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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Mark 11

 

 

Verses 1-3

Mark 11:1-3. And when they came nigh to Jerusalem — See on Matthew 21:1-3; unto Bethphage and Bethany — The limits of Bethany reached to the mount of Olives: and joined to those of Bethphage, which was part of the suburbs of Jerusalem, and reached from the mount of Olives to the walls of the city. Our Lord was now come to the place where the boundaries of Bethphage and Bethany met. Ye shall find a colt tied — In Matthew we read, an ass tied, and a colt with her, but Mark and Luke only mention the colt, because, it seems, our Lord rode on him only.


Verses 4-10

Mark 11:4-10. And they went their way, and found the colt, &c. — Found all the particulars contained in Christ’s prediction exactly true. See on Matthew 21:6-11. Blessed be the kingdom of our father David — May the kingdom of the Messiah, promised to our father David, be speedily established, and may it long flourish; that cometh — Which is now to be erected; in the name of the Lord — And therefore will be fitly termed the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of heaven. Hosanna in the highest — Repeat again and again your songs and congratulations. Thus they expressed their joyful and rapturous expectations of his assuming the royal dignity, and vindicating Israel from the Roman yoke; and, imboldened by the display of his power in the resurrection of Lazarus, which he had lately effected, they feared not the resentment of their present masters, for declaring themselves thus openly in his favour.


Verse 11

Mark 11:11. And Jesus went into the temple — Having entered the city by the eastern gate, he alighted from the colt, and went directly to the temple, but did not drive the buyers and sellers out this first day; for Mark here tells us expressly, that by the time he got thither, and had looked round about on all things, even-tide was come; from which we may infer, that the market in the temple was over. It seems he stayed in the temple but a little while. Having made his public appearance in the metropolis, and received the title of Messiah openly from the multitude, and surveyed the temple, he left the city without doing any thing, to the great discouragement of the throng that had come in with him, expecting that he was immediately to have laid hold on the reins of government.


Verses 12-14

Mark 11:12-14. On the morrow, when he was come from Bethany — Where he had lodged, and was returning into the city; he was hungry, &c. — See note on Matthew 21:18-22. And seeing a fig-tree, having leaves — The fig-tree, it must be observed, puts forth its fruit first, and its leaves afterward, so that it was natural to suppose, as it had leaves, it would also have fruit upon it. And when he came, he found nothing but leaves — There was not so much as any fruit in the bud: which unfruitfulness at this season showed it to be absolutely barren. For the time of figs, that is, the season of gathering figs, was not yet. Thus, in Matthew 21:34, καιρος των καρπων, signifies the season of gathering the fruits. In construing this passage, the latter clause must be joined with the words, He came, if haply, &c., the middle clause being a parenthesis; thus, He came, if haply he might find any thing thereon, for the season of gathering figs was not yet. That this is the true construction of the passage is plain, because the evangelist is not giving the reason why there were no figs on the tree, but the reason why Jesus expected to find some on it. He tells us the season of gathering figs was not come, to show that none had been taken off the tree; and consequently, that, having its whole produce upon it, there was nothing improper in Christ’s expecting fruit on it then. Whereas, if we should think the reason why he did not find any figs was, that the time of them was not come, we must acknowledge the tree was cursed very improperly for having none. It is true, this interpretation makes a trajection necessary; yet it is not more extraordinary than that which is found in Mark 16:3-4; where the clause, for it was very great, namely, the stone at the door of the sepulchre, does not relate to what immediately precedes it, namely, and when they looked they saw the stone rolled away, but to the remote member, they said, Who shall roll us away the stone? — This interpretation is approved by Dr. Campbell, who renders the original expression, the fig-harvest, justly asking, “What can the time of any fruit be, but the time of its full maturity? And what is the season of gathering, but the time of maturity? But figs may be eaten for allaying hunger before they be fully ripe: and the declaration that the season of figs was not yet come, cannot be the reason why there was nothing but leaves on the tree; for the fig is of that tribe of vegetables wherein the fruit appears before the leaf. The leaves therefore showed that the figs should not only be formed, but well advanced; and, the season of reaping being not yet come, removed all suspicion that they had been gathered. When both circumstances are considered, nothing could account for its want of fruit but the barrenness of the tree.” Jesus said, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever — This, like some other of our Lord’s actions, was emblematical and prophetic. “This fig-tree,” says Origen, “was, δενδρον του λαου, a tree representing the people, εμψυχος συκη, a living fig-tree, on which was pronounced a curse suitable to its condition; for, δια τουτο ακαρπος εστιν η ιουδαιων συναγωγη, και τουτο γινεται αυτη εως της συντελειας του αιωνος, therefore the synagogue of the Jews is unfruitful, and will continue so till the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in. And the disciples heard it — And took notice of the words.


Verses 15-17

Mark 11:15-17. And they come to Jerusalem — Jesus, having doomed the fig-tree to destruction, continued his journey to the city, where, when he arrived, he went straightway to the temple, and drove the buyers and sellers out of it, &c., and would not suffer any vessel to be carried through the sacred edifice. See the note on Matthew 21:12-14. Such strong notions had our Lord of even relative holiness, and of the regard due to those places, as well as times, that are peculiarly dedicated to God. The Jews, it must be observed, reckoning the lower and outward court of the temple a place of little or no sanctity, because it was designed for accommodating the Gentile proselytes in their worship, not only kept a daily market there of such things as were necessary in offering sacrifices, but suffered the common porters, in going from one part of the city to another with their burdens, to pass through it, for the sake of shortening their way. But as these abuses occasioned great disturbance to the proselytes, Jesus reformed them again as he had done three years before, (see John 2:14,) telling the people around him, that the Gentiles worshipped there by divine appointment, as well as the Jews, the temple being ordained of God to be the house of prayer for all nations; and to prove this, he cited Isaiah 56:7, from which the inference was plain, that they were guilty of a gross profanation of the temple who carried on any traffic, even in the court of the Gentiles, much more they who, to make gain, committed frauds and extortions in the prosecution of their traffic, because thus they turned God’s house of prayer into a den of thieves. The offenders, it appears, did not make the least resistance. Probably they were struck with a panic by the secret energy of Christ’s omnipotence, as was the case formerly, when he made the like reformation at the first passover after his ministry commenced. To this purpose, Jerome, on the place, says, “Igneum enim quiddam, atque sidereum, radiebat ex oculis ejus, et divinitatis majestas lucebat in facie.” For, a certain fiery and sparkling radiance issued from his eyes, and a divine majesty shone in his face.

Dr. Campbell justly notices here an inaccuracy in our translation of the original clause, which is rendered, shall be called of all nations the house of prayer, as if the last words had been, υπο παντων των εθνων, of all nations, whereas they are, πασι τοις εθνεσιν, for all nations. “The court of the Gentiles was particularly destined for the devout of all nations, who acknowledged the true God, though they had not subjected themselves to the Mosaic law, and were accounted aliens. The proselytes, who had received circumcision, and were, by consequence, subject to the law, were on the same footing with native Jews, and had access to the court of the people. Justly, therefore, was the temple styled, A house of prayer for all nations. The error in the common version is here the more extraordinary, as, in their translation of Isaiah, they render the passage quoted, for all people.”


Verse 18-19

Mark 11:18-19. The scribes, &c., sought how they might destroy him — They had heard the rebuke which he had given them for allowing the temple to be profaned, and they had heard likewise the application which he had made of a passage in the eighth Psalm to the case of the children in the temple, wishing him all manner of prosperity; and these things, with the authority which he assumed, galled and exasperated them greatly. They were, however, afraid to take him by violence, or to attempt any thing openly against him, lest it should raise a tumult: they only consulted among themselves how they might destroy him with as little noise as possible; because all the people were astonished at his doctrine — Both at the excellence of it, and at the majesty and authority with which he taught.


Verse 20-21

Mark 11:20-21. And in the morning, they passed by, &c. — Next morning, as they were returning to Jerusalem, it astonished the disciples not a little when they looked on the fig-tree that had been pronounced barren the night before, and found it dried up from the roots, that is, quite withered down to the ground and shrunk: a miracle the more extraordinary, because the fig-tree is remarkable for its abundant sap and moisture. Peter, in particular, expressed great surprise at it, saying, Master, Behold the fig- tree which thou cursedst is withered away. “We have seen already that Jesus only said to the fig-tree, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever; this Peter, according to the Jewish manner of speaking concerning things that are barren, (Hebrews 6:8,) called a cursing of the fig-tree. And some ill-disposed readers, not apprehending the proper force of the words, are apt to form a very unbecoming notion of Jesus from this action. But they do so without the least cause. Every thing he said on the occasion was decent. Moreover, the transaction was intended to prefigure the speedy ruin of the Jewish nation, on account of its unfruitfulness under greater advantages than any other people enjoyed at that day, and, like all the rest of his miracles, was done with a gracious intention, namely, to alarm his countrymen, and to induce them to repent.” — Macknight. Thus Bishop Hall viewed this miracle, as appears by his excellent paraphrase on the passage: “When he saw a fig-tree in the way, he came purposely to seek that fruit which he knew he should not find ripe, that he might hence take occasion to work that exemplary miracle upon it which ensued: for when he found only store of leaves upon it and no fruit, that he might in this tree show how much he hates a formal profession (such as the Jews made) of religion, without an answerable fruitfulness, he cursed the fig-tree, and said, Let that which is thy fault be thy punishment; since thou bearest no fruit at all, never mayest thou bear any. And presently the fig-tree, as blasted by that word of judgment, withered away.” It is observable that the destruction of the swine, and this blasting of the fig-tree, were the only instances of punitive miracles in the whole course of our Saviour’s ministry, notwithstanding they do not appear to have been injurious. The case of the swine we have already considered; (see note on Matthew 8:30-32;) and, with respect to the fig-tree, Matthew informs us that it was in the way, that is, in the common road, and therefore probably no particular person’s property; but if it was, being barren, the timber might be as serviceable to the owner as before. So that here was no real injury; but Jesus was pleased to make use of this innocent miracle for the valuable purposes above suggested, as well as to teach his disciples the efficacy of faith, spoken of in the next words.


Verses 22-24

Mark 11:22-24. Jesus answering, saith, Have faith in God — The original expression, εχετε πιστιν θεου, is literally, Have a faith of God; that is, say some, Have a strong faith. And it is a known Hebraism, to subjoin the words, of God, to a substantive, to denote great, mighty, excellent; and to an adjective, as the sign of the superlative. In support of this interpretation, Bishop Pearce has produced a number of passages, universally explained in this manner. “I cannot help, however, upon the whole,” says Dr. Campbell, “preferring the common version. My reasons are, 1st, I find that the substantives construed with θεου, (God,) when it signifies great or mighty, are names either of real substances, or of outward and visible effects. Of the first kind are prince, mountain, wind, cedar, city; of the second are wrestling, trembling, sleep; but nowhere, as far as I can discover, do we find any abstract quality, such as faith, hope, love, justice, truth, mercy, used in this manner. When any of these words are thus construed with God, he is confessedly the subject, or the object of the affection mentioned. 2d, The word πιστις, both in the Acts and in the epistles, is often construed with the genitive of the object, precisely in the same manner as here. Thus, Acts 3:16, πιστις του ονοματος αυτου, is, faith in his [Christ’s] name; Romans 3:22, πιστις ιησου χριστου, is, faith in Jesus Christ. See to the same purpose, Romans 3:26; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 3:22; Philippians 3:9; ελπις, hope, is used in the same way, 1 Thessalonians 1:3.” The evident meaning of this precept, as given to the apostles, was, Have a firm faith or confidence in the power and faithfulness of God, to enable you to effect what you believe will be for his glory, and the furtherance of the work in which you are engaged. This has been frequently termed the faith of miracles, concerning which, see note on Matthew 17:20. “It is certain,” says Dr. Doddridge, “that the attempt of performing miracles in public, was a remarkable instance of faith in the divine power and fidelity; for they were generally introduced by some solemn declaration of what was intended, which was, in effect, a prediction of immediate success: (so Peter says, Acts 3:6, In the name of Jesus Christ, Rise up and walk; Mark 9:34, Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole; and again, Mark 9:40, Tabitha, arise.) And, in pronouncing this, the person speaking pawned all his credit as a messenger from God, and consequently all the honour and usefulness of his future life, on the immediate miraculous energy to attend his words, and to be visibly excited on his uttering them. And hence it is that such a firm, courageous faith, is so often urged on those to whom such miraculous powers were given. But what kind of intimation of God’s intended miraculous interposition the apostles, in such cases, felt on their minds, it is impossible for any, without having experienced it, to know. It is, therefore, an instance of their wisdom, that they never pretend to describe it, since no words could have conveyed the idea.”

This exhortation, however, is not to be considered as being exclusively given to our Lord’s apostles and first disciples: it is also given to us, and to all his true followers, to the end of the world. We are all here exhorted to have a steadfast faith in the power, love, and faithfulness of God; and to be fully persuaded that he will make good all his declarations, and fulfil all his promises, in their proper meaning, to all true believers in due season; and this, notwithstanding any difficulties or apparent improbabilities which may be in the way. And it is on this foundation that we must approach God in prayer, fully expecting, if we ask such things as we are authorized by his word to ask, and are earnest, importunate, and persevering in asking them, that we shall certainly receive what we ask, as our Lord declares in the next words; even if the granting of our petitions imply God’s doing what is really extraordinary, he having, in all ages, on certain occasions, done what was truly miraculous, in answer to the prayers of his faithful people; innumerable instances of which, especially with respect to recovery from sickness, may easily be produced. For instances, see the Arminian Magazines, vol. 5., pages 251, 312; vol. 8., page 200; vol. 9, pages 35, 36; vol. 14., pages 468, 532; vol. 16., page 146; vol. 19., page 409.


Verse 25-26

Mark 11:25-26. When ye stand praying — Standing was their usual posture when they prayed. Forgive, if ye have aught against any — If you expect your prayers should prevail with God, you must take care to offer them in love as well as in faith; and, as you have offended the Majesty of heaven by many provocations, if you expect forgiveness from him, you must forgive your fellow-creatures if you have any matter of complaint against any of them. See notes on Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:23-35.


Verses 27-29

Mark 11:27-29. There come to him the chief priests, &c. — It seems that Christ’s sermons made a great impression on those who heard him, for the number of his followers and admirers increased so as to alarm the rulers, who feared that the people, on his account, would endeavour to shake off the Roman yoke. They consulted, therefore, among themselves, how they might destroy him, and resolved to do it under pretext of law; the attachment which the multitude had to him hindering them from laying violent hands on him. In consequence of this resolution, the chief priests, scribes, and elders, that is, some of the first men of the nation, came, probably by appointment of the senate, to Jesus one day when he was in the temple, and before all the people, put two questions to him. The first was, concerning the nature of the authority by which he acted, whether it was as a prophet, a priest, or a king; no other person having a right to make any reformation in church or state. The second question was, that if he claimed the authority of any, or all of these characters, they desired to know from whom he derived it. The things done by him, to which they referred, were his entering the city with such a numerous train of attendants; his taking upon him to reform the economy of the temple; and his receiving the acclamations of the people, who gave him the title of Messiah. Jesus answered, I will also ask of you one question. — See note on Matthew 21:23-27.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 11:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/mark-11.html. 1857.

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Sunday, June 16th, 2019
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