Click here to learn more!
The Gospel of Mark condensed a great detail of material into the remaining six chapters, and not all of it is in strict chronological sequence. However, in this eleventh chapter, there are three successive days designated (Mark 11:11:11; Mark 11:11:12; Mark 11:11:20; and Mark 11:11:27). In the designed brevity of the gospel, it was inevitable that some events would be recorded with many details omitted and that some things would be omitted altogether. The sections of this chapter are devoted to: the triumphal entry (Mark 11:1-11), withering of the fig tree (Mark 11:12-14 and Mark 20:25), the second cleansing of the temple (Mark 11:15-19), and the question concerning the authority of Jesus (Mark 11:27-33).
THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY
This event is recorded in all four of the gospels, a testimony of the great importance attached to it. The four accounts are independent, historical, and exceedingly significant, each in its own right. There is absolutely no ground whatever for making any one of them the "original" in its relation to the others. All are original in the sense of being founded on the event itself and bearing the most convincing evidence of being truthful accounts of the facts related.
One grows weary of the knee-jerk repetition in so many of the commentaries, as, for example, in these lines from Cranfield: "The Markan account provides vividness of detail with the most notable restraint regarding Messianic colour." Cranfield said this with reference to the event of the triumphal entry, despite the simple fact that Mark provided less "vividness of detail" than any of the other sacred authors. Here are the details supplied from the other three gospels which Mark omitted:
The mother of the colt was a necessary part of the whole event; the colt would not have followed without her!
Both animals were brought to Jesus.
Garments were spread on both of them.
Jesus sat on both animals (his feet probably on the colt).
The colt was unbroken, unusable except in connection with its mother.
The dramatic descent from the Mount of Olives.
The hailing of Jesus as the King of Israel.
The request of the Pharisees that Jesus rebuke such exclamations.
The presence of two converging multitudes, one from the city coming out to meet Jesus, the other following from Bethany.
The element of the resurrection of Lazarus stimulating the size of both converging multitudes.
The stirring up of the whole city.
Christ's reply to the Pharisees that, if the multitudes should remain silent, the very stones would cry out.
The frustration of the Pharisees who said, "Behold how ye prevail nothing; lo, the world is gone after him."
The astounding fact of the Gospel of Mark is not "vividness of detail," as so monotonously alleged, but rather an astounding lack of detail as in the instance before us. The significance of this is that the "vividness of detail" allegedly found in Mark is the principal prop of the so-called Markan theory. This pattern of Mark's omission of details supplied by the other gospels extends throughout the gospel, the few instances in which he gave more details being utterly outweighed by those in which, as here, he gave far less. Therefore, it may be dogmatically affirmed that Mark's overwhelming superiority in the matter of "vivid details" is a scholarly conceit void of all Scriptural support. The "greater vividness of details" assertion is contradicted by the very size of the gospel itself, being by far the shortest. Furthermore, there is the fact, already noted, that Mark's style is somewhat verbose, using more words to convey fewer thoughts. Note the following:MARK 8:11
And the Pharisees came forth, began to question with him, asking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and tempting him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven.
In the above, Matthew with one less word gives all of the facts recorded by Mark, plus the added information that the Pharisees were accompanied by the Sadducees. This is characteristic throughout the gospels.
And saith unto them, Go your way into the village that is over against you: and straightway as ye enter it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat; loose him and bring him.
As to which village was meant, there is no certain way to determine it; but Matthew's mention of their coming to Bethphage with no mention of Bethany suggests that the latter was the "village over against" them. Mark and Luke writing at a later date than Matthew threw in the name of the village where they got the colt. This writer is aware that this contradicts the notions regarding Mark's being the first gospel; but this is only one of a hundred examples in the text itself suggesting the priority of Matthew, a position which this writer accepts as far more likely to be true. The historical fact of Matthew's being the first book in the New Testament is of immense weight.
A colt tied ... The mother would not depart from the colt if the latter was tied, hence it was unnecessary to tie both animals. Tying the mother, on the other hand, would not restrain the colt from wandering off. Both were tied.
And if any one say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye, The Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him back hither.
The Lord hath need of him ... Jesus here referred to himself as "Lord," a term that cannot, in context, be separated from a claim of divinity on Jesus' part.
And straightway he will send him back hither ... The Greek word here rendered "hither" is actually "here"; it is thus a reference to the place where Jesus was standing when he gave this order. The word "back" is thus not a reference to taking the animal back but to the coming "back" of the disciples with the colt. Translators and commentators have a great difficulty with this rather unusual mode of expression; but the meaning is absolutely clear in Matthew: "And straightway he will send them" (Matthew 21:3), meaning the owner would straightway send the requested colt (and its mother) to Jesus. The notion that Jesus was here promising to send the animal back promptly is ridiculous, as if the Lord would need to promise any such thing in order to procure an animal which he already knew would be promptly given without any such promise. The appearance of this event in all three synoptic gospels is proof enough that the supernatural knowledge of the Lord regarding where the colt would be found, the fact of its being tied and being with its mother: and the fact of the owner's willingness to allow the Lord to use them that supernatural knowledge is the main point of the narrative, along with the element of fulfilling prophecy.
And they went away, and found a colt tied to the door without in the open street; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?
It should be noted that the disciples found the colt exactly where Jesus said they would find it, that it was tied, and that they encountered exactly the same questioning of what they were doing that Jesus had anticipated. No wonder such an event persisted in the memory of all and found its way into all three synoptics. Who but God could have exhibited such foreknowledge as this? Commentators who suppose that Jesus must have set this up in advance, or that the owner was in Jesus' company on that occasion, are not interpreting anything in the Bible but expressing their own unbelief. Significantly, it appears that the people questioning the disciples were merely bystanders, and not the owner; and it would have been impossible to have set up such a thing in advance.
And they said unto them even as Jesus had said: and they let them go. And they bring the colt unto Jesus, and cast on him their garments; and he sat upon him.
See additional details of this as set forth in the introduction to this chapter. Mark's abbreviated account omits many vivid details.
And many spread their garments upon the way; and others branches, which they had cut from the fields.
Cranfield's allegation says this "demonstration was quite a small affair." Such a comment is shocking, not because of any possible truth in it, but because it is almost incredible that an intelligent man would make it. As these lines are being written, President Richard M. Nixon has just enjoyed a triumphal reception in Egypt where over two million people enthusiastically hailed him; but does anyone suppose for a moment that nineteen centuries afterward people will be studying that entry into Egypt by an American president? This entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem is still hailed by millions some two thousand years after the fact. It was immortalized by four historical records, hated to be sure, but still true, still standing as fact, still received as the word of God to mankind, still loved, honored, and revered by people of all nations. That such results could have flowed out of some "very small affair" is utterly impossible of belief. On this day, the palm branch became forever afterward a symbol of victory, which, as Dummelow said, was a thing unknown to the Jews. Some "small affair"!
This great outpouring of Jerusalem to welcome Jesus our Lord was a vast spontaneous demonstration in which the great masses of the people participated with Hosannas and praises and the casting of their clothes in the street before the Lord (they didn't even do that for Nixon). The King had indeed come to his people, and they hailed him as "the King of Israel" and as "the Son of David." The priests were furious, saying, "Lo, the world has gone after him" (John 12:19). As a matter of fact, it had!
 C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 353.
 J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Whole Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 694.
And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed is the kingdom that cometh, the kingdom of our father David: Hosanna in the highest.
They that went before, and they that followed ... Here are the two great multitudes, one following Jesus from Bethany, many of them being eyewitnesses of the raising of Lazarus and all of them shouting that fact as they followed, and another coming out from Jerusalem, having heard that the man who raised Lazarus was coming, and hastening out to greet him. Thus, Mark's brief words here give the basic fact of those two great masses of people converging upon Jesus.
The balance of these two verses are rich with messianic implications, the mention of David, so long dead and buried, having no other possible meaning except as a reference to the Son of David, Israel's long-expected Messiah.
For comment upon the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, and with regard to many of the spiritual overtones of this wonderful entry, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 21:1-11. No triumphal entry ever known at any time or place could be compared with that of the world's true Light on the last Sunday preceding his resurrection from the dead; and the truly wonderful thing about Jesus' triumph is that it is still going on!
The exclamations of the multitudes hailing Jesus' entry into the city are variously reported by the four gospels: Matthew has "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest" (Matthew 21:9); Mark has "Blessed is the kingdom that cometh, the kingdom of our father David: Hosanna in the highest" (Mark 11:9,10); Luke has "Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest" Luke 19:38); and John has "Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel" (John 12:13). Such accounts are exactly what one should have expected in view of the undeniable truth that such multitudes would have shouted MANY THINGS. The four samplings which have come down to us outline quite clearly the nature and intent of their exclamations. Critics who select the least extensive of these four records and then shout that "this is all that was said by those multitudes" betray not merely their lack of knowing the Scriptures but also their phenomenal ignorance of crowds such as that which hailed the Lord.
And he entered into Jerusalem, into the temple; and when he had looked round about upon all things, it being now eventide, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.
Luke recorded that Jesus went "every night" to the mount of Olives (Luke 12:37), but, of course, Bethany was on the mount of Olives. All such variations are due to the independence of the narratives.
THE WITHERING OF THE FIG TREE
This is one of the most interesting of Jesus' great wonders, exceedingly rich with moral significance, and, in context, a miracle of great mercy and power. Like a bat in a cave at night, however, the unbeliever sees nothing at all in such an event as this. First, we shall note a few "objections" which have been offered.
Jesus is accused of "blasting fruit trees simply because they did not have fruit ready for him at the moment." Such a canard as this, like Satan's lie in Eden, is merely a denial of what the sacred text SAYS. He did not wither the tree for fruitlessness but for FALSENESS, exhibiting leaves (which appeared AFTER the fruit, normally) yet having no fruit and being also an out-of-season freak.
Another is "the unfavorable light in which it seems to put the judgment or common sense of Jesus." To the contrary, nineteen centuries of the history of Israel (the actual object of this miracle) have confirmed and vindicated the Lord's perfect judgment and prophetic insight into the consequences of their rejection of the Messiah.
Manson called this miracle "a tale of miraculous power wasted in the service of and quipped that such power would have "been more usefully expended in forcing a crop of figs out of season." If Manson had ever read the account of Jesus' temptation, he should have known that Jesus never performed a miracle purely for the benefit of himself. Such objections as these just cited are not to be taken seriously. They ignore the sacred records themselves, have no understanding of Jesus' purpose in performing this wonder, and are actually only spiteful reactions against hated truth.
The antagonism of some against this miracle is actually directed against it because it contradicts the popular, stereotyped image of Jesus which views our Lord as loving everything and everybody, a view which is true enough in the highest sense, but which in the perverted application of it makes Jesus a namby-pamby weakling willing to accept anything that evil men may do and yet giving them eternal life no matter what deeds of blood and shame mar their lives. Cranfield commented on the question of whether "this miracle of destruction" should be viewed "as inconsistent with the rest of what we know of Jesus." The view here is that Jesus did this wonder for the very purpose of correcting the false view that might have prevailed if no destructive miracle had ever been wrought. That God will not destroy is a false view. Ask Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon and Nineveh, Tyre and Sidon. Ask Israel. All of the great writers of the New Testament were fully conscious of the ultimate judgment against sin which God will bring upon the world, as, for example, in the words of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10. In the last analysis, it is sinful man's rebellion against any such judgment that underlies the cavil directed against this miracle of withering the fig tree.
Inherently, the miracle is one of gracious mercy and forbearance. The rejection of Jesus Christ was dramatically associated with this wonder by the manner of Mark's placement of the second cleansing of the temple right in the middle of it; which, of course, is the exact chronological. sequence of its occurrence; Israel was in the process of rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, but they yet might have repented and accepted Christ after the resurrection. In view of that hope, which was indeed seized by many of them, their long-deserved judgment would be deferred until a whole generation after the resurrection; but it was absolutely necessary that Israel be made aware that eventually the judgment would fall. This miracle made that clear; for the leafy, barren fig tree could not possibly stand for anything else in heaven or upon earth except self-righteous Israel, pretending a fruit they did not have, and out of season (for the Messiah had not come; the sacrifice which alone could save men had not been offered), prematurely professing a righteousness that was not even possible under the law. But note: Instead of striking the Pharisees blind, instead of destroying the whole nation, as the vast majority of them deserved, instead of blasting the hypocrites in the Sanhedrin with the total destruction they so richly deserved - rather than this, Jesus pronounced their doom, promised that God would send his armies and destroy their temple and their city, and put them to death, and showed symbolically the certainty of that judgment by what was here done to a fig tree, which by some freak of nature (or providence) was the exact paradigm of that wicked nation. How full of mercy was the warning! Making the judgment to fall upon an inanimate object still permitted those being judged the opportunity of repentance and salvation. To emphasize the mercy and restraint of such a deed, we recall the words of an old preacher who said that when he was a boy and first read of the mockery of Jesus in the court of Israel's high priest, he threw the Bible down and said, "Why did not God strike the place with lightning?" That would have been the human thing to do; the miracle of the fig tree was the heavenly thing to do, and Jesus did it.
 Branscomb, as quoted in The Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1951), Vol. VII, p. 828.
 Manson, as quoted by Cranfield, op. cit., p. 356.
 C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 354.
And on the morrow, when they were come out from Bethany, he hungered.
He hungered ... Jesus' hunger was the occasion of his seeking fruit on the fig tree, the showy leaves of which normally indicated fruit. What followed was not a mere peevish reaction of Jesus due to his frustrated desire to eat, but the sudden realization on his part that here was a God-given example of the nation of Israel. It was not even the time of figs, the first days of Passover being far too early for that fruit to have matured, Jesus in his complete humanity having at first been unaware of that fact. As a man, he had unconsciously accepted the pretensions of that fig-tree as true; and, being hungry, he had gone to it in expectation of eating; nor does this in any manner reflect upon the deity of Christ, a deity most conspicuously present within him as the immediate events proved. Suddenly, the freakish fig tree appeared to Jesus as the exact type of Israel, and accordingly he judged it. As Cranfield said:
The most satisfactory explanation of this difficult (miracle) is surely that which is given by the earliest extant commentary on Mark, that of Victor of Antioch, viz., that the withering of the fig tree was an acted parable in which Jesus used the fig tree to set forth the judgment which was about to fall on Jerusalem.
Then let those who cavil at the miracle deny, if they can, the judgment upon Jerusalem which it prophesied. If God did that, why should his harmless warning of it be considered otherwise than as a merciful foretelling of the fate of the chosen people with a view to restraining them and leading them to faith and salvation?
And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season of figs.
Having leaves ... This was the basis of Jesus' expectation, because the leaves were normally preceded by the fruit.
Nothing but leaves ... This freakish fig tree, all leafed out, and out of season also, was a perfect type of Israel; but it is in one particular a type of all who profess faith in God without exhibiting any of the fruit that should accompany such faith. This cannot be, however, the full meaning of this fig tree, because in this dispensation it IS the time of figs (spiritually). It is in this differentiation that the unique correspondence of the fig tree to Israel is most evident. Despite this, the spiritual application of the wonder to all who profess and do not is valid.
And he answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit from thee henceforward for ever. And his disciples heard it.
For ever ... Bickersteth wrote:
These words, in their application to the Jewish nation, have a merciful limitation - a limitation that lies in the original words rendered "for ever," which literally mean "for the age," (meaning) ... until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
For further comment upon the hardening of Israel and the duration of it, see my Commentary on Romans, Romans 11. For comment on the parallel account of this wonder in Matthew, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 21:18.
THE SECOND CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE
Only by a denial of the historical gospels is it possible to suppose that only one cleansing of the temple occurred. The first cleansing (John 2:13-22) occurred quite early in Jesus' ministry and was marked by Jesus' order to those profaning the temple that they should cease and desist from their profaning action. This second cleansing, coming in the last week of the Lord's ministry, contained no such order, because it was too late, the day of grace already having expired. This cleansing, here recorded totally within the narrative of cursing the fig tree, appears as a primary basis of the divine judgment against Israel. In the first, there was no statement that the leaders had made the house of God a den of thieves and robbers; but that charge was bluntly associated with the second cleansing.
And they come to Jerusalem: and he entered into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and them that bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.
The similarity between the two cleansings resulted from the fact that the profaners of the temple had not altered in any manner their desecration of the house of God. The court of the Gentiles had been turned into a merchandising mart; and, in the providence of God, that very court had been intended for use by devout Gentiles who worshipped God.
The double gouging of the multitudes who came to worship God was a lucrative abuse on the part of the temple concessionaires. Certain animals (or doves for the poor) were required in the Jewish sacrifices; but the difficulty of transporting livestock made it more convenient to purchase them in the temple. Moreover, "Temple dues had to be paid in the Tyrian coinage, the Tyrian shekel being the nearest equivalent to the Hebrew shekel." Thus, through control of the available supply of animals, and of the money required for their purchase, exploitation of the multitudes was brazenly accomplished.
And he would not suffer that any man should carry a vessel through the temple.
Jesus closed the court of the Gentiles as a short-cut for the traffickers in merchandise and materials. The thorough commercialization of the place had made it, in fact, much like a street-market, despite the truth of its being, actually, a significant area within the holy temple itself.
And he taught them, and said unto them, Is it not written, My, house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But ye have made it a den of robbers.
Here Christ quoted from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. For discussion of the messianic implications of what Jesus did in both these cleansings, see comment in my Commentary on John, John 2. What Jesus did in each of these cleansings was to present a dramatic claim upon his own behalf as God's Messenger who had suddenly come to his temple. One may only be amused at a comment like that of Grant who said that "`Den of thieves' ... does not necessarily imply extortion on the park of the merchants!" Is such a commentator ignorant of the fact that Jesus here used the word "robbers" (not "thieves"), and does he have any explanation of how robbers may be held "not guilty" of extortion?
 Frederick C. Grant, Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1951), Vol. VII, p. 830.
 Nestle Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 189.
And the chief priests and the scribes heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, for all the multitude was astonished at his teaching.
Note that it is not stated here that they "decided" to destroy him; that decision had already been made more than three years previously (John 5:18). Furthermore, Jesus, at the first cleansing, had associated his action with a veiled prophecy of his death and resurrection (John 2:19). Without doubt, Jesus' action in the two cleansings was a prime source of the motivation of the enemies who decided to destroy him. The principal concern of the chief priests, as revealed here, was exactly how they could bring about his death. Mark's very next verse suggests the possibility that they might have assassinated Jesus if he had not withdrawn from the city every night. That they really preferred secret murder to any public act against him is plain from Matthew 26:4.
And every evening he went forth out of the city.
In addition to the reason for Jesus' leaving the city each night and staying either in Bethany or in some secluded place on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, which was cited under the above verse, there was also the evident purpose of our Lord to avoid identification, as much as possible, with any of the places previously accounted sacred. His sitting by Jacob's well (John 4:6) dignified a place not mentioned in the Old Testament, it being nowhere stated therein that Jacob ever dug a well. Nazareth, Cana, Bethany, Bethsaida-Julius, and the majority of the places made memorable by Jesus were simply not identified among the Jews as having any notability. Jesus' refusing to stay all night in Jerusalem was fully compatible with the obvious design of his whole life, which was to show that no place, or person, was so obscure or unimportant as to deny it or him a participation in the mercy which God sent to all.
And as they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away from the roots.
MORE REGARDING THE FIG TREE
The pronouncement of Jesus against the freak fig tree produced a sudden and dramatic destruction of it. The tree had not merely wilted or begun to fade away; it had completely dried up, root and all, thus being in a condition that could hardly have been expected even if the tree had been cut down.
And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him. Rabbi, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
The astonishment of all the disciples comes into view in these words of Peter who called attention to the dramatic result which followed the Lord's pronouncement against the tree. Peter evidently expected some comment from the Lord, which was promptly forthcoming.
And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou taken up and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass; he shall have it.
This reply must have astonished the apostles as much as it has the people who have been reading of it ever since it happened. There was not a word of the symbolical meaning of the destructive wonder (Christ would shortly foretell the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and from that they would be able to deduce the meaning of the fig tree). Jesus' reply did, however, stress the fact and efficacy of prayer in relation to his wonderful signs. (See John 9:31; 11:41.) Although clear enough in John, this clear witness in Mark is illuminating. All of Jesus' works were accomplished through Jesus' oneness with the Father, a oneness that was not expressed independently but always through and after prayerful communication with God. Thus, as always, one is obligated to see the will and purpose of the Almighty in this work of the Son.
Say unto this mountain ... This promise of Jesus is not to be construed as granting his followers, nor even his apostles, blanket authority to perform monstrous and unreasonable miracles such as might be imagined by some conjurer. It was, on the other hand, a most valid and precious promise that the most awesome and overwhelming difficulties which they were to face would be removed through their faithful prayers. The literal words of these verses are another example of hyperbole which Jesus often used to emphasize his words. Another example is that of the camel and the needle's eye (Mark 10:25).
Therefore I say unto you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye shall receive them, and ye shall have them. And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
This important passage sheds light upon the manner of Jesus' teaching the Twelve. A comparison with Matthew 6:15, where portions of this are conspicuous in the Sermon on the Mount, and with Matthew 18:35, where almost the same words were used to conclude the parable of the unmerciful servant, shows that Jesus repeated over and over many basic truths, introducing them in various contexts. Significantly, this undercuts absolutely the conceit of some of the critics and their doodlings with regard to where, exactly, such and such a statement belongs. The lines in the sacred gospels "belong" wherever one finds them; and, if they occur several times, then they "belong" several times!
Forgive, if ye have aught against any one ... This prerequisite of all divine forgiveness of human transgression was most dogmatically stressed by the Son of God. (See extensive comment on this principle in my Commentary on Matthew - Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21ff).
And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there came to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders; and they said unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? or who gave thee this authority to do these things?
THE QUESTION OF JESUS' AUTHORITY
This confrontation with the religious apparatus in the Jewish capital actually concerned the second cleansing of the temple, which had just occurred; and their motives were inspired by the hope of finding some pretext for condemnation.
By what authority ... Their question was indeed a proper one. In a sense, this is as important a question as may ever be raised regarding the life and ministry of the Son of God. The fact that the questioners themselves supposed that Jesus had no authority, and knowing that he had none from THEM, does not diminish the importance of the question, had it been asked in sincerity, there is no reason to suppose that Jesus would have refused an answer, but their vicious motives precluded such a thing.
And Jesus said unto them, I will ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men? answer me.
The question in Jesus' reply was a valid one. Let these hypocrites who pretended to have all authority for determining what was from God or what was from men give a ruling on a case already before them, and one that had already been on the docket a long time: the baptism of John; was it from God or from men? As always, the hierarchy appeared ineffective and unable to prevail against Jesus in open debate. This question stopped their mouths completely.
And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say from heaven; he will say, Why' then did ye not believe him? But should we say, From men - they feared the people: for all verily held John to be a prophet.
These men were shrewd enough to recognize the trap into which they had fallen; therefore, they withdrew after a profession of ignorance on their part! Such an admission from those who loved to proclaim so loudly that "We know!" (John 9:29) is a measure of the defeat which they on that occasion sustained at the hands of Jesus.
And they answered Jesus and say, We know not. And Jesus saith unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
We know not ... This, on the part of the religious leaders, may be taken in only two ways. If it was true that they knew not, as alleged by Grant, that "they could not answer," then in such a circumstance they should have confessed their ignorance, resigned their pretensions as interpreters of the will of God, and cast themselves at Jesus' feet. On the other hand, if what they said about not knowing was a falsehood (and Mark left no doubt at all that it was a falsehood), then those evil men thereby forfeited the last vestiges of any respect to which they might have been entitled had mere ignorance been their fault. By their denial of what they certainly did know, namely, that John's baptism was of God, they fully identified themselves with Satan; but even an effective satanic witness they declined to make through cowardice prompted by fear of the people. Their appearance in this event is as contemptible as that of any other assembly of sons of the devil in all history. One may only marvel at "scholars" who defend the reputation of such men.
Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. Jesus did not say "I cannot tell," but that "I will not tell." Such questioners were in no wise entitled to any factual reply.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Mark 11". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent