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).