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Go to Bible: Mark 11
|Mar 11:1||- (top)|
“in front of.” Jesus was traveling from Jericho on what is known as “the Jericho Road,” the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. It is only about a 15-mile journey, and thus a person can walk it in one long day, however, it is a steep climb. Jericho is more than 800 feet below sea level, and the Mount of Olives, which Jesus had to climb and from which he would get the view of Jerusalem (Luke 20:41) is over 2,500 feet high, making the ascent well over 3000 feet. Jesus would reach Bethphage and Bethany before he reached the summit of the Mount of Olives.
“colt.” This “colt” is not a young horse, but a young donkey (Matt. 21:2-5; cp. Zech. 9:9).(top)
“‘The Lord has need of it and will immediately send it back here again.’” There is a debate about where what Jesus said ends. However, there is good evidence that the whole statement is the words of Jesus, and also this fits with his honest character that he would make sure that the animals got back to their owner. The Greek word palin, again, juxtaposed with “here,” making the phrase “here again,” is very good evidence that the whole statement is the words of Jesus; he was making sure the owner knew that the animals would be quickly returned. Jesus used the donkey immediately and went into Jerusalem on it (Mark 11:3-11). Although the Bible never specifically says Jesus returned the donkey, we can be sure he did, likely sending a disciple to take it back when he was in the Temple (Mark 11:11).(top)
“a door.” The Greek texts are divided between “the door” and “a door.” Since Jesus did not designate any particular house, “a door” seems more accurate.(top)
|Mar 11:5||- (top)|
|Mar 11:6||- (top)|
|Mar 11:7||- (top)|
|Mar 11:8||- (top)|
“Hosanna.” The people who were shouting praises to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem were for the most part not the same group as the group that shouted, “Crucify him” only a few days later. See commentary on Luke 23:21 and commentary on Luke 23:27.(top)
|Mar 11:10||- (top)|
“he went out to Bethany.” Jerusalem was a walled city, and so Jesus “went out” of it and traveled east over the Mount of Olives to Bethany, which was on the east side of the mountain.(top)
|Mar 11:12||- (top)|
“seeing a fig tree.” The fig tree was one of the trees in the Bible that symbolized Israel. This particular fig tree was a fitting parable of Israel. It was in full leaf and looked very promising, even ahead of the rest of the trees. It should have been a source of great blessing for those who looked for early sustenance coming out of the winter months. Instead, it was a liar, promising much but delivering little, deceiving weary travelers and giving them false hope. Jesus cursed it, foreshadowing the curse and destruction that would come upon Israel.
“it was not the season for figs.” The question this verse poses to the average reader is, “Why would Jesus curse the fig tree for not having figs if it was not the season for figs?” The answer to that question lies in understanding that, although there were a couple varieties of fig trees in Israel, the common variety produces two crops of figs per year. An early fig grows on the old branch stock that grew the preceding year. This early fig often begins to grow even before there are leaves on the fig tree, although sometimes these early figs and the leaves start to grow at the same time. These early figs usually start developing in March, but may be a little earlier or later depending on the climate, and the circumstances of any given tree (Israel has many different climates, usually somewhat depending on elevation). These early figs mature in June, and the leaves grow and mature along with them. A second crop of figs starts on the new tree growth that sprouts that year, and they generally ripen in August.
Since Mark is recording events around Passover, Jesus would have approached the fig tree in April. Although it was not yet the season for figs, Jesus noticed that this particular tree was in full leaf. If the leaves were fully formed, that meant he could expect the figs of this particular tree to be early too, or at least be far enough along to be somewhat satisfying to eat. This should not surprise us. It often happens in horticulture that a plant is a few weeks earlier than the “regular season.” However, when Jesus got to the tree, the situation was not just that the figs it had were not yet ripe, it did not have any figs at all!
The Greek text starts the last phrase, “it was not the season for figs,” with the Greek word gar (#1063 γάρ), and is usually translated “for” or occasionally “because,” and it usually gives the reason for something. However, that use of gar does not fit this verse. Jesus did not find only leaves on the fig tree “because” it was not the season for figs. This phrase is letting us know that, indeed, it was not the general season for figs. But if that was the case, why would Jesus expect figs in the first place? The answer is that this particular tree had leaves, so Jesus could expect to find them on this tree. This use of the gar is what some scholars refer to as the “confirmatory gar” and confirms and clarifies what has already been stated. See commentary on Romans 9:3.
Jesus then cursed this tree and it died overnight. Jesus would ordinarily never curse a tree of any kind for not having fruit or buds. Often trees go through hardships that keep them from bearing fruit in a given year. Jesus said he did what he heard from his Father, God, and this is an example of that. God gave Jesus the revelation to curse the tree so Jesus cursed it and it died overnight, which was a miracle. Thus this tree became a twofold teaching example: it showed that Israel was going to be cursed (which it was for rejecting its Messiah), and it also taught the apostles that when God gave you revelation, no matter how unlikely it seemed, if you trust God and believe and act on what He says, the revelation will come to pass (this is the manifestation of trust, 1 Cor. 12:9).(top)
“he answered and said.” The original text has the phrase, “answered and said” more than 100 times in the Bible, and it can sometimes be confusing because it is often used when no one asked a question. The phrase is an idiom, but it has a literal overtone behind it. The person who “answered and said” may not have been answering a direct question from someone, but they were answering and addressing the situation that was presenting itself before them (see commentary on Matt. 11:25).
“will ever eat.” The Greek word translated “eat” is phagō (#5315 φάγω (φάγομαι)), in the optative mood, but as Lenski points out in his commentary, here the optative is equivalent to the imperative mood, a command. Jesus is not saying, “May no one eat,” as if he was making a request, but rather, “No one will eat!” He is commanding something to happen. He is cursing the fig tree [For “curse,” see Mark 11:21 and see commentary on Luke 6:28]. A. Nyland gets the sense correctly: “No one will ever eat fruit from you again!”a
“came into Jerusalem.” The exact meaning of “came into” (erchomai eis) must be determined from the context because it is used for “come to,” “come into,” “arrive at,” etc. In this case, Jerusalem was a walled city, so they literally “came into” it. They did not just “come to” it. Although the eastern wall of the Temple was part of the outer wall of Jerusalem, the main entrances to the Temple were from inside Jerusalem, especially from the south (which had both a double and triple entry gate) and from the west.
“doves.” The people who were poor and could not afford to bring or buy a lamb or goat were allowed to sacrifice doves, which were much less expensive (Lev. 12:8). Before the Magi came and gave gifts to Joseph and Mary, they were poor and had to sacrifice doves (Luke 2:24).(top)
|Mar 11:16||- (top)|
|Mar 11:17||- (top)|
“and they were looking for a way to destroy him.” The religious leaders had been trying to figure out how to destroy Jesus for a long time now (cp. Mark 3:6).(top)
|Mar 11:19||- (top)|
“the fig tree had withered away from the roots up.” The fig tree was a symbol of Israel. The Old Testament sometimes portrays the people of Israel as figs (Jer. 24:1-8; Hos. 9:10). In the case of Jesus cursing the fig tree, it was a fitting parable for Israel and what would happen to Israel. Like this fig tree that Jesus cursed, Israel looked promising; it looked like it was flourishing and blessed by God, but when one looked deeper there was no godly fruit that Israel was producing.
The Bible does not tell us much about the fig tree Jesus cursed. Knowing the godly character of Jesus, we can safely assume that the fig tree was in a public place and was not personally owned by anyone. Jesus is never recorded as having destroyed anyone’s private property. The Bible does let us know that the death of this fig tree was a miracle. It was a miracle because it died in one day. But it was also a miracle because it died from the roots up. Under normal circumstances, the death of a tree is always noticed in the leaves first, then in the branches, and lastly in the roots. But this tree died from the roots up. This is a fitting metaphor for Israel itself. The “roots” of Israel were rotten and spiritually dead. The leaders were children of the devil (John 8:44), and the so-called godly regulations that they promulgated were actually a rejection of the Mosaic law (Mark 7:5-13) and were a burden to the people (Matt. 23:4). The ungodliness of the leaders, the “roots” of the society eventually led to the death of the tree itself and the eventual destruction of Israel by the Romans.
God gave revelation to Jesus to curse the tree and he did, trusting what God said, which is why it died overnight. So the tree was a symbol of Israel and the cursing of it was also an example to the apostles of the manifestation of trust (see commentary on Mark 11:13).(top)
|Mar 11:21||- (top)|
“trust.” The Greek noun pistis (#4102 πίστις) means “trust” in this context. Most English versions translate it as “faith,” but “faith” is so greatly misunderstood that “trust” is the better translation in modern English.
[For more information on pistis and translating it as “trust,” see Appendix 16, “‘Faith’ is ‘Trust.’”](top)
“lifted up.” The Greek is airō (#142 αἴρω; pronounced eye-rō), and it is passive voice, imperative mood. Although it would be very literal to say, “Be taken up,” the imperative mood combined with the context, moving a mountain at your command, gives the sense that the mountain is being snatched up out of its place and thrown into the ocean.a
“sea.” In this context, Jesus is teaching in Jerusalem, and the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea were the closest and best-known bodies of water.
“does not doubt.” The Greek is diakrinō (#1252 διακρίνω). In the middle voice, as it is here, it refers to being undecided within oneself. It is the indecision that causes one to hesitate or waver. Nyland makes the case that “doubt” is not a good translation here, saying apisteō or aporeō would be “doubt,” and “undecided” would be better.b While it is true that we often use “doubt” in the sense of a specific and steady state of mind, such as when we “doubt” that what someone says is true only because we cannot “prove” them to be lying,” it is also true that we use “doubt” of the times we doubt ourselves and waver between doubt and trust. Also, “undecided” might seem to say we are undecided about obeying God, which is not what the verse is saying.
This verse makes a strong point about the manifestation of trust (which is the full context here. It takes revelation from God, and then the manifestation of trust to kill a fig tree overnight or move a mountain; see commentary on Mark 11:13). When God gives us revelation that something can be done at our command, of course it will not happen if we doubt we can do it. But even if we are “undecided” and waver between trust (faith) and unbelief, we will not be able to carry out the will of God. Like Abraham, we must be strong in our faith, our trust in God.
[For more on the manifestations of holy spirit, and the manifestation of trust, see commentary on 1 Cor. 12:9.]
“it will be done for him.” The Greek is more literally, “it will be for him.” It is important to get the sense of what the text is saying. It is not saying, “he will do it himself,” it is saying it will be done for him, but who will do it? The context is that God will do it, thus the need to trust God (Mark 11:22). Since God will do it, the translation, “it will be done for him” properly catches the sense of the text.
“believe that you have received them, and they will be done for you.” This verse contains great truth, and great potential to be misunderstood and wrongly applied. Certain faith teachers have taken it to mean that through faith we instantly receive what we ask for, even though it may clearly seem to not be the case, we must nevertheless believe that we have already received what has been asked for. Often, this can lead to unhealthy situations where Christians must pretend that circumstances are not as they are, or feel that they are not having “faith.”
This comes from a misguided understanding of the verse. The second half of the verse should settle any thought as to whether the requests have been received—it assumes they have not. This is why it says, “and they will be (future tense) done for you.” An understanding of the Greek behind this phrase will further clear things up. To properly understand this verse we must understand the tense of the verb translated “you have received.” It is not the present tense, as the KJV can give the impression with their rendering, “believe that ye receive them.” Rather, the verb is in the aorist (past) tense. So understood literally, the verse would not be asking us to believe we have presently received anything, but to believe that we have already in the past received what we are presently praying for; then, perplexingly, it ends with the promise that if we so believe, we will in the future receive what we believe has already been received before we even asked for it.
How are we to understand this? Why would God put the verb in the aorist tense? The reason is this verse contains an idiom known as the proleptic aorist (under the category of the idiom of the prophetic perfect, see commentary on Eph. 2:6). The proleptic aorist is a form of the figure of speech heterosis, where one tense is used instead of another for emphasis. In this case, the aorist tense is used for the future tense, speaking as though a yet future event had already come to pass. Wallace explains the proleptic aorist as follows: “An author sometimes uses the aorist for the future to stress the certainty of the event. It involves a ‘rhetorical transfer’ of a future event as though it were past.”a Here in Mark 11:24 the event of receiving what is prayed for is yet future, but it is put in the past tense (“have received”) to emphasize its certainty.
When we understand that this phrase is the idiom of the proleptic aorist, we see that God is not asking us to believe we have already in the past received something we do not really yet have, nor is he asking us to believe we have presently received something we have not yet received; rather, he is asking us to believe we will receive our requests in the future. This saves us from the harm of turning biblical belief into make-believe.
When Jesus cursed the fig tree he was acting by revelation and operating the “manifestation of trust” (1 Cor. 12:9). No one can “just trust” and kill a fig tree or move a mountain by their own power; it is God who has the power to do that. But if God gives you revelation to do an “impossible thing,” like kill a tree, move a mountain, split an ocean like Moses did, knock down solid rock walls like Joshua did, or raise the dead like some of the prophets, Jesus, and Peter did, if you trust God and do not doubt in your heart that the impossible thing will be done, it will indeed be done.
[For more on Jesus cursing the fig tree, see Mark 11:13. For more on the manifestation of trust, see 1 Cor. 12:9. For more on what “faith” truly is, and that it is “trust” and not a “power of the mind that makes impossible things happen,” see Appendix 16, “‘Faith’ is ‘Trust.’”]
“stand praying.” The indicative mood of the Greek verb “stand” (stēkō #4739 στήκω) indicates that Jesus is thinking of this as something the disciples do; it is not just a hypothetical. Standing up to pray was an ancient practice, and reflected the belief that our Creator deserved the honor of standing before Him when making supplications and requests.(top)
We omit this verse as do most modern versions as being an addition to the text. The verse was apparently added in order to harmonize Matthew 6:15 with the Gospel of Mark. Metzger writes, “Although it might be thought that the sentence was accidentally omitted because of homoeoteleuton, its absence from early witnesses that represent all text-types makes it highly probable that the words were inserted by copyists in imitation of Matt. 6:15.”a
“came again into Jerusalem.” Jerusalem was a walled city, so they literally “came into” it. They did not just “come to” it. See commentary on Mark 11:15.(top)
“Who gave you the authority.” The Greek text is more literally “this” authority. This second question is a restatement of the first in order to make the question clear: where did Jesus get the authority to say and do the things that he was doing. The Greek text has an “or,” which is easier to understand than it is in English, which is why many modern English versions omit the “or” entirely (cp. CEB; CEV; CSB; NLT; NRSV).(top)
|Mar 11:29||- (top)|
|Mar 11:30||- (top)|
|Mar 11:31||- (top)|
“Of human origin….” Mark 11:32 contains a good example of the common figure of speech anacoluthon, in which the speaker abruptly stops speaking about one subject and either stops completely or continues with another line of thought. The religious leaders were questioning Christ. He asked them a counter-question, which put them in a bind. As they considered their options as to how to answer Christ’s question, it was clear that if they said that John’s baptism only had human authority they could be in serious trouble with the people. In the intensity of the moment and with the uncertainty of how to move forward, the Jews simply stopped in mid-sentence.
[For a more complete explanation of anacoluthon with examples, see commentary on 1 Cor. 9:15.]
[See figure of speech “anacoluthon.”](top)
“Then I will not tell you.” Jesus was not fooled by the Jews saying they did not know. They knew exactly what they believed, but those hypocrites and cowards were afraid to say it. Jesus had said if they would tell him about John’s baptism, he would tell them about the source of his authority. Since they would not tell him, he kept his word and would not tell them.(top)