THE SECOND COMING

Mark 13:24-37

BRIEF INTRO:

This study will finish our meditation on Christ’s response to the questions proffered earlier by Peter, James, and John (v. 3). Jesus told them that wars, rumors of wars, and false messiahs must come, but are only the beginning of birth pangs (v. 8). He told them of the persecution that would come for those who follow Him (v.9), and the gospel’s proclamation to “all the nations” before His return (v.10)! If those things were not concerning enough, He tells them about “the abomination of desolation” that will happen to usher in an even greater time of tribulation (aka “the great tribulation-the last half of the seven years of tribulation). 

These days will be filled with many satanic-inspired pseudo-miracles that are utilized to convince people (even the elect if possible v. 22) that they are the true Messiah. But, everything they and we need to know so as not to be deceived He has told us in advance (v. 23) so we would be alert! 

The alertness of God’s people is a theme that develops within His answer to the disciples beginning in verse five: “see to it that no one misleads you.” Then we read: “Be on your guard” (v. 9), “but when you see” (v. 14), “I have told you everything in advance” (v. 23), and “Take heed, keep on the alert” (v. 33, 37). 

As we begin our focus today in the remaining part of this chapter, we quickly realize that the days being spoken of now by the Lord, after the abomination of desolation appears, are far worse than what has been previously mentioned.

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His [a]elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven.”

FOCUS ONE: In those days (24-27)

The first thing to be noticed in “those days” will be the magnitude of the celestial catastrophes that will be taking place. The sun will “go black,” no longer bringing forth its radiant light. The moon will no longer give its light as *”the universe begins to disintegrate prior to the return of Christ” (Matthew 24:29; Revelation 6:12). 

The stars in the sky that we enjoy observing on clear nights will begin to fall through space. “All the forces of energy that hold everything in space constant, and which Christ controls, He will allow to become random and chaotic” (Isaiah 13:6-16; 2 Peter 3:10-12). And then?

Then, “they will see the appearance of the Son of Man (v. 26). He is said to be coming in the clouds with great power and glory. In Acts chapter one, verse eleven, we are told that Jesus will come again “in the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” In other words, His coming will be:

  1. Powerful
  2. Visible
  3. And rescuing

Jesus Christ will redeem the elect, restore the devastated earth, and establish His rightful rule on earth! He will send forth His angels to “gather the elect from everywhere; not one of them will be absent from His kingdom(v. 27)! At this point in history, the “elect” will include the 144,000 Jewish witnesses (Revelation 7:4) and all those converted through their witness (v.9). Also, and very awesome to contemplate, are those too that were converted through the angelic proclamation we read about in Revelation 14:6!

28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch has become tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So you too, when you see these things happening, [a]recognize that [b]He is near, right at the [c]door.30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

FOCUS TWO: Learning from a fig tree (28-32)

In the following scriptures (28-37), Jesus uses two parables to teach and exhort the disciples and those who would be reading these words in a later generation (v. 14). The first is the parable of the fig tree; the second is about the master’s return. This first parable, that of the fig tree, is meant to exhort the followers of Jesus Christ to always be ready for His return. 

Just like the fig tree, “branches become tender, putting forth its leaves” when spring is ending and summer is beginning” (v. 28), sure and certain signs that reveal a change in seasons, so too are the events that reveal Christ is returning! These things, the events mentioned in (vv. 6-23), are to be just as much a clear indication of His approaching return!

Just as the fig tree reveals that summer is near; so these events indicate that Jesus is close!

Jesus then promises that these things will come to pass. He solidifies His promise basing it on the eternal and indestructible Word of God (v. 31). We know from His previous teaching (v. 24-25; Luke 21:25-28) that the universe as we now know it will be dramatically and eternally changed (2 Peter 3:10). But His Word will never pass away. It is impossible for His Word to be altered or destroyed in any way. This fact, this truth, makes His promise about His coming resolute. And it makes the point clear-we are always to be ready because the end will come with a swift conclusion.

The following words seem a bit confusing. “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the father alone” (v. 32). “When Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, even He had no knowledge of the date and time of His return.” That’s a bit hard to believe. After all, He is the second person of the trinity, co-equal, co-eternal, etc. He is, after all, Emmanuel (God with us). MacArthur writes: “Although Jesus was fully God (John 1:1,14), when He becam a man, He voluntarily restricted the use of certain divine attributes (Philippians 2:6-8). He did not manifest them unless directed by the Father (John 4:34; 5:30). He demonstrated His omniscience on several occasions, but He voluntarily restricted that omniscience to only those things God wanted Him to know during the days of his humanity”(John 15:15). So it is because of this we read that He did not know the timing.

Luke wrote: “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:2). Paul wrote the Thessalonians two letters in which He spoke of the “coming of the Lord” repeatedly. His first letter mentions the coming of the Lord at the end of every chapter! Why? It is something to be looking for. It is the truth that we are to “comfort one another” with. It is a reality that should push us to “excel still more” in our walk of faith.

How does this truth, Jesus coming again, encourage you, dear Christian? 

3“Watch out, stay alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is. 34 It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and [a]putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. 35 Therefore, stay alert—for you do not know when the [b]master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 so that he does not come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 What I say to you I say to all: ‘Stay alert!‘”

FOCUS THREE: Pay attention (33-37)

As I mentioned above, there are two parables that Jesus employs with the intention of teaching and exhorting the disciples, and all that will read these words in a later generation (v.14). The above focus point discussed the first; now the second. 

This is a parable about the master’s return. The point is to exhort the reader always to be ready because Jesus could come anytime. The master goes on a journey and assigns his slaves tasks to be accomplished. He commands the doorkeeper to “stay alert.” Alert for what? For his return!

No one knows when he will return, just that he will return. Jesus begins this parable with an exhortation to “take heed, keep on the alert, for you do not know when the appointed  time will come.” 

In this parable, we find that alertness is likened to being a doorkeeper (v.34). “In Jesus’ day, this individual guarded the outer gate of the house, so as to be ready to let the returning master in upon his arrival.” He was to be on the alert, always ready for the master to return.  

These parables teach us that “being alert” ought to be the “standing position” of every believer. Jesus may come suddenly, and we don’t know when. He could come at any time, so His children need to be ready. “All of Christ’s disciples are to be like doorkeepers, always remaining alert and vigilant for their Master’s return.” 

And, keep in mind, He didn’t just say this to the twelve. “What I say to you I say to all, be on the alert!”

  • * MacArthur Study Bible
  • Exegetical Guide to the New Testament

JESUS’ VIEW OF CHRISTMAS

Various scriptures

As I write this post, the temperature in Indiana has dropped into the negatives, the snow has ceased falling, and the wind is constant and bone-chilling. I have been writing the previous post’s on the view of Christmas (incarnation) from the standpoint of various people in the Bible and directly related to the Christmas story. I have been doing this because it seems that we, and by we, I mean our American culture, have lost NOT only a “proper view” of Christmas but a biblical one as well.

*A poll conducted back in 2017 asked 1,000 people nationwide, “How do you view Christmas today?” They have come up with some interesting responses. 43% of the respondents said they think “it is all or mostly cultural,” while 31.3% said it is an even mix between cultural and religious. Only 15% view it as most or all religious.

Part of the problem that has led to a shift in the past thirty years is the growing number of people who identify as “spiritual” but not religious. While numbers might not be “your thing,” what they represent should be. They reveal a decline in Americans viewing Christmas as a “religious” celebration and a rise in a secular view of it. 

But that is not the only denominator that affects this cultural shift in America. Age also appears to play a role in it. In the 18-35 age group, 55.4% say they view Christmas as cultural rather than religious. The most interesting aspect of all this is the number of people that still plan on celebrating Christmas across America. “85% plan on celebrating Christmas even though they have different views of its meaning and significance.”

That is why these biblical viewpoints of Christmas from people involved in the first coming of Jesus are so vital. But the most important view is that of the “baby” Himself, Jesus Christ. What is His view of His birth, life, death, and resurrection? This is a view of Christmas, and our children and children’s children need to be reminded of the purpose of Christmas.

Jesus Christ came into the world through the virgin birth and was found lying in a lowly manger to display God’s love for us! “But God shows His love for (us) in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). While mankind was lost in their sins (lust, greed, adultery, fornication, murder, hate, envy, blasphemy, etc), God made very clear His love for His creation and His desire to redeem them from the bondage of their sin through His Son Jesus!

“In this is the love of God made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that (we) might live through Him”  (1 John 4:9). Our Children need to know that “that the reason the Son of God appeared (baby Jesus) was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Not so we can spend ourselves into debt and have a day or two off of work or school!

Jesus, Himself stated that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they (you and I) may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He also said of Himself, “The Son of Man (Jesus) came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). His “view” is clear; His “purpose” evident. 

So, why should we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Is it simply a “cultural” or secular holiday void of religious value? Is it just something we do no different than the Fourth of July or Labor Day? OR can it be that this day we celebrate has a vastly more significant value? 

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. . .” (1 Timothy 1:15)!

This is “the reason for the season.” This is the view of the triune Godhead. This is why we celebrate Christmas! God sent His only Son to pay the penalty for sin that I owe so that I would be made right with Him and enjoy Him forever!

Nothing anyone in this life can give us that is as important, as valuable, and indestructible as the salvation given to sinners through the gift of the baby in a manger over two thousand years ago-Jesus Christ!

I pray that we fully enjoy this greatest of gifts this Christmas season.

*Saint Leo University polling institute, an online poll

THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION

Mark 13:14-20

BRIEF RECAP:

In our last two studies, we read Jesus’ answers to their questions (v.1).

His answers go far beyond the destruction of Jerusalem, which would happen in 70 A.D, and graphically encompasses events that would transpire at and during the tribulation period. He warned them of deception, wars, rumors of wars, natural disasters increasing in frequency and amount, and the persecution that would happen because of His name. 

He told them what to expect regarding the councils they would stand before. He instructed them not to be anxious at that time but to look to the Holy Spirit, who would give them the words to say. He also revealed how terrible it would be in the homes of those who followed Him in those days. Parents were turning in their children, and children their parents. Siblings report one another and hand them over to be put to death (v 12).

And then Jesus makes this profound statement: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Those words from Jesus indicate that the truly regenerated WILL persevere through these terrible times showing that they are truly His children!

14 “Now when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be—[a]let the [b]reader understand—then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.”

FOCUS ONE: THE TRIGGER (14)

If the words of Jesus to His disciples so far haven’t been that concerning, these next ones certainly would be. Some striking observations in this verse alone need to be pointed out. Statements that make clear to us what this abomination of desolation is and when it will take place.

 We take notice of the term “seeing,” the abomination of desolation standing where (he) ought not to be. The definite greek article used for “it” or “he” is ho. Your translation may have it either way. But I think we can accurately summarize from these words that there will be a person that stands where he shouldn’t be (the temple) proclaiming himself to be god, as we read about in Daniel 9.

This will take place in a period identified in verse 19 as “a time of tribulation.” That tribulation period is seven years, according to the prophet Daniel in Daniel chapter 9 – the seventeenth week of Daniel. “It is a time of deadly destruction. Satan is let loose, demons are let loose, Satan and demons do terrible damage to people, terrible destructive damage and death is brought upon people. The Antichrist shows up, the false prophet shows up, the Antichrist takes over and dominates the world with his power; he is aided and abetted by demons and by men who form his armies.”

When you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand).” Those words, let the reader understand, are essential as well. Remember that Jesus is speaking to His disciples, telling them these things. The NT was not written down for many more years!

So, that event is a significant event that will let everyone know that they are in a time of tribulation. “Please notice: this was not for the disciples. This was for readers – see it? ‘Let the reader understand.’ That is not added by some editor; that is what Mark wrote.”

So what I believe our “take-away” is from this statement is that this isn’t going to happen until this is written down in Scripture and read; therefore, this is for a future generation of readers – not for those who are listening on the Mount of Olives, but for future readers of the New Testament – and what would they look for? The ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION. You say, “What is that?” As I mentioned above, referencing Daniel, he spoke about it three times!”

Let’s go a step deeper and define precisely what abomination means. It means something blasphemous, detestable, abhorrent to God, sacrilegious, and irreverent. It’s used to refer to immorality, idolatry, and pagan religion; it’s used in the Old Testament and even in the book of Revelation at least three times.

“So, when the Antichrist comes, he’s going to establish his rule in Jerusalem, in the temple, and he’s going to place himself where he ought not to stand, in the temple devoted to God. Chapter 12 of Daniel repeats this in detail; that he will come, two thirds of the Jews will be judged by God for unbelief, one third will believe; that at midpoint – time, times, and half a time – the Antichrist will come; he will desecrate the temple for a period of three-and-a-half years – or as Revelation 11:2 says, 42 months. So, those are two times Daniel refers to it.”

Again I am going to quote John MacArthur because he does a great job of laying out this terminology’s history. “He refers to it one other time, and that’s in chapter 11, verse 31 – it’s imperative – because, in chapter 11, verse 31, Daniel has a fascinating mention of the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION. In 11:31, he mentions the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION, about what Antiochus Epiphanes did. Antiochus Epiphanes was a Seleucid king who came into Israel on December 15, 167, and brought an army of a quarter of a million men – Seleucid army.

Slaughtered Jews, massacred Jews – 167 B.C. – sacrificed pigs on the altar, splattered pig broth everywhere, set up an idol to Zeus, banned sacrifice, stopped all temple worship – that according to 1 Maccabees. He wanted to establish the worship of Zeus in the temple – that is also an ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION. Daniel gives that in the middle of the other two, to give us a historic model of what this abomination will be.

It’ll be a ruler who goes into the temple, wanting to blaspheme and desecrate that which is associated with the true and living God and establish the worship of himself there; you have a model of it in Antiochus. That, too, is an abomination when he put an idol standing where it shouldn’t stand; that’s exactly what’s going to happen in the middle of the week. This guy will appear to be a peacemaker, he will break the peace, he will start to slaughter the Jews, He will establish a throne from which he will rule – that’s Antichrist – you read more about him in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation and elsewhere.”

“DISCERNMENT” IS CRITICAL TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING AND WHAT DAYS WE ARE IN. 

 15 [c]Whoever is on the [d]housetop must not go down, nor go in to get anything out of his house. 16 And [e]whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 17 But woe to those women who are pregnant, and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 Moreover, pray that it will not happen in winter.”

FOCUS TWO: THE WARNINGS (14-18)

Flee, don’t go down, don’t turn back, and pray it will not happen in winter, are all very concerning warnings. They make it clear that the coming crisis and its distress leave no time for packing, planning, or anything else. Those people will have minimal time to flee what is coming, if that’s even possible.

When we (the reader) think about the approach of the Roman army before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70, these admonitions make much more sense. These days of tribulation will be far worse than when the Romans conquered Jerusalem. The situation will be urgent and need a hasty response from people from all walks of life to escape this unprecedented distress falling upon them.

So, all the scenarios (rooftop, in the fields, pregnant women, and timing-winter) are mentioned to get the readers’ attention so that they would better understand the gravity of the situation they find themselves in and are mentally and psychologically prepared to flee without hesitation.

19 For those days will be such a time of tribulation as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will again20 And if the Lord had not shortened those days, no [a]life would have been saved; but for the sake of the [b]elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

FOCUS THREE: THE HORROR (19-23)

As I mentioned earlier, some of these answers do appear to fit the time of the fall of Jerusalem, but parts like we are reading now do not; they are speaking of another event, far worse than the fall of Jerusalem-the seventieth week of Daniel!

Why do I think that? Read verse nineteen. “19 For those days will be such a time of tribulation as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will again.” Do you see it? Clearly, He is speaking of some other time, not Jerusalem’s fall. That event was terrible but was nothing compared to what will happen during these seven years of tribulation.

God shortens those days in His mercy and complete sovereignty over all things. No one would survive if God, in His mercy, did not limit the duration of these horrible times.

21 “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the [a]Christ’; or, ‘Look, there He is‘; do not believe it22 for false christs and false prophets will arise, and will provide signs and wonders, in order to mislead, if possible, the elect. 23 But beware; I have told you everything in advance.”

 After these people flee and go into hiding, Satan’s activity shows itself operating in various ways. One of those ways is through deception. Satan will cause many false christs to appear on the scene with one goal- deception. “Seeking to lead astray, if possible the elect” (the elect could refer to the nation of Israel (Isaiah 45:4), or those who become Christian’s during the tribulation (Revelation 17:14). These false teachers or false prophets will claim that Christ is with them, even in their midst, in an attempt to deceive the elect and have them leave their places of refuge.

The signs and wonders from these false prophets and teachers are satanically induced. They are pseudo-signs and wonders meant to support their false claims. But believers in these days ought not to be deceived. Jesus told us/them everything in advance (v. 23)! Because He told us all that we need to know to discern the times so as not to be deceived by all that is going on, we should be on guard.

Gty.org website; sermons

PERSEVERANCE IN TRIALS

Mark 13:9-13

BRIEF RECAP:

In our previous study, we began to focus on the response of Jesus to one of His disciples regarding the magnificence of the temple (1-8), otherwise known as the Olivet Discourse. This discourse involves all of chapter thirteen, so we are jumping back into it this week with our eyes on verses nine through thirteen.

Jesus had previously warned them about deception from false messianic impostors (v. 6) and falsely misinterpreting contemporary events (7-8). In these following verses, He warns them of the personal dangers faced while under persecution.

“But [a]be on your guard; for they will hand you over to the [b]courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.

FOCUS ONE: BEWARE (9)

This section begins with the Lord warning them to “watch out” or “beware.” He is exhorting them to keep their eyes wide open as these days approach. This word (blepo)is the same word used in verse five. It is often used literally as “to see” or “perceive.” In this context, it has the idea of perceiving or discernment. Jesus wants these men prepared for the suffering that is to come for their obedience and allegiance to Him. 

He mentions councils and synagogues because these are the places and the people that will persecute them because of Him. “Councils” is the Greek word sunedrion, translated as council, court, or Sanhedrin. “These were local Jewish courts attached to the synagogues which tried charges of heresy and normal infractions of the law.” These local councils usually administered 39 stripes as a punishment after the person was stripped bare to the waist (13 stripes to his chest and 26 to his back). The synagogue is the place where such councils would meet.

Not only would they face Jewish courts and be publicly flogged, but they would also face Gentile civil authorities (Acts 12:1; 23:24; 24:27). As these men meet courts and people who disdain their teaching, they would be a witness to the gospel during their defenses. “Their witness to the gospel during their defenses would become, in God’s judgment incriminating evidence against their persecutors.”

10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 And when they [a]arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you at that time; for you are not the ones speaking, but it is the Holy Spirit.

FOCUS TWO: BE STEADFAST

Matthew adds to verse ten, “and then the end will come.” Not only will these twelve disciples play a part in the propagation of the gospel, but so will you and I and those that follow after us until the Lord returns! 

Take notice of what the Lord say’s regarding being arrested for the sake of Christ and His gospel. “Do not worry beforehand what you are to say.” I feel that many of you are, like me, a worrier. How can we not be anxious over such things? Being arrested, separated from loved ones, rights and privileges taken away, and being interrogated? Certainly, cause for anxiety. 

But our Lord says that even though such persecution is terrifying (notice that He is not oblivious to our humanity), we are not to be anxious in anticipation of those events. They will happen. But God is controlling all aspects of it! Even to the extent that at “crunch time,” our very testimony before such authorities has less to do with “us” and more to do with His Holy Spirit speaking through us (v. 11).

One commentator notes: “This assistance, however, did not guarantee acquittal.” Should that encourage us?

12 And brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and [a]have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by everyone because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

FOCUS THREE: BEAR UP AGAINST

If you haven’t grasped it yet, these days will be terrible. Notice the various ways in which opposition will come to those who follow Christ.

  1. Brothers betraying brothers
  2. Parents betraying children
  3. Children betraying parents
  4. Everyone (all kinds of people) will hate you

These are tough words to hear. Believers’ family members will betray them to the authorities at this time, and they will be “put to death.” As dark and disheartening as these words are to our hearts, they are not the final word! “But it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (v. 13).

In other words, the person who has “remained loyal to Jesus and the gospel” until the end of his life on this earth will “experience the consummation of his salvation.”

As hard as it is presently to think about such things happening to us and those we love, Jesus encourages us with the fact that His people will Persevere (patiently suffer) through these times.

Let me be clear on this point. Our perseverance in no way produces our salvation, “It is Spirit-empowered perseverance and proof of the reality of salvation in the one who endures.” Jesus Christ promises His people that He will eventually deliver them from such evil circumstances and welcome them home to His eternal abode!

Be strengthened, dear Christian; such suffering can be endured when it’s understood in light of God’s eternal plans rather than our temporal ones when it is viewed in light of His receiving the glory due to His name and all things corrupted by sin being made new!

MacArthur Study Bible notes 

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

THE SECOND COMING (OLIVET DISCOURSE)

Mark 13:1-8

BRIEF INTRO: Sometimes, it is hard to remember everything we have learned in a lengthy study simply because there is so much good stuff! So, I want to remind you how similar chapter thirteen is to chapter four. They are different in that in chapter four, Jesus speaks in parables, and in this chapter, He speaks in an eschatological (end times) sense. But they are alike in that both chapters serve as transitional! “Chapter thirteen is a fitting end to the section on Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders in the temple, because it starts with Jesus prdicting the destruction of the temple.” 

This chapter is also significant because it serves as the framework for making sense of His coming death, burial, and resurrection—which Jesus often spoke of to His disciples so they would understand. Yet, here again, in the first few verses of this chapter, we realize that they still did not comprehend it fully.

     We must keep a few truths in mind to properly understand this prophecy. 

  • First, this passage never mentions the church or the Rapture. Why? It doesn’t mention these things because this passage was not written to the church, it was written to the nation of Israel. This is primarily a Jewish prophecy. Still, there are many truths we can glean from these verses. 
  • Second, this prophecy covers a tremendous expanse of time. Over 3,000 years of human history are in view here. These verses contain prophecies that have been partially fulfilled and that will be completely fulfilled in the future. So, we will be looking backwards and forwards at the same time.
  • Third, as with any prophetic passage of Scripture, we need to move cautiously and with the knowledge that no one has all the answers. No Bible scholar has ever been able to solve all the theological riddles hidden within The Olivet Discourse. Thus, we must approach these great verses with a humble heart, knowing that none of us knows it all.

I share these truths with you, gleaned from one commentator because we would do well to exercise wisdom as we move through this section of Mark. 

13 “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, look! [a]What wonderful stones and [b]what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

FOCUS ONE: Destruction of the temple (1-2)

“The Temple in Jerusalem was considered among the most spectacular wonders of the ancient Roman Empire. The original temple constructed by Solomon was a magnificent building that took seven years and many millions of dollars to build. This temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in about 600 BC. 

When the Jews returned to the homeland 70 years later, they constructed the second temple. This temple served the Jews for nearly 500 years, but by the time of the New Testament, it had suffered great damage due to the passage of time. When King Herod assumed the throne of Israel, he wanted to gain favor with the Jews. So, he offered to rebuild their temple. They accepted and in 18 BC, the work began.

By the time of Jesus, the work had been underway some 46 years, John 2:20, and would continue for another 20 years. The temple that Jesus and His men visited was an amazing building. It sat atop Mount Moriah and literally dominated the skyline of the ancient city. The temple mount covered some one-sixth of the land area of Jerusalem. The temple itself was 172 feet long and 20 stories high. It could be seen from many miles away and from anywhere in the city.”

“The stones that made up Herod’s Temple were enormous. Some were forty feet long, eighteen feet high and fifteen feet wide. They were cut by hand from pure white limestone, and fit together so tightly and perfectly that a sheet of paper could not be inserted between the stones.

The doors, walls and even the floors of the temple were overlaid with pure gold. There were jewels, ornate carvings, and many awe inspiring sights. It was said that when the sun came up over Jerusalem, you could not stand to look at the temple because of the light gleaming from its golden walls. Anything that was not covered with gold was the purest of white. Whether the temple was seen during the day or at night, it was a sight that no one ever forgot.”

With such a description of the temple, it is not hard for us to understand how impressed the disciples would have been at “such wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings” (v. 1).

Jesus’s reply must have been unexpected and startling, to say the most! Rather than agree with the disciple and stare enthralled at the buildings, Jesus predicts their destruction. Talk about “shock and awe.” This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

3 “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, [a]James, John, and Andrew were questioning Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things come about, and what will be the [b]sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”

FOCUS TWO: Private questions (3-4)

After they left the temple and the city, Jesus led His men up the Mount of Olives. This mountain stood some 150 feet higher than the city below. It offered a commanding view of the temple and its grounds. It is here where Peter, James, and John ask Jesus questions and for a sign so they know when these things are asking place.

But, again, His answer is not exactly what they are looking for! Rather than provide dates and signs, Jesus seeks to “prepare them by exhortation and warning for the trials that lay ahead.”

They want to know the following:

  1. When will these things be?
  2. What will be the sign when these things are going to be fulfilled?

“How natural it is to us to desire to know things to come, and the times of them; more inquisitive we are apt to be about that than about our duty” (Matthew Henry).

“The disciples’ question has in view the predicted destruction of the temple. Jesus’ replyseems to include both this particular event and the time leading to the coming of the Son of Man (v. 26; cf. Matt. 24:3). The events surrounding the destruction of the temple seem to anticipate and typify those associated with the Second Coming” (Reformation Study Bible).

And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and they will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are only the beginning of birth pains

FOCUS THREE: Jesus begins to answer (5-8)

Jesus begins His answer to their questions with a warning (see to it or watch out), a warning to be careful that they are not deceived. Jesus uses this word throughout this section (see vv. 9,23,33). “Blepo” is a word that stresses having more excellent perception, a discerning eye at what is going on around you.

Seeing that Jesus uses this word repeatedly in this section, the disciples are made aware of one of His greatest concerns, deception. 

False Christ’s are first on His mind. Those that will come and claim messiahship, claiming “I am He,” misleading many. But we notice that it’s not just going to be one or two people claiming this, but many. “History records no such pretender’s before the destruction of Jerusalem, although doubtless there may have been.”

We know of two that rose before the days of Christ because they are mentioned in the book of Acts, but they did not claim to be Christ: Theudas and Judas (Acts 5:34-39). There were others:

        “After the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, many more would-be Messiahs came to prominence in Israel. One was a man named Simon Bar-Kochba. He started a rebellion that lasted three years and cost thousands of lives in Israel. His revolt led to a harsh Roman crackdown that left Jerusalem in utter ruins. 

        Others included Moses of Crete. He claimed he would part the Mediterranean Sea and lead his followers across dry land from the island of Crete to Israel. Many leaped from the cliffs at his command and were drowned in the sea. 

        In the 1100’s a man named Moses Al-Dar’I told his flowers to sell all their possessions because Messiah was coming at Passover in 1127. Passover came and went and his followers were left destitute. 

        In 1666 a man claimed to have heard the voice of God declaring that he was the son of God. He led his followers to the city of Constantinople and was arrested by the Turkish Sultan. The Sultan ordered him to either prove that he was the Messiah or be executed. The would-be Messiah promptly converted to Islam. The Jews rejected their true Messiah and many imposters rose to take His place.

        In our own era many so-called Messiahs have paraded across the stage of history. Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Mary Baker Patterson Glover Eddy, and Sun Myung Moon come to mind. Many can remember Jim Jones, the founder of The People’s Temple, and the nearly 1,000 people he led to commit mass suicide in 1978.

        As the end of time approaches, there will be more and more people who will step forward claiming to be the savior of the world. Beware that you are not deceived by their slick words and evil deception. The appearance of such people is merely a sign that the end is approaching.”

Jesus then speaks about rumors of wars and wars taking place (v. 7-8). How Jesus is saying this seems to dictate that they shouldn’t be alarmed by such news but should expect it as the day approaches. These wars, like the destructive forces of nature mentioned later, are within God’s providence and purposes. Take notice of the “definitive” language He uses (For nation will rise; there will be earthquakes; there will be famines, etc.).

Sadly, and yet amazingly, it doesn’t stop there. In addition to international power struggles, he tells them there will be severe weather-related catastrophes. Two are mentioned (earthquakes and famines), but there could be others that are not mentioned. Matthew’s account speaks of pestilence, earthquakes, and wars (Matthew 24:7) in KJV. Pestilence is a disease or plaques.

“We may think something like that cannot happen today. Just stop to think of the AIDS epidemic. It is estimated that 70% of the people in Africa are HIV positive. Think of the SARS and Bird Flu scares of a few years ago. Think of the horrors of viruses like Ebola. There are killer diseases out there just waiting for an opportunity to devastate the human race. An outbreak of deadly disease in our world has the potential to kill hundreds of millions of people in a just a few short weeks. An outbreak like that would shut down society as we know.” I add Covid-19!

But we should not be fearful. Jesus said that we would see diseases, pestilence, and trouble of every kind increase as the end approached. 

After telling His men some things that will cause people to believe the end is near, Jesus lets them know that they can’t know when the end will come. Jesus tells them that they are just “the beginning of sorrows” (or birth pangs) when they see these things. These men were looking for signs. What Jesus gave them were not signs at all; they were non-signs.

Any woman could tell you that when their “birth pangs” begin, they begin somewhat weak BUT continually get worse! Those early contractions are an indicator of a long, painful road ahead. So shall it be before “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (v. 26)?

Jesus wanted them and us to live every day as if it could be the day he returned. He didn’t want them to be looking for signs but for Him, a savior. How are you living in light of these truths? What is your mind occupied with, signs of His coming or HIM? 

The Complete Word Study NT

Exegetical Guide to the NT

Second Coming Bible

Alan Carr

JESUS’TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE

Mark 12:35-44

BRIEF INTRO: As we move forward in time, relating to our context, we will witness Jesus communicating His views about the Pharisees. His statements relate not only to their teaching but their actions as well. Jesus did not want His disciples, or anyone else for that matter, to be deceived by a false religiosity that only condemns but can never save anyone. We will see this transpire in three ways; you will notice this in my section outline.

35 And Jesus responded and began saying, as He taught in the temple area, “How is it that the scribes say that the [a]Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself said [b]in the Holy Spirit,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at My right hand,

Until I put Your enemies under Your feet.”‘

37 David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; so in what sense is He his son?” And the large crowd [c]enjoyed listening to Him.

FOCUS ONE: Jesus teaching (vv.35-37)

The first words in verse thirty-five are interesting and could be a bit confusing, so let’s look at them quickly. “And Jesus answering began to say. . .” Who is He answering? He already responded to the scribe asking Him which commandment is the greatest (vv. 28-34). Nobody else dared ask Him anything. Interesting, isn’t it? Granted, some translations do not have it this way; some might say, “and Jesus responded” (as seen above, ironically, both the above and what I began this section with come from the NASB only different years). Still, others translate it this way: “and continuing.”

I believe the latter is a better translation of what is going on in the text. Strongs defines the Word for answering as “to answer, reply, or take up the conversation.” In other words, when someone begins to speak and continue a conversation. Jesus, already involved in a conversation in which He spoke last (v. 34), continues the discussion by asking His question! Now that makes more sense as I read it.

Here Jesus challenges the scribes relating to their teaching on the Messiah as the Son of David. Oh, How they esteemed David. He was probably the most esteemed person in all Jewish history next to Moses. So, Jesus asked what these scribes meant “when they said that the Christ, the expected Messiah, is the Son of David, who would be the triumphant deliverer (cr. 10:47).” This “sonship” was a massive part of the Jewish belief system of that day (John 7:41-42). But did they believe that the Messiah was David’s Lord? 

Their view, in general, was correct but not complete! Jesus, with great wisdom, leads them to reflect on scripture from Psalm 110. The question “how” reflected in the words “in what sense,” are directed at a more targeted response, how is He His son?

Did this quote from Psalm 110 cast any doubt on their assumptions? It most certainly did. In what he wrote, Jesus showed them that David, their esteemed one, “complicates their understanding of what it means for the Messiah to be the Son of David, since David himself assigned to the Messiah a superior title and psition.”

That the Messiah was the Son of David in a physical sense is true but not complete. That the Messiah, in a divine sense, is also David’s Lord (master, supreme in authority-God) completes the whole picture of precisely who the Messiah is. The Hebrew writing of Psalm 110 most clearly evidences this truth. 

In Hebrew, we would read it this way: “The Lord (Yahweh, the proper name of the God of Israel), said to my (David’s) Lord (Adonai-master, owner, sovereign ruler). What is indisputable is the fact that David called the Messiah Lord! So the million dollar question is this: How is David’s son BOTH God (David’s Lord) and man (David’s son; cf. Romans 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8)?

The response to a seemingly bold yet veiled depiction of who He is is two-fold. First, we read of no reaction by the scribes; nothing is mentioned. Second, we read that the “great crowd” enjoyed or gladly listened to Him (v. 37). That doesn’t mean that they understood it all, but simply that they enjoyed listening to His teaching.

You probably, like myself, love to hear the preaching of the Word. Sometimes we don’t understand it all either. But our response should be much different than those we read about in this section. It is good to enjoy hearing the Word taught, but understanding and applying it are far better responses than enjoyment or apathy. Perhaps, we need to discipline ourselves to be more studious in our bible study.

38 And in His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like personal greetings in the marketplaces, 39 and seats of honor in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive all the more condemnation.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus’ warning (vv.38-40)

By Jesus using the word “beware” in His teaching in the Temple, He wants all those listening to understand that the manner in which the scribes operate on a daily basis is not the pattern they should follow in their walk of faith. He wants them to look more intently at how the scribes model their faith. He wants them to perceive the difference between a true example of godly living from a false one.

Jesus mentions four areas in which their hypocrisy is evident:

  1. 1. The long robes (speaks of them continually exercising their will from a motive of a desire to be seen).
  2. 2. Greetings in the marketplace ( They loved attention their “holy facades” fostered but were fakes and frauds, spiritually speaking. They expected to be addressed with titles of dignity).
  3. 3. The chief seats in the synagogues and at banquets ( It gratified them to receive such deferential recognition at religious services).
  4. 4. Greed for money ( As one of their functions, scribes serve as consultants in estate planning for widows. Their role allows them to convince lonely and susceptible women that their money and property should be given to the scribe for his holy work or to the Temple for its sacred ministries. In either case, the scribe gains personally).

We must keep in mind that Mark only gives a brief snippet of the teaching of Jesus at the Temple. For a complete account, I direct you to Matthew 23:1-39. Matthew reveals that after Jesus rebukes the scribes, He pronounces eight woes upon them! Matthew helps us understand how bad these people were and why those listening to Jesus’ teaching needed to grow in their discernment.

“The disciples are to continually beware of them because they are ungodly, do not truly know God, have no true spiritual wisdom. As MacArthur says, “They are agents of Satan sent to fight the purposes of God…False religion never restrains the flesh. So these people operate like the worst of the unregenerate, except that it is not apparent on the surface. But false religion cannot subdue their wretched heart, for that can only be subdued by regeneration by means of the truth of the Gospel. So these men are to be avoided because they are always one thing on the outside and something else on the inside. They have nothing to offer spiritually and are destructive…deadly…dangerous. Do not get near them because you will get singed, stained.”

With all that being said, it becomes much clearer how hypocritical the scribes were and why they deserved such condemnation.

But what about today? Are there hypocritical false teachers among us? Absolutely! A good portion of what we see on most “Christian” networks would easily fit this prototype. But why do so many people watch it? Why do many professing Christians digest such teaching every week? I think for the same reason, the people of Jesus’ day blindly followed the instruction and examples of the scribes and Pharisees-lack of discernment.

41 “And Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and began watching how the [a]people were putting [b]money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two [c]lepta coins, which amount to a [d]quadrans. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all [e]the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their [f]surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, [g]all she had to live on.”

FOCUS THREE: Jesus observing (vv. 41-44)

Note the shift in location from the Court of the Gentiles (the large, open area where thousands could hear his teaching) to the smaller Court of the Women, which contained the thirteen Treasury chests or ‘trumpets.’ He was observing the offerings (how they offered their money). The Scribes and Pharisees made a great show strutting around like peacocks to attract men’s attention. Jesus focuses on the contrast of a poor woman presenting her offering.

Next, we take “notice” of what Jesus observed as He “sat down opposite the treasury.” He noticed a contrast between what one poor widow contributed and “all the other contributors” (v. 43). So, what is the difference between putting money in the treasury from your surplus or out of your poverty?

Before I answer that question, I want first to exercise some discernment. We have just observed Jesus criticizing the Scribes and Pharisees, But He does not identify these “givers” or “contributors” as from either group, but only as the rich. While one might postulate that is what these rich were doing, Jesus does not specifically say that in this section.” “Likewise, while we might suppose they were doing their giving for show, Jesus does not say that this was their motive. Yes, He had just finished issuing a series of “Woes” to the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-36, even saying in verse 5 that “they do all their deeds to be noticed by men.” So, we want to be careful moving forward.

 As He sits there observing, He notices what people are giving. This text shows a contrast between the rich and the poor. Whereas the “rich” were contributing large sums, the “widow” put in “two small copper coins,” which equaled 1/64th of a denarius (a Roman silver coin worth about 15 cents).

We are quick to notice the obvious-the giving of the rich required no sacrifice; they had an abundance. But for the poor widows giving required great sacrifice. But is that the point to walk away with? Perhaps not:

“Her piety and personal sacrifice are to be applauded, but what is the (cause) of her poverty, and what will be (done) with her gift? Mark has just pictured Jesus condemning religious leaders who reduce widows to poverty” (Mk 12:38–40). Maybe that’s the point to walk away with!

“She literally put in less, but Jesus assesses her gift as more. He does not say it is better, but just that it is more than all the others. He will explain this “quantifying” statement in the next verse.”

“So the reason she gave more is not because of the (quantity) she gave, but the proportion she gave. Notice Jesus neither condemns the rich for not giving like the poor widow. But neither does He laud the poor widow for giving a greater proportion (literally 100%). He is simply stating the contrast between the givers.” 

Lesson to be learned:

The poor widow’s (degree of sacrifice) is given great weight, but history is replete with stories of those who have shown great sacrifice for a cause they believed in, and many of them had nothing to do with faith in Christ. “Considering, then, that she is casting money in the Temple treasury, it seems fair to say that she is supportive of the religious system that her money will go to undergird. So sacrifice by itself is no indicator of one’s faith in Jesus.”

To reiterate, we cannot discern the motive of her heart for giving all she had. Jesus did not comment on the (state of the heart) but on the degree or proportion of her giving. And He did not tell the disciples, “Go and do likewise.

What is our motivation for giving? 

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament

Preceptaustin.org

LIFE CYCLE

Guest post by: Connie Faust

The cycle spins on relentlessly;

From promise of life to final death,

So few are the years allotted to one

From the moment of first fragile breath.

An infant is born-happiness reigns-

Parents applaud a new life.

Fast forward through childhood, on to maturity,

Struggling through heartache and strife.

The hour and day when we leave this old world

Is a guessing game won by no man.

We feel our mortality closing the gap,

And ponder how short is life’s span.

Another friend dies, a bond is dissolved,

The memories over us flow,

And we ask how much time is left on the clock

Until it is our time to go.

How God marks the day of departure

Is a mystery that’s His to reveal;

How we use every minute we’re given to live

Will confirm if our faith is for real.

THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS QUESTIONED

Mark 11:27-12:12

BRIEF INTRO: As we look into these passages, we notice Something odd. The questions that the chief priests, scribes, and elders are asking Jesus are the wrong questions! Rather than asking, “by what authority are (you) doing these things?”They should have asked each other, “why aren’t (we) doing these things?”

Have you ever asked the wrong question? In some ways, I can relate to this problem. If you are married, you understand what I mean. I am not using that example to be sarcastic or discourteous towards our spouses, but it is within such a relationship that we are most prone to realize that we have struggled in much the same way.

The problem here, however, is that they are asking the wrong questions of the Lord, not a spouse. And in so doing, they reveal that they are ignorant of the truth, self-serving, and hypocritical because they are not genuinely seeking to understand but instead want to “destroy Him” (v. 18).

Remember, back in vv. 15-16, Jesus cleansed the temple. He cast out (drove away) those people that were changing the “Roman money the pilgrims brought to Jerusalem into the Tyrian currency (closest thing to the old Hebrew shekel), since the annual temple tax had to be paid in that currency.” He turned over the seats of those selling the doves. These things originally were done for the “convenience” of the pilgrims, but had defaulted into a money-making scheme. They should not have been done inside the temple court. 

So by His cleansing of the temple, Jesus directly challenged their authority since it was by their authorization that these things took place within the temple. That is one reason they want to destroy Him (v. 18) and why they would not answer Him (v. 33).

27 And they *came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple area, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders *came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” 29 But Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things30 Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” 31 And they began considering the implications among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32 But should we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the [a]people, for they all considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they *said, “We do not know.” And Jesus *said to them, “Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus has “all” authority 

Within those verses, I highlighted the main issue; what authority does Jesus have to cleanse the temple? How drastic the cleansing was the previous day certainly got their attention. That is why all three groups are present this day in the temple when Jesus returns (v.27). With intentional laser-like focus, they approach Him and ask the question, “by what authority? Their hope was that by His answer Jesus would be brought into disrepute (rejected by the people) with the people and thereby clear the way for their arresting Him.” But once again, Jesus turns their intentions back on their heads! “You answer my question first, then I’ll answer yours” (v.28). Jesus is the master of debate!

The question He asks is about whether or not God was behind John the Baptist’s mission. Think about the implications. “John had clearly testified to the divine source of Jesus’ mission. If they recognized the divine authority of John’s mission, they would be forced to recognize Jesus’ also and His cleansing of the temple as the legitimate exercise of His authority.”

The implications were obvious. It was too much for them to handle. So, they reasoned among themselves how to wiggle their way out of answering it. “We do not know” (v. 33). One commentator has said of their reply, “to save face they pleaded ignorance.” I can relate to that as well. 

So Jesus, upon hearing their response, refuses to answer their question. Even so, They got the answer, didn’t they?

12 And He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and put a [a]fence around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and leased it to [b]vine-growers and went on a journey. And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive his share of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. He had one more man to send, a beloved son; he sent him to them last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’8 And they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the [c]owner of the vineyard do? He will come and put the vine-growers to death, and give the vineyard to others.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus has divine authority as the Son of God

Now Jesus begins to speak in parabolic language and, in this way, answers the question of His authority. It seems logical that these religious leaders are the “them” referenced in (12:1; cr. 12:12). The parable is easy to understand once we recognize the key components.

The “man” represents God. The vineyard symbolizes Israel, possibly the leaders of Israel. Slaves are the prophets, and the “beloved son” is Jesus.

Jesus, in using this parable, is in some way relating to the history of Israel. They rejected and killed the prophets of God, and they rejected and killed the Son of God (Acts 7:52). In sending the son the parable underscores the serious view of the owner of the vineyard. 

To draw out the parable’s meaning, Jesus asks them a question (funny in a way, cr. 11:33), and then answers it Himself. His answer is frightening-judgment is coming! (Most bible scholars believe this happened in A.D. 70 at the fall of Jerusalem when the Romans destroyed the city and sacked the temple).

10 Have you not even read this Scripture:

‘A stone which the builders rejected,

This has become the [a]chief cornerstone;

11 This came about from the Lord,

And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

12 And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the [b]people, for they understood that He told the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

FOCUS THREE: Jesus has divine authority as the chosen cornerstone of God

The observations we make are amazing when we take the time to look. How much have we missed in our reading of the Bible? This study and what we are observing is simply one case of that very thing. At first glance, Jesus did not answer their question (11:33). But that is not the complete picture we see in this section. He did not answer them “outright,” but take notice that in the parable we just looked at, and now by citing Psalm 118:22-23, He is giving them a clear, understandable answer to their question. They understood His answer (v. 12)!

In quoting those verses in Psalm 118, Jesus is speaking of Himself as the Stone. Like in the parable before this, He (the Son) was rejected. But in this quote, we learn that what was rejected has become the key component that holds the building together. This “stone” language was very familiar in early Christianity, as shown by Acts 4:11 and 1st Peter 2:7. Something counted as worthless (like a particular stone) becomes invaluable (and now it holds the building together)!

The application of the Old Testament quote was unmistakable, but once again, the leaders could not grab hold of Jesus to destroy Him (11:18) because they were afraid of the people. This is the second time in these two chapters that we are told they fear the people (11:18; 12:12). 

And so what else is there to do when your opponent has the better hand, and you fear the reprisal of the crowd? “and so they left Him and went away” (v. 12).

The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg, 730

CALEB AND ME

Guest post by Connie Faust

Lord, let my spiritual fervor grow

And never diminish with age.

Don’t let m close the book on Your work,

Though this old body turns a new page.

Give me the heart of a Caleb, Lord,

Whose hoary head follows you still;

Though my feeble hands shake

And my ailing knees quake,

Just help me to walk in Your will.

Oh, to be like Caleb, who at the age of 85, said,

“The Lord hath kept me alive— while the children

Of Israel wandered in the wilderness;

As yet I am as strong this day as in the day

That Moses sent me (at 40): as my strength was then, even so is my strength now.

Why was Caleb so blessed?

“Because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel” (Joshua 14:11-14).

Cleansing the temple and cursing the fig tree

Mark 11:12-25

BRIEF RECAP: In my last post, we witnessed Jesus finally entering Jerusalem but some people, even religious ones, paid no attention to the king (11:11). We got a glimpse of what it looked like when Jesus entered the temple area, as prophecied in Malachi 3:1, by the “understatement” of the event in Mark’s account.

In this study, we will be focused on the relationship between the cleansing of the temple and Jesus cursing the fig tree on His travels between Jerusalem and Bethany. As we will quickly observe, both involve judgment.

12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13 Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.

20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up.

21 And being reminded, Peter *said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree that You cursed has withered

FOCUS ONE: Jesus curses the fig tree

This section begins with a view of Christ’s humanity. Like us, He became hungry. Imagine all the walking He accomplished in a day, regularly traveling from one place to another. Bethany was approximately two miles away from Jerusalem (John 11:18), so we can easily surmise that He walked four miles a day just getting back and forth. That does not include any other walking He did throughout Jerusalem or Bethany.

As we saw in our last study, Jesus left Jerusalem after looking around the temple and witnessing all the greed and marketing in “His Fathers house.” As Father’snd the disciples leave Bethany, He sees a fig tree off in the distance. Fig trees were widespread in that region. “The fig is a pear shaped fruit anpear-shapedsed by the people for food. The young figs are especially prized for the sweetness and flavor. The fruit always appears before the leaves; so that when Christ saw leaves on the fig tree He had a right to expect fruit.”

That seems odd. Wouldn’t Jesus, God in the flesh, know that the fig tree wouldn’t have any fruit on it? So why would He curse the tree? Two observations will serve to answer those questions. 

First, remember that Jesus, as God, the creator, and sustainer of all things, would undoubtedly know about fig trees and how they operate. But also take notice to these five words that we read in (14b), “and His disciples were listening.” That is important! This “miracle” takes place as they travel back and forth from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus desires to use this miracle/object lesson to teach the disciples something of great importance.

Second, “Jesus’ shocking destruction of the fig tree is an acted parable that prophecies what is in store for a people who proved faithless and whose temple, the very symbol of their faithless religiosity, will be destroyed along with the city of Jerusalem (a prophecy fulfilled in A.D. 70).”

In cursing the fig or enacting judgment upon the tree, Jesus fulfills many of the prophecies regarding the people of Israel and their unfaithfulness (Isaiah 34:4; Jeremiah 8:13; 29:17; Hosea 2:12; 9:10,16; and Micah 7:1-6, which likened Israel’s faithlessness to a fig tree gone bad and about to be destroyed).

“The fig tree has put forth leaves BUT had no fruit. Their denial of His rightful role as king was evident in the lack of the fruit of faithfulness due Him. Similarly , the evidence of true discipleship to Jesus IS the bearing of the fruit of faithfulness and righteousness.”

15 Then they *came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying on the temple grounds, and He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling [a]doves; 16 and He would not allow anyone to carry [b]merchandise through the temple grounds. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and they began seeking how to put Him to death; for they were afraid of Him, because all the crowd was astonished at His teaching.

19 And whenever evening came, [c]they would leave the city.

FOCUS TWO: Jesus cleanses the temple

This act of cleansing the temple should not be separated from the action of cursing the fig tree. True, they are separated by time and space, but not in the application! Look at how verse seventeen, a quote from Isaiah 56:7, relates to Jesus cursing the fig tree! By Jesus’ violent expulsion of the merchants from the Court of the Gentiles, He anticipates the terrible consequences of turning God’s place of prayer into a place for profit. Here again, we can see the fulfillment of various prophecies (Jeremiah 7:1-15; 26:1-15; Malachi 3:1-5; but especially Isaiah 56:1-8). 

In the Isaiah passage mentioned above, we see God’s invitation to foreigners to His holy mountain and His house of prayer. Here Jesus casts out the self-serving profiteers who “would hinder His mission to the outcast by transforming sacred space into a “robbers den” (v. 17).

Mark records two responses to what Jesus did:

  1. 1. The chief priests and the scribes began seeking to destroy Him (v.18).
  2. 2. The multitude was astonished at His teaching (v. 17).

Sadly, it is much the same today. Some people flat-out reject Jesus and His offer of forgiveness, while others are amazed at His teaching but act with indifference toward it. Thankfully, some hear and believe (Acts 6:7)!

Now, again, Jesus and the twelve leave Jerusalem for the evening. I can think of two possible reasons:

  1. No place to rest in Jerusalem (no one received Him), but in Bethany, they could stay with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
  2. It could have been dangerous (11:18).

20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 And being reminded, Peter *said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree that You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered and *said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted to him. 24 Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you for your [a]offenses.

FOCUS THREE: The importance and power of faith

A day has now passed since Jesus cursed the fig tree. Peter takes notice of it; most likely, the others did as well, but Peter is the one that speaks up. It seems like the event wasn’t all that meaningful to him; seeing it “reminded him” of what Jesus did to it the previous day. We all have times like that, especially the older we get. Something exciting or unusual happens, and we take note of it, but the businesses of our day, the battle against the tyranny of the urgent in our lives, quickly removes it from our thinking. Then, as we drive by that place or are in that area again where it took place, we “are reminded.”

Notice that it wasn’t the leaves that were withered but the roots. Its very source of life was cut off, and it immediately died. 

Two observations arise:

  1. 1. The cursing of the fig tree and its representation of faithless Israel.

2. Jesus replied to Peter’s observation by teaching them about faith, prayer, and forgiveness!

Here, Jesus takes the time to speak to these men about the power and importance of faith. First, faith’s focus is in God! People put faith in a host of things, i.e., money, power, government, religion, and much more. But Jesus tells them that belief in God is essential. Such faith in His desire and ability to answer our prayers is vital. After all, why would we bring Him our burdens and needs if we doubted that He would care or was even able and willing to answer our prayers and meet those needs?

Second, Jesus states what the inclination of the heart should be as one comes to Him in prayer. A forgiving heart. “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). He introduces this with the words: “truly I say to you.” In other words, “this is important so listen up.” 

“Since Jesus was standing on the Mount of Olives, from which the Dead Sea can be seen on a clear day, He may have been referring specifically to the Mount. (The mountain as a symbol of a great difficulty, cf. Zechariah 4:7).” Of course, Jesus is speaking figuratively.

So, it seems logical that Jesus is saying that the most significant possible difficulties can be removed when a person has faith” (cf. James 1:6). Faith in the all-powerful God who works miracles. Trust in His sovereignty over all things and in His omnipotence in bringing what He wills to pass.

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The Expositors Bible Commentary