add the Pharisees to this indictment, and Matthew records the seven woes here, while Mark as usual, is concise. Consider what Jesus is accusing them of. Oh yes, He is calling them colossal hypocrites, but look at the priority system of these “righteous” and “religious” men. They want, more than anything else apparently, to be honored, respected and powerful. It is doubtful whether or not they care at all about their relationship with God, or about being faithful to Him; they are altogether worldly in their outlook in spite of their religious exteriors. They are using their lofty positions for personal advancement, and in the end they will regret the day they started down this path.
Let’s not get too carried away throwing stones at the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, and let’s also not get too carried away with looking for the Pharisees in our midst, even though there are many, for this passage is within a larger context. This larger context runs through the entire chapter, and the climax and application is in the last few verses
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Parallel Text: Luke 21:1-4
Chapter 12 has been a chapter of battle with Jesus prevailing over three waves of attack. The battle takes the form of a verbal combat between two different value systems, but the more important reality about all of this is our discernment of the fact that the real fight wasn’t a verbal one, but a spiritual one between two opposing powers.
In the last section, Mark 12:35-40, Jesus took the offensive against His real foe, and pronounced God’s coming final judgment on the Enemy, and as I mentioned, Matthew really brings this divine judgment into focus in Matthew 23. Here in these few verses, we see the very same spiritual forces at work competing for the hearts of men and women, even though no one speaks. Jesus did not speak to any crowd, but spoke only privately as a Master speaks to His disciples.
Consider the parallels between the wealthy folks here, tossing large amounts of coinage into the pots, clanking loudly so that everyone can see their display of worldly position and success as they part with tiny fractions of their incomes in a demonstration of “piety,” with the Pharisees, Sadducees, priests and teachers of the law and their flowing fancy garments, arrogance and false demonstrations of “piety.” Contrast all of this with the poor widow who gives everything she has to God.
To an onlooker, the situation of the “religious” well to do seems to show great favor from God, but it is only outward and worldly, thus it may not be of God at all, for He is not impressed by the outward grandeur of this world.
No! The poor widow is the one who has received God’s favor! She isn’t playing the world’s game, and so she may be poor in worldly terms, but she is rich in faith, a faith that will see her through hard times and ensure her place in eternity while all of those who so value their worldly positions suffer the consequences for their foolish and selfish behavior.
This chapter was not written, in my view, to show us that Jesus was smarter than the other guys, nor was it written to show us that He was a better debater.
It was written to instill in us the truth that Jesus came to establish a whole new kind of kingdom, one that is not of this world, one that is in opposition to this world.
It was written so that we might understand that if we intend to follow Jesus, our attitudes must change, our priorities must change, and that in our daily lives this world needs to decrease and His Kingdom increase. In order for this to take place, we must let go of the notion that Jesus will someday return to establish a kingdom in and of this world, for His Kingdom is not, has never been and never will be of this world.
Yes, and this is very good news!
Brings us to a close tonight… We still have some exciting scripture in Mark left so I’ll sign out for tonight but see you back here next Sunday at 9:00 pm.
This is Cathy Merritt – your host and I am glad to have this opportunity once again to speak with you.
I would like to close in prayer.
Father God you are awesome and there is no many things in this world we do not need to understand, but your commands are simple – love you and love our neighbors. I find peace in these commands and that I can love people and show your love as you first loved me.