Jun 09, 2013
Mark 11:12-21

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Establish the Context: 

Jesus has finally arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Passover.

Through His “Triumphal Entry” Jesus presented Himself to Israel as....

1. The Jewish Messiah.

2. The Passover Sacrifice.

Jesus concludes His journey into the city with a stop at the temple.

Though Mark downplays His reaction, the other Gospel accounts make it clear Jesus is tweaked out by what He witnesses occurring in the outer courtyard.

Instead of immediately reacting in anger, Jesus and the 12 take the 2 mile journey back to Bethany to stay the night at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. 

[Mark 11:12-14] “Now the next day (making this Monday), when they had come out from Bethany, Jesus was hungry (it would be breakfast). 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.” And His disciples heard it.”

Scene of Activity

As Jesus and His crew are making the 2 mile journey from Bethany to Jerusalem before arriving at the Mount of Olives they pass through the small suburb known as Bethphage.

Bethphage was known literally as the “city of figs.” 

Mark tells us that as they traveled “Jesus was hungry.

Though a simple observation, this detail introduces a unique aspect to this story.

The only other time we have mention of Jesus being “hungry” was directly following His 40 days of fasting during His wilderness temptation (Matthew 4).

This detail was used by Mark to perk our attention as to what was about to occur next.

In the distance Jesus sees “a fig tree having leaves” so “He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it” but “when He came.... He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.”

With the fig tree there were often two croppings of fruit: 

1. The main crop that would appear in the appropriate season. 

2. But, there would be an initial crop that would come with the blooming of the tree. 

Jesus approaches the tree because the tree showed all the right signs of having fruits. He’s disappointed because the tree was advertising something it didn’t have.

Since the tree had no fruit, Jesus pronounces a curse on the tree.... “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again” which obviously caught the disciples attention.

Though we’ll address this interesting exchange in more details in a few minutes, this is what you should take away: 

1. Jesus had a unique hunger.

2. He came to the fig tree desiring food.

3. Tragically, the tree appeared to have fruit, but in actuality possessed only leaves.

4. Because of the tree’s fruitlessness, Jesus curses the tree.

[Mark 11:15-16] “So they came to Jerusalem. 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. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.”


Remember the Context: Jesus visited the temple Sunday evening and evaluated it’s comings and goings before returning to Bethany for the night.

Upon returning on Monday, Jesus is calm, cool, and calculated in what He’s about to do!

Scene of Activity

Jesus enters the temple.

Though the temple itself wasn’t very large, Herod’s temple possessed a large complex encompassing approximately 35 archers of prime real-estate in Jerusalem. 

Specifically, Jesus would have entered the outer “Court of the Gentiles” which included an area of about 18 archers surrounding the temple itself.

What would Jesus have seen?

The Temple was a racket ran by one family:

According to Josephus the principle players in this religious racket were the High Priest Annas, his 5 sons, and the High Priest Caiaphas.

Annas has been the high priest from 6-15 A.D. until the Romans removed him from office. Though stripped of his official capacity, he still controlled the scene through the influence provided by his five sons.

His Son-in-Law (Caiaphas) was given the official title, but possessed no power. 

Josephus - Caiaphas earned approximately 3 million a year as the figure-head.

How the racket worked:

During Passover everyone was required to bring a spotless sacrifice.

If you didn’t have a sacrifice, you could purchase one at the temple.

To ensure your sacrifice was spotless it would be inspected by a priest.

If your lamb or dove was found lacking, you could purchase one at the temple.

Since most people had to purchase their sacrifice, the priest were able to jack up the price of their lambs and doves gouging the people coming to worship God.

Problem: Normal currency wasn’t accepted at the temple.

Since God forbid “graven images” a person was required to exchange their local currency for a special “temple coin” allowing exorbitant exchange rates.

Why did the racket enrage Jesus:

1. The religious leaders were misrepresenting God.

2. The process made it difficult for people to freely worship.

3. It was a poor witness for pagan Gentiles coming to encounter the Living God.

In response to what He sees, Jesus does three deliberate things:

1. He “drove out those who bought and sold in the temple.”

“To drive out” - Greek verb “ekballô” - “to violently expel a person.”

2. He “overturned the tables and the seats of those who sold doves.”

“Overturned” - Greek verb “katastrephô” - “to turn over the soil with a plough.”

Note: Jesus overturned the seats protecting the innocent doves.

3. He “would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.”

“Wares” - Greek noun “skeuos” - “vessels, domestic gear.”

In effect, Jesus shut down the temple business!

Note: This is the second time Jesus does this. 

In John 2 Jesus does the same thing at the beginning of His public ministry! 

Q: Why would no one step in to stop Him? 

1. Jesus acted as one who possessed authority!

2. Everyone knew what was happening in the temple was wrong!

The people would have been in complete support of Jesus.

The religious leaders knew Jesus had the moral high road.

Observation: Jesus cares what’s happening in His temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, who you have from God, and you are not your own?”

B-Sides: Are there things Jesus wants to overturn in this temple (me)?

[Mark 11:17-19] “Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” And the scribes and 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.”

In order to justify His actions Jesus teaches them from Isaiah 56.

"Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants - Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant - Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations."

The purpose of the “Court of the Gentiles” was to provide the “nations of the world” a place to encounter the true God of Israel. 

Sadly, the religious leaders had turned this holy place into “a den of thieves.”

Observation: Jesus used Scripture as the basis for His actions. (B-Sides)

Notice the reaction of the Religious Establishment towards Jesus: 

1. They “heard it and sought how they might destroy Him.”

It’s interesting they were angry by what He said, not by what He did! 

Jesus pricked a conscience they were determined not to be swayed.

If “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” their reaction reveals a lack of faith and a complete hardening of their hearts.

2. They wanted to destroy Him because they “feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.”

These men were afraid of Jesus because He was a direct threat to their power.

Mark is clear the people “were astonished at His teaching.”

The Religious Leaders knew they would have to reinforce their authority amongst the people if they were to have any success in swaying the population at large.

They will attempt to do this by directly challenging Jesus the nature of His authority in the next chapter. 

Scene of Activity

Jesus spends the afternoon teaching the people before leaving to return to Bethany. 

[Mark 11:20-21] “Now in the morning (it’s Tuesday), as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”

If healing Blind Bartimaeus was Jesus’ last “healing miracle,” the cursing of the fig tree is the final miracle preformed by Jesus before the resurrection.

Note: The Old Testament is full of “destructive miracles” where God supernaturally acts in the affairs of mankind to provide judgment; however, this is only time in the ministry of Jesus where He preforms this type of miracle making it entirely unique.

Remember - 4 Things we noted in Jesus initial exchange with the fig tree: 

1. Jesus had a unique hunger.

2. He came to the tree desiring food.

3. Tragically, the tree appeared to have fruit, but in actuality possessed only leaves.

4. Because of the tree’s fruitlessness, Jesus curses the tree.

The key to understanding this destructive miracle rests in our understanding of what the “Fig Tree” represents in Scripture. I believe there are 2 ways we can view this:

1. The Fig Tree represents the nation of Israel.

Judges 9:10-11, “Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us!’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to sway over trees?”

Hosea 9:10, “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw you fathers as the firstfruits on the fig tree in its first season.”

Implications: Jesus desired satisfaction from Israel, but when He came to her He found no fruit - only an outward appearance of what it lacked.

Israel was advertising what it didn’t have! Israel upheld an outward image of holiness, but she lacked substance - pretending to be something she was not!

Application: Though the immediate application for Israel become obvious, in a greater sense Jesus is providing you and I an important lesson on fruitlessness. 

1. Jesus desires that we produce spiritual fruit.

Please understand fruit is not something we can manufacture or produce on our own. It’s not something we can will into existence. 

Fruit is a natural byproduct of the Holy Spirit’s work in and through our lives. 

Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.... if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

2. If we don’t please Jesus, it will be impossible for us to please anyone else.

Since the tree produced no fruit to satisfy it’s Creator, Jesus cursed the tree so that it would not produce fruit for anyone else.

Greater Spiritual Lesson: If your life doesn’t bring joy to Jesus, it will be impossible for your life to bring joy to anyone else. 

3. Fruitlessness is a byproduct of a root problem.

Note: When Jesus cursed the tree Mark tells us it dried up from the roots  which is the opposite way a plant typically withers. 

Greater Spiritual Lesson: If there isn’t fruit and you feel like your spiritually withering away, it’s often a problem with your roots.

Psalms 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

4. Jesus is angered by hypocrisy.

Mark says, “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.... In response Jesus said to it....”

What upset Jesus most was not just the fact the tree was fruitless, but the fact the tree had the appearance of fruit. 

Note: Jesus is not only disinterested in the appearance of a false morality (leaves without fruit), He’s deeply and passionately angered by it!

The problem with Israel was that they pretended to be what they were not! It would be wise for us to consider if the same could be said concerning us?

2. The Fig Tree is a picture of all Religion.

Genesis 3:6 - “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Genesis 3:21 - “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.”