Read Mark 11:1-10:
The Not-So triumphal entry of the King. This entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem was preceded by 3 different instances where Jesus warned His disciples that his death and resurrection at the hands of the Gentiles was eminent. Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31; and Mark 10:32-34. So here we find Jesus moving towards Jerusalem once and for all, as His whole ministry was building up to this crescendo, which points to the cross. This is Jesus’ statement that He is the Messiah and He is going to deliver His people once and for all.
But the Rabbis of Jesus’ day had several different theories regarding how the Messiah would come to Jerusalem. Daniel 7:13-14, majestic conqueror. Zechariah 9:9, a lowly and humble savior, riding on a colt.
Some Rabbis believed that the Messiah would come humbly to an unworthy Israel, but He would come mightily to a worthy Israel. Israel considered itself worthy, so they only looked for a triumphant, conquering Messiah. They listened not to Jesus words that He spoke at the bwginning of His ministry….I have come for those who know they need a physician (Mark 2:17 paraphrased).
There was an expectation upon the popular mind of the Jewish people, that the Messiah was about to come. They expected him to be a temporal prince, one who would make war upon the Romans and restore to the Jews their lost nationality.
There were also many who, though they did not believe in Christ with a spiritual faith, nevertheless hoped that perhaps He might be to them a great temporal deliverer. (Spurgeon).
This passage finds us on the Mount of Olives that was a north to south ridge located east of Jerusalem which rose to a maximum height of 2676 feet and provided an excellent view of Jerusalem. Jesus, the conquering hero, entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey whereas victorious military conquerors rode in parades on spirited white horses. Kings on missions of peace rode on donkeys. Kings going to war rode horses. Jesus is waging a war of peace, because He is the Prince of Peace, the only One who can bring lasting peace (See Rev. 19:11-14 for what it looks like for Jesus to come for war). This procession was a very unexpected and different procession.
Not only was this procession different in that Jesus was riding on a lowly donkey, it was also different in that the people applauding Jesus were very ordinary common people.
They lavished attention and honor on Jesus, using their clothes as a saddle for Jesus, using their clothes as a red carpet for the colt He rode on. Considering the expense and value of clothing in that day, this was true praise from commoners! This is the kind of praise and worship Jesus desires of His worshippers.
And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’” Hosanna, GOD SAVE US!!! (Ps. 118:25-26).
There rides the King, the poorest of them all, upon another man’s colt that he has borrowed. There rides the King, one who is soon to die; stripped of his robes to die naked and exposed. The very ones worshipping Him now are the very ones who will crucify Him; it’s for them that He went to the cross. (Spurgeon paraphrased)
Nevertheless, for most of His ministry, Jesus did everything He could to discourage people from publicly celebrating Him as the Messiah. Here, Jesus goes out of His way to invite public praise and adoration as the Messiah so that prophecy would be fulfilled. (Zechariah 9:9)
The destiny of our eternal souls hinges on our answer to this question, “Who is this Jesus?” A temporary deliver, or the eternal King, savior?
When the religious leaders (Pharisees) of His day objected and asked “Who is this Jesus that He should be worshipped”, Jesus told them “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40) And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:41) He wept because He knew what He was going to see and what they (His people) were going to do and reap because of their rejection of Him.
Now the party comes to an abrupt halt! Look at Mark 11:11: “And He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when He had looked around at everything, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the 12.”
Jesus came to inspect the temple…that He did. What did He observe when He looked around at everything? Whatever He laid eyes on, it didn’t please Him. The celebration ended. He left!! What does Jesus see when He comes to inspect our temples (bodies/hearts)? What would He be pleased with…displeased with?
Malachi 3:1 says: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” The Lord comes to inspect His temple for His name sake…for His glory.
In Mark 11:12-14 we see Jesus cursing a fruitless fig tree. Essentially, the tree was a picture of “FALSE ADVERTISING”, having leaves, but no figs. Usually, this is not the case with these fig trees. They normally have leaves & figs. But Israel had an appearance of righteousness on the outside, but inwardly, their hearts were far from God.The tree is cursed for its pretense of leaves, it’s “FALSE ADVERTISEMENT”, not for its lack of fruit.
Israel thought they were righteous, but they’re spiritually dead. This is also a message to you & I. (And for Israel, they are being cut off so that Gentiles can be grafted into God’s Kingdom and be among the chosen; see Rom. 9)
God isn’t pleased when His people are all leaves and no fruit. He is SERIOUS about fruit-making, not for His sake, but for others see that He is a good God! Israel has blown their witness and has taken the grace that God gave to them for His glory and made it about them, their nation and their prosperity.
Loo at Mark 11:15-16: What was the problem? Profiteers (scam artists), in cooperation with the priests were robbing the pilgrims by forcing them to purchase “approved” sacrificial animals and currencies at inflated prices….in the Temple!! The place of worship of our God. And to make matters worse, they did this in the outer courts of the temple, the only area where Gentiles could come and pray; therefore, this place of prayer was made into a swap meet, and a dishonest one at that! Not a picture of what God’s temple was created for.
Reading on we look at Mark 11:17-19: God intended the temple to be a house of prayer for all nations, but they had made it a den of thieves. Thieves who are against anyone who’s not like them! But let me assure you, this is not the cleansing of the temple, but only a temporary hold on business as usual. The cleansing took place on the cross…this Friday. I know this because in Malachi 3:2-3 we see what it looks like for Jesus to purify His temple (people).
“But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.”
Now we come back to the fig tree in Mark 11:20-22. Peter observes that the fig tree has withered and died (thanks for the observation Peter!) and Jesus says something really strange. “Have Faith in God” I could imagine Peter thinking, “Huh? What’s that supposed to mean Jesus. I’m only making an observation and you say to have faith in you?”
Essentially Jesus is saying, have faith in God to bring to life the withered fig tree (Israel; the lives that are dead and bear no fruit). Have faith in God to save the worst of the worst. Have God to do what’s impossible for man to do.
I think a really good picture of what Jesus is saying here is depicted in the quick story we read of the healing of bling Bartimaeus! Read Mark 10:46-52.
Bartimaeus, blind, homeless, destitute, rejected even by the disciples (the church), He persists in begging fo rmercy from God regardless of what He looks like and how others respond to Him. He has His eyes fixed on Jesus, the Son of David, the Rabboni! So after the disciples tell Him to shut up and get away, He yells all the more, “Have mercy on me!” He believes that Jesus can take His lifelong blindness and throw it in to the sea like the mountain Jesus speaks of in Mark 11:23-24. He asks with faith in God to heal him. What a picture of how it looks for us to come to Jesus to receive forgiveness for our sins.
This is also a call to have faith in God to use you to bring life to the withered fig tree. He is calling us to extend life to others in the name of Jesus. To believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives for Christ! (see 2 Cor. 5:17-21; He has given us, through Jesus, the ministry of reconciliation)
This is the kind of prayer and life that God wants us to be praying and living! If we are too busy judging and scorning those who aren’t like us (Pharisees), or those who are dirty, stinky, promiscuous, scary, etc… (Bartimaeus); then we will not be able to be used and we will be in danger of being a “withered fig tree”!
Take people in…show love in practical ways…pray for those you know who are hurting…for those who are withered spiritually…ask God for mercy on their behalf…and have faith in God! Only He can give life to what is dead! He’s the KING!
Maybe this evening you are the withered fig tree and you don’t believe that God can bring you back to life. Well, there’s Good News for you!! Jesus is the King! Jesus is the giver of life! Jesus is the sustainer of life! Have faith in Him!! (v. 24) LET’S PRAY!