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Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 11

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Verses 1-11


It may be well to trace out, approximately, the order of events here. Leaving Jericho on the Friday morning, after a fatiguing journey of six or seven hours, they reach Bethany, where they spend the Sabbath. On Saturday evening Christ sups in the house of Simon the leper, His disciples and Lazarus and his sisters being present; and at this feast He is anointed by Mary. During that night the chief priests—irritated on hearing that many of the Jews have been to see Jesus and Lazarus—hold a meeting to consult as to the advisability of putting them both to death. Next morning—Palm Sunday—the triumphal entry into Jerusalem takes place.

Mark 11:1. Bethphage and Bethany.—Bethphage (“House-of-unripe-figs”) being mentioned first both here and in Luke 19:29, would seem to indicate that it lay on the road from Jericho to the east of Bethany (“House-of-dates”); but the traditional site is to the west. Porter surmises that the two names may have been applied to different quarters of the one straggling village, the one part called Bethphage from the fig orchards adjoining it, and the other Bethany from its palm trees. See his Syria and Palestine, p. 180. At the mount of Olives.—Looking towards—πρός.

Mark 11:3. And straightway he will send him hither.—The insertion of πάλιν before ὧδε in א, B, C, D, L, Δ, has led many to regard this clause as a part of the answer which the disciples were to give if any difficulty arose as to the borrowing of the colt. But Dr. F. Field urges in defence of the generally received interpretation:

(1) that εὐθέως is far more properly said of the promptness of the owners in giving up the colt than of the expedition of the borrower in returning, which could only take place after a certain interval of time; and

(2) that the effect of the authoritative requisition, “The Lord hath need of him,” upon the mind of the owners would be weakened rather than strengthened by the addition, “and will be sure to return him.”

Mark 11:4. A very circumstantial account, such as none but an eyewitness would have thought of giving—a strong indication that Peter was one of the two disciples. They found the colt tied beside the door, outside (the yard or court), on the roundabout road (i.e. the road that went round the house).

Mark 11:8. Branches … the way.—See R. V.

Mark 11:9-10. See R. V.


(PARALLELS: Matthew 21:1-11; Matthew 21:14-17; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19.)

The final entry into Jerusalem.—

I. Here was a token which Jesus gave to these two disciples, and to the twelve by them.—It was an example of His superhuman knowledge. A similar case occurred in the preparation for the Paschal Supper (Luke 22:10). These manifestations of supernatural knowledge, though less illustrious than His publicly wrought miracles, were of the same general order. And they were of great interest as tokens given by our Lord to individual disciples. In the present instance we are not told who these two disciples were. Our Lord appointed at His pleasure when He was on earth, and He does so now that He is in heaven, those of His servants who shall do special work and receive special manifestations from Himself in the discharge of it. Multitudes saw the greater, or at least the more conspicuous, miracles; but these two disciples had this at first all to themselves. And thus it often is still in the Christian life. In addition to all the more patent evidences of the Divine reality of the Gospel, there will be manifestations, arising out of personal transactions with God and the Redeemer, which are gloriously confirming to faith and hope; bright beamings of truth from the Word on the mind; a realised nearness of access into the Divine presence; marked answers to prayer of Providence; spiritual results following upon efforts for others and endeavours for the Divine glory; and suchlike experimental evidences, things full of emphasis to the soul which meets with them—still quiet voices, which those who are near the Master sometimes hear!

II. An interesting case of the fulfilment of prophecy is presented to us here.—Nearly five hundred years before it had been written by Zechariah the prophet (Zechariah 9:9). The disciples of our Lord themselves, we are informed by St. John (John 12:16), did not at the time think of this prediction, or view what was occurring as the fulfilling of it; but “when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and that they had done such things unto Him.” And thus it is that events best explain the prophetic Word. We have, like the disciples, to “company with” Christ, and stand by the interests of His kingdom, whatever measure of development they may have attained, working, watching, and praying, and that measure will assuredly go on to increase till the world shall be bright with Messiah’s glory. The fulfilment of prophecy in the case before us strikingly confirms our believing expectations of the future. For this prediction, as it stands in Zechariah, is directly connected with references to the ultimate triumphs of the Saviour. And certainly as the former part of the prediction was accomplished, so certainly “His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the earth.”

III. An illustration is here furnished of the control of Christ over minds and events, and of the manner in which, when the time for the execution of the Divine purposes is come, the means and agencies at once appear.—Jesus was to make a public entry into Jerusalem. It must needs be so, that Scripture might be fulfilled. And see how all things conspire for this end. Our Lord sends into the village over against Him and near the city, knowing precisely where the animal He was to ride on would be found; and there it was at the very hour at which it was needed, as though waiting for the honour now to be put upon it, after having been spoken of in prophecy five hundred years before! But will it be given up for the purpose? Yes. The owners have only to be told that the Great Teacher had need of it, and it was at once placed at His disposal. Have we not here a specimen of what may be looked for in the future unfolding of the purposes of Heaven? As the periods come for the successive fulfilment of God’s designs in connexion with the kingdom of His Son, the fitting means and instrumentalities will not be wanting. Who can foresee, moreover, what events in Providence may arise to impress men’s minds, as the raising of Lazarus did at this time, both to facilitate the diffusion of the gospel, and to awaken, by the accompanying power of the Spirit of God, a sense of the need of the blessings it offers? One may well be awed in viewing the progress of events, even in our own day,—in the consolidation, to a great extent, of religious liberty in our own land, and in many of those of the Continent; in the opening of India and China to the preaching of Christ; in the triumphs of the gospel in Madagascar, long the scene of bloody persecution; in the advance of evangelisation in Burmah, Polynesia, Africa, and other parts of the field of missions; in the unbarring of Italy, in which the Reformation was once crushed by persecution, and to which till lately there was no access through its length and breadth to free Christian exertion. Everywhere a multitude of obstacles have yet to be overcome; but all things are pointing onward to great and grand issues in the not very distant future.

IV. The joyous acclamations of the disciples as they attended their Master into Jerusalem may well remind us of what should be the attitude and feeling of the Church of Christ with reference to the triumphs of its Lord.—No doubt there were many voices raised that day under the influence of mere passing excitement. But it was not so with the real disciples with whom the demonstration probably originated. Even they had then no enlarged acquaintance with the truth of Christ; but they had that which is the rudiment of all preparation for Christian service, sacrifice, and suffering—a loving devotedness to their Lord. And He approved and encouraged their ardour. Amid all the occupations of earth, and all the distractions of time, what a psalm of praise to the exalted Saviour should the Christian life of a redeemed sinner be!—E. T. Prust.

An Advent Sunday discourse.—The history of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is selected as the Holy Gospel for Advent Sunday, because it is typical of the manner in which He makes His Advent throughout the centuries to the Church at large.

I. It is the same Person who comes, and in the same character—Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God.—His very name should ensure Him a welcome in every heart. He is “Jesus”—our Saviour; and “Christ”—the Anointed of God: anointed as Prophet, to teach the way of God in truth; anointed as Priest, to make atonement for our sins, and by one offering to perfect for ever them that are sanctified; anointed as King, to set up His throne in our hearts, and reduce every thought and affection to the obedience of faith. Thus has He ever presented Himself to the reception of every individual who is acquainted with what is written in the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Him, whether Jews then or Christians since. Any difference there may be is clearly in our favour. Those who hailed Him as the Son of David, and rent the air with hosannas to Him that came in the name of the Lord, had after all very low, imperfect, and even false ideas of His character and mission. Their thoughts all ran upon carnal enemies and temporal deliverances. We know better than that; we have learnt that the most cruel tyrants are Satan and Sin, and that a man’s worst foes are of his own household, even within his own breast. Knowing our danger and weakness, we are the better able to appreciate the greatness of our deliverance, and to hail with joy and gratitude Him who comes to “heal the broken-hearted,” etc.

II. As it is the same Great Person who comes, so He comes in a spiritual sense to the same. Of His First Advent in general it is said, “He came unto His own.” But especially when, as now, He visited Jerusalem, the city of David who was His father according to the flesh, and the Temple of God which was His Heavenly Father’s house, might He be said in a more particular manner to be coming unto His own. And is not this the case with the Saviour of mankind, whensoever and to whomsoever He comes? Are we not doubly His—His by creation and His by redemption? But we know by experience that the most unquestionable title does not ensure peaceful possession. Thus in the days of His flesh (John 1:10-11). And still, when He asserts His claim to universal empire, or knocks at the door of the heart of individual sinners, the greater number, like the inhabitants of Jerusalem, are moved only with wonder and surprise at the demand made upon them (Matthew 21:10). They ask, “Who is this?”—some, indeed, with an honest desire for information and enlightenment (John 9:36); but too many in the bad, bold spirit of the Jewish rulers (Matthew 21:23).

III. We may see another point of resemblance in the manner of our Lord’s Advent. How did He approach Jerusalem? As a mighty conqueror, at the head of an army, to destroy His enemies and burn up their city? Far different. See Matthew 21:5. His attendants a few simple men and feeble women, who had followed Him from His native place. What could be more typical of the Saviour’s Mission to this earth? See John 3:17; Matthew 12:20. What an irresistible appeal is that of St. Paul! (2 Corinthians 10:1). Force is met by force. He who assails with violence is by violence repelled. Against the crash of thunder we stop our ears. But to gentleness we yield. To him who entreats we show ourselves easy to be entreated. The still, small voice is the most certain to gain our attention. Be it so now. Receive with meekness Him who comes in the spirit of meekness. Wait not till He comes in another fashion (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7).

IV. Another point of comparison that we may draw relates to the reception of Christ. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, not content to await His arrival, went out to meet Him on the road (John 12:13). Even so the Church, in Advent goes forth to meet her Lord. His Incarnation, or actual coming in the flesh, she celebrates at Christmas; but long before that time we may imagine her to be standing on the watch-tower, eagerly looking for the signs of His approach. At last, as on this day, she espies Him afar off, and gives notice to all her children—“Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.” But in another sense the coming of the Son of Man is “not with observation,” and not at any particular season. To the heart of the sinner Christ often comes “on a day that he looks not for Him, and in an hour that he is not aware”; and so, finding nobody come out to meet Him, He turns round and departs as silently as He came. We must meet Him on the road. We must be in attendance where He is likely to be found. We must wait for Him in the way of His judgments, providences, ordinances. Prayer especially is like a place where roads from all directions meet. Whenever and however He comes, He must pass that way; and if we are there, waiting for Him, it is impossible for us to miss Him.

V. Those who went to meet Him on His approach to Jerusalem received Him with the most significant tokens of honour and respect (Mark 11:8).—So let us welcome “Him that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Let us put off the old man with his deeds of darkness, lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and so make a way for the Redeemer to enter and take possession of our souls.


Mark 11:1-11. The significance of Christ’s royal entry into Jerusalem.—It is surely a strange mistake, as Dr. Edersheim remarks, to regard this entry as implying that, fired by enthusiasm, Christ for the moment expected the people would receive Him as the Messiah. Nor is it much better to describe it as a concession to the fevered expectations of His disciples and the multitude. It was, on the contrary, an integral part of Christ’s Mission, which would not be complete without it. “It behoved Him so to enter Jerusalem, because He was a King; and as King to enter it in such manner, because He was such a King: and both the one and the other were in accordance with the prophecy of old.”

Mark 11:2-6. Humble service.—

1. We should always attempt that for which we have Christ’s warrant.
2. We should not attempt that for which we have not Christ’s warrant.
3. In looking for that for which we have Christ’s warrant, we must expect opposition. From—
(1) The weakness of the flesh.
(2) The unbelieving amongst men.
(3) The spiritual hosts of wickedness.
(4) If we attempt that for which we have Christ’s warrant, in the manner He directs, we shall accomplish it.—J. S. Swan.

Particularity in giving directions.—The closer the personal oversight given to one’s business the better. But after all is said and done a great part of the work of life depends on delegated labour. Men cannot do everything at first-hand. Neither does God. He has His angels or messengers. They do His bidding. The Holy Spirit is sent to “convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.” But now the fulfilment of the work entrusted to an agent, in harmony with the desire of the sender, will not only depend, under God, on the intelligence and faithfulness of the one sent, but also on the nature of the instructions given by the sender. The less we take for granted in this respect the better. And this the more so in proportion to the deficiencies of the sent. In giving orders Jesus left no room for mistake. His directions were very specific: they were no doubt given clearly; they could be heard distinctly. Because He Himself was perfectly familiar with the requisites of any work, He did not therefore think, or act as if He thought, that a few hurried hints would be sufficient for others. It was said of Christ that He “shall not fail.” He was pre-eminently successful in all He undertook. One of the characteristics that prevented failure was His thoroughness. He did not despise details. Confusion, vexation, failure, were thus avoided. Note His care in telling His disciples where to find the colt, what kind of a colt, in what condition it would be, whether tied or loose, how to answer objections to their bringing him, etc. Then again in regard to the preparation for the Passover the same particularity is observed. The result was that all moved on smoothly. All was in harmony with the injunction, “Let everything be done decently and in order.”—Wm. M. Campbell.

Mark 11:3. “The Lord hath need of him.”—This is the only time in the Bible where the Lord is said to have need of any creature; and here it is said of a despised creature—of an ass, as if to rebuke the pride of creature superiority, and at the same time to exalt the dignity of creature instrumentality. These words are spoken of an ass, to prevent the possibility of any one saying, “I am too mean to be of any service to so glorious a Master; my abilities are too small, my position is too obscure.” Perhaps at the moment of such a temptation there may be some blessed service for such a one, which, instrumentally speaking, could only be performed by that one. Yes, it may be to bear Jesus in His members to His triumph or His Cross.—J. T. Baylee, D.D.

Mark 11:5-6. The power of Christ’s Word.—Nothing resists the Word of the God-man, nor the faith and obedience of a faithful disciple. Let us learn to avoid all arguing and disputing whenever God commands us something above our strength, and to put our whole confidence in the power of His will, which can do all things. He accustoms His apostles to see that the wills of men are less in their own power than in that of God, and that His Word is almighty even in the mouth of His ministers, to the end that men may believe them.—P. Quesnel.

Mark 11:8-10. How Christ must be entertained.—

1. We must believe Him to be that Great Prophet who is the Messiah and Saviour of the world.
2. We must profess and confess this faith, having “Hosanna” in our mouths, and crying, “Blessed,” etc.
3. We must spread our garments in the way, etc., i. e. forsake all and follow Christ, proffering and offering ourselves wholly to His service.—Dean Boys.

The nature of Christ’s kingdom.—A King, not of this world, though over it; ruling, not in external pomp and state, but by secret providence and power; not so much over the bodies and temporal estates, as in the hearts and consciences of men; not chiefly by outward compulsion and violence, but by inward allurement and persuasion (Revelation 5:13; Revelation 19:16).—Dr. Isaac Barrow.

Mark 11:11. The evening can become the sweetest and most sacred portion of the day. It is profound, it is serene; tender as solemn, tranquil as pensive; full of permission fraught with privilege; free and fresh and fragrant with repose. Evening completes the day, as its coronation and benediction. The morrow is at hand; evening awaits the morrow, as its herald and its pledge. The west horizon claims its kindred with the east, looking so like it that you know them to be twins. The sundown on the west glows like the sunrise on the east. Both alike tip the hilltops with gold. Pause now and lay down the tool, the spade; there is something else than toil—there is reverie, rest. Glad evenings guarantee and glorify the days, replenish wear and tear, stanch wounds. But when shadows wrap you, when curtains close, birds to their nests, cattle to their stalls, man to his home—soul, whither thou? Whither else but to thy God? Oh, house thee in His peace! Life’s eventide evinces much in the soft declensions of late lingering years. The old man’s heart sees shadows lengthen and dusk deepen, until familiar spots wear a weird beauty, as the places that knew him begin to know him no more for ever, and the fellowships that used to greet and cheer him seem in their dimness to forget that he was ever young like them or still has his share on the earth. The eventide of life is death, and the evening and the morning make the first day. Nigher now the morning, and death is only eventide at last. Life begins like the light—it comes out of the dark of an oblivion that seems to itself a nonentity, full of pangs to the mother and as full of pain to the infant, if the infant were alike sensitive and sentient. But playful infancy, sportive childhood, take slight notice of the struggle, the transition, and the change. When at length it has reached its close, it settles back to the same fostering conditions. Death hides it in the oblivion and the shadow once again. And what conclusion can there be but that, as its morning had an evening, its evening is to have a morning too, a fresher, fuller, freer morning next, because as tenderly the Infinite disrobes the life slumber, lulling it for night hours and cradling it for infantile and ineffable repose. These are inklings of the understanding, but they become the intuitions of the soul. The promise becomes the prospect; the, prospect becomes the possession.—H. S. Carpenter.


Mark 11:3. God’s need of all.—In a strange place, where few travellers ever go, there is a wonderful bridge, underneath which the trains stop for the collection of passenger-tickets. There may be nothing remarkable in this; but as the traveller looks up he sees that which strikes him as indeed a peculiarity, if nothing more; it is that the granite stones of which this long and massive bridge is built have each one of them been numbered. The large blocks that lay at the bottom supporting the whole structure have their number. The medium-sized ones that hold the great work together have theirs, and the very smallest have theirs—all to fill their parts in the great structure which so truly completes the perfect work. There was need for all of them. So we are taught by this earthly monument of man’s genius the spiritual lessons of life. God, the Great Architect of the universe, the Master Builder of all things, and the Creator of all life, has need of every creature here below, that it may have its use for God’s glory. All creatures how before God as He comes to them to draw them to their use for His purposes in the world, and, in their willingness to be so dealt with, teach us the very first lesson of life—submission to His holy will in all things.

Mark 11:8. A triumphal procession.—At the conclusion of the Franco-German War, in the course of which Napoleon III. became a captive and was dethroned, the victorious German troops made their triumphal entry into Berlin on June 16th, 1871, which is thus described in a newspaper of the time: “On each side of the way were placed gilt pedestals, and between each pedestal hung a festoon of laurel and fir. After the flags come the Guards. They are covered with laurel and fir. The altars and cannons are covered with leaves and with branches of fir trees.”

Mark 11:9-10. A deliverer hailed.—Perhaps there is no episode recorded in history more interesting than that of Charles V. when he landed at Tunis. Ten thousand men and women who were slaves within the city, when they heard the approach of their deliverer, rose and broke their chains, and rushed towards the gate as the emperor was entering the town; and this mighty procession knelt down, hailed him as their deliverer, and prayed God to bless him.

Slight value of popular demonstrations.—When Napoleon was returning from his successful wars in Austria and Italy, amid the huzzas of the people, Bourrienne remarked to him that “it must be delightful to be greeted with such demonstrations of enthusiastic admiration.” “Bah!” replied Napoleon, “this same unthinking crowd, under a slight change of circumstances, would follow me just as eagerly to the scaffold.”

Verses 12-26


Mark 11:13. If haply.—If, after all—although not the proper time for fruit.

Mark 11:17. The marginal rendering is preferable.

Mark 11:19. See R. V.

Mark 11:23-24. See R. V.

Mark 11:26. MS. authority for retention or omission is about equally divided.


(PARALLELS: Matthew 21:12-22; Luke 19:45-48.)

Mark 11:12-14. The useless tree.—Dangers were closing round the Saviour, and He prudently spent His nights, except the last fatal one, not at Jerusalem, but the neighbouring village of Bethany. This miracle was wrought on Monday, the second day of Holy Week. Perhaps the reason of His being hungry so early in the day was that He had spent a portion of the night or early morning in prayer. His early departure probably arose from a holy haste to enter upon the work of the day. He inherited the physical weaknesses of our nature, and so qualified Himself to sympathise with His people in all physical trials (Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 4:15).

I. The miracles of our Lord generally contained a symbolic element; but this miracle is a symbol in itself.—In this He was following the examples of the prophets, who often acted out their parables. It was a mode of teaching that excited livelier attention than an oral statement, and produced a deeper impression upon the mind. Indeed the Jewish Temple, with its outer court, high priests, offerings and ordinances, was a stupendous parable uttered in the form of sign and symbol. It is objected that our Lord, knowing, as from His omniscience He must have done, that there was no fruit upon the fig tree, went to it as though expecting to find fruit. In His action there was no insincerity. The language used is a mode of speech often used, especially in figurative teaching.

II. But is not this miracle at variance with the ordinary operations of Him who came “not to destroy, but to fulfil”?—Other miracles were exercises of love, acts of giving and creation; this is an act of destruction. Here He appears as a punishing God. Solitary as it is, it shews that, while our Lord “delighteth in mercy,” He does not shrink from executing judgment when required. Its solitariness as an act of judgment exhibits in impressive lights the exceeding greatness and bountifulness of His love. But why should He put forth His anger upon a tree, which, not being a moral agent, could not be conscious of guilt? A tree has no sentient existence, much less intelligent and moral consciousness, and therefore could not be a fit subject for praise or blame. That the fig tree was an inanimate existence is a sufficient reply to the objection. It was not capable of suffering, and could therefore be lawfully used as a means for ends lying beyond itself. Our Lord did not attribute any moral responsibilities to the fig tree; He simply used it to represent moral qualities. Other considerations may be advanced which bear upon the justice of this act. The situation of the tree was very favourable for fruit-bearing. Being planted on the roadside, it was not private property. It was not a sound tree that our Lord caused to wither. Its life had begun to decay, and our Saviour’s sentence only hastened a process that would have advanced in the course of nature.

III. But why should Christ vent His indignation upon the fig tree if the usual season for fruit-bearing had not arrived?—Was this consistent with the justice and reasonableness which ruled Him in all His dealings? It was: for the fruit usually appeared before the leaves; and if the fig tree could produce leaves, what excuse had it for being fruitless? “Where is the propriety,” says Dr. Thomas, “of allowing it to occupy a position, and to appropriate nourishment, which, if granted to another tree, would result in abundant fruitfulness? Let it die. Why should its roots steal the nutriment of the soil, its leafy branches obstruct the genial rays of heaven, and prevent their falling on better plants? Usefulness is the grand end of all created existence, and the function of justice is to remove out of the way whatever answers not its original design. Justice clears the universe of the worthless. The fruitless tree it burns; the salt that has lost its savour it casts forth as rubbish; the spirit that perverts its powers it divests of its freedom and its influence, its privileges and enjoyments. Justice weeds the garden of the universe.”


1. It teaches that to our existence God has set a specific purpose. The fruit we are expected to bear is goodness—in other words, holy and useful living (Romans 6:22; James 3:18; Galatians 3:22; Ephesians 5:5; Psalms 126:5-6; James 5:20).

2. Like the fruitless fig tree, we are surrounded by conditions and means favourable to fruit-bearing. If no fruit appears, no fault can be found with the soil, air, clouds, sun, or with the culturing methods and appliances of the vine-dresser; the evil is in the tree (James 1:13-15).

3. The appearance of goodness without the reality only aggravates our guilt. Standing beside the fruitless tree, the Master did not say, “This tree is an ornament to the surrounding landscape, a grateful shelter to the weary traveller; choirs of birds now and then make the branches quiver with delightful music.” Its leaves and blossoms could not be accepted as substitutes for fruit.
4. The evil of our spiritual barrenness is not confined to ourselves. We occupy space in the community that might be occupied with greater advantage by others.
5. When the sentence goes forth, ruin follows—complete, final, and irretrievable.—J. H. Morgan.

Mark 11:15-17. Reverence for God’s house.—On two very different occasions our Lord shewed His zeal for the honour of the Temple of God. At the commencement of His public ministry, when He went up to the Feast of the Passover, He found the sale of oxen and sheep and doves going on within the court of the Temple. And He drove them out and said, “Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house a house of merchandise.” And now again, at the close of His ministry, He went up to the Passover, and He found the same abomination going on. And once more He drove out the profaners, and claimed for God’s house the reverence and respect which is due to the house of prayer.

I. There can be no doubt that the decay of religious feeling among the people, the loss of reverence for holy things and places, the weakening of their belief in God’s actual and immediate presence with them, was very closely connected and bound up with the coming destruction of the Jewish nation.

1. This faith in the presence of God in the Temple, and among the people whom He had chosen for Himself, was impressed on them by the law perhaps more distinctly and solemnly than any other truth.
2. And while their trust in God’s presence was firm and unshaken, so long it was well with them. God did protect them from their enemies, and raised them to prosperity, and gave them abundance and peace and power. But when their faith failed, and they forgot God, and they lost their reverence and fell into sin, then He caused suffering to come upon them. Their sin found them out.
3. Is there not a lesson for us in this age? Are not the two besetting sins of the time, on the one hand, a craving after money, a spirit of merchandise, which takes up our thoughts and occupies our time, and sorely interferes with our higher interests; and, on the other hand, a want of reverence, a slowness to see and confess the presence of God, that all we do and say is in His sight: that He is about our path and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways. Our longing for money, what is it but a want of faith? We cannot trust God, that He will provide for us. We will make provision for ourselves and for our children’s wants. We are slow to believe that it is really required that we should make sacrifice for Christ’s sake. And therefore the love of the world is in danger of eating more and more into our hearts and driving out our religion, our trust, and our love, and our faith in a heavenly reward and coming glory. And if so, if this is a real evil, and if it be not timely checked, then assuredly the glory will be departing from us.

II. Besides this larger and more general lesson, there is also a thought which may come closer and more personally to ourselves. Our Lord teaches us very plainly, by cleansing the Temple at Jerusalem, that a reverence is due to holy places; that where the presence of God ought to be recognised and felt the common affairs of life ought not to find entrance.

1. When we come to approach God in prayer, and when we enter into the house which has been dedicated to the Lord, the charge given to Moses may still have its meaning for us: “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
2. And does not this condemn very strongly the lightness and irreverence with which so many will come to church? When we kneel upon our knees, it is not to go through an unmeaning form, but to pray for pardon and for grace. When we listen, we must try to apply to our hearts the lessons which God’s Word would teach. Our carelessness, our littleness, our vanity, our worldly thoughts, all these must be put away. We are drawing near to our God, and we desire to be drawn yet closer towards Him in faith and love. And He will draw nigh to us. He is present with us when we seek His pardon—present with us when we sing His praise—present with us when we hear His message—present with us when we kneel to receive the Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood.—Canon Nevill.

Mark 11:17. God’s house “an house of prayer for all nations.”—The Temple at Jerusalem, while it stood, might well be classed amongst “the wonders of the world”: not merely on account of the magnificence of its conception, the splendour of its ornaments, or the costliness of its worship; but, even more, for the anomalous character of the principle on which it was founded, and of the religious system to which it belonged. In the Jewish creed it was regarded as the habitation of Him who, according to another article of the same belief, “dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” Dedicated to the service of the God of the whole earth, who “made of one blood all nations of men,” it was yet strictly exclusive. It was surrounded by spacious courts. Of these the first or outer court, which encompassed all the rest, was called “the Court of the Gentiles,” because Gentiles were allowed to enter into but not beyond it. This court was separated from the next—that of the Israelites—by a low stone wall, on which stood pillars at equal distances, with inscriptions signifying to all not of the seed of Abraham that that was their place and they must proceed no farther. Now, it is the removal of this particular disability, which is predicted in the words quoted by our Lord from Isaiah. There was at all times a prescribed method by which “the son of the stranger” might join himself to the Lord’s people, and become a member of “the commonwealth of Israel,” and entitled to all the privileges of a born Jew. But this method was so little adopted in practice that it entirely fails to meet the language here used, even if the words did not plainly refer to something to take place at a future time, and not to a provision already existing. And we know in fact that the Temple at Jerusalem never was, and could at no time be called, “an house of prayer for all nations.” We must therefore understand the prophecy in a wider sense, as foretelling “the opening of the kingdom of heaven”—much more, therefore, the doors of the sanctuary—“to all believers.” See Malachi 1:11; John 4:21-24.

I. The perfect freedom and openness of Divine ordinances in the Church of Christ.—The Gentiles having long since been admitted into the Church—or rather, the Church as it now exists being composed for the most part of Gentiles—we may pass over that distinction as obsolete, and proceed to others.

1. There is no distinction of rich and poor in our Churches. In early times, indeed, some abuse of this kind appears to have crept in. See James 2:1-4. But we may fearlessly say that our assemblies are not liable to this charge. None is excluded or insulted because he is poor or meanly clad. Many, it is true, exclude themselves, on the ground that they have no clothes fit to come in, and they are ashamed to exhibit their “vile raiment” among the “gay clothing” of their neighbours. This is, in most cases, only a miserable subterfuge.

2. We acknowledge no distinction between learned and unlearned in Church. Neither class is shut out by any custom or practice calculated to repel. Everything said or done in the sanctuary has for its object the general edification, “that all may learn, and all may be comforted.”
(1) The Anglican Liturgy is a “Book of Common Prayer”—suited “for all people.” Its greatest admirers are, no doubt, its most refined and intelligent ones, as an exquisite picture or statue or other work of art is best appreciated by those who have studied the principles of art. But “the common people” also are great admirers of the Prayer Book, and find therein—besides such plainness and simplicity as enables the most unlearned to say “Amen” to every sentence—a savour and spirit of devotion which is not perceptible, or in far less degree, in other compositions.

(2) And with respect to the public instructions of the Church, here also the profit of all alike is kept in view. A minister, in preparing his sermon, remembers that there will be among his hearers persons of very different degrees of intelligence and cultivation. That he may not leave the unlearned entirely behind him, he has to use great plainness of speech, a good deal of repetition, and a certain homeliness and familiarity of illustration. On the other hand, the minds of the better educated demand correctness of style, closeness of reasoning, and general propriety of manner. He endeavours, therefore, not simply to descend to the level of the former class, but so to descend as to carry the others with him, so to adapt his instructions to both that the adaptation shall not be offensively perceptible to either.
3. Our churches are open to all characters of people—to good and bad, righteous and sinner, him that feareth God and him that feareth Him not. How could it be otherwise? Should we exclude the righteous? But these are the very persons whom God would have to worship Him, and whose godly supplications and “pure offerings” give a savour and seasoning to the whole sacrifice. Or should we refuse admission to the sinner? How, then, could we be the ministers of Him who “came to call,” etc.? How could we, with any consistency, come into the house of God ourselves, seeing we are all “miserable sinners”? Only one class of persons there is whom we do not invite, and would rather not see, within the walls of the sanctuary, viz. those who are living in the open, shameless, and defiant practice of iniquity. These we would exclude, not permanently, but for a time, until they shew so much regard to decency and public morality as constitutes the lowest qualification for one who seeks admission into a religious assembly. We would, by this temporary exclusion, shame them and bring them to a better mind; or, if not, lighten their damnation by just so much guilt as they would have incurred by offering to the Lord an abomination instead of a sacrifice.

II. The true nature of the Christian sanctuary—it is a house of prayer.—In thus setting aside not only a part, but the emphatic part, of the sentence as originally uttered—“for all nations”—we are justified by our Lord Himself, who here refers the quotation to a question, not of the admissibility or inadmissibility of others than Jews to the privileges of the Temple, but of the use and abuse of the Temple itself. Whether open to all people, or reserved for a privileged tribe; whether appropriated to the imposing ceremonies of the Jewish ritual, or to the less sensuous solemnities of Christian worships,—the Lord’s house still maintains its character of “an house of prayer.” From this expression we may learn—

1. What is the proper business of this place—prayer; i. e. prayer in its widest sense, including every act of devotion in which a Christian congregation may appropriately unite. Besides prayer, properly so called, by which we make our joint requests known unto God, “the voice of joy and praise” enters largely into those common supplications which we make with one accord in the Lord’s house. But let us ever remember that, being thus explained, prayer, and prayer alone, is our proper business there. It is necessary to lay great stress upon this, for it is a matter which is greatly misapprehended by many. They will tell one they go to Church to hear. They listen to the prayers, and that is all. It is only when these are concluded that they rouse themselves, and begin to give their best attention to the discourse which is expected to follow, in the hope of hearing, if not something new, at least something not quite so stale and antiquated as that “form of sound words” in which the Church has for centuries poured forth her devotions before God. Such persons are fond of talking of the more or less “good” that they get from their attendance at public worship; and they estimate the amount of “good” by the manner and degree in which their feelings are excited by the sermon. There is a better test than that. Shew me the man who has prayed the best, and I will shew you the man who has got the most “good”; for he has got—whatever he asked. But if any man who has not truly joined in the prayers imagines that he has received any real benefit from the sermon, he deceives himself. The thing is impossible. It is opposed to the clearest rule of the dispensation of grace. See Luke 8:18.

2. What is the proper behaviour of this place. Whatever deportment, in look, gesture, or manner, is suited to the act of prayer, the same is becoming demeanour in “the house of prayer”; and whatever is foreign to the business of the place is also inappropriate to the place itself. Now what is prayer, and what are the manner and behaviour of a person engaged in prayer? Prayer is the most serious—I had almost said awful—transaction in which a human being can be employed. A man who is truly praying, whether in public or private—praying effectually, fervently, and with all his soul—is a sight which cannot be mistaken for anything but what it really is. And when a number of persons are so engaged, praying with one accord in one place, striving together in their fervent addresses to the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort,” we should expect to see still more legibly stamped on every feature and gesture the characteristic marks of their employment, the outward and visible signs of heartfelt devotion. Is it so in our churches? Would a stranger entering while service is going on perceive at once that it was a place in which prayer was wont to be made, and that the congregation was so engaged at that moment? Would he be carried away by the contagion of so many bended knees and blended voices, so many eyes cast down to the ground and hands lifted up to heaven; and so, falling down on his face, would he worship God, and report that God was in us of a truth?

Mark 11:17. The advantage of a liturgy in public worship.—One of the most interesting objects to the eye of the contemplative man must ever be an assembly of Christians engaged in public worship. The literary mind may revert on such an occasion, to those sad spectacles of superstition and cruelty which disgraced even the most enlightened periods of heathen history; and the observer of human character will call to mind and compare the infinite variety of follies and delusions which to this day mar the religious observances of all uncivilised nations. The purity of Christian worship will be well illustrated by the contrast. There are differences, however, among the professors of Christianity with regard to the public worship of God. These may be considered to resolve themselves, in some degree, into one great question—that of the use of a liturgy or set form of prayer.

I. The great criterion, by which we may judge of the advantage of a liturgy in public worship, is its effect on the minds of the worshippers, and its suitableness to the object for which they are assembled.—God’s house is “the house of prayer.” How, then, is a congregation assembled there to address itself to the throne of grace? How is it to speak, with only one voice, the language of all, so that each individual may thoroughly enter into the spirit of the supplication without perplexity a distraction? This result can only be secured, we apprehend, by the use of a regular “form of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13), known, understood, and approved by all, which shall be a guarantee to them that they are not going to utter collectively what they dissent from as individuals, and that they are not going to insult the Majesty of Heaven with what is unintelligible, offensive, or unscriptural; so that the understanding not being now employed in comprehending or the judgment in approving it, the heart may be at full liberty to feel its effect, and every prayer uttered by the minister may ascend at once to heaven as the united offering of the congregation. Thus the object of the assembly is fully answered. Though but one for the most part spoke, they all prayed; and having thus poured forth their collective petitions, they retire to their homes, where, at their accustomed seasons, and according to their individual methods, each may address his particular prayer to the Father which seeth in secret.

II. Another advantage of a liturgy is its efficacy as a source of union—a rallying-point around which, as a centre, a whole nation may assemble with that harmony of religious intercourse which should distinguish all who profess and call themselves Christians. A liturgy protects a Church against needless innovations—against the effects of misguided zeal or internal faction, which would disturb or rend it asunder—against the caprice, the errors, and the passions of the human mind. It is also most useful as a standard of purity in doctrine, through which, as an untainted channel, the great truths of Christianity having been crystallised, may be transmitted, unaltered and uncorrupted, to future generations. If these truths were left to be explained only through the uncertain and variable medium of preaching, they would soon be wrested and tortured by the injudicious or the enthusiastic minister, and the people would be lost in a labyrinth of unintelligible or contradictory doctrine; but when they are embodied and illustrated in a well-modelled form of public worship, the perversion of them becomes more difficult, and the minds of the people are less likely to be led astray.

III. A liturgy is a constant reminder that the great object of our meeting in church is prayer.—The importance of this point being kept prominently in view will be evident if we glance for a moment at the appearance which the religious world at this day exhibits. It is notorious that amongst the adherents of the numerous Christian societies which have sprung up during the last three centuries a spirit of preaching has superseded the spirit of prayer. They assemble together for the avowed purpose of listening to the discourse of a minister, which is the main feature of their meeting. Some of them, indeed, sensible that this is not as it should be, have introduced the Anglican Liturgy, or selections from it, into their religious services. Others have attempted to defend their disuse of a Prayer Book by the authority of the Primitive Church, asserting that in so doing they are only laying aside the unnecessary accretions which time has attached to public worship, and returning to the purity and simplicity of original usage. But there is little force in this argument. The worship of the early Christians, who were scattered abroad in small numbers, and who had moreover been just converted to Christianity, was necessarily imperfect in various respects. They had not yet had time to arrange for themselves a regular form of service to take the place of the old Jewish ritual, although there are traces in the New Testament that they had already begun to do so. They existed also in a state of constant alarm, from persecution either impending or actually raging, which forced them to be content to assemble when they could and how they could. No comparison can be instituted between their case and that of Christians in this present age, who enjoy leisure, liberty, and all means of organisation in abundance. The Church is never likely to consent to such a retrograde step as the abandonment of what has been found so practically beneficial. To do this would be to exchange system and order for confusion and chaos.

Mark 11:22-23. The power of faith.—Our Lord’s grand earthly work was the work of atonement. But there were other designs of great importance which He accomplished whilst He sojourned among men. Not the least of these was to fit and prepare His disciples for carrying on the work of the kingdom after His departure. And, in reference to this matter, His anxiety manifestly deepens, and His efforts become more urgent, as the time of His offering-up draws near. At this period how earnest and how oft repeated were His warnings to the disciples regarding the dangers and sufferings and disappointments of their carnal expectations which awaited them! how earnest and oft repeated His efforts to lead them to their true source of strength and victory in God! “Have faith in God” is the burden of many a discourse, the peculiar lesson of many a parable and many a wondrous work. This was the lesson which the miracle of the cursing and withering of the fig tree was designed to illustrate. He would thus prepare the mind of His disciples to meet many and great difficulties in the prosecution of their work, and would teach them also that they must not be downcast and discouraged, since their faith in God endowed them with an irresistible strength, before which every difficulty must vanish.

I. Who are those to whom these cheering words are addressed?—Primarily, they were addressed by our Lord to His personal friends and followers whom He had chosen as apostles. The promise was given to them in their character of labourers in the Lord’s vineyard, servants of the kingdom of God. And it is equally valid for all who labour and strive for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. The work of the world’s salvation from sin and Satan was begun by the Lord in person, and by His death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead He ensured its successful issue. But it was ordained by Divine Wisdom that the prosecution of the work in detail should be accomplished by the instrumentality of human agents. Every Christian is entitled to appropriate the gracious language of our text as addressed to him; for he is one whom the Lord hath found in the market-place, and hired, and sent to work in His vineyard. Every preacher of the gospel can claim the promises as specially made to him; for is he not sent expressly on the Lord’s business? Every congregation of the Lord’s people is entitled to rest upon it; for have they not banded themselves together in the Lord’s name, for the very purpose of advancing His work and His kingdom in the world?

II. What is the promise made to those who are doing the Lord’s work and seeking the advancement of His kingdom? (Mark 11:23 : see also Matthew 17:20).—There is no enemy so mighty, no difficulty so great, that may not be conquered in the might of that Divine strength with which the Christian is endowed.

1. Look at the individual Christian, even if he be one of the lowliest and feeblest of the children of the kingdom—one of those hidden ones whom the world notices not. Mark well his history, and you will find that his whole life has been, at every step, the march of a mighty, resistless power, going forth conquering and to conquer. He has waged a warfare with no mere power of flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickedness in high places; and he has triumphed. Sin and Satan still abide with him indeed, ever striving to foment rebellion among the members of his mortal body; but they no longer reign—their hour of power is gone. And in the exercise of that same power by which he has subjected them, he shall at length shake himself fully and for ever clear of their polluting touch. Nor is this all the victory that every humblest Christian has gained. He has triumphed over a condemning law. The mountain of guilt and the sentence of death are powerless to arrest his progress, as he presses forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ.
2. Look also at the Church in general, in its progress from age to age. The work given her to do is nothing less than the salvation of the world from the dominion of Satan, and the subjection of it, in all its nations, to the holy and righteous rule of the Prince of Peace. In the barren fig tree, with its large promise and total lack of fruit, the disciples were called on to recognise a symbol of the enemies of the gospel—a striking symbol especially of the Church’s mightiest and most malignant foe, Antichrist—the service of the devil, under the name and profession of the truth. Always is the Lord’s vineyard preoccupied by the deceitful plants of the devil’s sowing. Before the seed of life can grow these must be hewn down and rooted out. But who shall venture to touch them, guarded as they are by a banded world and by the hosts of hell? What weapon do the feeble followers of the Crucified wield, with which to strike down the deep-rooted, wide-spreading evil power? Their Lord reveals to them the secret of their strength in that mighty word of faith before which the barren fig tree withered and died in a day. But that tree which sucked the strength of the garden of the Lord, and covered it with its deadly shade, withered at a word. And so is it with all the Church’s enemies. The Church is as yet in the agony of the contest. She sees with trembling heart the tide of victory sway continually backwards and forwards. Her battle is not fought, her warfare is not accomplished, until the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. The Church is a tree which must still grow on, until she fills the earth with her branches. But, all imperfect as she is, what marvellous growth has she made since her beginning, when she was small as a mustard seed!

III. What is the secret of the Church’s marvellous strength?—It is revealed in the words, “Have faith in God.” Have faith in God, and then shall follow the wonderful triumphs indicated.

1. God’s people work their work and fight their foes in the strength of the Almighty. Have faith, not in yourself, but in God: expect success, not in your own strength, but in God’s. Not only is He with us amid the mountains, the grand towering difficulties of the Christian life; even in the performance of duties apparently the most simple and easy man could do nothing in the strength of the flesh. And, blessed be God, the Christian does not need to try. Though we are not sufficient of ourselves, we are sufficient, ay, even to work wonders, if the Christian work should require them, and our Lord should command. In all things, external or internal, great or small, it is ever God that worketh in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.

2. God interposes on behalf of His people to work with them and fight for them on occasion of their faith. Their faith is the measure and condition of their victory. So that in a sense their strength lies in their faith. There is indeed no true efficacy in faith itself; but only on occasion of faith does the Almighty work for His people. To remove the mountains of our difficulties, then, we must apply ourselves to our work in faith,—not in the spirit of presumptuous self-confidence, but in faith; not in the spirit of doubt and fear, but in faith.—Jas. Hamilton.

Mark 11:23. The weakness and difficulties of doubt.—I wish to speak of doubt rather than of doubtfulness. Doubtfulness is a chronic, sensitive condition of soul; doubt, an acute, sensitive condition of mind. Doubt, in the end, may degenerate into spiritual doubtfulness—spiritual doubtfulness amounting, in extreme instances, to spiritual death; but, in the beginning, doubt, at least in its higher forms, is less often spiritual than intellectual. Without contradiction there are many low and base forms of doubt—doubt supervening on spiritual neglect, and moral transgressions, and sensual indulgences. But without contradiction also there are high and noble forms of doubt—unwilling doubt, which is most painfully miserable at its incapacity to believe.

I. Nor is this species of doubt altogether an evil.—For there is a strong tendency in human nature to acquiesce in authority, most of all in spiritual authority. Spiritual truths are often so difficult to discern, there is such a chaos of religious opinion weltering in Christendom, that for peace and certainty’s sake men are inclined to bow beneath any dominion which professes to hold the keys of truth and light. And the more subjugate men are, the more autocratic and unreasoning this dominion becomes, until at length, in order completely to enslave human reason, the dominion utterly violates it, ever encroaching upon and narrowing the limits of free, religious intelligence. And if it were not for the resistances and reformations of doubt, this tyrannous dominion of authority would assuredly usurp the throne of all religious life. Even in Christian Churches which boast of their liberties, and profess to abhor all manner of ecclesiastical despotism, the prevalence of doubt is rapidly expanding those liberties, and imparting greater health and vigour to the general religious tone. It is making the Bible a more real, more intelligible, more living book. It is stripping prayer of its spurious attributes, and clothing it with vast and most heavenly power. It is insisting, with St. James, that faith is more than confessions and creeds—it is life and work. It is making manifest that the essence of Christianity is sacrifice, and that without sacrifice no one can be a Christian. By taking away the false, doubt is making conspicuous the true elements in religion.

II. Yet there are obvious dangers attending the practice of doubt.—Doubt is apt to run into excess, and the excess of anything is evil. If the excess of faith be superstition, the excess of doubt is feebleness. The tendency of doubt is always to cripple men, to make them hesitate and do nothing. In every department of life it is impossible to succeed without believing; if we do not believe in what we are doing, we cannot do it well. We are like trees whose roots are all on the surface; the first winds of obstacle uproot and blow us down. Our strength is as the strengthlessness of a fractured arm, dangling down in impotence and pain; no one can lean upon us for support, and we ourselves are maimed and powerless. Most of all is this true of religion. In religion the stern necessity for occasional doubt may be wholesome; but the easy indulgence in continuous doubt is deadly. Doubt starves the soul; it makes lean and feeble the inner man. The pre-essential of all success in religion is mighty, living faith. Without faith even Christianity itself is feebleness.

III. There are doubters and doubters.—There are those who scarcely care whether they believe or not; to them doubting is at least painless, if not absolutely welcome. But there are others who earnestly desire to believe, to whom doubting is misery, and yet who seem unable to preserve themselves from doubt. These yearning souls long for that eye which sees the Invisible, that hand which touches the Eternal, that spirit which can commune with the Infinite and be inspired with the All-Holy; yet, amid all the wonders and loveliness of nature, all the solaces and promises of the gospel, all the experiences and mercies of daily life, they are unable to believe; or, if they believe at all, their faith is like the dimness of the twilight, and not like the splendour of the meridian sun. To such persons, I say, doubt is misery—the misery of the caged bird, the misery of the shorn and blinded Samson, the misery of the discrowned king. What are they to do? Is there no relief or way of escape? Will the darkness never turn to light, and the weakness of doubt be exchanged for the power of faith?

IV. There is one method of strengthening faith which we all may wisely practise.—It is the method of fairly confronting doubt with its own difficulties. It is when we throw ourselves out of ourselves, and project our thoughts upon the universe, that the difficulties of doubt present themselves with huge force and emphasis. For what is the nature of the universe in which we live? It is boundless in extent, yet perfect in harmony. Whence then, I ask, comes this perfection, this punctuality, this absolute order and precision of the universe—an order compared with which the highest human regulations are chaos, a precision than which the keenest human intelligence cannot conceive anything more precise? You answer it is all the result of law. But what is law? I reply. Whence came the law? An effect without a cause is, to my mind, an inconceivable idea. So also is an effect higher than its cause. If the effect be reasonable and intelligible, the cause must be Intelligence and Reason; for you cannot deduce reasonableness from non-reason, or intelligibleness from non-intelligence. I am thus compelled by the sublimities and the harmonies of the universe to assign their origin to an intelligent Creator. And when we ascend the scale of being until we reach the kingdom of man (man, with all his littleness and sin, but with all his greatness too—his powers to think, to love, to remember, to aspire), we ask again, Whence spring all this intelligence, these emotions, these longings of our human nature? Water will not rise higher than its source; and man cannot soar beyond his original. The original of man therefore must be higher and greater than man himself. And when to all this you add the teachings of history, the character of the world’s moral government, the voice of conscience, the imaginations and inspirations of the human soul, and ask from what beginning did they come, the simplest and the most satisfying of all answers is, “Their builder and maker is God.”—Canon Diggle.


Mark 11:13-14. Pretension and performance.—

1. There is apt to be most pretension where there is least performance (Revelation 3:17).

2. There are many ways of making profession. Observance of the forms of Christian life is profession; Church membership is profession; statement of our habit and ways is a profession, and generally a loud one, for no one can easily speak about himself without self-laudation, openly or covertly, coming in; criticism, assumptions of being all right, and fault-finding are professions, loud professions, for to censure others’ faults is tantamount to declaring our freedom from them; and self-defence is some-times a form of profession.
3. The only ground on which men or things are spared by the judgment of God is that they yield good fruit. Where love is, and the likeness to Christ is, there is endurance and reward. Where only profession is there is judgment.
4. The stroke of judgment is swift. Fearfulness surprises the hypocrites. It is striking by what slow processes reputations are built up, and by what swift judgments they are brought down.
5. The angerless judgment of Christ is very solemn.—R. Glover.

The mission of the Churchto feed hungry souls.—As Jesus turned to that fig tree, drawn thereto by the tree’s profession of fruitfulness, so hungry souls turn to the Church and to God’s professed people to find spiritual food. What that tree with leaves and no fruit was to Jesus, the Jewish Church was to people in their soul-hunger. With their burden of sin, with their deep heart-questionings, with their sorrows, with their unsatisfied longings, with their yearnings for help and sympathy, they turned to the priests, the professed spiritual guides, if haply they might get from them what they wanted. So the mission of the Church is to feed hungry souls. In the hour of penitence, when the soul is conscious of guilt; in the day of trouble, when the world has no more to give; in the shadow of death; in all the great crises of life,—even the most worldly turn to the Church for what they need.—J. R. Miller, D.D.

The cursing of the fig tree.—This is Christ’s first and only miracle of judgment. It is wrought as an acted dramatised parable, not for any physical advantage, but wholly for the instruction which it conveys.

1. It is complained that by this act Jesus deprived some one of his property. But the same retributive justice of which this was an expression was preparing to blight presently all the possessions of all the nation. Was this unjust? And of the numberless trees that are blasted year by year, why should the loss of this one only be resented? Every physical injury must be intended to further some spiritual end; but it is not often that the purpose is so clear, and the lesson so distinctly learned.
2. Others blame our Lord’s word of sentence, because a tree, not being a moral agent, ought not to be punished. It is an obvious rejoinder that neither could it suffer pain; that the whole action is symbolic; and that we ourselves justify the Saviour’s method of expression as often as we call one tree “good” and another “bad,” and say that a third “ought” to bear fruit, while not much could be “expected of” a fourth.
3. In this word of sentence Jesus revealed His tenderness. It would have been a false and cruel kindness never to work any miracle except of compassion, and thus to suggest the inference that He could never strike, whereas indeed, before that generation passed away, He would break His enemies in pieces like a potter’s vessel.—Dean Chadwick.

Mark 11:14. That which does no service to Christ is found unworthy to render service to man (Luke 3:9).—J. A. Bengel.

Usefulness the sole test.—This fig tree was in some respects a good one. Its timber probably was sound; and as for its leaves, they were abundant. But a fruit tree is valued neither for its timber nor its foliage, but for its fruit. As with trees, so with everything else: the important question is, “What is their obvious purpose or final cause?” A building may be a very good thing in its way; it may be at once durable and ornamental. But if it is not subserving the purpose for which it was erected nor any purpose, what then? Simply this—Let it be “improved from off the face of the earth.” This is, I think, the dictum of common sense, as it certainly is the principle to which Jesus Christ gives a practical and concrete Amen! “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever”; for thou art not meeting “the wants of the time.”—J. S. Swan.

Mark 11:15-17. Cleansing of the Temple.—From this narrative we learn—

1. The blinding force of self-interest, for doubtless they were no more sensible of their iniquity than many a modern slave-dealer. And we must never rest content because our own conscience acquits us, unless we have by thought and prayer supplied it with light and guiding.
2. Reverence for sacred places, since the one exercise of His royal authority which Jesus publicly displayed was to cleanse the Temple, even though upon the morrow He would relinquish it for ever, to be “your house”—and desolate.
3. How much apparent sanctity, what dignity of worship, splendour of offerings, and pomp of architecture, may go along with corruption and unreality!
4. The might of holy indignation, and the awakening power of a bold appeal to conscience.—Dean Chadwick.

Reverence due to Churches.—Man has two employments in the present scene: the one earthly, the other of heaven; the one pertaining to the body, the other to the soul. And as the world generally is the place where He treats with man, and makes provision for the well-being of the body, so is this the chief appointed place for the business of heaven, and for securing those advantages which are great, but unspeakable.

1. Here, to take the first point in our spiritual history, we are baptised. Born into the world in a state of sin, born mere worldly beings, only fitted for and having no heritage but the earth: hither we are brought by our believing parents and pious sponsors, and are made the children of grace. Ought we not, then, to feel an awful and deep interest in the place where we have been set free from Adam’s stain, and admitted to the light; where we have been delivered from the original curse, and obtained a blessing; where we have been saved from the bondage of the devil, and been made the free sons of God; where, in short, the utterly lost and ruined were reinstated in their heritage, and again placed in their native home?
2. Here, when our reason and understanding are in some degree developed, we approach the sacred fount of inspiration, and drink in knowledge from the oracles of God. Ought we not to listen with reverence, when although we behold nothing with our outward senses, but men like ourselves, and the ambassador is weak and unworthy to do his office, yet the King of kings is here by his side, and by so worthless an instrument speaks His commandment?
3. Here we profess to do Him homage, and to fall low on our knees before His footstool. We are to feel our dependence, we are to lean on His arm, we are to confide in His love, we are to be pierced with the conviction of our helplessness and His power, and our distress and longings are to find utterance in prayer. And then to such prayers and such convictions, to such sincerity and such earnestness, He represents Himself as listening eagerly. How should you be careful and reverent when here, and “keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God”! “My house is a house of prayer.” “There am I in the midst of them.”
4. Here is offered up that feast and sacrifice peculiar to Christians, which commemorate the sacrifice made on the Cross. We have temples erected, we have altars set up, we have priests ordained, in succession, from age to age, that this great rite, the crown and sum of our solemnities, may be duly administered, and never cease whilst the world stands. Here, then, is another reason for exceeding reverence, that here “we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood, we dwell in Christ and Christ in us, we are one with Christ and Christ with us.” Here is the Divine Victim, here the health and life of man, here the precious blood, here the strengthening and refreshing of souls. Oh, how reverently should we deal with and approach that house where the Son of God comes!
5. And shall I not add one other reason for affectionate yet solemn feeling towards the Churches of God?—that here the dead are lying, and that here are treasured up unto the dawn of the resurrection all the earthly remains of those you loved.

II. The methods by which we can shew that we have a becoming sense of God’s presence and majesty.—

1. If we have that respectful feeling which I have desired to inculcate, and which is pleasant to God, our hearts will be in a state of adoration and worship. We shall not permit, at least willingly, and if they intrude we shall strive against them, vain and idle thoughts or dreams from the world.

2. If the spirit of devotion fill the soul, it will make itself manifest in the outward gesture; for the body is the soul’s instrument, and complies with the biddings of that which dwells within, even the immortal part of us, whether it be for evil or for good.
3. When a man considers that this is God’s house; when he considers who God is; when he reflects on the purposes for which it is set apart, to be the audience chamber of the Almighty when He treats with man; that here he was reconciled to the Father, made a member of Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit; that here God speaks to him, as from His heavenly throne; that he may lay before Him here his supplications; that here our Saviour Jesus Christ comes by a mysterious presence; and that here are deposited the ashes of the dead,—he will desire the house of God to be in some degree worthy of its Divine Possessor. If an earthly prince choose to honour a subject, what expense is spared? What a cost of silver and gold, of gems and of raiment, of furniture and attendants. Ought the Almighty to be less honoured when He comes? Should His royal palace be less glorious?—J. M. Chanter.

Mark 11:15-16. The force of a Holy Personality.—The instrument which Christ wielded was the power inherent in sinlessness. That made cravens of these worldlings. The voice of His holy zeal, entering with the paramount influence of purity and truth, awoke long-slumbering echoes in souls case-hardened with unholy commerce, and drove them from the scene of profane gain.—S. D. F. Salmond.

Mark 11:15. Christ resorting to the Temple.—Being come to the city, He straightway entered into the Temple, either, as Gregory noteth, to declare “that the fault of the priests is the ruin of the people,” and therefore His principal care was to correct and reform them; or else to give all men an example of diligence in repairing to the house of God.—Archbishop Sandys.

Mark 11:16. A great principle vindicated.—It seems to have become a common practice for the Jews to take the implements of their daily toil with them into the Temple at the hours of devotion, and make the sacred inclosure a thoroughfare from one part of the city to another. There was no express ordinance interdicting such a practice, and in ordinary circumstances it might have seemed innocent enough to avail oneself of the short cut there provided. But it was at variance with the spirit in which the place was to be used, and Jesus could give it no licence. So uncompromising was the Son’s jealousy for the Father’s honour even in trivial circumstances and seemingly indifferent incidents! The principle here again illustrated is of the highest consequence. It means that in order to keep ourselves unspotted from the world it is necessary to cast off along with the evil itself everything auxiliary to it or connected with it. Innocence from the great transgression implies practised self-restraint, not merely against the profanity which is seen, but against its appliances, occasions, accompaniments—against all that looks like it, conduces to it, is in sympathy with it.—S. D. F. Salmond.

Mark 11:18. The Indestructible Jesus.—“Destroy Jesus.” How incredibly astounding these words sound in the ears of men who are accustomed to survey the world after it has been subjected for upwards of eighteen centuries to the uninterrupted presence of Jesus and the accumulating influences of Christianity! Yet they are words of a definite import: they are exact and significant enough; they announced a determination on the part of certain men, to which they were ready to give effect, and for the failure of which neither their wills nor their zeal may be held responsible.

I. To what extent could the purpose of the foes of Jesus succeed?

1. They might succeed in disparaging His character and station before men. Their object is to prove that He is a blasphemer, a godless man, a rebel, an impostor.
2. Maliciously assaulting the person of Jesus was another step in the attainment of their merciless end.
3. Restraining His personal freedom was another step towards accomplishing their purpose.
4. A farther element in this series is the silencing of His tongue. They will hear its accusations no more; its severe utterances will grate on their feelings no more; no more will it publish before God and man their gross and wanton infidelity.
5. Another advance towards their full achievement is the torture they applied to His feelings. The arraigning, the accusation, the fearful perjury, the corrupt and vacillating judge, how must all these have wounded the spirit of the falsely accused! The barbarity, however, has not yet reached its height. Jesus heard them shout away His life, and shout out their preference of Barabbas to Himself.
6. Our next step takes us to the climax of this wicked purpose. They who had secured His condemnation felt that but one act was now wanting to perfect their design, and that they hasten to effect. As soon as the semblance and perversion of law permitted, they led Him away to crucify Him. They did crucify Him amid the cheering of hardened spectators, and to the ineffable delight of those who had contrived the plot which ended here.
(1) In that it was possible for Jesus to die lies the very basis of our redemption.
(2) In the death of Jesus promises of the deepest import to our race were accomplished.
(3) In the stooping of Jesus to death He knew our degradation in its farthest depth.
(4) In the death of Jesus lay His most sublime victory for men.

II. Some of the grand points in which the purpose of Jesus’ assailants was an entire and egregious failure.—

1. The very body of Jesus recovers its vitality.
2. The Deity that was within the destructible Temple they could not touch. 3. The violence of men against the person of Jesus could not frustrate or retard His designs.
4. The violent death of Jesus did not secure the permanence of the old Jewish establishment. Jesus was destroyed after the flesh, but lives again and lives for evermore; Judaism, in the very death of Jesus, expired, and has never since revived; it has vanished away, whilst Jesus abideth ever.
5. The success of the ungodly did not lead to the destruction of the new kingdom, or to the dethronement of Jesus.

In conclusion, to render the topic practically useful, we shall briefly indicate who they are that now sympathise with the unholy purpose we have been discussing, and also who they are who are in a living and sanctifying sympathy with the Indestructible Jesus.

1. To the first class belong—
(1) All such as are unbelievers in Jesus.
(2) Those who, however upright their outward life may be, yet, in spite of God’s commending His Son to them, remain utter worldlings.

(3) Where too must they rank who but partially receive the record that God gave of His ?Song of Song of Solomon 2:0. But there are some that belong to the latter class whom we have no difficulty in identifying.

(1) Such as labour and pray daily to purify themselves as Christ is pure.
(2) The penitent, who in his grief and humiliation comes to Jesus Christ for pardon and peace.
(3) The Christian who leaves all and follows Jesus, who is content with deprivations, bereavements, and shame, that he may follow and serve Jesus, gives a most convincing proof of where his sympathies lie.

Truth divides men.—Truth always makes a division among men. Some think of nothing but to persecute and suppress it, while others admire, love, embrace, and practise it. It is a dreadful thing to see here who they are who take the resolution to destroy it, without doubt not imagining they were doing it, but really believing themselves on its side. There are some particular seasons in which it is almost necessary for a man to lie concealed in the crowd of people, to prevent his having any hand in the persecution of truth. That which a man is hindered from doing against it by nothing but fear alone is already done in the heart.—P. Quesnel.

Mark 11:19. The conservation of human energy.—In these days of high pressure, when the capital as well as the interest of life has often to be drawn upon, when we have to make such unnatural and excessive drains upon our energies, and when as a consequence our ailments are not specific diseases, nor organic maladies, but simply nervous exhaustion, loss of tone throughout the fibre of our constitution, the example of our Lord even in a purely physical way inculcates a most salutary lesson, urges upon us the solemn obligation to maintain the fabric of our energies in good repair. To preserve the conditions and to obey the commands of the laws of health, to exercise our force so as best to conserve it, to regard life as an inviolable unity, where hurt or loss to one member entails lack of energy or good condition on the rest, where such is the quick and constant sympathy of the various parts that disregard of the meanest involves the derangement and desecration of the whole—these simple intimations of common sense, little as at times we may wot, are yet the prime, the paramount obligations of Christianity.—D. Dickie.

Mark 11:20. The withered fig tree.—The real fig tree is the chosen people, planted by God in a chosen land. At the appointed time Jesus, the Messenger of the Father, has come to urge upon them penitence and faith. These are the fruits for which He hungered, and which He longed to gather. God strikes with death whatsoever of His favoured creatures has received His bounty and His care, His waiting and His love, in vain. All history is strewn with the remains of those works of man which the living Spirit of God has not builded, lying shattered under the blows of time. All history is cumbered with the dead bodies of those sterile beings who, though born of the breath of God, have not responded to His call, but have falsified His hopes for them. The very type of their decay is found in Judaism, withered to the roots. Incapable of producing any fruits of religion, it yet remains standing, shewing even in its barrenness the terrible malediction with which Jesus has weighed it down.—Father Didon.

Mark 11:22-24. The source of supernatural power.—All supernatural power has its source in absolute faith in God. He who is endued with perfect faith enters into communion with the Divine Being, and God makes him the instrument of His goodness and His power. If omnipotence has been granted to Jesus, it is because His humanity is permeated with the fulness of the Divine Spirit; in subordination to its sovereign control He executes unfailingly its wishes, its motions, and its works. What He Himself was, Jesus required of His disciples to become. “Then,” He said, “nothing will withstand you.” We should strangely misinterpret His words if we were to believe that the Spirit of God is at the beck and call of the caprice and vain desires of men. We must ask of God only His holy will; and in order to thoroughly enter into it we must pray—that is, we must make ourselves one with it in absolute self-denial. Then and then only will the Spirit of God inspire us with a good desire, the desire which is always listened to by God, for it comes from Him.—Ibid.

Mark 11:22. Faith in God is a living, dominant conviction concerning God, His being, His character and government. It is that act and habit of the soul by which the truth concerning God is drawn in from the distant regions of speculation and enthroned over the character and the life. It is an act of the whole mind: of the intellect, which sees; but also of the conscience, which responds; of the will, which chooses; of the heart, which fears and reveres, which loves and trusts. It is that act and habit of the soul by which the notion concerning God becomes a reality, the chief of realities, ever present, all controlling, the perfect object of fear, of service, and of love.—e.g. Andrews.

Faith in God means faith in the supremacy of good.—By this faith Christianity accomplished its successes at first; by this faith all great reforms have been carried on. It is faith, not only in God, but in man, as the child of God. It is the faith that man is capable of seeing truth and obeying it—capable of seeing the right and doing it. Thus, and thus alone, is evil overcome by good. We can only overcome the evil in ourselves in the same way—by faith that Jesus is really the Christ; therefore that goodness will at last rule in our souls, mould our consciences, lift us above temptation and evil.—J. F. Clarke.

Mark 11:23. Faith removing mountains.—The only mountains faith desires to remove are such as are substantial obstacles in the path of mercy. It is marvellous how many such have been removed,—enormous evils, like the slave-trade of seventy years ago, like slavery in America; degradation and superstition, like those holding the natives of New Guinea; pride and secularity, like that which seemed to make the conversion of the Roman Empire impossible. There is no impossibility to those who can lay hold on God.—R. Glover.

The spirit of doubt is the spirit of weakness.—It cripples the will, so that no life of high resolve is possible to it; it produces unrest and discontent; it looks always at the dark side of the picture; and its prevalence in this age largely accounts for that pessimism which, like a shadow, follows it into all its dreary and desolate places. Trace the social discontent, the destructive tendency of much of our literature, especially in the sphere of philosophy—the socialism, anarchism, and all the grumbling and rebelling against constitutional order and the law of the land,—trace these tendencies of our modern life to their source, and you will find there religious doubt, as one of the essential preconditions accounting to a large extent for what we see amongst a vast class of our population. For I maintain that when a nation or any large community forming part of its organic life loses faith in the verities of religion, when it is given over to the service of selfishness or halts between faith and unbelief, and when this tendency continues for any lengthened period, then there has begun the downward movement of national dismemberment and decay. But, on the other hand, the spirit of faith is the spirit of strength, so that all things are possible to him who believeth.—M. McLellan.

Mark 11:24. The conditions of effectual prayer.—

1. We must pray in truth—that is, we must ask for what we really wish. We must pray in spirit—that is, we must ask for the right thing.
3. We must pray in faith, believing that our prayers will be heard and answered.—J. F. Clarke.

Prayer and its answer.—“All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe”—not that ye receive them, but “that ye have received them,” or, still more closely, “that ye received them,” “and ye shall have them.” The answer to the prayer is thus declared to be coincident with the prayer itself. The petition is granted at the very moment when it is framed; the blessing for which we look does not follow at some distant time through any outward events, but is given at once, when, with absolute, childlike trust, we lay the thoughts of our hearts open before our Father. Prayer, in a word, is the conscious and glad acceptance of God’s will for us when we have first endeavoured to estimate our own wants.—Bishop Westcott.

Confidence in prayer.—It is only when the heart is very childlike that its desires are pure and wise enough to be left with God, and faith strong enough to leave them. If there seem but few prayers answered, it only proves that there are few prayers offered. For it is only good prayers that can be really prayed. Many that we “say” do not lift our desires to God and lodge them in His heart. Let this word shew us how great a thing is prayer, and how great are its issues. The time for the answer is not pledged, and the manner of it may differ from what we expected; but if we really pray we shall be heard.—R. Glover.

Faith the substance of things hoped for.—He doth not say, “believe that ye shall receive them,” but that you do receive them, which plainly shews what kind of faith it is that He requires of us, even such a faith as is the very “substance of the things we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1), and gives a present being and substance to them. Faith is also “the evidence of things not seen.” As by it we enjoy what God hath promised, so by it we behold what He hath revealed to us, though never so much above our reason or beyond our sight.—Bishop Beveridge.

The power of believing prayer.—Prayer obtains grace, wisdom, strength, self-mastery, peace, all which the soul dares wish for, for time or eternity; but it obtains more—it gains God. O glorious prerogative of the faith of the simple peasant, ignorant of this world’s knowledge, but having access to Divine! O glorious compendium of Divine illumining, whereby, not as in a mirror nor by laborious process, the soul shall have all knowledge, and shall see the secret cause of all created things, in the light of God, in God! Even gifts of God could not satisfy that vast soul of man—no wisdom, no intelligence, nothing which has any bound or end. Prayer fills this void, which all creation, out of God, could not fill. Prayer is “the ascent of the soul to God”; it is the beginning of that blessed converse which shall be the exhaustless fulness of eternal bliss; it is the continuance or renewal of union with God.—E. B. Pusey, D.D.

Mark 11:25-26. Prayer and forgiveness.—To His promise Jesus adds a precept, the admirable suitability of which is not at first apparent. Most sins are made evident to the conscience in the act of prayer. Drawing nigh to God, we feel our unfitness to be there; we are made conscious of what He frowns upon; and if we have such faith as Jesus spoke of, we at once resign what would grieve the Spirit of adoption. No saint is ignorant of the convicting power of prayer. But it is not of necessity so with resentment for real grievances. We may think we do well to be angry. We may confound our selfish fire with the pure flame of holy zeal, and begin, with confidence enough, yet not with the mind of Christ, to remove mountains, not because they impede a holy cause, but because they throw a shadow upon our own field. And therefore Jesus reminds us that not only wonder-working faith but even the forgiveness of our sins requires from us the forgiveness of our brother.—Dean Chadwick.

God forgives us as we forgive others.—We know that when rain falls not upon hard rock but upon broken ground, in due time a mist ascends from the ground and clothes itself in the shape of clouds and returns in the form of showers, so that there is an action and reaction between the rich rain of heaven and the thin mists of earth. And in like manner there is a mutual interaction between God’s mercy to man and man’s mercy to his fellow: the first kindles the second, and the second rekindles the first; they produce and reproduce each other. This is an immutable moral law; therefore we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us,” i.e. in the like spirit of forgiving love. But if the sense of Divine forgiveness produces in the contrite heart a readiness to forgive, remember that it is this readiness to forgive in you, this tenderness of heart in you, this spirit of love in you, which keeps ever flowing full and free the current of God’s forgiveness. That current may languish, dwindle, cease to flow; nay, from the sweet running water of love it may turn into a sullen pool of hate: it is, indeed, sure to stagnate in the stagnation of your faith and love. If you grow indifferent to your neighbour’s welfare, envious, malicious, vindictive, your soul, as it recedes from the desire to shew mercy, will precisely in the same degree recede from the power to receive mercy. See Matthew 18:21-35.

Mark 11:26. Anger a bar to forgiveness.—What an inconsistency, to seek reconciliation with God while we ourselves are unreconciled to our neighbours! to seek to have our own sins remitted while we retain the sins of others! How can he who is “angry with his brother” hope to please God, since from the very beginning all such anger is prohibited? (Genesis 4:6; Isaiah 1:10-15).—Tertullian.

Anger drives away the Spirit.—Anger is a passion which, if it be long cherished, drives away the Spirit. For how canst thou think that the dovelike Spirit of God will reside where the heart remains full of gall? or that the celestial flame of Divine love should burn bright and clear where there are so many thick fumes and vapours rising up to damp and choke it? Canst thou in faith pray for forgiveness who dost not thyself forgive? (Ephesians 4:26; 1 Timothy 2:8).—Bishop Hopkins.


Mark 11:13-14. Christ’s search for fruit.—When He comes He will turn up our leaves; and look that, like the tree of life (Revelation 22:21), we bear fruit every month, or that we be like the lemon tree, which ever and anon sendeth forth new lemons as soon as the former are fallen down with ripeness; or the Egyptian fig tree, which, saith Solinus, beareth fruit seven times a year—pull off a fig and another breaks forth in the place shortly after.—J. Trapp.

Mark 11:15-17. Traffic im, holy places.—Descriptions left us of what used to take place in the great cathedrals of Europe—the commercial bustle, the exchange and barter, the hiring of servants, the transit of heavy market-produce, which went on familiarly in our own St. Paul’s less than three centuries ago—may help us to realise the state of matters suggested by these pregnant words.

Rebuke of irreverence.—When Walter Hook (Dean) was vicar of Coventry, he was once presiding at a vestry meeting which was so largely attended as to necessitate an adjournment to the church. Several persons kept their hats on. The vicar requested them to take them off, but they refused. “Very well, gentlemen,” he replied; “but remember that in this house the insult is not done to me, but to your God.” And the hats were immediately taken off.

Mark 11:22. “Have faith in God.”—There is something very interesting in looking at one of those triumphs of human ingenuity like the clock in Strasburg Cathedral, which tells not only the hours of the day, but shews all the motions of the moon and planets, foretells the eclipses, takes account of “leap year,” and performs a multitude of other curious manifestations of thought and contrivance. Could any one be so foolish as to doubt the power of its maker to alter some particular portion of its works? And yet why will men doubt the power of God, or refuse to permit Him to act as He sees fit? The laws of nature are His servants, and God is not the slave of His own rules.

Filial confidence.—The celebrated preacher Cecil once bade his little daughter cast a favourite necklace into the fire at his simple request. With tears in her eyes the child obeyed, and the next day her father brought her a jewel of far more value, and explained to her how God rewards the faith of those who trust in His wisdom and love.

Mark 11:23. “This mountain.”—We find in the prophetic writings the expressions, “The Mountain of the House of the Lord,” “The Mountain of the Lord’s House,” “The Holy Mountain”; and thus we may apply the epithet to the Temple of Jerusalem, with its noble buildings and golden roof, standing on the rocky heights of Mount Moriah. Perhaps our Lord, by some glance or gesture, made this meaning plain. The Mountain of the Lord’s House, the grand Sanctuary of ancient Israel, was the very sign and figure of the Old Dispensation, which was in its character concentrated, local, and centralised—one God, one nation, one Temple, one law. But Jesus Christ came to alter and change, to widen and enlarge the Covenant of Grace, to unlock the gates of mercy, to welcome in the wanderers, to stretch out the cords of the Heavenly Tabernacle, so that all nations might enter in, to break down the wall of partition, and to make His organisation, the Catholic Church, embrace all nations and kindreds and people. This great change He declares in prophetic words. This Mountain was to be removed, this Jewish religion was to be transferred from its local home on the rocky height of Jerusalem, and it was to be cast “into the sea.” “The sea,” in the language of prophetic symbols, means the nations, the Gentiles, the various races of men. Our Lord’s words were fulfilled when, under Divine inspiration, St. Peter baptised the Roman Cornelius and his family; when St. Paul said, “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles”; when St. James gave sentence, “Trouble not the Gentiles which believe, with the Mosaic restrictions.”—Dr. Hardman.

Stages of faith.—We are told that a piece of iron probably becomes a magnet by a sort of polarised arrangement of its molecules, but that this polarised or magnetised condition cannot be maintained at very high temperatures. Now it is observed that if a magnet is put into the fire it heats to redness like any other piece of iron, but that when it has reached a certain temperature, though still in the fire, it grows almost suddenly less red and less hot, after which it gradually regains its heat and redness, and goes forward to whiteness, and melting like any other piece of iron; but it is no longer a magnet. An internal and invisible alteration in its own structure has taken place, and the expenditure of energy upon the change in its own molecular constitution, in the process of being demagnetised, has been such as not merely to arrest its progressive heating, but more or less to chill it in the midst of the fire. Yet it is true that the magnet could not have become white hot without passing through this constitutional change, and what appeared like retrogression was really a necessary stage of progress. Is not this in very striking analogy with what happens in the history of many a soul? and if so, is not doubt in those souls a stage in the growth of faith?

Prayer and the laws of nature.—Our faith is, that God hears His creatures’ prayers, as to everything which concerns their well-being, and specifically as to those changes, upon which even life so often depends, as it is good for us. Now neither science nor theology has any right to set these two beliefs in contradiction to each other. They can be harmonised. Professor Tyndall’s argument, that the fixity of laws precludes God’s hearing our prayers in this respect, would, if pressed (as he doubtless would not press it) equally militate against any belief in God’s providence. For those who believe in God’s providence must believe that those fixed laws (if they exist) were adapted in their marvellous variations, or at least in some of their more striking coincidences, to the moral condition of moral agents. All Europe was electrified by the shock of that terrific Russian winter which destroyed the great army of Napoleon I. If the laws upon which that extreme cold depended were laws fixed (as Professor Tyndall must hold) in all eternity, then, if we believe in God’s providence, we must believe that God, in all eternity, adapted them to that end in His moral government which they subserved, whatever that end was. And if those fixed laws (supposing them to exist) could be adapted to that act of Napoleon I. which they served to chasten, although Napoleon was free to invade Russia or not to invade it, then equally the same fixed laws (if they exist) may be so adapted in all eternity to our foreseen moral condition, that any other scourges which (like the cholera, plague, locusts) are brought upon man for his moral discipline, without violation of those laws, may equally, without violation of those laws, be, on man’s repentant prayer, removed The adaptation of the supposed fixed laws, to our praying or not praying, our repenting or not repenting, has no other difficulty than their adaptation to any other part of our moral character which is equally free.—E. B. Pusey, D.D.

God’s control of nature.—There is a remarkable note in Darwin’s Botanic Garden (Canto iv., l. 320), in which the author conjectures that changes of wind may depend on some minute chemical cause, which, if it were discovered, might probably, like other chemical causes, be governed by human agency. Whatever may be thought of the probability of this anticipation being realised, it is at least sufficient to suggest one reflexion. If atmospheric changes may conceivably, without any violation of natural law, be brought under the control of man, may they not now, equally without violation of natural law, be under the control of God? And are we so fully informed of the manner of God’s working with regard to these contingent phenomena of nature, as to know for certain that He can never exercise such a control for purposes connected with His moral government?—Dean Mansel.

Mark 11:25-26. Necessity of forgiving spirit.—In the Middle Ages, when the lords and knights were always at war with each other, one of them resolved to revenge himself on a neighbour who had offended him. It chanced that, on the very evening when he had made this resolution, he heard that his enemy was to pass near his castle, with only a very few men with him. It was a good opportunity to take his revenge, and he determined not to let it pass. He spoke of his plan in the presence of his chaplain, who tried in vain to persuade him to give it up. The good man said a great deal to the duke about the sin of what he was going to do, but in vain. At length, seeing that all his words had no effect, he said, “My lord, since I cannot persuade you to give up this plan of yours, you will at least come with me to the chapel, that we may pray together before you go.” The duke consented, and the chaplain and he kneeled together in prayer. Then the mercy-loving Christian said to the revengeful warrior, “Will you repeat after me, sentence by sentence, the prayer which our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught to His disciples?” “I will do it,” replied the duke. He did it accordingly. The chaplain said a sentence, and the duke repeated it, till he came to the petition, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” There the duke was silent. “My lord duke, you are silent,” said the chaplain. “Will you be so good as to continue to repeat the words after me, if you dare to do so: ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us’?” “I cannot,” replied the duke. “Well, God cannot forgive you, for He has said so. He Himself has given us this prayer. Therefore you must either give up your revenge or give up saying this prayer; for to ask God to pardon you as you pardon others is to ask Him to take vengeance on you for all your sins. Go now, my lord, and meet your, victim God will meet you at the great day of judgment.” The iron will of the duke was broken. “No,” said he, “I will finish my prayer. My God, my Father, pardon me; forgive me as I desire to forgive him who has offended me; ‘lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.’ ” “Amen,” said the chaplain. “Amen,” repeated the duke, who now understood the Lord’s Prayer better than he had ever done before, since he had learned to apply it to himself.

Christian treatment of enemies.—A poor widow, who was a washerwoman, partly depended for support upon the produce of her garden. In it was a peach tree, the fruit of which was coveted by some boys of the village. Accordingly one night they entered the garden to rob the tree. The widow had, however, made a timely gathering of her fruit that day. In revenge for their disappointment the wicked lads turned some swine into the garden, who by morning had wrought havoc among the poor woman’s vegetables, and made her suffer in consequence through the winter. In looking at the desolation she picked up a knife with a name engraved on the handle. It was the name of a village boy whom she knew, and whom she thus recognised as the cause of her loss. However, nothing was said about the matter. During the ensuing months a revival took place in the village in question, and among those who became convicted of sin was the owner of the knife. Becoming converted, he obeyed his conscience by going to the widow and confessing the wrong he had done her. Thereupon she told him she had long known it, and shewed him bis knife. “But why did you not inform upon me, and make me pay the damage?” he asked. “There was a more excellent way,” she said; “I took that.” “What was it?” asked the lad. “To pray for you, in accordance with the Master’s directions.” So the widow had her revenge.

Christian feeling towards enemies.—At Tamatave, on the eve of the bombardment (by the French), all the natives, from the governor downwards, were at a prayer-meeting, and “there were no prayers for the lives of their enemies, and no cries for vengeance upon them. Prayers for a righteous vindication, for guidance, for faith to trust where they could not see, and for eventual peace and goodwill, were the only petitions.”

Verses 27-33


Mark 11:27. The elders.—“The ancient senators or representatives of the people. With the chief priests and scribes they constituted on this occasion a formal deputation from the Sanhedrin. We find the earliest notice of the elders acting in concert as a political body in the time of the Exodus (Exodus 19:7; Deuteronomy 31:9). Their authority, which extended to all matters of the common weal, they exercised under (a) the Judges (Judges 2:17; 1 Samuel 4:3); under (b) the Kings (1 Samuel 30:26; 1 Chronicles 21:16; 2 Samuel 17:4); during (c) the Captivity (Jeremiah 29:1; Ezekiel 8:1); after (d) the Return (Ezra 5:5; Ezra 6:7; Ezra 6:14; Ezra 10:8; Ezra 10:14); under (e) the Maccabees (1Ma. 12:6; 2MMalachi 1:10); in (f) the time of our Lord, when they denoted a distinet body in the Sanhedrin, amongst whom they obtained their seat by election, or nomination from the executive authority.”


(PARALLELS: Matthew 21:23-32; Luke 20:1-8.)

Christ’s authority challenged.—I. The challenge by the chief priests and scribes and elders.—

1. The occasion. Christ’s teaching in the Temple. Observe—
(1) His constant and unwearied pains and diligence in the duties of His public ministry.

(2) Though the chief priests and scribes sought His life (Mark 11:18), yet He doth not refrain or forbear coming to Jerusalem, and into the Temple, and teaching the people there, and that daily. Hence learn that we ought not to forsake our calling, or give over the duties of it which God calls us to perform, for fear of outward dangers which may happen to us. God is able to protect us from all our enemies.

2. The persons that questioned with Christ about His calling and authority.
(1) Such as for their high place and calling in the Church should be the greatest friends and favourers of Christ and the gospel, are often the greatest enemies to both.
(2) Seeing there is such unity and consent amongst the wicked enemies of Christ, as here we see, this should teach us much more to labour for true unity and consent, whereby to join together for Christ, as these did against Him.
3. Their questioning.
(1) There is something good and commendable here. (a) That they suppose, and take it for granted, that no man ought to take upon him any public office or function in the Church without a lawful calling and authority committed to him. (b) That they themselves, being public officers and governors in the Church, do think it their duty to take care that none intrude or usurp any public office in the Church without a calling.

(2) But there is also that which is evil and wicked, (a) Their malicious purpose against Christ. (b) Their gross hypocrisy and dissimulation. (c) Their wilful ignorance and blindness, in that being formerly convinced of His lawful calling and authority by so many evident signs and testimonies of it as they had seen and heard—viz. by the testimony of the Baptist, the excellence of His doctrine, and Divine power of His miracles—yet for all this they cannot, or rather will not, see what authority He had, but do now question Him about the same.

II. The vindication of Himself by our Lord.—

1. The preface or preparation to the answer, wherein Christ tells them that He would also ask of them one question, which, if they could and would answer, then He would answer them.
(1) In that our Saviour, knowing them to come with malicious purpose, doth not directly answer their question, we may learn that it is not always necessary or fit to give a direct answer to those demands or questions put to us by others, especially by malicious enemies of the truth, who come to cavil and entrap us with captious questions, and not with a mind to learn or receive satisfaction from us.

(2) Though He does not directly answer their malicious question, yet He makes a kind of answer indirectly, by putting another question to them, and such a one as was sufficient (if they would have understood it) to resolve the matter, and to convince them: hence gather, that although it be not always necessary or fit to give a direct answer, nor yet any answer at all sometimes, to the questions of malicious cavillers, yet it is also fit sometimes to make some kind of answer to such captious questions, viz. so far forth as is necessary for the clearing of the truth and for the convincing of such cavillers (Proverbs 26:5; 1 Peter 3:15).

2. The answer itself.
(1) In that Christ alleges the authority of John’s ministry, to justify His own calling and authority, hence gather, that one main end of the calling and ministry of the Baptist was to declare and manifest the calling and authority of Christ Himself, by giving testimony to Him that He was the true Messiah promised and sent from God to be the Saviour of the world.
(2) In that Christ here implies that John’s ministry and doctrine concerning Him was from God, and therefore to be believed and embraced, which otherwise it should not have been: hence gather, that no doctrine or ministry is to be received and embraced in the Church but that which is from God, that is, of Divine authority, and not from men only.
(3) In that Christ’s asking here whether John’s baptism or ministry was from heaven or of men doth thereby imply that it was indeed from heaven, and not from men: hence gather, the dignity and excellence of the doctrine and ministry of John, that it was the doctrine of God, and was preached and taught by authority from God Himself.
(4) The dignity and excellence of the sacrament of baptism.

III. The effects or consequents which followed.—

1. Their reasoning together about the matter, and consulting about the answer they should make.

(1) Though they came very cunningly and politicly to examine and question with our Lord about His authority, to entrap Him and bring Him into trouble and danger, yet here we see they could not prevail against Him by their policy. See Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 8:10; Psalms 2:1-4; Job 5:13; Psalms 7:15.

(2) See here one point of carnal wisdom in these enemies of our Lord, in that they, being now in a perplexity, do not rashly or suddenly proceed to make answer, but first reason and consult together. See Luke 16:8; Jeremiah 4:22.

2. Now followeth the matter of their private reasoning or consultation together.
(1) They cast what inconveniences or dangers to themselves are like to follow, if they answer thus or thus; but regard not the offence of God, and dishonour like to come to Him, by their denying or concealing the truth, and that against their own knowledge.
(2) They presuppose that if they should acknowledge John’s ministry to be from heaven, then they were bound to believe his doctrine, and that Christ might justly reprove them for not doing so.
(3) They feared the people’s displeasure, and lest they should stone them for speaking against John and his ministry; but they were not moved with any fear of God to confess the truth, neither are they afraid of offending God by denying or concealing the truth.
(4) The common and meaner sort of people are often more forward to embrace the gospel, and to esteem the ministers of it, than men of great place and dignity in the Church. 3. Their answer: “We cannot tell.” This must needs be false; yea, it is a lying answer, containing an untruth uttered against their own knowledge.

(1) God often takes and confounds the crafty and subtle enemies of the truth in their own policy (1 Corinthians 3:19).

(2) It is the property and practice of wicked and profane men to lie and dissemble for their own benefit and advantage, as for their profit and gain, or to save their credit with men, or to help themselves out of trouble, or to prevent some inconvenience or danger like to come upon them.
(3) How fearful a thing it is for any to be given up to wilful blindness and infidelity!
4. Christ’s reply. Because they denied and opposed the truth against their own knowledge, He refuses to give them any further answer. Take heed of this wilful contempt and opposition of the known truth, lest for it God do justly leave us in ignorance; yea, give us up to further blindness, to be hardened in it, as He may justly do. On the contrary, labour not only to know the truth and doctrine of God out of His Word, but especially to entertain the love of it in our hearts, that we may embrace it and yield obedience to it.—G. Petter.


Mark 11:27-33. Christ and the Temple authorities.—

1. Where the action is unquestionably right some will censure the agent.
2. They who require reasons should be ready to give reasons.
3. Truth should be the first question with men, not consequences.
4. Incompetency may be exposed and assumption resisted for the sake of truth.—J. H. Godwin.

The mutual bearing of Christ and His enemies.—With evil intent they open fire. A brief “yes or no” style of reply may do great injustice to righteousness. They would be greatly pleased therewith. But they were dealing with One who had the wisdom of the serpent as well as the harmlessness of the dove. And so without needlessly rousing wrath, impeding work, or compromising truth, God’s glory and the welfare of men in all ages are subserved by the replies which came promptly and steadily back to their astonished ears. He did not deem it a duty to always answer questions directly and without reserve. The gates were not to be thrown wide open at the beck of every foe. Source, motive, and result were considered, and the nature of His replies gauged accordingly. In this instance He defeated their purpose in seeking whereof they might accuse Him. But He at the same time let them know that both the fact and source of what they sought were good and true. His refusal to respond to their liking arose not from fear of frank statement or of maintaining it. Let them answer a plain question and He would. Fair play. They would thus shew themselves worthy of an explicit reply by their own readiness to do the same. But whether answered or not, they found themselves handicapped by their insincerity as well as moral and physical cowardice. Had they been true men they would not have gotten there. Their capacity to decide on His credentials, their honesty, their courage, were all at stake. It was the presentation of a dilemma, the grasping of either horn of which would defeat them. Among the evils they made a lame effort to select the least. By avoiding a blunt refusal He prevented the needlessly premature loss of temper and its consequences. Without this self-command and wisdom, by undue exasperation, a crisis might be hastened. “His hour was not yet come.” But how could they help realising that, by such a question, He knew what was in them? How could they help knowing that the knowledge implied by His questions had Divinity back of it? How could they help concluding that Divinity carried with it that authority which they were insincerely seeking to find out? It is His turn now. He questions. They soon stand self-condemned in the light of their own admissions.—Wm. M. Campbell.

Wilful blindness and its retributive judgment.—Had they been true to their office or to themselves, they needed not to have asked this question. They had possessed long since abundant means of knowing the Divine authority both of the Lord’s ministry and of John’s baptism. But their carnal passions prevented them from acknowledging the first; while their cowardly fears, the offspring of a bad conscience, brought them into a dilemma respecting the last. Do we see nothing like this among ourselves? Received truths are disputed; things certain are treated as uncertainties; old objections, often refuted, are revived; questions are raised where the clearest light and evidence have long supplied an answer adequate to the conviction of every honest mind: but men refuse to be convinced; they harden themselves in error; because of their lusts they “love to have it so”; while some even venture to hope that their supposed inability to believe, which is their condemnation, will serve as an extenuation of their general guilt at the Last Day. How awful in these respects are the warnings of the Lord! See John 12:35; Matthew 13:12; Luke 11:35.—J. Ford.

The rejection of authority.—Those who find themselves vanquished by truth generally endeavour to reject authority. There are no persons more forward to demand of others a reason for their actions than those who think they may do everything themselves without control. Blind priests! who see not the finger of God nor His Divine authority in the visible and innumerable miracles of Christ, which plainly authorise His mission and His conduct, and evidently prove His Divinity. Ignorant scribes! who talk of nothing but the Scriptures and the law, and yet do not perceive in Christ the author and the perfection, the end and accomplishment, the spirit and the truth of the law, as all the Scriptures declare Him to be.—P. Quesnel.

Mark 11:28. The calling of ministers in the Church.—

1. Reasons why none ought to take upon him this public office or function in the Church without a lawful calling.
(1) Because without such a calling he cannot be assured that God will assist him and strengthen him to do the duties of his calling.
(2) He cannot expect or look for the blessing of God upon that which he doth in execution of his office, and so he cannot with comfort go on in it.
(3) Neither can he be assured of God’s protection in his calling, that God will maintain and keep him against all enemies and dangers.
2. There is a twofold calling of every one who takes upon him this public office in the Church.
(1) An inward calling from God and in his own conscience, whereby he must know and be assured in himself that God has endued him in some measure with such gifts and graces as are requisite to make him able and fit to execute that office and function, together with a willing and ready mind and conscience to use those gifts to the glory of God and good of the Church.
(2) An outward calling from men also, being approved and allowed of by such as are in authority in the Church, to execute the office he takes upon him.—G. Petter.

Mark 11:29-30. Christ’s appeal to the testimony of the Baptist.—As His words are generally understood, they would have amounted only to silencing His questioners, and that in a manner which would, under ordinary circumstances, be scarcely regarded as either fair or ingenuous. It would have been simply to turn the question against themselves, and so in turn to raise popular prejudice. But the Lord’s words meant quite other. He did answer their question, though He also exposed the cunning and cowardice which prompted it. To the challenge for His authority, and the dark hint about Satanic agency, He replied by an appeal to the Baptist. He had borne full witness to the mission of Christ from the Father, and “all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.” Were they satisfied? What was their view of the Baptism in preparation for the Coming of Christ? They would not, or could not, answer! If they said the Baptist was a prophet, this implied not only the authorisation of the mission of Jesus, but the call to believe on Him. On the other hand, they were afraid publicly to disown John! And so their cunning and cowardice stood out self-condemned, when they pleaded ignorance—a plea so grossly and manifestly dishonest, that Christ, having given what all must have felt to be a complete answer, could refuse further discussion with them on this point.—A. Edersheim, D.D.

Mark 11:32. A prophet is one who, standing in the foreground of God, announces on Divine impulse and with Divine power truths unveiled to his spiritual perception. These truths, often significant of salvation, it is his office to report for the welfare of the community. He receives them in his own higher spirit, unto which, as to, an observatory of heavenly visions, his life for a season withdraws itself, and where, shrinking from all contact with externals, it becomes “a seeing eye, a hearing ear, a perceiving sense” for the things of eternity or of the future. What the prophet thus receives in the sanctuary of his spirit or meeting-place of the two worlds that he announces through the medium of the subordinate mind and its outflowing speech: for in the prophetic ecstasy the three constituents of the spirit-nature, νοῦς and λόγος and πνεῦμα, continue in unbroken communication with each other. If he be a seer, he contemplates that which is seen, not as it is in itself, but as it comes to view in a symbol: this symbol is Divinely formed for the purpose, and often accommodated to the man’s natural bent or educational mode of thought, being chiefly framed out of materials found in his subjectivity. The prophet is not, indeed, like the subject of the mystic ecstasy, rapt or caught up to the confines of the third heaven or blissfully translated into the paradise of God; but from the reciprocal immanence of the human spirit and of the Divine there arise manifestations to his mind in a clothing or colouring borrowed from his individual nature. The supersensuous, which he is permitted to behold, passes immediately through his own νοῦς into λόγος, and thus in the form of speech travelling through his mouth out of himself enters the ears and the νοῦς of the listening congregation, and so becomes intelligible and therefore profitable to the assembled Church.—Prof. T. S. Evans.

Mark 11:33. Christ discovers not Himself to hypocrites.—That man is altogether unworthy of the truth who seeks it only to oppose it. It is to no manner of purpose to dispute and reason with those who study only how to ensnare in their discourse, and to take advantage of everything against truth. Such persons shew plainly what concern they have for truth when they make use of lies and forgeries to oppress it. Humility does not oblige any one to give an account of his conduct to all sorts of persons, nor at all times, nor in all circumstances, but only to be ready to do it whenever the glory of God and the benefit of his neighbour require it.—P. Quesnel.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Mark 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/mark-11.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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