April 25, 2015.
Daily Reading: Mark 11-12.
Background: Mark 9-10.
Concepts and Connections.
1. The triumphal entry: To prepare for the triumphal entry, which had been prophesied about in the days of old (see Zechariah 9:9), Jesus sent two of His disciples to go get a young donkey on which no one had ridden on before. He gave them instruction where to find the colt, to take it and what to say to people when they questioned what they were doing. When they retuned with the colt, Jesus mounted it and rode into Jerusalem as people laid down their coats and leafy branches in His path, signifying that Jesus was King (compare with II Kings 9:11-13). It is interesting to see the response of the people, just a little while before Jesus would be put to death on a cross. The people cried out “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The latter statement is cited from Psalm 118:26. Jesus would indeed be King, though His kingdom is not of this world (see John 18:36). The triumphal entry is a glorious point in the ministry of Jesus, showing the receptiveness of the King and His ultimate position and mission.
2. Faith to move mountains: There is a very interesting account of something that Jesus taught using a visual given in this chapter, and that is the lesson of the withered fig tree. As Jesus was walking by a fig tree one day, He was hungry and wanted to take some figs from the tree to eat. The fig tree, however, did not have any fruit on it though it was the season for it to bear fruit. Jesus curses the fig tree apparently because it did not bear fruit, but perhaps He did so for a bigger reason, and that to teach a lesson. When the disciples came back by the fig tree on the next day, they marveled because they saw that it had withered and died. Peter pointed the withered fig tree out to Jesus, and He gives them an interesting response. He tells them not to be surprised at this, for anything they ask of God in full faith, so far as even to remove mountains, will be granted to them. The caveat here seems to be that they must ask in faith, with no doubt. Often our prayers are plagued with doubt, perhaps not the doubt of whether or not God can do something, but more so whether or not He will do it for us. This passage seems to suggest that that part is already taken care of, and it is up to us to believe in the power of God. There is power in prayer, probably more so than we readily ascribe. Notice that Jesus taught this lesson by physically causing a fig tree to die, and then elaborates the point with other physical measures (such as moving mountains). It would be to our benefit to learn to trust in the power of prayer.
3. The temple and Jesus’ authority: The rest of this chapter is devoted to Jesus’ teachings in relation to a more theological bases, as we find Him cleansing the temple and later as His authority is questioned. When Jesus saw what was going on in the temple, how there were merchants selling animals and other materials that were needed for burnt offerings, He was greatly displeased and drove the merchants and money changers out of the temple. He quotes a passage from Isaiah 56:7 that says that the house of the Lord will be called a house of prayer, but the people here were not using it for prayer, but rather for personal gain. Later, as Jesus continued to speak with authority, the chief priests and scribes try to challenge Jesus’ authority, asking Him where He got the authority to do the things that He was doing. Instead of directly answering their question, He decides to given them another question before He answers the question that was brought before Him. He uses some of their own tactics against them and asks where John’s baptism came form, heaven or man. Either way they answer this question, they will be in a bad position. Therefore, they choose not to answer the question, a sentiment that Jesus would return. Jesus would go on to often confound and stop the words of His advisories with the wisdom from above.
1. History in parable form: The parable that is given at the beginning of this chapter is unique in the sense that it basically tells a simplified version of Israel’s history and their relationship with the Father over the years. When Israel had gone astray, God sent them prophecy after prophet that they would not listen to. Instead of hearing truth and listening to the words of the prophets, the people of Israel rather beat and stoned the prophets that were sent to them, just as depicted in this story. Time and again there were sent prophets, and time and again the people did not receive them, but rather clung to false prophets. Finally, God sent His only Son to redeem the world, but the religious leaders of the day would again not listen to Him, but rather would executed Him very cruelly on a cross. This is what is depicted in the parable, as the son, the heir to the throne, was sent last of all to the keepers, and they decided to kill him and take his inheritance. Psalm 118:31-32 is cited here by Jesus which was a Messianic prophecy of His rejection amongst the jews.
2. Various teachings of the Christ: The rest of this chapter is filled with other types of veracious teachings of the Christ. First, some people try to trip Him up with a question about taxes, to which He replied “render unto caesar the things that are caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” They marveled at His wise words. Then the Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection, try to trick Him with a technicality in the Mosaic law in which a woman goes through a series of seven husbands who, yet still remained baron until she dies. They ask Him who’s wife she will be in the resurrection, but He says that they are even asking the wrong question, as there will be no marriage or even in marriage in the resurrection. Then there is a question about the greatest command, This question seems more sincere, judging by the reaction of the man to Jesus’ answer, affirming that the greatest command was indeed to love God and to love your neighbor. After seeing how He answered all questions wisely, no one of His adversaries dared ask Him any more questions from that day. Thus, Jesus went on the offensive. He asks them who’s son was the Christ, and explains to them how He could not be the son of David. The second charge in His offense is to warn the people of the Scribes, who do their religion just to be seen of men. Lastly, Jesus teaches about giving, emphasizing that is is not important how much you physically give, but how much you give in a relative amount. There are many lessons to be learned from the teachings of the Christ.
Tomorrow’s Reading: II Corinthians 7-9.
Grace and peace.