Mark 11: The Expected One, with a Twist

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!  Check out my other blog for some of my favorite MLK quotes if you are interested.

A conversation I had yesterday with a friend named Eddie from Bible class at Highland is running through my head as I read this chapter.  It was the end of class time and I had just taught with Trent (who is probably sorry now that I dragged him into this series) about how the kingdom Jesus so often talks about was a “kingdom-coming,” not the “going-off-to-the-kingdom” we might have been taught to expect when we were growing up.  It is a tough sell to help people see something so familiar in a new light, and I am not sure I was communicating well.  Anyway, Eddie made a perceptive connection back to a class I had taught two weeks ago on how Jesus’ followers then and now tend to turn the “kingdom” into what they want it to be.  Eddie’s point was that if the Jews of Jesus’ time struggled to fully understand the Old Testament prophecies about the kingdom well, then why do we expect that we will understand the prophecies of Jesus and John in the New Testament with perfect precision?  We at least need to be humble about our interpretations.  Nice point!

We tend to want Jesus to be what we are looking for, which is not always what he really is.

The people were expecting a war-lord who would ride into Jerusalem and drive out the Romans.  Jesus finally arrives in Jerusalem in this passage (11:1), the first time in Mark, but he is riding a “colt” hardly ready for war.  That day he looked around like a tourist and rode back out of town to Bethany.  The Expected One didn’t really come as expected.

The temple is the preeminent place for purity.  It was important to the Jewish religious leaders to maintain ethnic purity and to keep pagan money stamped with the Caesar’s image out of the Lord’s Temple.  The Lord comes to the Temple in the form of Jesus and he makes a holy mess because they are pure in all the wrong ways.  Isn’t “my house to be called a house of prayer for all the world to share?” (11:17).

God rewards faith.  Have faith and don’t doubt and you will see amazing things happen (11:22-24).  They just might not be what you were expecting.

If anyone will understand the kingdom it will be the religious establishment.  Jesus should be warmly accepted by them of all people.  But he is a threat to their power.  He seems to be pitting the Jewish religious leaders against the people.  Shouldn’t the Messiah see life like the chief priests and legal experts?

Maybe more to the point today is the one point I do understand from the strange fig tree story in this chapter: it is more important what Jesus is looking for in us.  He is looking for fruit (11:13).

What were you not expecting in today’s reading?

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10 thoughts on “Mark 11: The Expected One, with a Twist

  1. Eddy Efaw

    Wasn’t it Don McLaughlin (at Re:Fuel Memphis) that had that interesting take on the fig tree? He started by noting that it wasn’t the season for figs. This makes you think at first that Jesus is being unreasonable in expecting the fig to bear fruit. It wasn’t even the time of the year when it was SUPPOSED to give fruit! He went on to say that when fig trees are out of season they have no leaves at all. By having leaves on it, it’s like the tree is broadcasting, “Come to me to find fruit! Come over here to find something that can sustain and fill you.” It was false advertising for that tree to have leaves. His point was that we advertise falsely as the church sometimes. There are those in the world looking for something to fill and sustain them because they are empty. They need the kingdom to come in their lives. We as the church advertise to the world that they can come to us (to God) and find something real. We have our leaves on our fig tree. IF they come to our church building, if they meet us at work and don’t see fruit in our lives . . . we’ve advertised falsely. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” says Jesus (KNT). This reminds me of the passages in Revelation where the candles of the churches were put out who were not faithful to Jesus. It’s serious stuff. In verse 21 the disciples tell him that the tree he cursed has withered and died. It’s serious so difficult that we can’t do it alone. Jesus follows up their comment with a call to have faith in God in v.22-24 and says that everything we ask in prayer can happen. This situation is indeed something worth praying about!

    • That does sound familiar. Excellent thoughts. And that sadly can be true of Christians. This interpretation makes a whole lot of sense against the next pericope in which the Pharisees come off as “fruit-less.” Thanks for adding this note.

  2. I read some commentary from John Gill commented in verse 10 –

    “Blessed be the kingdom of our father David,…. It was more usual with the Jews to call Abraham their father; but, because the Messiah was David’s son, therefore, with respect to him, they here call him their father: and their meaning is, let the kingdom promised to our father David, and to his seed for ever, ”

    How to explain this verse.

    Verse 18 – to make group of priest and teacher want to kill Jesus, for sure it take a lot of grunge. But my intention is whole crowd amaze him. It take a lot of wisdom, and it was a wisdom from God, the question what the content in his preach that make people amazed.

    Verse 24 – “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” It seem prayer is an important issue.
    Verse 25 – So father also hold the power of forgiving sin. Interesting.

    • You are hitting on a good point there with Abraham and David. God made a covenant/agreement with both. The one had made with Abraham emphasizes chosen-ness/election, blessing, being made a special people with a special mission to bless the world (Genesis 12:1-3). God’s agreement with David had more to do with royalty and rulership. David and his descendants were promised to be God’s kings as long as they served Him and followed His laws. Their rule was intended to bring God’s kingdom and blessings to the entire world. Of course, many of those David’s descendants went way off track. So here when the crowd mentions David that are tapping into the “kingship” ideas. The Messiah was expected to be a great king who would bring great victories and freedom. Jesus was precisely that Messiah, but in a way they were not expecting.

      Prayer is an extremely important practice in Christianity. When polled, well over 90% of American Christians say they pray every day. It is not usually as structured or timed as Muslim prayer — and we could learn from your discipline — but prayer is a precious life-line to God for us Christians.

  3. Melanie Semore

    I appreciate Eddy’s information about the fig tree. I’ve never understood why Jesus was beating up on the tree which wasn’t even supposed to have fruit in that season. But the leaves! False advertising indeed. I appreciate the analogy and application for us.

    What was unexpected in this chapter? For me, it’s the enigma of Jesus. No wonder the disciples didn’t get it. I’d be confused, too. There’s the ride on the colt to Jerusalem…for no apparent reason. Then to Bethany. Then back to Jerusalem for Jesus to blast the moneychangers who, I’m guessing had been there every day Jesus had ever gone to the temple. Then Jesus’ refusal to answer the priests’ question. I’m thinking the disciples never knew what to expect. Seeing more clearly the unpredictable Jesus is what is unexpected.

  4. Eddy

    It’s always unexpected to me that the fig tree gets chastised. “False advertising” (see note above) deserves it to be sure but it’s still unexpected to me every time. It makes me want to look close in my life for this kind of “marketing” of my faith to the world around me.

  5. “Show us your credential…” Whose prophetic voice am I not listening to because they don’t hold the credentials I’m expecting them to have?

  6. Philip’s point is what hit me once again in this chapter.

    It’s a minor point, I know, but another detail that got me wondering is the first story in the chapter about the disciples going to get the colt. “Say, ‘The Master needs him.'” Which master? Was Jesus giving them a double-speak response that could be misinterpreted by the servants at the house where the colt was tethered. Were they thinking the master of the house, or were they thinking Jesus? I wonder. It is not terribly important. I find it humorously intriguing, that’s all.

  7. Eddy

    Jason, I’d never seen that before. Interesting.

  8. “They answered just as Jesus had told them: ‘The master needs it, and he will send it back to you soon.’ So the bystanders let them go.” (11:6)

    Why would they do that? Odd!

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