Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: We're in Mark, chapter 11. Let's pray together.
Father, we feel so privileged because we believe you are in our midst, and there's more than one of us, there's two, more that have gathered, a whole bunch of us in this living room, in this place. We give you our full attention. We feel privileged like Mary who sat at your feet and heard your Word. And, yes, there's a time, like Martha, to get busy and do work, but there's also a time to stop the work and engage in worship.
And part of that is sitting and listening to what Jesus did and what he said, and what others responded to when he did or said those things. And as we're able, Lord, to look at the life of Christ and consider it verse by verse, chapter by chapter, we count it a privilege and an honor. And I pray that we would take what you teach us and we would feed others after tonight, in Jesus' name, amen.
Well, we've been studying the Gospel of Mark, and we have noted that the theme of the Gospel of Mark is that Jesus is---what?---servant. He's the Servant, and it's all about being a servant. And we notice words like "and," "and," "and," that begin certain sentences; "now" that begin other sentences; "immediately" Jesus did this. It's a very action-packed, fast-paced Gospel.
So, chapters 1 through 10 have all been about Jesus as the Servant; now in chapter 11 we take a bit of a turn, and the emphasis is more than Jesus just being the Servant, now he's the suffering Servant. And three-fifths of the entire Gospel of Mark is devoted to what we're about to read, that final week of Jesus Christ on the earth, three-fifths of the Gospel is devoted to that.
If you were to look at all four Gospels and just kind of look at what is recorded in terms of literary real estate, there are I don't know how many chapters in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but of all the chapters in those four Gospels, four of them, only four describe the first thirty years of Jesus' life; eighty-five chapters describe the last three and a half years of Jesus' life.
Of those eighty-five chapters, twenty-nine give us the details of the final week of Jesus on the earth before his death, burial, and resurrection; and thirteen of those chapters concentrate on the final twenty-four-hour period of his life. So we understand that the focal point of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is the supreme sacrifice that Jesus gave for our sins and conquering sin by the resurrection.
Now, as we come to chapter 11, we have noted that Jesus has been in an area called Perea, Perea east of the Jordan River. He left Capernaum, he left Galilee, he went south, he crossed over the Jordan River over on the eastern side in a place called Perea, a place where Herod Antipas was the ruler. Herod Antipas cut off John the Baptist's head. The Pharisees were hoping Herod Antipas would do the same with Jesus, because John the Baptist got into trouble for his views on marriage and divorce.
And so over in Perea they came to Jesus and they asked him a controversial question about marriage and divorce. They were trying to trap him. Jesus took them back to the beginning when God first made man and woman and brought them together. After a few months being east of the Jordan River in Perea, he crosses back over the Jordan River, goes through Jericho, meets a couple of blind men. The most prominent was a guy named---well, we don't know his name, but he's the son of Timaeus, bar Timaeus.
He's typically called Bartimaeus, but that just means "son of Timaeus." He healed Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, and somebody else, another blind man. And now he's working his way up, up, up, 2,600 feet above sea level. Now, I'm just telling you this because you need to appreciate the altitude change. The Dead Sea down by Jericho, the Dead Sea, the shore of the Dead Sea is 1,290 feet below sea level. In fifteen miles it goes from that to 2,600 feet above sea level. So it's like that.
And I've often imagined bicycling up that hill. You heard the word "imagine," I never have done it. [laughter] I've walked part of it, and it's strenuous to walk, and the disciples are moving upward. The Mount of Olives is 2,600 feet above sea level, about two to three hundred feet above the city of Jerusalem. Whenever we take tours to Israel, we bring our people to the crest of the Mount of Olives first. We've been in Galilee, we've been along the coast, and we take them to Jerusalem.
And we sort of hide them from the view by taking them on this winding road until all of a sudden in front of them is the vista of the walls of Jerusalem from the eastern side looking at the ancient walls in the old city. And first time my wife saw it, she wept. So many people have that reaction. They finally see it and they start just---it's emotional. Now, I haven't had that kind of emotion, but it is always moving to me. And I've made that turn thirty-five different times in my lifetime in thirty-five different tours, and it's always breathtaking.
So they're moving up, and as Jesus goes to Jerusalem, he's going to stay with some friends who live on the Mount of Olives in a little town called Bethany. His friends are Lazarus, whom he has raised from the dead, so now he's like a really great friend, [laughter] and his two sisters Mary and Martha. They live in Bethany. And Bethany is on the other side of the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem, not facing Jerusalem, but on the other side facing toward that lower elevation where Jesus has come from.
So, that's where they are making their way as we get into chapter 11. The first few verses of this chapter is one of the key events in the Gospels. It's what we typically call the "triumphal entry" of Jesus. He gets on a donkey and he rides into Jerusalem. It's a key event; it is mentioned in all four Gospels. Now, it's rare to find an event mentioned in all four Gospels. Whenever God repeats himself, when he says something twice, he wants you to listen to him: "Verily, verily."
Sometimes God will say things three times. Isaiah, chapter 6, the angels say, "Holy, holy, holy." They don't want you to miss the fact that he's holy. But when God says something four times, I think he wants us to really get how important it is. So this is repeated four times in the four Gospels.
Now, verse 1, "When they drew near Jerusalem, to [Bethany or] Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples; and he said to them, 'Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, "Why are you doing this?" say, "The Lord has need of it," and immediately he will send it here.'
"So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, 'What are you doing, loosing the colt?' And they spoke to them just as Jesus commanded. So they let them go. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: 'Hosanna! "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!' "
This has been called, as I mentioned, the triumphal or triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Now, think of that term, that name---triumphal entry. If you were a Roman reader and you heard that term, and you read this event or saw this event, you really wouldn't see this as a triumphal entry. The Romans had what they called a triumphal entry. If a king won a battle and in that battle managed to kill at least five thousand enemy soldiers, he was entitled to a triumphal entry.
He would be brought, put in a golden chariot, paraded in front of the people. He would bring with him treasures he has collected. His soldiers would march with him. He would have strung behind him many of the soldiers or people that they have captured from those towns or that country. But you had to have killed at least five thousand enemy soldiers then you would be paraded in front of the people for a triumphal entry.
If you ever go to Rome, and you go to the Roman Forum---it's really the center attraction of ancient Rome---you will have a couple of these arches called "triumphal arches." They have a fake one in France called the Arc de Triomphe, but the real triumphal arches were by the Roman kings that are in the ancient Roman Forum. There is an arch that is called the Arch of Titus.
And after Jerusalem fell in 70 AD to the Romans, and they brought back with them some of the implements of the temple and some of the Jewish prisoners, having killed so many enemies, they built this arch, and they paraded the king and the general through this arch in a golden chariot. And to this day on the inside of that arch you can see the motifs, the engravings of the fall of Jerusalem from AD 70 that are still put on there celebrating Romans' triumph over the Jewish people.
So they would read this and go, "A few rag-tag fishermen, disciples, and a bunch of peasants throwing their garments in the road crying, 'Hosanna!'---that's a triumphal entry"? But that's how the world sees it. Indeed this is more significant and more triumphal an entry than anything Rome could ever come up with, for Jesus came to triumph over sin.
If you think about it, and if you were to simply go by the numbers that the Roman government would assign to a triumphal entry, Jesus fulfilled that, for Jesus will die on the cross and rise from the dead, and the apostles will go through Jerusalem and preach the Gospel. And in Acts chapter 3 and chapter 4, remember the story of the lame man that was at the gate beautiful? And Peter raises him up, and he is healed, and then he preaches the Gospel. It says when the people heard Peter's words, five thousand of them believed and turned to the Lord.
Great triumph happened in Jerusalem because of the death, burial, resurrection, and the powerful preaching that attested to it. This day was more significant than anything the Roman government could ever come up with. Notice a few things: "They drew near to Jerusalem," verse 1; they came to Bethphage. I'm pronouncing it as best I think it's pronounced. I don't know if it's [bəth fāj] or whatever, but Bethphage. It means "the house of figs," or more literally, "the house of unripened figs." Bethany means "the house of dates."
Presumably these things were grown around those towns. These were towns you would come to climbing up the Mount of Olives and going down the other side into Jerusalem. "He sent two of his disciples; and he said, 'Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, "Why are you going this?" just say, "The Lord has need of it," and immediately he will send it here.' "
Don't you wish you could still do that today? You need a car, you walk onto a car lot---"Hey, what are you doing touching that car?" "Lord has need of it." "Okay, here's the keys." [laughter] Awesome! Now, why did Jesus arrange all this? What is all this about? "Go get that colt," it was a donkey, the colt of a donkey. What's all this bringing a donkey and riding out? Is it that Jesus likes donkey rides?
No, by doing this---and mark this---this is the first and really only time that Jesus allowed himself to publicly be proclaimed their Messiah, their King. Every time Jesus healed somebody, remember what he would tell people? "Don't tell anybody. Keep this quiet. Don't spread this around." Now he is deliberately drawing attention to himself and he's doing this publicly to show his identity.
Zechariah chapter 9 verse 9, five hundred years before this event the prophet made a prediction. Here's the prediction: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!" Zechariah 9:9, "Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! For your King Is coming to you; he is righteous having salvation, he is lowly, riding on a donkey, the colt, a foal of a donkey." It was predicted that the Messiah would come riding a donkey into Zion, into Jerusalem.
In those days kings would ride donkeys in times of peace. If they wanted to make a settlement of peace, they would ride a stallion, or a steed, a warhorse in times of battle. Jesus is coming in on a donkey offering peace. He's the Prince of Peace. Now, quickly in your mind, and you may want to write this in the margin of your Bible: Revelation, chapter 19, when we see Jesus coming back the second time, not riding a donkey, but riding a horse.
"Now I looked, and behold, a white horse. The heavens opened and I saw a white horse. And him who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war." That's Jesus coming again, this time riding a horse, but back then riding a donkey. "And so they went their way." Incidentally, I have a question. In verse 3 they were to say to the people, if they said, "Uh, what you are doing?" What are you doing untying this colt?" They were to simply say, "The Lord has need of him."
Don't you find that an odd statement? "The Lord needs this." How can the Creator of the heavens and the earth being as powerful and independent as he is, how can he "need" anything? How could you ever say the Lord "needs" anything? Let me tell you how. The way God works is on the principle of partnership. He wants to partner with you. He's got a business, a family business. You're part of the family? then "you're part of the family business," as the Godfather would say. [laughter] You represent him.
And God has condescended himself, limited himself to the cooperation of men and women surrendered to him to get his work done on the earth. Jesus, being the Creator of heavens and earth, comes to the earth and he borrows a boat. He borrows a house to live in. He borrows an upper room to celebrate Passover. He borrows a donkey to ride into Jerusalem on, and he will borrow a tomb to get buried in. And it makes sense that he would borrow the tomb; he doesn't need it. He only needs it for a weekend, right? then have at it.
But he implements things, he uses them for his glory, but he partners with us. Listen, God wants to do a work, I believe, a powerful work in this community, in your families, in your life, but he'll do it with you. "Well, can't he do it without me?" Yes, he can, but he's limited himself to your cooperation with him. "God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise." Okay, he just described all of us. You're in, man, you're in. You can do this.
"I've always wanted to serve the Lord, but I don't know if I'd ever make seminary." It doesn't matter, you're in. God has chosen the foolish things---you're in; the weak things---you're in; the things that everybody casts out---you're in. And it's the principle of partnership. "The Lord has need of it." What do you have that you could let the Lord use? The Lord has need of that, and he will use it.
"So they went their way, and they found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, 'What are you doing, loosing the colt?' "Well, they immediately thought, "Well, Jesus said if somebody asks us, we'll just say, 'The Lord has need of it.' "
So it says, "They spoke to them just as Jesus commanded. And so they let them go." I believe that the Lord is also teaching his disciples a lesson to show them this is all set up in advance. "It's as if I have gone before you and I am ready for any question or any issue or any problem."
So, this would be an encouragement to the disciples when somebody intimidates them, and says, "Hey, what are you going there?" You can just say, "Okay, I'm going to try this. This sounds really weird, but here goes, 'Um, the Lord needs it.' ""Okay, you can have it." "Really? It was that easy?" Now you imagine whoever these two disciples were felt very encouraged when what Jesus said would happen actually happened.
"So, they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, threw their clothes on it, and he sat on it." My grandson would have loved seeing this. He's at an age where he loves animals. He loves to go to the zoo, and he makes noises like the animals make. And he thinks that by making the noise that the animal will, like, recognize him. "Oh, yeah, that's Seth. He talks just like we do."
So close to our house we have a little farm area where there are horses and donkeys and peacocks. My grandson calls them "peatocks." And so he'll go up to the fence and go, "Haw, haw! Peatock, it's Seth." Now the peatocks will hear that and they quickly run the other direction. [laughter]
The horses and the donkeys are kept in a fence. They can't really get further away. They're just where they are. So, my grandson is fascinated by these donkeys and the noises they make. So, for him to have been in Jerusalem and seeing Jesus riding this donkey, I'm sure he'd be making donkey noises.
But can I just say, what a great day for this donkey. Years ago I read a poem by G. K. Chesterton. Some of you have heard of him. He's a great author, great poet. And he wrote a poem about this donkey that we're reading about. And Chesterton writes:
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon a thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
Of all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I but I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There were shouts about my ears,
And palms beneath my feet.
He's imagining what that donkey would have thought had he been able to recognize---"That's God riding on my back. What an awesome moment! You guys can starve me, mock me, because I'm a donkey looking like this, sounding like this---Jesus is on my back---yeah!" [applause] So, again, foolish things, the Lord has need of them.
"Those who went," verse 9, "before and those who followed cried out saying: 'Hosanna!' "That's a quote out of Psalm 118. It means "save now, Lord." It's a messianic cry of salvation: "Save now, Lord. Lord give to us what our religious system has not been able to provide. Do what that Jewish system has not been able to give. Save now!" "'Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!' "
Now, we'll get to it when we get to the Gospel of Luke, but because that's going to be a while, let me tell you Luke's rendering of this. When Jesus is on the donkey and he's coming down the Mount of Olives and he weeps over the city of Jerusalem, he holds Jerusalem accountable for having known this particular day. Now, let me just back up and say, the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem was a Sunday.
In the Jewish calendar it was the tenth day of the month of Nisan, not the truck or the car, the Jewish month is also Nisan. The tenth of Nisan was the day in the Jewish calendar that Jewish homes selected a lamb from the flock for their own personal sacrifice, and once it would be killed, they would eat of it with the family. It was a tenth of Nisan. The lamb was taken; it was presented to the family that day.
So on the tenth of Nisan, on the day that the lamb is presented, the Lamb of God is presented to the nation. And Jesus, according to Luke, chapter 19, Jesus said, "If only you would have known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. And, behold, your enemies will come and cast an embankment around you, and level you on every side, you and your children within you, and there will not be one stone that is left upon another within you because you did not know the time of your visitation."
It's interesting that Jesus said those words holding that nation accountable to know that day, that time of their visitation. What day was it? What time was it? I take you back a few weeks in our weekend study of Daniel, chapter 9. Do you remember Daniel's Seventy Weeks?
When the angel said to Daniel, "Daniel, seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your holy city to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to bring in reconciliation for iniquity . . . to anoint the Most Holy. Know this: From the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there will be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens."
I'll move it through quickly. From the time that a commandment is given to restore and build Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince will be 483 years. You can get the calculations in a book called The Coming Prince written by Sir Robert Anderson who was the head of Scotland Yard years ago, and he did all the computations.
Anderson figured that according to the calendar you would be able to count to the exact day from the going forth of the commandment, the edict to restore and build the city of Jerusalem, which was given on March 14, 445 BC, by Artaxerxes Longimanus the Persian monarch; that you could count 483 years to that day and to the exact date the Messiah would show up in Jerusalem.
So he counted; he computed. He went through all of the arithmetic using a 365-day lunar year rather than our 365 and a third day solar year. And he computed Daniel's Seventy Weeks starting from March 14, 445 BC, when the edict went forth by Artaxerxes to restore and build Jerusalem, taking the 483 years into days, which is exactly 173,880 days.
And he counted 173,880 days from March 14, 445 BC, and the last day happened to be April 6, 32 AD, or the tenth of Nisan, a Sunday, when Jesus Christ the Messiah for the first and only time presented himself to the nation publicly as their Messiah to the public adulation of the crowd, saying, "Hosanna 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' "
And Jesus had to stop, according to Luke, and say, "You should have known this day. You should have known the time of your visitation. And because you didn't recognize it, because you were blinded to it, and you didn't study that prophetic Scripture and take me literally, take the Father's prophecy literally, 70 AD is coming right around the corner, and not one stone of this temple is going to be left. It's gonna to all be torn down, and this city will be desolate, because you didn't know the time of you are visitation." Amazing.
All of that for me to ask you this question: How exact is God? Why is it that you get so worried about so many little things and look up to heaven as if---"God, you're late. You're blowing it. What's wrong? How come you're not watching? How come you're not listening? How come you're not acting?" If God can pull what I just described off, it's chump change what we got going on. He can move heaven and earth and history to weave together for Jesus to come on the exact day. He can take care of whatever stuff you've got going. He's exact. He's exact.
So they shouted, "'Hosanna in the highest!' And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when he had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, he went out to Bethany"---that's going back over the Mount of Olives just to the other side where Lazarus and Mary and Martha were living, where he would be staying---"with the twelve."
"He looked around at all things." What was he noticing? Well, he was noticing what he's going to notice the next day: buyers and sellers in the temple. Now, he's going to overturn the tables, but the first day he didn't do that. He just looks around, considers what he is seeing, considers what they're doing in God's house, and then he goes home. And then the next day he acts upon it. I like this. I think this is a good idea.
How many times have you been troubled, bothered, concerned about something and you want to spout off immediately, and tell that person, "What's up?" And you say, "Look, this is just the way I am. This is my personality, man. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I just gotta say what I think." Not a good idea. A better idea---go back to Bethany, rest, bring it again before the Lord, and get the Father's timing. Confirm it with the Father. Go to the place of rest and then come back and approach the issue, instead of just taking care of it right there. I think that is a good practice to follow.
"Now, the next day, when they had come out of Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, he went to see if perhaps he would find something on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response, Jesus said to it, 'Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.' "Okay."And his disciples heard it." Why on earth, first of all, would Jesus talk to a tree? And, second, since Mark says it's not fig season yet, why would Jesus curse, condemn, a fig tree for not bearing fruit, figs, when it's not even the season for figs?
Would you like to know the answer to that? Okay, that's the puzzling question. In that part of the world there is an early edible but smaller fig that grows at this springtime of the year. That smaller edible fruit when it comes, when it shows up on the fig tree, that first fruit of the fig is simply a harbinger of a fuller crop that is going to come later on in the summer. If there are no early figs, there will be no latter figs. If there's first early fruit, there's going to be latter fruit as well on this particular tree.
The leaves are there. He looks to see if there's the early figs; they're not there. And Mark says, "Well, it's not fig season yet." Still, there could have been that indicator that the fuller batch is coming, but there isn't. He curses it. What Jesus is doing---and we'll pick up on it again because we'll have this revisited in a few verses. Jesus is giving his commentary on how he has been treated by the nation he has just presented himself to that is rejecting him.
He has come to the nation looking for fruit; all he finds is leaves, no fruit. It's all gussied up. It's got leaves. It's got the outward show. It's got the profession, but no real possession, no real fruit. And so he curses it, which is like a preview of coming attractions. A "trailer" they would call it in the movie business. He's cursing the fig tree; the fig tree stands for a nation. In 70 AD this nation is going to experience the cursing, the judgment of God by the Romans that come against them. So this is his commentary using this analogy, his commentary on their rejection of them coming to them as a nation: "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again."
Now, in 70 AD, after the destruction of Jerusalem, Jerusalem's going to be scattered. Israel's going to be scattered. The Jews are going to be scattered throughout the world until 1948; 1948 Israel will be established in its ancient homeland. Jews from all over the world will come back. But the Bible says that after the rapture of the church that there will be this revival that happens among the Jews during the tribulation where a remnant come back, a remnant return, believe in the Messiah, and bear forth fruit in the tribulation and throughout the kingdom age in the millennium. So that's the good news to wrap that up.
"So they came to Jerusalem," verse 15. "Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those who sold doves." The dove was the animal that the poorest of the poor could give. If they couldn't afford a lamb, you could afford a dove. It's what Joseph and Mary brought.
"And he would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple." I've always been fascinated by this story. And by the way, this happens not once but twice in the ministry of Jesus: one time at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry; one time at the very end of Jesus' ministry. John, chapter 2, records Jesus doing this three years prior at the beginning of his ministry; Mark and the other Gospel writers show him doing it at the end---two different events.
He cleansed the temple at the beginning of his ministry. They didn't learn, they went back to the old practices, and now at the Passover time they're at it again. I'm fascinated by that because I remember hearing this little poem. Actually, it's a song that was written by Charles Wesley in the seventeen hundreds, the brother of John Wesley the evangelist. And part of the lyrics of Charles Wesley's little song goes, "Gentile Jesus, meek and mild, look upon this little child."
It's a beautiful song, and certainly Jesus was very gentle, especially when it came to children. But "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild," could become when the holiness of God is at stake and there's hypocrites that are messing that up, gentle Jesus can become "agitated Jesus, mad and wild." And he takes their accoutrements of worship, their tables, the setup, and he just overturns it, and drives them out.
"And," verse 16, "he wouldn't even allow anyone to carry wares through the temple." What is he doing? Is he just having a bad day? Is he just---did Peter, like, say something, just like really got under his skin? "I'm mad now!" Is he having, like, a bad Messiah day? [laughter] No, exercising his rightful authority as the Messiah, the Son, over his Father's house. In John, chapter 2, he calls the temple, "My Father's house will be called a house of prayer."
He's exercising his right as the unique Son of God, as the Messiah of the Jews, exercising rightful authority over the temple, the house of his Father. He is responding, he's reacting, after a night in prayer in Bethany, to the worship system he sees before him. Here was the problem: people from all over Judea were coming to worship in Jerusalem. I mean, hundreds of thousands of people were. It was a long walk if you lived in Perea, or in you lived passed Jericho.
And to walk up that hill with your families, if you lived thirty miles out, it took time. So people didn't always bring an animal to sacrifice, instead they would buy one on the tenth of Nisan, and that would be the one they would present. It'd be presented to the family, and then later to the priest. So people would come up to worship without an animal. The people who ran the temple saw that as an opportunity, sort of like---"Well, we have an app for that. "
"You need an animal? We have an app for that. We'll sell you one of our animals since you didn't bring one." Or what was more common is you'd have foreign currency, not the temple shekel. You'd have to exchange whatever currency you used in your hometown into the temple currency, and they said, "We have an app for that." They would charge you the equivalent of two-days' wage for a working man just to exchange your money into their money. They would sell you an animal, but for an exorbitant cost.
So in essence, they were taking advantage of people's desire to worship God from the purity of their own heart and give to God, they thought, "We can make money on this." I guess it would be the equivalent of this: "The Lord has revealed to me tonight that there are thirty people that will give a thousand dollars. [laughter] The Spirit of God has spoken to me. Oh, yes, I see that hand. God bless you---a thousand, and there's twenty-nine of you that are holding back." That would sort of be like Jesus is gonna like come up and, like, rip the microphone out and, like, arghh.
Verse 17, "Then he taught, saying to them, 'Is it not written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations"? You have made it a "den of thieves." '" People wanted to worship God; the people running things were taking financial advantage of their desire to worship God.
Sort of like when you go to the movies. [laughter] It costs you 10 dollars to see the movie; it costs you 250 dollars for the popcorn and the coke and the candy. It's like, "What? I just, like, spent my whole paycheck on this?" It's because they know they've got you while you're in the theater. That's why you should be able to bring your own stuff---anyway; it has nothing to do with this. Sorry, sorry. Okay. [laughter]
"And the scribes and the chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy him; for they feared him, because all the people were astonished at his teaching. When evening had come, he went out of the city." This shocked the Pharisees and the scribes, the keepers of the temple. It shocked them because the sacrificial system was at the very heart of their worship. And for Jesus to come in and stop that and to effectively stop the sacrifices so that people couldn't even walk with a vessel through the temple, this shocked them.
They could only think how we destroy him. Again, if they had only been Bible students; if they would have---and their memory should have been jogged by seeing this, even if it was a would-be Messiah, in their view, come and do this, they should have thought of the Scripture in Malachi, chapter 3. Let me read it to you. It's a last book in the Old Testament.
"'Behold, I send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.' "Now, we know that to be John the Baptist. He did come, but listen to the rest of the verse. "'And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, he is coming,' says the Lord of hosts. 'But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire. And he will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; he will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering of righteousness.' "
The boldness of Jesus Christ should have jogged their memory into some of them thinking, "Maybe this is the Messenger of the covenant that was predicted by the prophet coming to the temple and upsetting the worship."
Jesus says "You've made it a den of thieves." What's a den of thieves? A den of thieves would be a place where a thief could come and feel safe. When a person who is rebellious against God can come to a church over and over and over and again, and feel safe and okay and good about their life without change, without repentance, something's wrong with that church. Now it's become a "den of thieves."
A den where people who are lost in sin feel good about their sin, feel like they don't need to change. "This place makes me feel good. They never tell me I need to repent. They never tell me I'm a sinner. I like this place."---always positive message, always smiles. Better think twice. Jesus said, "This is my Father's house. It's supposed to be a place of worship. These thieves are feeling comfortable in it. In fact, they're running the show. It's become a den of thieves."
Now in the morning," verse 20, "they passed by, and they saw that fig tree dried up from the roots." Remember, Jesus cursed it, now it's dried up from the roots. Now, if it's dried up from the roots---by the way, the root system, you couldn't see, right? For it to be dried up the next day it had to have been dried up at the roots first; that's where it derives its nourishment. But because you can't see the root system, this thing dried up very quickly.
Now the whole thing is dried up, but it's dried up from the roots. When it's dried up from the roots, it's dried up at the fruits. If you don't see fruit in your life, if your life isn't bearing some sort of evidence, some sort of evidential fruit, maybe you're dried up in the root, at the core, at the heart. Maybe, maybe you have come to a place in your life where you just sort of feel comfortable, but there's no real fruit production. And real change needs to take place in your heart at the root, so that fruit can abound.
"And Peter, remembering, said to him, 'Rabbi, look!' "Peter's just blown away. He's kind of, like, stoked at this. "'The fig tree which you cursed has withered away.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, that whoever says to this mountain, "be removed and be cast into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things that he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever thing you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.' "
I want you to understand this. I want you to understand what this is not saying. This mountain that they were in front of would most likely have been the Mount of Olives. Well, because the Mount of Olives is still in its place to this day, I don't think he meant, "Okay, one of you disciples, I wonder who has enough faith to actually take the Mount of Olives, change the landscape of Jerusalem a bit, and move this into the Mediterranean Sea?" Because it's still there, I don't think he intended that we go around changing the topography by this statement.
And I don't think that this is a formula. You know, you read this: "Have faith in God, and I say unto you . . ." You read this and you might think, "Well, this is sort of like a formula, a one, two, three formula for performing a miracle.: 'Yes, you too can curse fig trees and here's how.' " [laughter] I think by looking at this in the context, Jesus is giving to his disciples---he's teaching them how to live so as to avoid God's curse, which is a life of faith. That's the idea. That's the context.
There was a statement in Jewish literature---and we always have to go back into history to understand certain things like this, because they're sort of enigmatic to us until we do. There was written in Jewish literature, in the Babylonian Talmud in particular, someone that they called the "rooter up of mountains." It was a rabbi who was a spiritual person, or who could teach a difficult passage, or who could solve a difficult riddle or a problem. He was given the title "a rooter up of mountains."
So, I think what Jesus is saying is that removing obstacles to a life of faith so as to avoid God's curse in your life is what this is all about. Let me give you an example of where I think this is also used. In Zechariah, chapter 4, Zechariah gets a whole bunch of visions. In chapter 4 he gets a particular vision where he sees in this vision a menorah, a seven-branched golden candlestick, like was in the tabernacle in the temple.
And in the vision he sees that above that candelabra there is a golden vessel, a bowl, and pipes that go from the bowl, and on either side is an olive tree. Olive oil is flowing directly from the olive tree through the pipes into the bowl feeding the candelabra. So, it was like a fully automatic candelabra. That's what he saw.
You know, this thing---olive oil is just, you know, the priest don't have to fill it. It's just getting filled automatically. It's, like, that's cool, it's an automatic menorah. It's awesome. And Zechariah goes, "What is this?" And the Lord tells him, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'That's it's not by might, it's not by power, but it's by my Spirit,' says the Lord.'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a flat plain!' "
In other words, "I'm going to empower my governor of Jerusalem, Zerubbabel, so that the temple will be done, it will be rebuilt, the city will be rebuilt as I have decreed. And it won't be done by human ingenuity and striving. The Lord's going to make sure is that it gets done, and he's going to remove every obstacle, so they can live that life of faith and blessing that God intended for them, and he's going to remove the mountain." So that's a good text to put with this one to sort of get the idea behind it.
"'And whenever you stand,' " verse 25, "'whenever you stand and you pray' "---why would Jesus say that? Why wouldn't he say, "Whenever you kneel and pray"? Because standing and praying was the typical Jewish form of prayer. Bowing or kneeling was an intense form of prayer. All of them are acceptable, but standing was the typical way. So he said, "Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.' "
Notice what it says. Jesus doesn't say, "If you're praying, you're bummed out at somebody, go find that person and tell that person, "You know what? I just want you to know that I've hated you for ten years. I've hated your guts every night. I've thought about you, and I've just wanted to throw darts at you. You just had made me so bitter and so angry for ten years, but I just want you to know that, because I want you to know I've forgiven you." Never to that!
Because now the person's going away paranoid: "They've hated me for ten years? Who else has hated me for ten years?" Jesus said just forgive them. Don't tell them, just go, if you're standing, just forgive them. Now where the Bible does say you need to approach is if you stand praying, Jesus said, "and you remember your brother has something against you, then leave your gift, and go to your brother. Make it right, then come and offer your gift."
But if you're just bummed out at somebody, you don't have to go tell them, "I've been bummed out at you for"---just forgive them. Tell it to the Lord, and you move on. And then it says, "If you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." Remember Jesus taught us to pray the disciples' prayer? We call it the Lord's Prayer, but it's really the disciples' prayer.
"Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread"---you know the prayer. "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Or as I learned it: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
There's always a relationship between vertical forgiveness and horizontal forgiveness. If you have been forgiven by God, the greatest debt, the debt that would keep you out of heaven forever and send you to hell, if you've been forgiven that, what right do you have to hold a grudge against somebody else? You have no right.
And the fact that you would hold a grudge and refuse to forgive might simply prove that you really haven't been forgiven by God. If you've been forgiven by God, and you felt that grace and forgiveness, you should have no problem getting over yourself, and saying, "I forgive."
Now, can we just not argue about, "Well, I don't know if they're really sincere when they said they were sorry?" Or, "Well, they really have to prove over a period of time that they're really repentant, and they've done it to me several times now." Forgive them. You just have to get over that part and not argue about that. God has forgiven you, and how many times have you blown it . . . today? [laughter]
Ephesians 4:32, "And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." Yeah, I know, it's not easy being around people. They blow it, they say nasty things to us, they're eggheaded and stubborn, thickheaded and lame, and that's precisely why they need to be forgiven. They just keep proving that they're sinners, and that's why they need to be forgiven. And grace should flow out of us because we've been forgiven.
"And they came again to Jerusalem. He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, and scribes, and elders came to him. And they said to him, 'By what authority are you doing these things? And who give you this authority to do these things?' "
"We want to know your credentials. You're like a self-proclaimed Messiah. What university did you go to? Where did you get your Master of Divinity from---Galilee?"
"Jesus answered and said to them, 'I also will ask you one question; then answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John---was it from heaven or from men? Answer me.' And they reasoned among themselves, saying, 'If we say, "From heaven," he will say, "Why then did you not believe him?" If we say, "From men" '---they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed."
This is beautiful. They're trying to trap Jesus: "By what authority . . . ?" So they thought by this question---it's like on the chessboard, they would say, "Check," and Jesus made his move and said, "Checkmate." Because notice what it says, "So they answered and said to Jesus, 'We do not know.' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.' "
Love how Jesus is in control of even these religious nitwits. [applause] And he has the right to do so as the Jewish Messiah predicted by their Old Testament prophets, the Son of the Father, the One who has the authority to go as he did to the temple, calling it his Father's house as he did in John, chapter 2, having the unique authority as the Son over that Father's house to exercise authority.
Father, as we close our time together tonight having gone through an entire chapter of Mark considering its history, it's language, considering other texts of Scripture that broaden out its meaning and understanding to us, having made application to our own lives, we trust that the Holy Spirit will now take the Word of God to do the work of God in the hearts and lives of the people of God.
Those who have gathered together here, Lord, if they're yours, they belong to you; they don't belong to us. And Paul said, "Who are you to judge another man's servant? Before his own master does he rise and fall." How thankful we are, Lord, that you are patient with us, and that when we blow it, when we fail, when we fall, great is your faithfulness; your mercies are new every morning. May we take our cues from that, being anxious, ready, and willing to forgive so that our prayers will not be hindered.
Lord, I pray for anyone who has come into this house, but they're unchanged. They've come into this place under the teaching of the Word of God, but they don't know the God of the Word. They've heard the worship of God, but they don't know personally the God that we worship and serve.
Many people in this community, in this town are religious people. Lord, you know I was one of them---from another town, but religious in my upbringing nonetheless. Lord, I pray that if they don't personally know you that they would turn to you tonight, to the very God that we worship; it would be personal, it would be real, it would be authentic, it would be from their own hearts.
Before we close this service, if you're sitting here tonight and maybe you've been invited by a friend, maybe you've grown up going to church all your life and you have this sort of existential belief in God, but it's never really been real; it's never been personal. You don't recall a time where you've asked Jesus to come into your heart, asked him to forgive your sins, and you've made him personally your Savior and your Master. If you haven't done that, you need to do that.
That's what Jesus meant when he said, "Unless you are born again, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." You have to have a spiritual birth from above. If you want that, and you are willing and ready to give your life to Jesus Christ right here, right now, or maybe you've strayed away from the Lord, you need to come back home---either way, as we're praying as our heads are bowed, I want you to raise your hand up.
Do it quickly. Raise your hand up right now. Raise it high in the air. And by raising your hand you're saying, "Pray for me. I want to give my life to Christ now, tonight." God bless you, to my right toward the back; and you. Anyone else? Slip that hand up. You're saying yes to him. You're giving your life to Christ. You're asking him to forgive you of your sins. Yes, ma'am, God bless you. Anybody else? You're not here by accident. The Lord drew you---toward the back, and in the balcony.
I'm going ask you to do me a favor now. I'm just going to ask you to stand. If you raised your hand, would you just stand to your feet. I'm not going to embarrass you. Our heads can stay bowed and closed, but you stand to your feet. Stand around and I'm going to ask you to say a prayer with me right now, right where you're standing. This is a prayer to ask Jesus to come into your heart.
Say this to him: Lord, I know I'm a sinner; forgive me. I believe Jesus came, died for my sins, and rose from the dead. I turn from my sin; I turn to you as my Savior. I want to follow you as my Master. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and help me to do that, in Jesus' name, amen.
Let's all stand.