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The Gospel According to Mark: Chapter 11

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1When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

12On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

15Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

18And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples a Gk they went out of the city.

20In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22Jesus answered them, “Have a Gk him faith in God. 23Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received b Gk he it, and it will be yours.

25“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” c Other ancient authorities lack in the boat

27Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him 28and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” 29Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” 31They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”— they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. 33So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”


c Gk they

d Gk him

a Gk he

b Other ancient authorities lack in the boat

Text Commentary view alone

11.1–13.2 : Confronting the rulers and ruling institutions in Jerusalem.

11.1–11 : A messianic demonstration

(Mt 21.1–9; Lk 19.28–38; Jn 12.12–15 ). As Jesus and his followers enter into the capital city, they stage a “messianic” demonstration, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah (Zech 9.9–10 ) of a peasant king riding on a donkey (cf. 1 Kings 1.38 ), not in an imperial war‐chariot.

1 :

Bethphage and Bethany, villages just east of Jerusalem.

8 :

Spread their cloaks on the road, before the messiah, the “anointed” king, just as was done when Elisha anointed Jehu to lead the rebellion against the oppressive Omride regime, 2 Kings 9.1–13 . The leafy branches appear to have a similar significance; cf. the “palm branches” waved in victorious celebration (with hymns, etc.) of the newly established independence of Jerusalem and Judea in 1 Macc 13.51 .

9 :

The throng shouts a psalm of thanksgiving (Ps 118.25–26 ) for victory over Israel's enemies, one that was sung at the Passover festival. Hosanna means “Save us!”

10 :

Added to the psalm, linking the festal demonstration with the hope of Israel's future restoration and independence led by the anointed “son of David,” as in Bartimaeus's repeated cry in 10.48–49 that just preceded the demonstration.

11 :

Looked around, after the messianic demonstration in seeming anticipation of the restoration of Israel, Jesus enters Jerusalem, but only to reconnoiter before launching his aggressive face‐off with the rulers the next day.

11.12–25 [26] : Prophetic demonstration against the Temple

(Mt 21.12–13, 18–22; Lk 19.45–48 ). Mark again sandwiches one story into another, framing the prophetic demonstration against the Temple with the cursing of the fig tree (which is bearing no fruit), a figure for God's judgment in Israelite tradition. The Temple, the central religious and economic institution of the Jerusalem state, supported by the tithes and offerings of the people, had been rebuilt by the Judean ruling families upon return from exile in the sixth century BCE. Herod the Great had begun reconstruction of the Temple on a grand scale in 20 BCE, making it one of the wonders of the Roman imperial world and a center of Jewish pilgrimage.

15–16 :

Jesus took forcible action against the sellers and buyers in the large Court of the Gentiles, the principal open public space in Jerusalem, where anyone—including non‐Israelites—could go. Commerce, including money‐changing, was necessary in connection with sacrifices and offerings in the semi‐monetarized economy.

17 :

Quoting Isa 56.7 , and Jeremiah's prophecy against the first Temple (Jer 7.11 ), Jesus interprets his action as a prophetic demonstration of God's condemnation of the Temple. Den of robbers is better translated “bandits' stronghold,” conveying more the original sense in Jeremiah that the rulers plunder the people like bandits and then seek refuge in the Temple.

18–19 :

In response to Jesus' prophetic demonstration, the Jerusalem rulers intensify the long‐standing scheme to kill him, known since 3.6 . In preindustrial cities, rulers had to worry at festival times about touching off mob action by taking repressive measures against agitators, as indicated in 14.1–2 . But Jesus and his disciples strategically withdraw from the city at evening.

20–24 :

This astounding statement about the mount of the Temple upon which Jesus has just demonstrated God's condemnation says, in effect, to trust God to do what has been prophesied.

25–[26] :

Early manuscripts omit v. 26 , as does the NRSV translation. If original to Mark, it establishes mutual forgiveness (as in the Lord's Prayer, Lk 11.2–4 ) as the focus of prayer, now that the Temple, the official site for prayer and for obtaining divine forgiveness (see Lev 6.7 ), stands under God's condemnation.

11.27–33 : Jesus' authority

(Mt 21.23–27; Lk 20.1–8; cf. Jn 2.18–22 ). The first in a series of sharp charges and countercharges in the escalating conflict between Jesus and the Roman‐backed Jewish priestly rulers and their representatives.

27–28 :

The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders, authorized presumably by God as well as imperial Rome, challenge Jesus on the authority by which he acts and speaks, referring to the confrontation regarding “authority and power” with which the whole gospel story began in 1.22–28 .

29–30 :

In his counter question Jesus cleverly entraps them and exposes their lack of authority among the people, while avoiding any statement that might seem to justify his seizure by them.

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