About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 11:1-11  ch. 11:12-19   ch. 11:20-26

ch. 11:27-33



The Triumphal Entry  (ch. 11:1-12)


Chapter 11 begins the entry of Jesus and His followers into Jerusalem.  We learn from John that this was the Sunday before Jesus’ death.  They come to the Mount of Olives that overlooks the city.  It was on this  mountain that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem and so you know His heart was very heavy.  


In verses 2 to 4 Jesus sends two of his disciples into the next village to get a colt.  The colt would be tied up and they’d need to tell the owner that the Lord needs it and will return it.


Concerning this colt Matthew tells us something Mark doesn’t.  Matthew says that the two men would find a donkey and her colt.  Jesus told the two to bring both to Him according to Matthew.  Why, we may not know for sure, but it might be possible that Jesus did not want to separate the donkey from her child.


Most scholars conclude that Jesus and the owner of the colt and donkey knew each other. If this was not the case, Jesus might be accused of steeling the animals.


In verses 4 through 6 we learn that the two men found the animals, untied them and told the people standing by that the Lord needed them.  The people accepted their word and let them take the animals. 


Before Jesus sat on the colt they put a couple of robes over the colt to make the ride more comfortable for Him   We see this in verse 7.  In verse 8 others take off their outer layer of clothing and put the clothes on the ground for the colt to walk on.  It appears that they ran out of clothing so they also cut palm branches off trees and laid them on the ground for a carpet.  All these jesters were jesters of respect and adoration for Jesus. 


The crowd that was growing larger and larger viewed Jesus as their Messiah and they thought that once Jesus entered Jerusalem that He would set up His Kingdom on earth and rule as the Messiah that they thought He was.  But this wasn’t the type of Kingdom that Jesus was ready to set up, at least not yet.  That Kingdom comes at the end of the age. 


Concerning this large crowd of people.  We learn from John that there were actually two crowds converging here.  One crowd was following Jesus after he raised Lazarus from the dead, and another crowd was coming out of Jerusalem to meet Him.


The crowd begins to shout. They shout by saying, “hosanna”.  “Hosanna” means “save us now”, or, “salvation is near”.  These people clearly thought that the salvation of Israel was now at hand. 


What they are actually shouting is a reframe from what would be sung or said at the Passover that would take place in a few days.  Thus they are relating Jesus to the Passover.  Once again, this crowd understands Jesus to be the Messiah, which He was.  They just didn’t understand what the Messiah would actually do in Jerusalem. 


They shout, “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”.  The Lord here is God, or Yahweh as He was known to the Jews.  This Jesus who was riding on the colt was greatly blessed by Yahweh.


They continued by saying, “blessed is the coming Kingdom of our father David”.  Here we see that the multitude was expecting to finally see the Kingdom of God come to earth.  They saw this in terms of the Kingdom that was promised to David’s heir.  This Kingdom would be an eternal Kingdom that the Messiah would set up on earth.  For Christians we expect this to happen at the end of this age when Jesus returns as the King Messiah.  Yet as He entered Jerusalem , He was not the King Messiah, but was the suffering Messiah.


Many Christians believe that there will be a literal thousand years reign of peace, where Jesus will rule with a rod of iron from Jerusalem.  They believe  that is the Davidic Kingdom that these Jews thought was going to begin when Jesus entered Jerusalem.      


This section ends with Jesus gong up to the Temple and looking around, but since it was late He returned to Bethany with the Twelve.  One might well guess what was going through Jesus’ mind as he saw the Temple that once was a holy place but now had been turned into a place of commerce.  I would think His heart would be heavy again as He viewed what was far from God’s intention for this place.  I wonder if the same thing will happen when Jesus returns the second time for His people the church.  What will He see?  Will He see a commercialized church? 


One thing we should note here is that when Jesus entered the city and was receiving all of this acclamation,  He accepted it for what it was.  They called Him the Messiah.  He did not dispute that, because that was true. But He didn’t stop to teach the crowd that their idea of the Kingdom was wrong.  He let them alone in the error of their thinking.


Jesus Clears The Temple (ch. 11:12-19)


In verses 12 to 15 we have an interesting event.  “They” as Mark says, meaning, Jesus and at least the Twelve left Bethany.  Jesus was hungry.  It appears that they got up early to leave without eating.


In the distance Jesus saw a fig tree full of leaves.  You must remember that it is early spring.  Most fig trees would not have had its leaves in full bloom.  But since these leaves were in full bloom it is logical to think that there might be some fruit on it, even though it was too early for fruit as Mark says.  Fruit would appear on fig trees in early June.


When Jesus came close to the tree and saw no fruit He cursed it.  Many assume that this tree was on the side of the road and did not belong to anyone in particular. Those people who believe this think that Jesus wouldn’t curse a tree that belonged to someone.


Never-the-less Jesus cursed this tree so it would never bear fruit in the future. 


We don’t know if Jesus expected this tree to have fruit or not.  I’m not sure it matters.  It is quite possible that Jesus was using this event to say something to His disciples that was more about the nation of Israel than this particular tree and its fruit.  Trees are meant to have leaves, but certain trees are meant to have fruit after the leaves come out.  Israel is often symbolized as a fruit tree in the Bible. Jesus could well have been saying that because Israel rejected Him, they will be cursed as this tree is cursed.  You can read John 15 about how Jesus views branches of trees that symbolizes one’s life.  They are thrown onto the ground and burned. 


The principle applied here to Jews also applies to Christians who are expected to produce fruit.  The problem is that many Christians look like they have lots of fruit from a distance, just as this tree did. But when you get closer to them you notice that they have no fruit, but leaves only.  Their fruitfulness is one of show only, and when it comes right down to it they have nothing to offer the Kingdom of God. Yes, they look good, but their lives are hollow and shallow. 


In verse 15 Jesus and the Twelve arrive at the Temple in Jerusalem.  At this time Jesus sees what is happening in the temple and is totally disgusted.  He is so upset that he overthrows the money changer’s tables along with other tables and does not allow anyone to bring merchandise into the court to be sold.


We need to note that this is in fact the second record ed time that Jesus overthrew the tables of commerce in the temple.  The other time is found in John 2.  These cannot be the same event.  If you study them carefully there are some differences.  And it makes no sense for John to write something that took place at the end of Jesus’ ministry in the first part of his book, especially since John was following some kind of loosely fit chronological order.


A certain sector of the Evangelical church has promoted the idea in the past that the building they use to hold their services is actually the “house of God”, and because it is God’s house the building is sacred.  Because the building is sacred you can only do certain things inside the building.  This is clearly not New Testament thinking.  In the New Testament age Christians, both individually and collectively is the house of God.  As Paul says, “God does not dwell in buildings made of hands”. (Acts 17:24) 


Those who hold to the idea that God still lives in buildings sometimes point out this passage of Scripture.  They say that the temple was God‘s house and Jesus was upset because of what was taking place in God’s house.  They are right in saying at this particular time that the temple in Jerusalem was God’s house, but all that changed at the cross when the curtain was ripped in two which ushered in the New Testament age.  We need to realize at this point in time, Jesus was living in Old Testament times and still had to live by Old Testament rules.


Jesus quotes prophecies from  Isa. 56:7 and Jer. 7:11 when He says that the temple should be a house of prayer for all nations but thee Jews have turned it into a den of thieves.  People weren’t just making a mall of stores out of the temple but they were not being honest  in their business dealings.


The temple was to be a place of prayer, a place of communion between man and God.  And so should our bodies, and our gatherings as Christians.  Both our bodies and our gathering together are called the Temple of God in the New Testament.  So both should be a place of communion with God. 


A church building is no different than any other building.  The only thing that begins to make it different is when the people of God come and gather inside its walls.  Other than that, it’s just a building and should be seen as that.


In verse 18 we see that the teachers of the Law were now afraid.  They were so afraid that they seriously were thinking of a way to kill Jesus.  There fear was based on the fact that this huge crowd now had their eyes on Jesus and were beginning to hear his teaching, even though they did not understand it.  The crowd wanted Jesus to rule them as their king, something that threatened the Jewish leadership.  They could not have this.


Verse 19 says that when evening came Jesus and the Twelve left the city.  Matt 21:17 says that they returned to Bethany.  This was Monday evening.


We know that Jesus spent Sunday and Monday nights at Bethany . Most scholars guess they probably spent the other nights at Lazarus’ house.   


The Withered Fig Tree (ch.11:20-26)


Tuesday morning comes which we see in verse 20.  Jesus and the Twelve proceed back into Jerusalem again and on their way they see the fig tree that Jesus had cursed.  It was all dried up, right from its roots.  Trees get their water and moisture from their roots and this was evident . 


In verse 22 Peter points out this tree to the rest and reminded them what Jesus had done to the tree just the day before.


In verse 23 Jesus takes this opportunity to speak about faith.  Jesus had just dried up a fig tree, something that is not possible with man but is with God. The disciples were amazed at this.  Jesus then tells them that they will be able to do such things too if they’d only believe, that is, if they’d trust Him. 


Jesus says that “if anyone says to this mountain”, meaning the Mount of Olives, “throw yourself into the sea (the Dead Sea ) and does not doubt … it will happen”.   So what is Jesus really saying here?  It is too simplistic to say that we can tell a mountain to jump into a sea.  This has never been done before, not even by Jesus.  Surely if Jesus had meant for us to take this literally someone along the way would have had such faith and it would have been done.  But no one in faith has ever done this. Actually at the end of this age God will uproot mountains and throw them into the sea as He judges the world. Jesus is talking figuratively and not literally.                 


Verse 24 is one of those verses that prosperity teachers use to promote their “ultra faith” teaching, meaning, we can ask Jesus for anything and we should get it based on our faith.  If we don’t get what we ask for  it’s because of a lack of faith.  Is this what Jesus is saying here?  I don’t think so.


Jesus says, “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”. “Ultra faith” people simply think this verse is saying that when you pray for something and really believe you’re going to get it, you will get it.  If you don’t get it, you’re not believing enough.  Then they also take it one step further.  When you ask, if you don’t get the answer, act as if you got the answer already.  There’s some obvious problems with this thinking.  One classic example is praying for good eye sight and then breaking your eye glasses even though you still don’t see well.   


The Bible says much on this subject that you need to consider when thinking of this verse.  It says in many places that we ask according to God’s will.  You just don’t ask for anything.  When the Bible speaks of asking in the name of Jesus,  it means that you ask as Jesus representatives.  This means our requests are to be in sink with the work we do in the Kingdom of God .  Selfish requests don’t count.  Our requests should be in references to doing a better job at representing Jesus.


Jesus says that when you ask, and we know that we ask according to His will and in His name, “we should believe that we have the answer”.  We should look at the word believe.  The Greek word “pistis” is translated as believe and faith in the New Testament.  It simply means “to trust”, and in this context the trust is in Jesus. 

When thinking of the word trust we should understand that it is a word of resignation.  This means that we just give our lives over to Jesus.  We trust Him with our lives and with our requests.  Trust is not something that we can get more of.  It’s not something we can strive real hard to attain more of.


The simple point in what Jesus is saying here is that when we pray we just trust Jesus for the answer.  He is the one that provides the answer.  We work together with Him in the things we request because we’ve given ourselves to Him. Our relationship with Him will determine the nature of our request. 


Another thing to note here concerning the word believe is the Greek verb tense.  Jesus is not saying believe once and get the prayer answered as hyper faith people suggest.  They say you pray once and if you have the faith your prayer is answered.  The verb tense says, “go on believing”.  This is a progressive believing, a trust that continues.  If you have to continue believing for something, it means you didn’t get it when you first prayed, so a lack of faith is not even relevant to the discussion. 


Jesus ends this section by saying that when we stand in prayer believing, and if we hold something against someone we need to forgive him. Why would Jesus say such a thing in this context?  I think that Jesus is saying this because there are reasons why some of our prayers don’t get answered and it has nothing to do with a lack of faith.  There’s other reasons mentioned in the Bible why prayers don’t get answered.  The reason given here is due to unforgiveness towards someone.


Without going into detail here, I believe the New Testament teaches that when someone repents of a sin, we are obligated to forgive him, or  in others words, cancel the sin so you no longer hold it against him or he is no longer penalized for the sin.  I also believe that if a person does not repent of the sin, you cannot cancel the sin.  God does not forgive without repentance, and neither should we.  This does not mean we don’t love the person.  We love him as if he never sinned in the first place.  We just can’t cancel his sin on behalf of God as His representatives. 


It is my thinking then that what Jesus means here is that if someone sins against you, and if he repents, you must forgive him.  If you don’t forgive the offender then you might as well not pray.


The Authority Of Jesus Questioned (ch.11:27-33)


In verse 27 Jesus and the Twelve are back at the Temple.  They go right to where the action is and where Jesus will give the Jews more reason to kill him.


The Jewish leadership ask Jesus by what authority He teaches and does what He does. They probably were thinking about what took place the day before when Jesus upset the money changers tables.


In verses 29 and 30  Jesus answers the question with a question.  He asks the Jews if John’s baptism was from God or man? 


The Jewish leaders knew where Jesus claimed to get His authority.  This was simply another attempt to try to trap Jesus, but He could not be trapped. When it came to authority, both John and Jesus had the same authority.  If the Jews recognized John, they would have to recognize Jesus because John spoke about the coming of the Messiah who was Jesus.


Yet Jesus’ question presents the Jewish leaders with a problem as seen in verse 31.   If they said that John’s baptism was from God, then they should accept John as a true prophet, something they refused to do.  They should then have to seriously consider Jesus’ claims, something else they did not want to do, because it would undermine their own authority. 


On the other hand, if they said that John’s message was just from man, they feared the huge crowd because at this moment of time the masses were hysterical all for Jesus.  The Jewish leaders actually feared for their own lives. 


The chapter ends with the teachers of the Law saying nothing at all.  They figured saying nothing was the best way out of their dilemma.  We seen this before. When someone tries to trap Jesus, they in turn get trapped themselves by Jesus.  The only way out is to walk away without saying a word. 


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