April 18, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Mark 11-12
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Context: Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Jesus enters Jerusalem to this cheer. He is given the equivalent of the red carpet treatment as He entered the city. What a sight it must have been to behold! Of course, to Jesus and to us, there is a shadow over the event, knowing what is to come in less than a week. After entering Jerusalem, Jesus surveyed the temple and returned to His friends in Bethany, where He was staying, likely for safety reasons. Jesus' first action inside the city the next morning was to clear out the temple. Jesus saw the previous day the condition of the temple and spent the night in prayer to determine the appropriate course of action. Yes, Jesus acted out of anger, but it was justified and not an impulsive action. When Jesus left Bethany that morning, He cursed a fig tree which had no fruit (even though the fruit was not yet in season). The next morning, Peter noticed that the fig tree had already withered. The fig tree represents Jerusalem. It was full of religion and appeared to have a healthy relationship with the Lord, just as the tree had a lot of leaves and appeared to be prosperous. Jerusalem had not fruit to their religion. It had become empty actions with no meaning, just as the fig tree had no fruit. The quickness with which the fig tree withered demonstrated how quick Jerusalem was to be destroyed (in AD 70, approximately 40 years later). During that time, it was common to speak in riddles and the religious leaders were constantly attempting to outsmart Jesus. In the parable of the tenants, the master of the vineyard is God, the vineyard is Israel, and the farmers are those who do not follow God. The servants represent the prophets of the Lord and the son, of course, is Jesus Christ. This parable also foretells of Jesus' coming death. The question about taxes was another riddle, designed to alienate on group or another. Jesus' answer amazes all and only alienates those who were already trying to destroy Him. The only scribe commended by Jesus is the one who inquires of the greatest commandment. It shows that not all people in a group are bad. Jesus spoke out against those who know the law but refuse to follow it; false teachers. When Jesus observes the widow giving the most with the least, He points out to His disciples that the quality of our heart is more important than the size of our gift.
World History: The outer court of the temple was the only place Gentiles were allowed to worship. Their worship area was taken over by merchants, who would sell guaranteed unblemished animals for sacrifice (purchasing animals outside of the temple was a risk that the priests would find something wrong with them. Buying them inside, at greatly increased prices, practically guaranteed that they would be accepted by the priests). And money changers, who would change the coin of the day into temple coin, for a great fee. Temple coin was the only coin that would be accepted to pay the Passover tax. It had become a bazaar or market. People were using the outer court of the temple as a shortcut through the city. By throwing them out, Jesus restored a place of worship for the Gentiles.