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Mark 11


The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem The Triumphal Entry Palm Sunday The Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem The Messiah Enters Jerusalem
11:1-11 11:1-11 11:1-10 11:1-3 11:1-11
    11:11 11:11  
The Cursing of the Fig Tree The Fig Tree Withered Fig Tree Cursed Jesus Curses the Fig Tree The Barren Fig Tree
11:12-14 11:12-14 11:12-14 11:12-14a 11:12-14
The Cleansing of the Temple Jesus Cleanses the Temple Cleansing the Temple Jesus Goes to the Temple The Expulsion of the Dealers from the Temple
11:15-19 11:15-19 11:15-19 11:15-17 11:15-19
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree The Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree The Meaning of the Withered Fig Tree The Lesson from the Fig Tree The Fig Tree Withered Faith and Prayer
11:20-25 11:20-24 11:20-24 11:20-21 11:20-25
  Forgiveness and Prayer   11:22-25  
  11:25-26 11:25    
omits Mark 11:26   omits Mark 11:26 omits Mark 11:26 omits Mark 11:26
The Authority of Jesus Questioned Jesus' Authority Questioned On Jesus' Authority The Question About Jesus' Authority The Authority of Jesus is Questioned
11:27-33 11:27-33 11:27-33 11:27-28 11:27-33

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. The Triumphal Entry was a significant prophetic sign; Jesus was proclaimed as the promised Messiah. It is paralleled in Matt. 21:1-11, Luke 19:29-44, and John 12:12-19.


B. There is a paradoxical aspect to the Triumphal Entry. Jesus was obviously fulfilling the prediction of Zech. 9:9 and the shouts (i.e., liturgy from the Psalms) of the crowd were an affirmation of His Messiahship. However, it must be remembered that these Hallel Psalms were used to welcome the pilgrims every year as they came for the Passover. The fact that they were applying them to a particular person was the uniqueness of this event. This is clearly seen in the consternation of the religious leaders.


C. The cleansing of the Temple recorded in Mark 11:15-19 was apparently the second cleansing by Jesus. The first one is recorded in John 2:15. I do not accept the tenets of literary criticism that telescope these two events into one. Although there is a problem in unifying the chronology of the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, it still seems best to me, because of the differences between the two accounts, to hold to two cleansings, one early in His ministry and one near the end. This could also explain the early and growing animosity of the religious leaders of Jerusalem. This cleansing is paralleled in Matt. 21:12-16 and Luke 19:45-47.


D. The cursing of the fig tree is an obvious reference to Judaism. It is paralleled in Matt. 21:18-19 and Luke 19:45-48.


E. The withered fig tree (Mark 11:20-25) is paralleled in Matt. 21:19-22 and Luke 21:37-38.


F. Jesus' authority is questioned (Mark 11:27-12:12). His authority is the key theological issue! It is paralleled in Matt. 21:23-46 and Luke 20:1-19.



 1 As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, 2and said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' you say, 'The Lord has need of it'; and immediately he will send it back here." 4They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. 5Some of the bystanders were saying to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" 6They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. 7They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. 8And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; 10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!"

11:1 "Bethphage" The name means "house of figs" or "place of unripe figs." It was located on the ridge overlooking Jerusalem called the Mount of Olives. In rabbinical literature it is a suburb of Jerusalem. It was close to the major road from Jericho, which the pilgrims used.

▣ "Bethany" The name means "house of dates." John 11:18 says it is two miles southeast of Jerusalem on the road to Jericho and it was the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. During the three major annual feast days (cf. Lev. 23) everyone around Jerusalem shared their homes with pilgrims. Jesus stayed here when He was in Jerusalem (cf. Mark 11:11; Matt. 21:17).

▣ "near the Mount of Olives" These two small villages were located on the same ridge (about 2.5 miles long) that is known as "the Mount of Olives."

▣ "He sent two of His disciples" Possibly Peter was one of them and recalled this event to John Mark.

11:2 "immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

▣ "colt" This incident is prophetic fulfillment (cf. Gen. 49:11; Zech. 9:9). Donkeys were the common mounts of Jewish kings (this is also mentioned in the Mari Tablets and the Sumerian Gilgamesh Epic). This young donkey would fulfill the kingly prophecies (only the king rode on his donkey, this young donkey had never been ridden), but would also communicate that He came in peace. At the Second Coming the Lord will appear on a white charger as King of Kings and Judge of the universe (cf. Rev. 19:11-16). The rabbis recognized these Messianic prophesies and said if Israel was worthy, even for one day, that the Messiah would come on the clouds of glory, but if not, He would still come one day on a donkey.

▣ "'no one yet has ever sat'" The royal donkey was ridden by no one but the king. An example of this powerful symbol is seen when Solomon rides David's donkey (cf. 1 Kgs. 1:33).

11:3 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which speaks of potential action.

▣ "'The Lord has need of it'" It is often hard to determine in the Gospel accounts whether Jesus is using His prophetic insight or has personally prearranged some events (cf. Mark 14:12-16).

This is a rare use in Mark of kurios as a title applied to Jesus (cf. Mark 7:28; 11:3). Since the word can mean "master" or "owner," it may refer to the owner of the colt. However, the context implies it refers to Jesus. The theological significance would be that this is the OT way of referring to YHWH (cf. Mark 11:9) by the name Adon, which means "owner," "master," "lord," or "husband" in Hebrew.

"and immediately he will send it back here" It is uncertain whether this is a comment by the disciples about the colt or part of Jesus' message. There are several Greek manuscript variants because of the ambiguity of the phrase.

11:5 "Some of the bystanders" The parallel in Luke 19:33 has "owners."

11:7 "put their coats on it" The coats functioned as a cushion or riding blanket. Their colors may have given a festive or parade look (i.e., royal procession).

11:8 "many spread their coats in the road" Who does the "many" refer to? If to the disciples, then this is a gesture of Jesus' kingship (cf. 2 Kgs. 9:13). If to the townspeople of Jerusalem one is surprised that they did this every year because of the damage caused by a donkey walking on clothing on a hard road. Possibly they had heard of Jesus and recognized His uniqueness.

▣ "others spread leafy branches" John 12:13 states that they were palm branches which grew on the Mount of Olives (cf. Josephus). Apparently they were a sign of victory or triumph (cf. Rev. 7:9). This ritual was performed each year by the residents of Jerusalem at the feasts of Tabernacles and Passover for the bands of pilgrims approaching the city. This year the significance of the approaching King was fulfilled.

Although this symbolic act was regularly done during the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Lev. 23:13-20), those branches were much larger than these. The branches used here were smaller and are comparable to the modern custom of spreading rose petals before a bride as she walks down the aisle. These three acts—(1) the coats on the animals, (2) the coats spread in the road, and (3) the branches spread in the road—show that they were honoring Jesus as the coming royal (cf. Psalm 2), Davidic (cf. 2 Samuel 7) Messiah.

11:9 "Those. . .shouting" Apparently the liturgy of Mark 11:9-10 was part of the annual festivals. They had significant nationalistic implications (i.e., this may have been an Aramaic idiom for "royal power to"). However, since they were repeated every year, the Romans were not threatened by them. This year they uniquely found fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. What had been liturgy was now revelation!

"'Hosanna'" The Hebrew idiom means "welcome Him." It was part of the Hallel Psalm 118:25, which was quoted every year as the pilgrims came to Jerusalem. It literally meant "save now" (cf. 2 Sam. 14:4; 2 Kgs. 6:16), but had become a standard greeting.

▣ "'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord'" This is a quote from Ps. 118:26. This was one of the Hallel Psalms (113-118) quoted at the Feast of Passover. Psalm 118 had powerful Messianic implications (cf. Mark 11:22). The parallel in Luke 19:38 has "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord." This annual ritual liturgy has become fulfilled prophecy!

11:10 "'the coming kingdom of our father David'" This has nationalistic implications (cf. 2 Samuel 7; Hos. 3:5). One wonders whether this was a regular litany every year or was added to specifically refer to Jesus. This may have been a reference to Zech. 9:9. Matthew 21:5 states this prophecy directly. The parallel in Luke 19:39 shows the intense anger of the Pharisees when these phrases were directly attributed to Jesus.

"'Hosanna in the highest'" This idiom could mean (1) praise to God in heaven or (2) may the God in heaven save Him (i.e., Jesus).

 11Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

11:11 "the temple" This word (hieron) meant the whole temple area, not just the central shrine (Holy of Holies and Holy Place).

▣ "it was already late" They had already walked 18 miles from Jericho. The temple area may have already been almost empty. Jesus wanted all to see His symbolic act of cleansing and restoration of the temple to its original God-given purpose.

 12On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" And His disciples were listening.

11:12 Jesus used a common need (i.e., food) as an opportunity to teach a powerful lesson of judgment and rejection.

11:13 "a fig tree" Remember the name of the city of Bethphage means "house of figs." There were obviously many of these fruit trees in the area.

▣ "in leaf" There has been much discussion among commentators about this fig tree and why Jesus came to it.

1. it was in a sheltered place and had leaves early, so perhaps it might also have small figs

2. the leaves show promise, but no fulfillment, just as Israel did

3. Jesus was not looking for the figs, but the precursor "knobs" that are also sometimes eaten (cf. F. E. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 56 or Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 441-442).

I think it was a symbolic act of judgment (cf. Luke 13:6-9), like the cleansing of the Temple, of the Judaism of Jesus' day, headquartered in Jerusalem. It foreshadowed the destruction in a.d. 70 by the Roman general (later Emperor) Titus and the eschatological judgment because of their unbelief in Jesus (cf. v.14).

▣ "it was not the season for figs" It was the Passover season and usually not even full leaves had appeared yet. This phrase shows the symbolic nature of the event. Notice also Jesus spoke out loud so the disciples could hear. Israel was often symbolized by fig trees (however, usually grape vines, cf. Jer. 29:17; Hos. 9:10; Joel 1:7; Mic. 7:1-6). The fact that the tree had many leaves showed that it should have produced fruit. Israel did not! This account of the fig tree is split into two sections with the cleansing of the temple placed between to signify that it refers to the judgment of God on the first century Jewish religious system and its leaders (as did the cleansing of the temple). It is uncertain whether all Israel or only the illegal leaders (i.e., those Sadducees who had purchased the office from the Romans) were so condemned. This judgment on Israel is emphasized in Luke 13:6-9 and Mark 12:1-12.

11:14 This is a strong permanent judgment!


 15Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a robbers' den." 18The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.

11:15 "entered the temple" This refers specifically to the court of the Gentiles where the merchants had their booths (those booths were owned by the family of the High Priests). John's Gospel records an earlier cleansing (cf. John 2:13ff). Jesus was not always the mild-mannered man we think!

This act challenged the Sadducees' authority as the pilgrims' acts and words at the triumphant entry challenged the Pharisees. These acts doomed Jesus to death (cf. Mark 11:18).

"began to drive out those who were buying and selling" This may be an allusion to Zech. 14:21, "there will no longer be a Canaanite (i.e., merchant) in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day."

"those who were buying and selling" These merchants represented the High Priest's family, who had purchased both the priesthood and the concession rights from Rome (i.e., at least from a.d. 30 on. I think Jesus was crucified in a.d. 34).

▣ "the money changers" The temple tax was ½ shekel (cf. Exod. 30:13). In Jesus' day the only shekel was a Tyrian shekel. The pilgrims were charged 1/24 of a shekel to exchange their currency.

▣ "those who were selling doves" A dove was the sacrifice for the poor, lepers, and women. The normal price was tripled at these booths. Even when the pilgrims brought their own sacrificial animals from home, the priest would regularly find some fault in them and demand that they purchase another animal.

11:16 "would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple" This phrase is unique to Mark. The Court of the Gentiles had become a shortcut between the city and the Mount of Olives. It had lost its distinctive religious purpose as a place for the nations to come to YHWH.

11:17 "'my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'" This is a quote from Isa. 56:7. It shows the universal love of God. Matthew, writing to Jews, leaves off this last phrase.

▣ "'it a robbers' den'" This is a quote from Jeremiah's famous temple sermon that dealt with faithless ritual and religious superstition (cf. Jer. 7:11). In the name of religion, larger profits were being made at the expense of a place of quietness and prayer for the Gentiles. The term "robbers" can mean "insurrectionists."

11:18 "The chief priests and the scribes" Wealthy families controlled the office of High Priest. This was no longer a family position related to Aaron, but an office sold by the Romans to the highest bidder.

▣ "scribes" This category of leaders began with Ezra. In Jesus' day most of them were Pharisees. They interpreted the practical aspects of the Law for the common person, especially from the Oral Tradition (i.e., Talmud). This group is similar in function to the modern rabbi. See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

▣ "began seeking how to destroy Him" This is an imperfect tense. It could mean "began" (cf. NASB, TEV), but it could also imply that they sought over and over again from this point on to kill Jesus (cf. NRSV).

All the verbs in Mark 11:18 are imperfects, referring to actions started and continued through this last week of Jesus' life. Recurrent patterns begin to emerge. The Triumphal Entry and the cleansing of the temple sealed Jesus' doom, as He knew it would.

 19When evening came, they would go out of the city.

11:19 This verse should probably go with the paragraph Mark 11:15-18. This is another eyewitness detail of Peter. This little phrase is recorded differently in several Greek manuscripts (some have the plural and some have the singular).

 20As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21Being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered." 22And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. 23Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26 [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."]

11:20 "As they were passing by" They took the same route from Bethany to Jerusalem.

▣ "withered from the roots up" This was the sign of total rejection of Israel (cf. Mark 12:1-12), or at least her current leaders.

11:21 "Being reminded, Peter said" Peter vividly remembers!

11:22 "Jesus answered saying to them" Peter again acted as the spokesman for what all of the disciples were thinking.

▣ "'Have faith in God'" This is a present active imperative. This is a common theme in the Gospel. Faith/trust/belief (i.e., noun, pistis; verb, pisteuō; see Special Topic at Mark 1:15) in YHWH (and His Messiah) is fallen mankind's only hope. This current world system and its power structures must not attract our attention and concern. God is with us and for us. Look to Him, only to Him!

This symbolic act of judgment and rejection affected their entire traditional belief system. We can only imagine how radical Jesus' new teachings and perspectives were to these traditional first century Jewish men! Jesus powerfully and obviously rejected the Temple (as it was functioning) and the leadership, both Sadducees and Pharisees (both liberal, Hillel, and conservative, Shammai).

There is a Greek manuscript variant which adds the Greek conditional particle ei (i.e., "if") in MSS א and D. This would make it a first class conditional sentence. However, its presence could be a Hebraic idiom denoting a direct quote. It is not included in MSS A, B, C, L, or W, nor in any of the English translations used in this commentary. It probably came from scribes wanting to make it exactly like Luke 17:6 or even Matt. 21:21 (which has ean instead of Luke's ei).

11:23 "Truly" This is literally "amen." See Special Topic at Mark 3:28.

▣ "'to this mountain'" This was (1) possibly a literal reference to the Mount of Olives (cf. Zech. 14:4) or (2) a figure of speech as in Zech. 4:7. This phrase was a common rabbinical metaphor for removing difficulties.

In the OT this type of "leveling" language was often used to describe YHWH's coming (cf. Mic. 1:3-4; Hab. 3:6). He would be available to all the earth because the mountains would be leveled (cf. Zech. 14:4) and the valleys filled up and the rivers and seas dried up, so that all may approach Him in Jerusalem. This metaphorical nature language is replaced in the NT by needy people coming to Jesus, not Jerusalem. In the NT "Jerusalem" in Palestine becomes "new Jerusalem," the holy city coming down out of heaven. The NT has universalized the OT prophecies related to geographical Jerusalem and Palestine.

▣ "'into the sea'" This is possibly a reference to the Dead Sea, which is visible from the Mount of Olives.

▣ "'does not doubt'" Faith is a key factor in prayer (cf. James 1:6-8).

"heart" See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

11:23-24 "they will be granted him" This statement must be balanced with other biblical statements about prayer. This is a good example of why we should not proof-text one verse and say "the Bible says it, that settles it." The Bible says a lot more about prayer. The worst thing God could do to most Christians is answer their prayers! Usually we pray for all the wrong things. Please read and contemplate the Special Topic below on "Effective Prayer."


11:24 "'that you have received them'" There is a manuscript variant related to the tense of the verb lambanō. The aorist, which reflects a Hebrew idiom of an expected fulfillment, is found in MSS א, B, C, L, and W. Apparently this was altered by scribes (1) to the future tense to match Matt. 21:22 (cf. MS D and the Vulgate) or (2) to the present tense (cf. MS A and the Armenian translation).

11:25 "'Whenever you stand praying'" The normal posture for prayer was standing with the eyes open and the head and arms lifted upward. They prayed as if in dialogue with God.

▣ "'forgive, if you have anything against anyone'" Our forgiveness of others is the evidence, not the basis, of our forgiveness (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 7:1-2; 18:21-35; Luke 6:36-37; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13; James 2:13; 5:9). The unforgiving person has never met God!

"if" This is a first class conditional sentence. Believers often hold grudges. Knowing God in Christ must change these attitudes. We are forgiven so much how can we treat others made in God's image with contempt and settled animosity?

"'your Father who is in heaven'" Jesus spoke Aramaic, which means that many of the places where "Father" appears as the Greek, Pater, it may reflect the Aramaic Abba (cf. Mark 14:36). This familial term "Daddy" or "Papa" reflects Jesus' intimacy with the Father; His revealing this to His followers also encourages our own intimacy with the Father. The term "Father" was used only in the OT for YHWH, but Jesus uses it often and pervasively. It is a major revelation of our new relationship with God through Christ.

11:26 This verse is absent in the Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, L, and W. It is included with several variations in MSS A, D, K, X, and the Peshitta translation and the Diatessaron (i.e., the four Gospels merged into one). It seems that an ancient scribe added this phrase from Matt. 6:15.

 27They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28and began saying to Him, "By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?" 29And Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me." 31They began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Then why did you not believe him?' 32But shall we say, 'From men'?"— they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33Answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

11:27 "They came again to Jerusalem" This seems to imply they left Jerusalem and spent the nights back in Bethany, possibly with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.

▣ "walking in the temple" Can you imagine how the merchants were watching Him! Jesus did not hide from or avoid confrontation. This was His moment of impact on Jerusalem.

▣ "the chief priests and the scribes and the elders" This is the full designation for the Sanhedrin. This was an official ruling body of seventy members in Jerusalem, which developed out of the Great Synagogue of Ezra's day. It was made up of the High Priest and his family, local scribes, and wealthy, influential elders from the Jerusalem area. See Special Topic at Mark 12:13.

11:28 "'By what authority are You doing these things'" This has been and is the crucial question about Jesus. Where did He get His power and authority to speak and act? Jesus did not fit their expected mold of what YHWH's Messiah would do and say!

11:29 Jesus often used this second-question technique when dealing with those who tried to trick or trap Him (cf. Mark 2:6-9,19,25-26; 3:23-24; 10:3,37-39; 12:14-16). He would be open with them if they would be open to Him (cf. Mark 11:33).

11:30 "'Was the baptism of John from heaven'" Jesus answered their question with a question that dealt with their rejection of John the Baptist. They were not really seeking truth (cf. Mark 11:31-33). They were more concerned with their reputations and maintaining power (cf. Mark 11:32).

11:31 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

11:33 Jesus answers them by the parable in Mark 12:1-12, which is one of the most severe condemnations of Israel and her leaders in the entire NT.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What does this chapter reveal about Jesus?

2. Why did Jesus accept the title "Son of David?"

3. How is faith related to healing?

4. Why is the Triumphal Entry so important?

5. What did the shouts of the crowd mean?

6. Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

7. Why did Jesus drive out the merchants? Was it the first time?

8. Why didn't the Temple police stop Him?

9. Can we ask God for anything? How is our faith related to answered prayer?

10. Why is Mark 11:28 such a crucial question?