Study Notes

Mark 11:1-33

11:1-6 Finding A Colt

This is one of just a few accounts that all four gospels tell us about. Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12 all tell us the story of - This account of the Triumphal entry and the disciples getting the colt, and then the Triumphal Entry that we'll read about in a minute.

As they were coming up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, they came to some small towns, "Bayth-fag-AY" and "Bay-than-EE-ah." Jesus sent two disciples (we don't know which two) into one of the villages to get a colt. They are not to buy one, borrow one, or barter for one - they're just supposed to get one.

The disciples have no idea whether or not Jesus had planned this out beforehand. All they did know was that He had told them to go do it - He hadn't told them why, and He hadn't told them how it was going to work out. They were simply told to go, and if anyone asked them, to say, "The Lord has need of it."

We read here that they were hassled by some people who happened to be standing there. In the gospel of Luke, we read that the owners also said, "What are you doing taking our colt?" This was turning into a scene. The two disciples could have been arrested for theft or even stoned on the spot. They had a decision to make - obey the Lord based on the little they knew He had told them, or turn tail, saying, "Oh, we were just petting it. Nice donkey." But in complete trust and total obedience, they figured that Jesus had never let them down before, and He must have known what He was talking about when He sent them.

How important it is for us to have the same kind of faith! Has the Lord ever instructed you to do something that totally went against common sense? Or told you to do something without telling you the outcome? Did you pass or fail? We are told in Psalm 9,

Ps. 9:9-10 LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble, and those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; For Thou, O LORD, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee.

The Lord will not forsake you when you put your trust in Him. Let us be like these two disciples - completely trusting in our God.

11:7-10 On A Colt

It seems to me, that I would have chosen a nicer vehicle on which to enter the scene. Maybe a gold-plated chariot, or a massive white charger - but a donkey? Understand that Jesus is here fulfilling Messianic prophecy

Zech. 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus is riding into Zion (Jerusalem), humble, and mounted on the foal of a donkey.


As Jesus rides in on the colt, the multitudes cry out,

Mark 11:9-10 ..."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!"

What they are doing is repeating Psalm 118.

Ps. 118:22-26 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, do save, we beseech Thee; O LORD, we beseech Thee, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD!

Luke tells us that the Pharisees tell Jesus, "Rebuke your disciples. They're calling you the Messiah." But He responds,

Luke 19:40 ..."I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"

This is an eventful day. Remember as we've studied through the gospel of Mark, He's been telling everyone to keep quiet about who He is. After cleansing the leper,

Mark 1:43-44 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone

When the demons were crying out, "You are the Son of God,"

Mark 3:12 And He earnestly warned them not to make Him known.

After Simon Peter had said, "You are the Christ,"

Mark 8:30 And He warned them to tell no one about Him.

Every time someone wanted to proclaim who Jesus was, He said, "Don't tell anybody." But now, He is allowing it and encouraging it. This is the day of their visitation - when their mighty king would enter into Jerusalem! "

This Is The Day!

As Psalm 118 said, "This is the day." Unfortunately, the majority of the Jews did not recognize their day. This was the day that had been prophesied over 500 years before. The prophet Daniel was visited by the angel Gabriel. In Daniel 9 we read that Gabriel tells him,

Dan. 9:24-25 "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks"

The Hebrew word translated "weeks" is actually "sevens". Just as a week is a group of 7 days to us, in the Jewish mind, a week could be any group of 7 periods of time. So there will be 70 periods of time in groups of 7. They turn out to be years - more specifically, the 360-day years of the Babylonian calendar that society was operating under at the time this prophecy was given.

Now this prophecy given by Gabriel to Daniel was specifically to "your people and your holy city" - to the Jews and the city of Jerusalem. All the prophetic dealings of God with Israel were now being wrapped up in these 70 groups of 7 Babylonian years. But notice too that he divides them up into 62+7 weeks, when Messiah the Prince would appear, and then 1 final week. When did this time clock begin? "From the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks"

This part of the book of Daniel was written in the "first year of Darius", which was 538 BC. Nearly 100 years later, in the year 445 BC, Artaxerxes did issue the decree to Nehemiah to restore and rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem - which you can read about in the beginning of the book of Nehemiah. We know from Sir Robert Anderson's archaeological and historical work that the date was exactly March 14, 445 BC.

Gabriel told Daniel "so you are to know and discern" these times. All they had to do was count the days, and 69x7x360 works out to 173,880 days from March 14, 445 BC. At the end of those days, they could expect to see their Messiah entering into the holy city as a king. 173,880 days from March 14, 445 BC is April 6, 32 AD - this day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem as a king.

11:11 Bethany

Bethany is just about two miles east of Jerusalem. Jesus would take the trip to back to Bethany to, we assume, spend the nights in the home of either Simon the Leper or His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

11:12-14 Cursing The Fig Tree

As Jesus heads back towards Jerusalem in the morning, He spies a fig tree. Being hungry, He looks for fruit on it, and finds nothing but leaves.

Fig leaves should make us immediately think of Adam and Eve. You know the story - in Genesis 3 we read that they sinned by disobeying God.

Gen. 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

Adam and Eve tried to cover their unrighteousness with fig leaves. God of course knew that their sin had to be covered by the shedding of blood.

Gen. 3:21 And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

So Jesus comes looking for fruit, but only finds a bunch of leaves. One way, then, that we should look at the fig tree is representing our fruitlessness and our attempts to cover it up by the works of our hands. You see, the Lord isn't interested in leaves - He's interested in fruit. Those leaves represent the works of our hands - us trying to do good to earn the favor of God. But in God's eyes, those leaves are garbage, for...

Isa. 64:6 ...all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

What the Lord wants to see in us isn't the leaves of works, it is the fruit of the Spirit. What is the fruit?

Gal. 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...

So the question really remains, "How can I bear fruit." Simple. Jesus said in John 15:5,

John 15:4-5 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither {can} you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing."

You cannot bear fruit unless you are abiding in Christ.

Out Of Season

Now you might think, "Hey, that's not fair! Jesus cursed the fig tree for not having fruit even though it wasn't the season for figs!" Yes, but remember the exhortation which has been given to us:

2Tim. 4:2 ready in season and out of season...

It is essential that we always be ready, always be bearing fruit. Because you never know when Jesus is going to be hungering for it.

11:15-18 Cleansing The Temple

This is not the first time that Jesus has overturned tables at the temple. John tells us that He did this once before early in His ministry. It is important that we not miss the violence of the scene here. Jesus walks into the temple and becomes enraged. Zeal for His Father's house consumed Him, and He went ballistic. Running from table to table, flipping them over, driving out these men with a whip of cords, knocking over their chairs. Causing a stampede of sheep and oxen, pouring out their moneyboxes, littering the ground with coins, shouting, "Stop making My Father's house a house of merchandise! This should be a house of prayer, but you've turned it into a house of thieves!"

This section of Scripture has translated into many believing that it is a sin to sell anything in church. That is certainly something that we should seriously consider... because we would have to do away with book tables, bookstores, tape ministries, and things of that nature.

But a more careful examination of the context here reveals that Jesus is saying something quite a bit different.

Remember that the Jew was obligated by law to bring sacrificial animals to be slain to cover the guilt of their sins. Part of the regulations were that you couldn't bring a sick, injured, or otherwise imperfect animal for your sacrifice. God didn't want your leftovers, He expected the best. Unfortunately, that opened the door for corruption and extortion.

After the Babylonian captivity, the priests saw an opportunity for financial gain in this system.

As people would bring their animals for the sacrifices, these corrupt priests would say, "Oh, I'm sorry, there is a slight defect here in this dove's wing." or "Unfortunately, I can't accept this ox, for its left back hoof is a little deformed." The priests had a side deal going with the sellers. They referred the customers to them, and the priests got a commission. "You'll need to bring back an animal worthy of sacrifice - one without a defect or deformation," the priest would say, "why don't you go by Trader Tom's table there in the outer court?"

Corruption in the priesthood. Extortion of people who desired to be right with God. Prevention of the sacrifices of people who needed atonement for their sin. Inflation of the standard that God had set forth for His people.

Today, a similar situation in the church would not be a book table, it would be a corrupt system in the church that puts unbiblical burdens on the people, to the benefit of the clergy. Pounding the pulpit, proclaiming that God requires this much money from you, or that much service of you. Rules and regulations that aren't in the Bible, but somehow make their way into the sermon because they benefit the preacher. That is the kind of situation that would cause Jesus to come in and overturn the tables.

11:19-20 The Fig Tree Withered

The fig tree, having been cursed by Jesus the day before, had withered from the roots up.

This is the way that we wither as well - the hidden parts, the underground parts. We start out in what we would call secret, or hidden, sins. But sin is progressive, and if it goes on unrepented of, it grows and mutates. There is always a progression of sin into greater sin. Read Romans 1 for an example of this progression.

11:21-24 Prayer

You can be fruitless and dying, or you can be fruitful and powerful. A lot of doubt comes into play when we are not walking close to God, when we are playing around with sin. James tells us,

James 1:6-8 ...Ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

If your life is fruitless, your prayers also are powerless.

On the other side of that coin, if you are walking mightily and fruitfully with God, then your prayers will be in accordance with His will. You will find that as your prayers are directed towards His will, they will always be granted to you.

Notice that this is in contrast to the faith movement, which tells you that you can pray for anything with enough faith and get it. That is in direct contradiction to Scripture. James addresses that aspect of prayer as well:

James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend {it} on your pleasures.

Most of our prayers that go unanswered and unfulfilled are simply because they are selfish.

11:25-26 Forgiveness

Forgiveness for others in our hearts is so important. This is to a regular part of our prayer lives, as the Lord taught us to pray,

Matt. 6:11-15 'Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]' For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Think about it - what is it that someone has done to you that exceeds what you've done to God? And yet He has forgiven you. Peter though he was doing well when he asked the Lord if he should actually forgive someone SEVEN times.

Matt. 18:21-35 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle {them,} there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. But since he did not have {the means} to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and {began} to choke {him,} saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell down and {began} to entreat him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

Wow. A heavy-duty teaching about the importance and necessity of forgiveness on our parts.

11:27-33 By What Authority?

The Pharisees have both answered their own question, and revealed that they are not interested in truth, but in their trap.

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