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Bible Commentaries
Mark 11

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-11


John 12:12-19 ; Matthew 21:1-11 ; Matthew 21:14-17 ; Luke 19:29-44 ; Mark 11:1-11 . John: “On the morrow a great multitude, having come to the feast, hearing that Jesus comes into Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm-trees, and came out to meet Him, and continued to cry out, Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” Having arrived at Bethany Sunday evening, and lodged at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, on Monday morning Jesus goes to Jerusalem, over Mount Olivet, as the road then led. Now it goes around it, south of the summit.

Mark: “When they draw near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, near to the Mount of Olives, He sends forth two of His disciples, and says to them, Go ye into the village which is opposite you, and going into it, you will immediately find a colt tied, on which no one of men has sat. And if any one may say to you, Why do you do this? say that the Lord has need of him, and immediately he will send him hither. They departed, and found the colt tied at the door without, on the crossing of two roads, and they are loosing him; and certain ones of those standing there began to say to them, What are you doing, loosing the colt? And they said to them as Jesus commanded. And they led the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him, and He sat on him.” I made a specialty of pursuing this old road over the mountain which Jesus traveled on this notable occasion. Bethphage is about half-way from Bethany to the summit, on the mountain slope. From this place, in the journey, Jesus sent the two disciples, whose names are not given, with orders to go into a village on the mountain in full view, and bring to Him the young donkey, which had never been mounted. Matthew says they brought the mother along with the colt. Those donkeys have wonderful strength, utterly out of proportion to their size, which is quite diminutive. They are much used in the Holy Land, really more than any other domestic animal, the camel ranking next, and being used for all heavy burdens. Some get confused in the statement of Matthew that “He sat on them,” thinking that He rode both of the donkeys, which is untrue, as “them” does not refer to the animals, but to the clothes which they laid on the young animal, and on which Jesus sat. Why did Jesus ride the donkey? Why not a horse? The reason is very obvious. The horse is the symbol of war, being always used in battle; while the donkey, too slow for war, is the universal symbol of peace, and consequently the appropriate animal for the Prince of Peace to ride. Again, the donkey symbolizes humility, as he is the poor man’s animal, eating about as much as a sheep, hardy enough to live in the desert, and so small and tough that he can climb a mountain like a goat. Jesus came, the first time, in His humiliation, homeless and friendless, riding into Jerusalem on the donkey. He will come the second time in His glory, riding on a white cloud.

John: “Jesus, having found the young donkey, sat on him, as has been written, Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, thy King cometh, sitting upon the colt of the donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9) That is certainly a very beautiful prophecy. As Jerusalem occupies the summit of Mount Zion, the application is clear and unmistakable.

Mark: “And many strew their garments in the way; and others cut down the branches from the trees, and continued to strew them in the way. Those going before and those following alter continued to shout, saying, Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom coming in the name of our father David I Hosanna in the highest!” Luke says: “He, drawing nigh to the descension of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of His disciples, rejoicing, began to praise God with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen.” After the gushing, Oriental style of saluting kings and conquerors, they threw down their garments for Him to ride over them, demonstrative of their perfect submission to His authority, and at the same time they strew His way with palm-leaves, which are so majestic and beautiful in Oriental climates, and vividly symbolic of royalty, conquest, and victory. They had waited three years for that wonderful hour, and now feel sure that the desideratum for which they had prayed, sighed, and cried to God so long is fast culminating into a glorious reality; and when they reach Jerusalem, they are very sanguine that He will be crowned King of the Jews. At that time there were no factories, and clothing was so scarce and costly, comparatively with our day, that we can hardly estimate the sacrifice which they so cheerfully and gladly made in throwing down the best apparel they had, in the dusty road, for the donkey to tread upon. O they are so glad to hail Him King of the Jews, little dreaming that this grand ovation was but a scintillation of the oncoming glory of the triumphant entry of King Jesus into Jerusalem on the white cloud, symbolized by the white donkey, when the mighty host of angels and glorified saints will accompany Him. Thus they witnessed an exultant prelibation of the grandest triumph in the history of redemption, when our Lord shall descend from heaven on the throne of His glory, accompanied by the celestial millions. The perfect submission they manifested by casting their garments beneath the tread of the donkey, and the royal triumphs emblemized by the palm-leaves strewn in the Conqueror’s path, and the joyous shout of the appreciative disciples, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Glory in the highest!” O what a grand adumbration of our Lord’s triumphant return on the throne of His millennial glory, to girdle the globe with peace, righteousness, holiness, and victory! Satan will be chained and imprisoned; the six-thousand-year weekdays of toil, temptation, conflict, and suffering under the dark reign of Satan will be fled and gone, and the bright Sabbath of Eden return in millennial glories,

“Undimmed by sorrow, unhurt by time;”

the earth, exultant from the long winter of sin and oppression, will again leap into the life of perpetual springtime; and sterility, wintry storms, wasting tempests, will retreat forever before the glorious Sun of righteousness, rising on all the world, with healing in His wings, dissipating forever the long, dismal night of sin, and girdling the globe witch God’s hallowed millennial day. As the happy years roll on, the people will forget the awful suffering, conflict, and desolation of bygone ages. This shouting multitude caught a glimpse of the oncoming victory, and thought the long-prayed-for triumph had actually come. But it receded away, leaving bright memories which have inspired the saints in all subsequent ages. While we contemplate this symbolic adumbration of our Lord’s coming glory, let us all thank God and take courage, remembering that we are eighteen hundred and sixty-seven years nearer that glorious hour when the triumphant coming of our King shall not only verify the prophecies, but triumphantly fulfill the thrilling symbolism of this memorable occasion.

John 12:16 . “And His disciples did not at first understand these things; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written in reference to Him, and they did them to Him.” When the Holy Ghost descended on them at Pentecost, sanctifying and flooding them with light on the precious Word, then they were able to tightly divide the Word of Truth, and separate the prophecies some appertaining to His first coming, in humiliation; and others to His glorious coming in triumph. At the time of this public entry into Jerusalem, they were awfully disappointed, because He rendered Himself invisible and passed out of their hands when they came to crown Him King; but the Pentecostal baptism, which followed the glorification of Jesus, gave light on all these mysteries and filled them with joy.

“Then the multitude, being with Him, continued to testify that He called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him up from the dead.” Lazarus was then with Him, one of His loving disciples, and also a host of people who had actually witnessed that wonderful miracle, regarded as the greatest of our Savior’s ministry. Therefore the multitude came to Him because they heard that He had performed this miracle.

“Then the Pharisees said to one another, You see that you profit nothing. Behold, the world has gone after Him.” This grand ovation which Jesus received, along with the popular excitement over the resurrection of Lazarus, stirred the gall of the Pharisees and the higher clergy to the very bottom.

Luke 19:39 “And certain ones of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Thy disciples.” Dead religion can’t stand hallelujah meetings. They are literal torture to dead professors and dry-bone preachers. “Responding, He said to them, I say unto you, that if they must keep silent, the rocks will shout.” We see that the Lord believes in shouting meetings. This was a more noisy time than you ever witnessed at a holiness camp, and yet the Lord rebuked no one for fanaticism, but commended the whole affair. The Lord is going to be praised with “a loud voice.” If the Churches will not do it, He will convert the drunkards and harlots, though their hearts be hard as stone, till they will shout His praises. The rocks did cry out the next Friday, when He hung on the cross, and they were rent with the earthquake shock.

“And when He drew nigh, seeing the city, He wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even in this thy day, the things appertaining to thy peace; but now they are hidden from thine eyes. Because the days shall come upon thee, and thine enemies will throw a blockade around thee, and encompass thee in a circle, and they will press thee on all sides; they will slay thee and thy children in thee, and will not leave in thee stone upon stone, because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation.” On the very spot, descending Mount Olivet, here referred to, where Jesus poured forth gushing tears, weeping over the city, we have a most conspicuous view of all Jerusalem. Christian money has built a beautiful, snowy-white stone church-edifice on that very spot. It is called “The Church of Jesus Weeping.” His omniscient eye saw the great and formidable Roman armies coiled round the city, like a huge boa-constrictor, cutting off all ingress and egress, dooming the inmates to famine, which, along with the sword, slew them so rapidly that interment was impossible. Consequently the pestilential exhalations, from the putrefying corpses, produced an awful pestilence, which swept its withering epidemic through the air, actually competing with the sword and famine by heaping the city with mountains of the dead. Josephus says the horrors of the siege actually beggared all possible description, Jesus, with immortal eyes, seeing the future like the present, gazes on these awful and shocking tragedies, while His pure, tender, unfallen human heart gives way to profoundest pity and lacerating sympathy, till His eyes flood with gushing tears. Only four days intervening till the bloody scene of Calvary is to seal the doom of that devoted city, and expedite the righteous judgments of the Almighty, the Holy Spirit, as we here see from the words of Jesus, having already been grieved away, while hell, with its black legions, has come to the front.

Mark 11:11 . “Jesus came into Jerusalem, and into the temple; and looking round upon all things, the hour already being late, went out to Bethany with the twelve.” You must not forget that “temple,” in these Scriptures, simply means the Holy Campus, which is said now to contain thirty-five acres, with many valuable buildings on it, and more then than now; for none but the priests were admitted into the temple proper. Jesus, with His apostles, had lodged in Bethany the preceding night, and now goes back and lodges there Monday night. If He had lodged in the city, there is no doubt but His enemies would have attacked Him. Having lodged Sunday and Monday nights in Bethany, Tuesday and Wednesday nights in some of the villages on Mount Olivet, He remained in the city Thursday night, being arrested by His enemies at midnight.

Matthew 21:10 . “Jesus having come into Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred, saying, Who is this?” We do not wonder at the excitement and the inquiry which had been produced by an entrance so exceedingly demonstrative. Besides the native population, multitudes have already arrived in the city, that they may prepare for the oncoming Passover. As the children of Abraham, the most enterprising people in the world in all ages, had gone away into all the cities of the known world, there to sojourn and accumulate wealth, therefore to the great annual Passover they came from the ends of the earth. “And the multitudes continued to say, This is Jesus, the Prophet, from Nazareth of Galilee. The blind and the lame were coming to Him in the temple, and He healed them.” Many of them are there now. O how they thronged me, last November and December. begging for contributions, which I was only delighted to give, of course, in small value! Jerusalem this day is a practical Bible looking-glass. O what a glory when the blind and the lame all crowded around Him there in the great Temple Campus, and on their sightless eyeballs He poured the light of day, and made the lame to leap for joy!

“And the high priests and scribes, seeing the wonderful things which He did, and the children in the temple, crying, Hosanna to the Son of David, got mad, and said to Him, Do you hear what they are saying? And Jesus says to them, Yes; have you not read that out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?” (Psalms 8:3.) We still see that Jesus believes in noisy meetings none too young and none too old to shout aloud the praises of God. It made these big preachers and Church officers very mad; and they still get mad when you get up a sweeping holiness revival, and they hear the people praising the Lord with a loud voice, with no exception of age, sex, race, sect, or color.

Verses 12-14


Matthew 21:18-19 ; Mark 11:12-14 . “And on the following day, they having come out from Bethany, He was hungry.” Doubtless He had enjoyed the kind hospitality of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the hunger here mentioned being simply an appetite for some good figs, as they were very scarce in that time of the year, April 11th, as they ripen in the summer and fall. “And seeing a fig-tree afar off having leaves, He came, if perchance He shall find something on it; and having come to it, He found nothing but leaves; for it was not the time of figs. Responding, He said to it, Let no one ever eat fruit from thee. And His disciples were hearing.” Matthew says the fig-tree immediately withered away. Why did He go to it if it was not the fruit season?

a. As this was early in April, and the figs do not ripen till summer and fall, it was not the time of fruit.

b. The fact of its grand foliage was calculated to impress the traveler that it belonged to the species known as winter figs, which hold their fruit tough the winter, which is there very mild, and ripen it in the spring. Hence the nice, full foliage, indicating a healthful condition, led Him to expect ripe figs on it, having survived the winter, and now ready and delicious for eating. We must not conclude that the man Jesus always utilized the God Jesus, especially in the small affairs of life; as in that case He would have known that there was no fruit before He went.

c. There are some trees belonging to all the fruitful genera which do not produce fruit. This was one of the non-fruit-bearing species, and consequently not only worthless, but deceptive.

d. The foliage of a tree is the advertisement of its vitality and consequent fruitfulness, corresponding to the profession of a Christian.

e. Here is a tree with full foliage and no fruit, never had borne any, and never would; but by its copious leaves attracting people to it only to be disappointed. Hence it is not pertinent that it cumber the ground, and absorb the fertility away from fruit-bearing trees. So Jesus pronounces on it a woe, and it withers away instantaneously.

f. This is an awful warning to hypocrites, who make a loud profession, but have no spiritual fruit, which is experimental and practical holiness. The meaning of this transaction is, that though you may occupy a prominent place in the Church, and make ever so loud profession, without holiness, you are destined to wither away and abide the fate of all dead trees, which is to be burned with fire. The Lord help us all to profit by the fate of the barren fig-tree, which so suddenly withered away! The time is at hand when all who do not bear the fruit of holiness shall wither away so suddenly that all will be astonished, as the disciples were in case of the fig- tree.

g. The Jewish Church and people are often compared to a fig-tree. Hence the withering of this fig-tree, because it bore no fruit, symbolized the terrible fate destined so quickly and decisively to overtake and even annihilate the Jewish polity.

Verses 15-19


Matthew 21:12-13 ; Luke 19:45-48 ; Mark 11:15-19 . “And they came into Jerusalem; and Jesus, coming into the temple, began to cast out the buyers and sellers in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those selling doves; and He did not suffer that any one may carry a vessel through the temple. And He was teaching, saying unto them, Has it not been written that My house shall be called the house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and the chief priests heard, and they were seeking how they shall destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the multitude were delighted with His teaching. And when it was evening, He departed out of the city.” Luke 19:48 : “And they did not find what they can do; for all the people hung on Him, hearing Him.” Our Savior’s ministry embraced four Passovers, beginning with one by purifying the temple, verifying the prophecy, in reference to the Messiah, that on arrival He would come suddenly to the temple and purify it; two Passovers transpiring in the interim of His ministry and this one, at the conclusion, so eminently commemorated by His arrest, prosecution, condemnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, rendering it the most celebrated of all the Passovers since that memorable night when Egypt was visited by the destroying angel, slaying the first-born in every house in all the land, but passing over the tenements occupied by the children of Israel, because, pursuant to the commandment of Moses, they had sprinkled on their door-posts and lintels the blood of the slain lamb, that vivid type of the bleeding Lamb of Calvary which was perpetuated at the great Passover festival, through all the intervening ages, down to this momentous culmination, when they not only slay the innocent typical lamb, but the Great Antitype, who, symbolized by countless millions of bleeding victims through the fugitive ages, now Himself bleeds and dies. Our Lord having purified the temple when inaugurating His ministry, now performs the same responsible and significant office in the conclusion. He will also, when He comes in His glory, give it a complete and final purgation, as it will be polluted no more, Satan having been east out. This traffic in beasts and birds was for the accommodation of multitudes, coming from afar, who desired to purchase a sacrifice, the birds being kept on hand for the especial accommodation of the poor. While in this you might see a degree of plausibility, doubtless much fraudulent dealing for the sake of filthy lucre had crept in among them, as we see plainly indicated by the Savior calling them thieves. All cheating and defrauding are theft in the sight of God, however honorable in the estimation of men. The temple was the house of God upon the earth in a sense vastly more preeminent than any other sanctuary in all the world, the great end in view being the rendezvous of God’s saints, that they might prevail in prayer for all the nations of the earth. It is very sad to contemplate the fairs, festivals, frolics, and fandangoes now so frequently held in church edifices, to the grief of the Holy Spirit and the profanation of God’s temple. Every, preacher should walk in the footprints of Jesus in this and every other respect, making a specialty of purifying the Church in the inauguration and the conclusion of His ministry. No one has a right to hold a pastoral charge in the ministry of Christ unless he exemplified Him in all his ministration. This bold procedure was very offensive to the hierarchy, who looked upon Him as an intruder and a usurper, and would have interfered if they had not feared the people, who were so delighted with His preaching that they hung on Him spellbound.

Luke 21:37-38 . “And He was teaching in the temple during the days, and at night, going out, He was lodging in the mount called Olivet. And all the people were assembled unto Him in the temple to hear Him.” Tuesday night and Wednesday night He lodged in some of the villages on Mount Olivet, having spent the two preceding nights in Bethany; Thursday night He was arrested, and Friday night He was in the sepulcher. Jerusalem was this week thronged with vast multitudes, not only those having come to the Passover, but the whole country was on tiptoe with excitement about Jesus, a tremendous popular sensation breaking out three years previously, when John so powerfully preached Him to the multitudes attending his ministry, and increasing through the three successive years, having spread abroad into all nations, so that now the world is aroused and waiting spellbound to witness the issue impending, they know not what.

Verses 20-26


Matthew 21:20-22 ; Mark 11:20-26 . “And early in the morning, they, passing by, saw the fig-tree withered from its roots.” The withering was so decisive that even the trunk of the tree dried up, as you see, from its roots, thus symbolizing the awful fate of the hypocrite, destined one day suddenly and decisively to wither away. Beware, lest the Lord come to you and find “nothing but leaves?” “And Peter, remembering, says to Him, Master, see, the fig-tree which Thou didst anathematize is withered away.

And Jesus, responding, says to him, have the faith of God.” There is a difference between faith in God and the “faith of God,” the latter being a perfect faith, admitting no admixture of doubt. In justification, we have faith in God; while entire sanctification, eliminating all doubt and every other phase of depravity, is characterized by the “faith of God.” Here, Jesus imputes wonderful efficiency to the faith of God.

“For truly I say unto you, whosoever may say to this mountain, Be thou plucked up, and be thou east into the sea, and may not doubt in his heart, but believe that whatsoever he says is done, it shall be to him whatsoever he may say.” They were then walking along on Mount Olivet, the highest in Southern Palestine, and here pointed out by the Savior in order to illustrate the miraculous availability of prayer, as it is His custom in all His ministry to illustrate spiritual things by temporal. Just as if great Mount Olivet were lifted up and plunged into the midst of the sea, so towering mountains of sin, responsive to the “faith of God,” are lifted clearly away and dropped down into the sea of forgetfulness.

“Therefore I say unto you that all things, so many as you ask for, praying, believe that thou receive, and it shall be unto you.” While prayer in the Divine order is the invariable antecedent to the blessings involved in the gracious economy, yet we must remember that we do not receive what we pray for, but what we believe for, faith being the measuring-line of our reception from God. Then what is the utility of prayer? It is to bring us up to believing ground. Hence prayer and filth are like the two oars of the boat which row us across the river. The genuine “faith of God” is very scarce upon the earth, and it is because there is not enough o£ genuine, importunate prayer. We must so pray into the Divine presence and get in touch with the Almighty that the Holy Ghost will inspire our prayers as well as our faith. In a mysterious way we must sink into God, utterly abandoned to His will for time and eternity, getting away from self and humanity where we can fall prostrate on the great and precious promises, and there abide at the feet of Jesus, so illuminated and inspired by the Holy Ghost that we can receive and appropriate His infallible promises, and get where we can ask Him for great and wonderful achievements in the spiritual kingdom without wavering or doubting, and thus, by importunate prayer and indefatigable faith, take the kingdom of heaven by violence. Matthew says, in this connection: “Verily I say unto you, If you have faith and doubt not, you shall not only do that of the fig-tree, but you may say to this mountain, Be thou plucked up and cast into the sea, and it shall be done.”

In the case of the fig-tree, the withering came instantly and complete.

Matthew 11:25 . “And when you may stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; in order that your Father who is in the heavens may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in the heavens forgive your trespasses.” Thus, you see, an unforgiving spirit is an effectual barricade against prevailing prayer.

You must not only clear away all obstructions by forgiving everybody, but in total and eternal abandonment to God so sink away into His will, losing sight of everything else, that the Holy Spirit will be pleased to confer the omnipotent grace of prevailing prayer and faith, putting you where you can ask and believe that He doeth it. This is the wonderful secret of bringing heaven down to earth. Lord, help us all to learn it!

Verses 27-33


Matthew 21:23-27 ; Luke 20:1-8 ; Mark 11:27-33 . “And again they come into Jerusalem. And He, walking round in the temple, file high priests, scribes, and elders come to Him, and say to Him, By what authority do You these things? And who gave You this authority that You may do these things? And Jesus, responding, said to them, I will also ask you one question; 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? Tell Me. And they reasoned among themselves, If we may say, It is from heaven, He will say, Wherefore then did you not believe on him? But if we may say, It is from men; they feared the people: for all held John, that he was truly a prophet. And responding, they say to Jesus, We do not know. And Jesus, responding, says to them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Those high priests considered the authority He exercised in the purification of the temple outrageous, intrusive, and usurpatory in the extreme. Consequently they look Him in the face, with the scribes and Pharisees holding up their hands, and publicly demand His authority, feeling that it was their prerogative to manage affairs in the temple. See how inconsistent their attitude, as they were really Satan’s preachers, worshipping him as God; while the Son of God, with all authority in heaven and in earth, was there, and they were too blind to see Him! How does history repeat itself! The Lord’s true people, saved, sanctified, and filled with the Spirit, alone have authority this day to preach and labor to save souls, going where He leadeth. Do we not see the authority of such called in question by the high priests and Pharisees on all sides? Jesus simply referred them to the ministry of John, under which He was baptized with water, and thus inaugurated into His official Messiahship, the Holy Spirit immediately descending and filling Him, thus qualifying Him for His work. As Jesus said to John, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” i.e., to verify every injunction of the Levitical law, which required the high priests to be anointed before entering upon the duties and exercising the authority of their office so, pursuant to the example of our Great Leader, we should all conform to the ritual law of the New Testament, and be sure that, like Jesus, we get filled with the Holy Ghost, thus silencing criticism and disarming our enemies. You see all the high priests, Pharisees, and elders here dumfounded. They were in a dilemma, and dare not take either horn. If they denied the Divine authority of John, they were afraid of a riot, as the people all regarded him as truly a prophet, there being no dissenting voice, but unanimity of opinion as to the Divine prophetical commission of John, whose ministry was a sunburst on Israel after a dark interregnum of four hundred years. Again, they were afraid to acknowledge the Divine authenticity of John’s ministry lest Jesus would say, Why did you not believe on Him? Consequently they took a neutral position. O what a succession these blind, unspiritual high priests, ruling eiders, and Pharisees have this day! Do you not know that, as a rule, their successors in the Churches are now playing neutrality in reference to God’s mighty works in the great current revival shaking all nations, and denominated the “Holiness Movement?”

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Mark 11". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/mark-11.html.
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