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Bible Commentaries
Mark 11

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verses 1-11

(From Bethany to Jerusalem and back, Sunday, April 2, A. D. 30.)
aMATT. XXI. 1-12, 14-17; bMARK XI. 1-11; cLUKE XIX. 29-44; dJOHN XII. 12-19.

c29 And d12 On the morrow [after the feast in the house of Simon the leper] cit came to pass, when he he drew nigh unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, a1 And when they came nigh unto [572] Jerusalem, and came unto Bethphage unto {bat} athe mount of Olives [The name, Bethphage, is said to mean house of figs, but the derivation is disputed. Canon Cook and others think that the region on the eastern slope of Olivet was called Bethphage, and that Bethany was located in it. If it was a village, all trace of it has long since vanished, and it is not worth while to give the guesses and surmises of commentators as to its location. But it was evidently near Bethany], then Jesus sent {bsendeth} two of his {cthe} disciples, b2 and saith {a2 saying} unto them, cGo your way into the village [probably Bethphage, for Jesus started from Bethany] athat is over against you, band straightway as ye enter into it, aye shall find an ass tied, and a colt btied, awith her: bwhereon no man ever sat; loose him, {athem,} band bring him. {athem} unto me. [Numerous Scripture references show that the ass was held in high estimation in the East. The sons of the judges used them, and David’s mule was used at the coronation of Solomon ( Judges 10:4, 1 Kings 1:33). It is specifically stated that no man had ever sat upon this colt, for if the colt had been used by men it would have been unfit for sacred purposes-- Numbers 19:2, Deuteronomy 21:3, 1 Samuel 6:7.] 3 And if any one say aught unto you, 31; cAnd if any one ask you, {bsay unto you,} Why do ye this? cWhy do ye loose him? thus shall ye say, The Lord hath need of him. {athem;} band straightway he will send him. {athem.} bback hither. [The owner of the ass was no doubt a disciple or well-wisher of Jesus, and therefore readily consented to respond to the Master’s need. Such a well-wisher might readily be found in a multitude ready to lay their garments in the road to honor Christ. The words "send him back" are usually construed to be a promise on the part of Christ that he would return the colt when through with him. But such a promise seems rather out of keeping with the dignity of the occasion. We prefer to construe the words as referring to the movements of Christ’s two messengers from the neighborhood of Bethany to Bethphage and back again, or to a backward [573] movement along the caravan’s line of march.] a4 Now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Zion [the poetical name for the city of Jerusalem], Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass. [The prophecy is a combination of Isaiah 62:11, Zechariah 9:9. This is the only instance in which Jesus rode. He entered in meekness, for the ass was a symbol of peace as the horse was of war ( Job 39:19-25), but there was nothing degrading about riding such a beast. The Eastern ass is smaller, but livelier, and better framed than the specimens found in our country. They constituted a chief asset in the property of the wealthy-- Genesis 12:16, Genesis 30:43, Job 42:12, 1 Chronicles 27:30, 1 Kings 1:38.] 6 And the disciples {cthey} that were sent away, aand did even as Jesus appointed them, cand found even as he had said unto them ba colt tied at the door without in the open street [the streets being narrow, one would very seldom see an ass tied in one]; and they loose him. c33 And as they were loosing the colt, bcertain of them that stood there cthe owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? bWhat do ye, loosing the colt? 6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had said: and they let them go. 7 And they bring {abrought} the ass, and the colt, {chim} bunto Jesus, aand put on them their garments [The garments were the loose cloaks worn over the tunics or shirts. This cloak survives in the abba or hyke of the modern Arab. The unbroken colt would of course have no saddle, and these loyal disciples lent their cloaks to supply the deficiency, and to do Jesus royal honor. Compare the enthronement of Jehu ( 2 Kings 9:13). They prepared both beasts, not knowing which he would choose to ride]; cand they threw {bcast} ctheir garments upon the colt, and set Jesus thereon. aand he sat thereon. {bupon him.} da great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to [574] Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees, and went forth to meet him [Palm-trees were never abundant in Palestine, but there were many around Jericho, through which city these Galilean pilgrims had so recently come. They were date palms, the leaves of which were often ten feet in length. They are now comparatively rare, but are found in the plains of Philistia. The palm branch is emblematic of triumph and victory-- Leviticus 23:40, Revelation 7:9; I. Macc. xiii. 51; II. Macc. x. 7], and cried out, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel [The shouting appears to have been started by those who came out of Jerusalem; it is evident, therefore, that the apostles who were approaching the city with Jesus had nothing to do with inciting this praise.] 14 And Jesus having found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, 15 Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. 16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. [The apostles were not conscious that the prophecies were being fulfilled nor did they understand that Jesus was approaching a heavenly rather than an earthly coronation. But after Jesus was glorified, their understandings were spiritually illuminated ( John 16:13). They not only remembered the prophecy, but saw in what sense it was that Jesus was king, and how badly mistaken they had been when they expected him to antagonize the Romans. The greatness of her king would have removed all cause for fear if Jerusalem had but accepted him.] 17 The multitude therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, bare witness. [The two parts of the miracle--the calling and the raising--are both mentioned as alike impressive, sublime, and wonderful.] 18 For this cause also the multitude went and met him, for that they heard that he had done this sign. [It is evident from this that the testimony of those who [575] witnessed the raising of Lazarus had enthused the pilgrims in Jerusalem and had sent a large band of them forth charged with that ardent admiration which produced the shouting of the triumphal entry.] 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Behold how ye prevail nothing: lo, the world is gone after him. [Again, as at John 11:47-49, we notice the self-confessed impotency of the Pharisees, but the Sadducees, under the determined and more resolute leadership of Caiaphas, did not participate in this despair. The Pharisees speak of the world as if its acquisition by Jesus was their loss.] c36 And as he went, athe most part of the multitude {bmany} [Matthew would have us know that the demonstration was no small affair, but was well-nigh universal. Josephus estimates that the number present at one passover was three million, or about one-half the population of Judæa and Galilee. The language of the Pharisees in 1 Corinthians 1:26.] c37 And as he was now drawing nigh, even at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen [John has shown us just above that the raising of Lazarus was most prominent in their thoughts]; a9 The multitudes that went before him, and that followed [Jesus approached the city leading a multitude of pilgrims, and we have seen from John’s account above that another multitude came out of the city to meet him: Jesus approached the city between two great multitudes.] cried, saying, bHosanna [This is the Greek form or spelling of two Hebrew words, Hoshiah-na, which means, Save now, or, Save, I pray, na being a particle of entreaty added to imperatives. The two words are taken from Psalms 118:25, which was recognized as the Messianic Psalm. The shout "Hosanna" was customarily used at the feast of the tabernacles and the other festivals. It was a shout of exaltation about equivalent to "Salvation"]; aHosanna to the Son of David [see Psalms 118:26]; cblessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: b10 blessed is the kingdom that cometh, the kingdom of our father David: cpeace in heaven, and glory in the highest. aHosanna in the highest. [This phrase is taken to mean in the highest degree or highest strains or in the highest heavens. It is likely they were calling upon heaven to participate in glorifying and to ratify their shouts of salvation. The Evangelists give us the various cries of the multitude, for they did not all cry one thing. The cries, if seriously construed, were a fore-recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus, but popular cries are soon caught up and are as fickle as the impulses which beget them. But the public recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus gave [577] weight to the accusation made by Simon Peter on the day of Pentecost that they had slain the Messiah-- Acts 2:36. Comp. Acts 3:14, Acts 3:15.] c39 And some of the Pharisees from the multitude [not a committee sent from Jerusalem for that purpose] said unto him, Teacher, rebuke thy disciples. [It is possible that these may have been moved with an honest fear that the enthusiasm of the people would call down the vengeance of the Romans ( John 11:48), but it is more likely that they were prompted solely by envy.] 40 And he answered and said, I tell you that, if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out. [The expression is probably proverbial ( Habakkuk 2:11). The meaning is that the occasion of the great King’s visit to his city ( Matthew 5:35) was so momentous that, if man withheld his praise, inanimate nature would lend its acclamations.] 41 And when he drew nigh, he saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. [The summit of Olivet is two hundred feet higher than the nearest part of the city of Jerusalem and a hundred feet higher than its farthest part, so that the Lord looked upon the whole of it as one looks upon an open book. As he looked upon it he realized the difference between what his coming might mean to it and what it did mean to it; between the love and gratitude which his coming should have incited and the hatred and violence which it did incite; between the forgiveness, blessing and peace which he desired to bring it and the judgment, wrath and destruction which were coming upon it. The vision of it all excited strong emotion, and the verb used does not indicate silent tears, but audible sobbing and lamentation. The day then passing was among the last before the crucifixion, which would present to the Jews a strong motive for repentance. Had Jerusalem hearkened unto Jesus then, he would have saved her from that self-exaltation which proved her ruin. But bigotry and prejudice blinded her eyes.] 43 For the days shall come upon thee, when thine enemies shall cast up a bank about thee, and compass thee round, [578] and keep thee in on every side. [from where Jesus then stood he could see the houses which were to be thrown down, he could locate the embankments which would be built, and he could trace almost every foot of the line of the wall by which Titus in his anger girdled the city when his embankments were burned--Jos. Wars V. 6. 2, 11. 4-6, 12. 1, 2], 44 and shall dash thee to the ground, and thy children within thee [the city is figuratively spoken of as a mother, and her citizens as her children]; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. [The term "visitation" usually refers to a season of judgment, but here, as elsewhere also ( Exodus 4:31), it means a season of grace. To not leave one stone upon another is a proverbial expression descriptive of a complete demotion, but in the overthrow of Jerusalem it was well-nigh literally fulfilled. Thus, while the people rejoiced in the present triumph, the prophetic eye and ear of our Lord beheld the judgments which were coming upon the city, heard the bitter cry of the starved defenders during the siege, the screams of the crucified left to perish upon their crosses after its capture, all ending in the final silence of desolation when not one stone was left upon another.] b11 And he entered into Jerusalem [his route led him down the steep face of Olivet, past Gethsemane, across the stone bridge which spans the Kedron, and up the slope of Moriah to the eastern gate of the city], a10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee. 12 And Jesus entered into the temple of God [here Matthew tells of the cleansing of the temple, which evidently occurred the next day], 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children that were crying in the temple and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, 16 and said unto him, Hearest thou what [579] these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; did ye never read [ Psalms 8:2 as rendered by the LXX.], Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? [Matthew mingles this scene with events which apparently occurred on Monday, but the enthusiasm and the Hosanna cry evidently belonged to the triumphant Sunday. The presence of our Lord in the temple should, indeed, have been heralded with joy, for as that was the day in which the paschal lamb was presented and set apart, it was fitting that Christ our passover should be presented there amidst rejoicing.] band when he had looked round about upon all things, it being now eventide. [a general expression covering the period both before and after sunset], ahe left them, and went forth out of the city bunto Bethany with the twelve aand lodged there. [Having inspected the temple as his Father’s house, Jesus withdrew from it, for in the present state of rancor which fermented within his enemies it was not safe for him to spend the night within Jerusalem.]

[FFG 572-580]

Verses 12-18

(Road from Bethany and Jerusalem. Monday, April 4, A. D. 30.)
aMATT. XXI. 18, 19, 12, 13; bMARK XI. 12-18; cLUKE XIX. 45-48.

b12 And a18 Now bon the morrow [on the Monday following the triumphal entry], ain the morning bwhen they were come out from Bethany, aas he returned to the city [Jerusalem], he hungered. [Breakfast with the Jews came late in the forenoon, and these closing days of our Lord’s ministry were full of activity that did not have time to tarry at Bethany for it. Our Lord’s hunger implies that of the disciples also.] 19 And seeing a fig tree by the way side, bafar off having leaves, ahe came to it, bif haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, [580] he afound nothing but leaves only; bfor it was not the season of figs. [Two varieties of figs are common in Palestine. The bicura or boccore, an early fig with large green leaves and with fruit which ripens in May or June, and sometimes earlier near Jerusalem. Thomson found ripe fruit of this variety as early as May in the mountains of Lebanon, a hundred fifty miles north of Jerusalem, and Professor Post, of Beyrut, states that fig-trees there have fruit formed as early as February, which is fully ripe in April. The second variety is the summer fig or kermus. This ripens its main crop in August, but its later fruitage often hangs on all winter when the weather is mild, dropping off when the new spring leaves come. As the fruit usually appears before the leaves, the leaves were a promise that fruit might be found, and the fruit, though not perfectly ripe, is considered edible when the leaves are developed. Though it was too early for fruit, it was also too early for leaves. The tree evidently had an unusually favorable position. It seemed to vaunt itself by being in advance of the other trees, and to challenge the wayfarer to come and refresh himself.] 14 And he answered and said {asaith} unto it, Let there be no fruit from thee henceforward for ever. bNo man eat fruit of thee henceforward for ever. And his disciples heard it. aAnd immediately the fig tree withered away. [The disciples did not pause to watch the effect of Christ’s words upon the tree. But from the degree to which it had shriveled when they saw it next day it became evident to them that it had begun to wither as soon as Christ had finished uttering its sentence. Our Lord here performed a miracle of judgment unlike any other of his wonderful works. The reader can hardly fail to note how perfectly this fig-tree, in its separation from the other trees, its showy pretensions, its barrenness of results and its judgment typifies the Jewish people. In fact, Christ’s treatment of it appears in some respects to be a visible and practical application of the principles which he had formerly set forth in a parable ( Luke 13:6-9). But we must not too confidently make such an application of the parable since Jesus himself gave [581] no hint that he intended us so to apply it.] b15 And they come to Jerusalem: and he entered into the temple, and began to cast out aall them that sold band them that bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold the doves [three years before, Jesus had thus cleansed the temple at the first passover of his ministry, for an account of which see Matthew 12:29, Luke 17:31. The LXX. uses it as equivalent to "instruments of war" at Deuteronomy 1:41, and to "vestments" at Deuteronomy 22:5.] 17 And he taught, and said {asaith} c46 Saying unto them, It is written [the prophecy cited is a combination of Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11], {bIs it not written,} cAnd my house shall be {bshall be called} a house of prayer for all the nations? but ye have made {aye make} it a den of robbers. [The caves in certain sections of Palestine have been immemorially infested with robbers, and Jesus, because of the injustice of extortion practiced by the merchants, likens the polluted temple to such a den. The dickering and chafing and market talk were probably not unlike the grumbling and quarreling of thieves as they divide the booty.] b18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, c47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him: 48 and they could not find what they might do; for the people all hung upon him, listening bfor all the people was astonished at his teaching. [Overawed by the magnitude [582] of the popular demonstration made on Sunday, the Jewish rulers feared to attempt any violent measures in dealing with Jesus. But they neglected no opportunity by appeals to Jesus himself, by treacherous questions, etc., to divert the popular favor from the Lord that they might put him to death.]

[FFG 580-583]

Verses 19-25

(Road from Bethany to Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 4, A. D. 30.)
aMATT. XXI. 20-22; bMARK XI. 19-25; cLUKE XXI. 37, 38.

c37 And every day he was teaching in the temple [he was there Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but he seems to have spent Wednesday and Thursday in Bethany]; and every night {bevening} he went forth out out of the city. cand lodged in the mount that is called Olivet. [As Bethany was on the Mount of Olives, this statement leaves us free to suppose that he spent his nights there, but it is not likely that he retired to any one house or place continuously, for had he done so the rulers could easily have ascertained his whereabouts and arrested him.] 38 And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, to hear him. [The enthusiasm of the triumphal entry did not die out in a day: Jesus was still the center of observation.] b20 And as they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away from the roots. [It was completely withered--dead root and branch. We have observed before, James 4:2, James 4:3), or which it is unwise for us to seek ( 2 Corinthians 12:7-9), nor must we selfishly run counter to the will of God ( Luke 22:42, 1 John 5:14, 1 John 5:15), nor must we expect that God shall perform a miracle for us, for miracles have ceased--in short, we [584] must pray to God in full remembrance of the relationship between us, we must consider that he is the Ruler and we his subjects, and are not to think for one moment that by faith we can alter this eternal, unchangeable relation. The disciples whom Jesus addressed were very soon to enter upon a task which would seem to them as difficult as the removal of mountains. The license and immorality of paganism, and the bigotry and prejudice of Judaism, would seem insurmountable obstacles in their pathway to success. They needed to be assured that the power of faith was superior to all these adverse forces, and that the judgments of God could accomplish in a moment changes which apparently could not be wrought out in the tedious course of years. As we to-day look back upon this promise of Christ we can see that the mountains then standing have, indeed, been removed; and that which seemed vigorous and flourishing has been blasted in a day.] b25 And whensoever ye stand [a customary attitude-- Luke 18:13] praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. [Forgiveness has already been enjoined (see pp. 253, 254). Here our Lord emphasizes the need of forgiveness because he had just performed a miracle of judgment, and he wished his disciples to understand that they must not exercise their miraculous gifts with a vengeful, unforgiving spirit. They must suffer evil and not retaliate with miracles of judgment.] [585]

[FFG 583-585]

Verses 28-33

(In the Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, A. D. 30.)
Subdivision A.
aMATT. XXI. 23-27; bMARK XI. 27-33; cLUKE XX. 1-8.

c1 And it came to pass, on one of the days, bthey [Jesus and the disciples] come again to Jerusalem: a23 And when he was come into the temple, band as he was walking in the temple [The large outer court of the temple, known as the court of the Gentiles, was thronged during the feasts, and was no doubt the part selected by Jesus and his apostles when they taught or preached in the temple. We thrice find them on that side of it where Solomon’s porch was located-- John 10:23, Acts 3:11, Acts 5:23], cas he was teaching the people and preaching the gospel [viz.: "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye"-- Mark 1:15], there came upon him {bcome aunto him} bthe chief priests and the scribes, and {cwith} the elders; {aof the people} [the Sanhedrin (see John 10:24.] a24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, cI also will ask you a {aone} question, which if ye tell me, band answer me, aI likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? bWas it from heaven, or from men? answer me. [The question which Jesus asked was intimately and inseparably connected with the question which they had asked. Jesus, of course, did not derive his authority from John the Baptist, but John had testified plainly to the Messiahship of Jesus, and had, in no uncertain terms, designated Jesus as immeasurably greater than himself. Now, if the Pharisees admitted that John was a heaven-sent messenger or witness (of which fact his baptism was propounded as a test, since it was a religious ordinance introduced on his authority), then John had already answered the Sanhedrin that Jesus derived his authority from his Messiahship, and hence, all that the Sanhedrin had to do to satisfy their minds was simply to believe John. But if, on the other hand, the Pharisees rejected John’s pretensions and claims as a heaven-sent messenger in the face of the almost universal popular conviction, then what was there for Jesus to present his claims to so blind, bigoted, and unreasoning a body?] 31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, aunto us, Why then did ye not believe him? [When he testified to the Messiahship of Jesus ( John 1:7, John 1:15, John 1:34, John 3:26-36, John 10:40-42). The Sanhedrin could not admit that the messenger was heaven-sent and yet deny his testimony.] 26 But if we shall {bshould we} say, From men-- call the people will stone us: awe fear the multitude; for all hold John as a prophet. cfor they are persuaded that John was a prophet. bthey feared the people: for all verily held John to be a prophet. 33 And they answered [587] Jesus cthat they knew not whence it was. aand said, {bsay,} We know not. [It should be noted in their consultation there was no effort either to ascertain or to speak the truth. The question as to whether John really was or was not a prophet was in no sense the subject of their investigation. They were merely deciding what to say. They were seeking for the most expedient answer, and as neither truthful answer was expedient, they resolved to falsely deny any knowledge of the case. Men of such brazen dishonesty could not be dealt with openly and fairly as could sincere seekers after truth.] And Jesus, aalso said {bsaith} unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. [Their spoken lie was, "We know not," but their inward and true answer was, "We will not tell," and Jesus answered the suppressed truth saying, "Neither tell I." How readily the subtle minds of the Jewish people would justify Jesus in thus declining to submit the question of his authority to judges who at that very moment publicly confessed their inability to even hazard an opinion, much less render a decision, as to the authority of John the Baptist, who claims were in popular estimation so obvious. It was plain that however well these men might judge human credentials, the divine testimonials of a prophet or of the Messiah were above their carnal sphere. Thus Jesus put his enemies to confusion in the first of man conflicts of that perilous Tuesday. But we may well imagine that they were rendered more bitter by the evidence of a wisdom so much beyond any which they possessed.]

[FFG 586-588]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on Mark 11". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/mark-11.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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