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The Lord Needs a Colt
It is Sunday, the first day of the last week of the Lord’s life on earth before the cross. At the end of this week will happen what He spoke to His disciples about three times: His deliverance, rejection, suffering, and death. In one breath He also spoke about His resurrection. It will take place on the first day of the next, the new, week.
Before He surrenders Himself into the hands of men for this abuse, God makes sure that a wonderful testimony of Him is given. This happens as they approach Jerusalem and are near Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives. Both villages are connected to the Mount of Olives, the lofty mountain that is connected to some of the great events of His life.
The names of the villages give us in their meaning the characteristics of the faithful remnant. Bethphage means ‘house of immature figs’ and Bethany means ‘house of misery’. These characteristics contrast with the apostate Jerusalem. From the vicinity of these two villages, the Lord sends two of His disciples with a commission. He is always the Commander, Who knows what has to be done.
The disciples are given a precisely described command concerning the place and what they will find and what they will have to do there. We see here that Christ as God has perfect knowledge of the event, as He has of everything that is going to happen. The future is present for Him and He is omnipresent in every place with perfect knowledge of circumstances. At the same time we see in this Gospel a Servant who fulfills His commission with conviction and in obedience. We can say that His Father, His heavenly Commissioner, has told Him what He must do and He is doing it.
He needs a colt on which no man has ever sat. He will be the first to ride it. It is the picture of the new He brings that no other human being has ever shown: a spirit of complete obedience to death. Nor can he use anything that has already been in the service of sinful man, for that means shows the traces of sin. The colt is ready for Him. It is tied up for Him. The disciples must untie it and bring it with them. We are by nature donkeys that had to be untied and then are meant to carry the Lord Jesus around.
The Lord knows that there is someone who will ask why they are doing this. He also gives the disciples the answer in their mouths. They must answer that “the Lord” has need of it. “The Lord” can refer to both the Lord Jesus and Yahweh. Faith knows it is one and the same Person. As soon as they give this answer, the owner will not only let the colt go, but will ‘send’ it. In this we see the reigning hand of God. He controls the feelings of the owner, just as He controls the feelings of the crowds.
It has sometimes been said that the Lord needs nothing or no one for His work. Therefore, it is all the more remarkable that the only time it is mentioned that He needs something, it concerns a colt. If He wants to use us for His work, as He used this colt, the equation is clear that we don’t need to imagine anything regarding the work we are allowed to do for Him. What matters is that He can use us for His glorification, as the colt carried Him, through which people applauded Him. The colt was not given any honor. It only did what it was born to do.
The disciples go obediently on their way. And just as the Lord told them, they find the colt. It’s easy to take with them, they don’t have to catch it. It’s ready for service. They just have to untie it from the old environment to serve in a new service. In this way we are all chosen by God to serve the Lord and He takes us from where we are at the moment He wants to use us. We have a good example of this in Saul, later Paul.
There are several people who see what is happening. Normally this would cause a stir because a colt was stolen. But it’s as if people only want to know what the disciples are doing. God has worked in their hearts the conviction that this is not theft, but the taking of an order. The only thing they need to know is that these are the right people coming to pick up the colt.
The disciples speak as the Lord has told them. That works resignation to the company that asks questions. We see that there are more than one – and not just the owner – who are satisfied with the answer and no longer make any objections.
The Lord Is Hailed
The colt is brought to the Lord. Now God’s Spirit seizes the disciples and also the crowds. The disciples throw their coats on the colt. Everything that gave them dignity, they give to Him to sit on. They make it available to Him so that He may be carried around by it.
Many follow the example of the disciples and spread their coats on the road as a tribute, so that He may go over it. Also leafy branches are spread on the road as a picture of victory. In the procession that follows, one crowd goes out in front of Him, while another crowd follows Him. He is in the midst of two crowds, as once the tabernacle was advanced by six tribes and was followed by six tribes (Numbers 2:17).
Under the working of God’s Spirit, the people call out to Him “Hosanna”. Hosanna means ‘Save, please’ or ‘Give salvation, please’. They utter words that can only be addressed to the Messiah (Psalms 118:26). They acknowledge Him as the One Who comes in the Name of Yahweh to establish the kingdom as the righteous Son of David.
In riding the colt, He fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9). As the peace-loving King, He comes to His people in humility. The colt is the appropriate picture for this (cf. 1 Kings 1:33). A horse gives the picture of battle and war (Revelation 19:11).
No matter how little the crowds understand what they are calling, what they are calling is entirely appropriate. They also connect the coming kingdom with the highest heavens. Salvation is the salvation that is with God in the highest heavens and must come from Him.
The Lord does not respond to the manifestations of tribute of the people. He does not reject it, for it is God’s testimony concerning Him. He does not accept it either, for it is not a testimony that comes from the heart of a converted people. He enters the temple, where the true service to God should take place. But He finds no fruit there, as the following history makes clear. There is nothing for Him and nothing for God, everything is empty.
With great dignity He, as the Judge of all things, takes knowledge of all that is done in the temple. The temple is the religious center of the people. There He can best gauge the spiritual state. Just as He looks at everything in the churches with eyes like a flame of fire (Revelation 1:12-Ezra :), He looks at everything in the temple. When He has looked around – this is only written in this Gospel – He leaves the temple without saying anything. He, Yahweh, God, has visited His temple.
Because it is already late and He does not want to spend the night in Jerusalem that rejected Him, He goes to Bethany. He knows He is welcome there.
A Fig Tree Cursed
“The next day” is Monday. The Lord goes out of Bethany, apparently without breakfast, for He is hungry. That He is hungry means He didn’t get anything to eat from His people. This goes beyond physical hunger. He sought fruit from His people, of which the fig tree, which He sees in the distance, is a picture. He sees the many leaves which indicates that there is a lot of life in the tree and also that there must be a lot of fruit on the tree. But appearances deceive.
When He has reached the tree, it appears that it has only leaves and no fruit. That there is no fruit on the tree, while there are many leaves, is an unnatural phenomenon. He was allowed to expect fruit on the tree. That it was “not the time of the figs” means that it was not the time of the figs harvest. Therefore there should have been fruits, not the ripe fruits, but the precocious figs. However, there were only leaves.
If the tree didn’t have leaves, He wouldn’t have cursed the tree. But the leaves gave the impression that there would be precisely those precocious figs. The soul of the Lord went out to that fruit (Micah 7:1). This tree is a symbol of Israel that did not bear fruit for God, although for the people there seemed to be an abundance of proofs of life. So it is with the crowds who had hailed Him. It seemed much, but there was nothing in the heart for Him. It is also a lesson for us.
The Lord curses the fig tree. He does this not because there are no fruits, but because the tree gave the appearance of bearing fruit through its leaves. The tree gave false hope of fruit. The curse is final. That tree will never bear any fruit. With regard to the people of Israel of which the tree is a picture, it is so. The Israel according to the flesh will never bear fruit for God. Only a remnant conceived by God Himself, which will then be the true Israel, will bear fruit for Him.
Cleansing the Temple
They come again to Jerusalem. There the Lord enters the temple again. Mark describes how things are practically done in God’s house. Now the Lord Jesus is acting harshly against all those who sell and buy in the temple. He also cleansed the temple once at the beginning of His service (John 2:14-Nehemiah :). Here He does it a second time, at the end of His service. The fact that this second time is necessary, means that the first time has not produced a lasting result. After He then left, the merchants returned their stuff to the temple and continued their sinful business.
When the Lord has cleansed the temple, He continues to see to it that things that are forbidden do not happen in God’s house. With authority He acts against people who trample on the holiness of God’s house, people who enter the temple as an ordinary place. He does not allow anyone to carry an object through the temple. They may be people who came from the marketplace and just walked through the temple with their merchandise because it was the shortest way home.
Not only does He cleanse and forbid, He explains and justifies His actions by pointing out what is “written”. He puts it in questioning form, but in a way that makes it clear that they all should have known. He points out God’s intention with His house. It should be a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7).
Prayer is the opposite of buying. Praying is asking. God gives His house to make it possible for man to come to Him in prayer. It is also a house of prayer not only for Israel, but for all nations. It indicates the scope of God’s desire that goes out to all nations and His desire that all nations come to Him. When Paul writes about our behavior in the church as God’s house (1 Timothy 3:15), his very first exhortation is that prayer should be prayed in it (1 Timothy 2:1-Joshua :).
Instead of turning God’s house into a house where God is worshiped with reverence, man has made it an area of business and profit. It has become “a robber’s den” because of unfair profit and because of robbing God of His honor. In Christianity, Christians are robbed of salvation, of the Christ of the Scriptures, while they think it is all for sale. A purchase price, for example, is the performance of good works. By believing that salvation is thereby obtained, the value of Christ’s work is dramatically underestimated.
The religious leaders who seek profit want to kill the Lord, but they do not dare because they are afraid of getting the whole crowd against them. His teaching impresses the crowd. Although His teaching does not bring about a radical change in the people, the people feel that Someone here speaks with an undeniable authority.
The Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree
Again the Lord goes out of the city in the evening because He does not want to spend the night there. The next day is Tuesday. When they are on their way to Jerusalem again, they pass by the fig tree cursed by Him. The disciples notice that the tree is completely withered. It reminds Peter of what the Lord said. He points to the withered fig tree and quotes what He said to the fig tree.
For the Lord, what has happened is self-evident, but the disciples can learn from it. He points out to them the faith in God. That’s what they must have, that’s what it’s all about. It is not about faith in itself, but about faith in God, about complete trust in Him. The great secret is to focus all our thoughts on Him, to judge things together with Him, and to act only for and from Him. Whoever has faith in God, in a God Who acts in accordance with what may be expected of Him, gets what he believes. It is not about a great faith in God, but about faith in a great God.
The Lord speaks about “this” mountain, that is a certain mountain. It is the mountain that represents the immutability of the entire Jewish system, which will never change in its opposition to God and its rejection of Christ. But God has thrown this mountain into the sea, the sea of nations, in response to the faith of His own. Faith sees the apostasy of the people and, like Elijah, appeals to what God has said when the people go astray. Elijah prayed to withhold the blessing of the rain (James 5:17; 1 Kings 8:35). Faith does this because it is the only way God can bring the people to repentance (Romans 11:11-Ezra :).
There is also the application that faith in this God eliminates the greatest mountain of trouble a weak disciple might encounter in his service to the Lord. Only this faith must be practiced without doubt (James 1:5-Joshua :). Nor should it be the working of a strong self-will, but the awareness of the presence and intervention of God.
Faith speaks with an authority to which God binds His power. Faith does not claim, but knows for certain that something is according to the will of God. Based on the knowledge of God’s will, faith speaks the Word with authority, so that it is not surprising that what has been spoken with authority in faith happens.
The word “therefore” (Mark 11:24) refers back to what the Lord has just said about faith in God. He confirms and strengthens the power of faith. He encourages them to pray and ask in the faith that they will receive what they ask for. God loves nothing more than to answer this confidence by giving what is asked for. That is how He is.
The Lord’s remark about forgiveness (Mark 11:25) is still part of praying and asking in faith. Here He points out that in order to get what is asked for, it is necessary to have the right mind. If we ask anything of God while there is resentment in our hearts against a brother or sister, we will get nothing. God cannot answer when we have something against someone and do not want to forgive him. When praying, a mind of forgiveness is important. That mind is the mind of God, Who also wants to forgive us if we have done something against Him. Asking questions in faith requires acting toward others in the awareness of the grace shown to us by our Father. Then answer will take place.
Question About the Authority of the Lord
While the disciples are being taught by the Lord to pray in faith, they come again to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem He goes again into the temple, His house, the house of His Father, and walks around there. There the religious leaders and rulers of the people come to Him. Because He has come to His temple in humility, they do not realize that they are approaching Him Whose glory fills the temple. He takes the central place in it, it is only about Him.
He gives teachings, temple teachings, in the last days of His life on earth before the cross. He does so in response to questions from His adversaries. The first question concerns His authority. This question is of great significance, also when it comes to what is His house today. To understand something of God’s thoughts about His house, the church, the temple of the living God, we will first have to acknowledge His authority. Furthermore, the question makes it clear that they do not intend to acknowledge His authority.
The leaders dare to ask Him about His authority. How many times have they noticed that He does everything by virtue of the authority that is His own as the heavenly Lord Who came to His people as Messiah. Their questioning of His authority is as foolish as asking the sun on what authority it shines. Their question proves that there is room in the temple for everything and everyone except for Him to Whom alone the temple belongs. And if there is anyone who has given Him that authority, it is His Father in heaven. He acts only by order of and in agreement with Him.
The Lord does not answer the question. That makes no sense. There is nothing to make clear to people who do not want to see except their nonsense. That is why He responds with a counter-question and commands them to answer Him. If they answer His question, He will answer them on what authority He does everything.
His question relates to His predecessor, John the baptist. John referred to Him as the One Who came after him, but Who was also before him. John testified that he himself was not the Messiah (John 1:20), but that the Messiah was among them, and that therefore he baptized with water (John 1:26). If their question was sincere, they had to admit that John’s baptism was from heaven and related to Him Who had come from heaven. Thus the Lord directs His words to their conscience. If He has asked His question, He commands them to answer His question again.
His question reveals both their incompetence and their insincerity. They know that they must answer “from heaven,” but in their wickedness they discuss what He would rightly answer. They don’t want to hear that, however, because if they still reject Him, they expose themselves in their unbelief, which would cause them to lose prestige among the people.
They do not want to give the alternative answer ‘from men’ either. If they would give that answer, the crowd would protest. That answer would mean that they would deny the service of John, and the crowd was so impressed by that service. Then too, they would lose the favor of the people. And they don’t want to because they seek the honor of men.
The most sensible answer seems to say they don’t know. Their answer shows how hollow and empty man’s wisdom is in the presence of God and His wisdom. By their answer they declare their complete ignorance of the things of God. With hypocrites the Lord does not want to get involved. He gives them no answer to their question.
If we don’t start by acknowledging what is in heaven, His authority, we don’t have to think that we are learning something of the Lord’s teaching. Only those who acknowledge Him in His rights over His house will gain insight into His thoughts about His house.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Mark 11". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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