For the full text of Mark 11, click here.
Chapter eleven begins with Jesus’s “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. This is the part where everyone is happy to see Him show up on the “colt” or donkey and throwing palms at His feet. He’s the famous traveling prophet who heals everybody and everybody is so glad He made an appearance in Jerusalem. I have to wonder how Jesus felt just then, with all these people fangirling, while He knew what was going to happen later at their behest. I can barely keep it together when talking to people I don’t like, let alone looking in the excited faces of people I know are going to demand my head.
This is followed by the story of the fig tree, which is separated here with the story of the money-changers in the temple. It begins with Jesus hungry and then upset with the tree, tells of going up to the temple and driving the money-changers out, and then comes back to the tree and it’s withered state.
The thing about the tree is that Jesus made it wither just by yelling at it. Whether or not this was just a moment of irritation turned into a teaching moment or a teaching moment from the start is mostly immaterial. I do think it would be important to know that even Jesus can get randomly mad or disappointed, but I understand how it doesn’t really matter either. The point becomes about faith in whether you can make something happen that you want without doubt. It’s one of those places in the Bible that people throw around as if it’s easy to not have doubt and that it’s really a guarantee. I get that Jesus said it and therefore it’s easy to believe that it should then be true for all people for all time, but history has proven that wrong and so has the personal experiences of plenty of people. Or maybe there are caveats in regards to whether it was already in God’s plan. I know it all sounds very skeptical but it’s hard to reconcile this one.
The story about the money-changers does have a small but significant difference. Here’s the Matthew version we looked at before:
And here is the same line in Mark:
“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”Mark 11:17
Do you see it? It’s the “for all the nations” part. I had assumed in Matthew that it referred to somewhere in the creation of the first temple and didn’t dig any deeper. After this, I went looking for where it is written and the study section lead me here:
6And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD
to minister to Him,
to love the name of the LORD,
and to be His servants—
all who keep the Sabbath without profaning it
and who hold fast to My covenant—
7I will bring them to My holy mountain
and make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on My altar,
for My house will be called a house of prayer
for all the nations.”Isaiah 56:6-7
Of course, that part doesn’t necessarily mean much with the overall scene, given what else is going on, but it’s still pretty significant. First of all, Jesus is in the temple, which is not to be confused with just any church or synagogue. As mentioned before, this is the equivalent of someone coming in and yelling at the priests in the Vatican while tearing up the place. I can’t imagine it would go much better these days. More likely that the arrest would just come sooner or someone would be shot on sight. The chief priests and scribes, who were the people in charge at the time, immediately wanted to get rid of Him and set about figuring out how after the huge welcome the day before. Like any PR person would probably tell you even today, first you have to destroy the reputation.
Jesus and company go back the next day and the priests and scribes are ready for Him. They ask where He gets His authority and the answer is great. He asks them a question first and they know it’s a trap and still can’t get around it.