Series: BIOS of a Savior
Bible Passage: Mark 11:12-25
Other Pertinent Scripture: Parallel passages: for Mark 11:12-14 see Matthew 21:18–19; for Mark 11:15-18 see Matthew 21:12-16; Luke 19:45-47; for Mark 11:20-24 see Matthew 21:19-22
Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 7:15-20, 15:8-9; Luke 19:41; John 2:19, 4:19-24, 15:1-5; Romans 9:4-5; Hebrews 10:19-25; Revelation 5:5-6
The gospel of Mark is a documentary account of the life of Christ. Like other ancient biographies, which were called a BIOS or “life,” Mark’s account speaks to us about the actions and events of a man’s life. But this is no mere man Mark is presenting. This is the holy man who is wholly God, the one who has unique authority to call us to follow him.
As a church, everything about Stonehouse centers on this BIOS - his life, his teaching, his authority, his suffering and his victory.
a note on this week’s text:
In Mark 11:12-25 we return to the beginning of passion week and what happens when Jesus comes to the temple to do something about what it has become. The temple was the place that represented God’s presence. It is where, historically, God had dwelt with his people. It indicates a relationship between God and his people. And therefore it is the place where people came to worship. Obviously this was an important and central place for the Jewish people of Jesus’ day and we see in this passage it is also a central place for Jesus to confront empty religion and call people to true worship and true relationship with God.
The confrontation in the temple is ultimately about Jesus because he is the True Temple. With his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus brings an end to the need for temple worship, temple sacrifices, and temple priests. It takes strong statements and even stronger action to get these deep truths into the heads and hearts of those living during the time of Jesus’ ministry.
Suggested discovery/discussion questions:
1. It is likely that the perception most people have of Jesus is that he is gentle, meek, mild, tender… and he certainly is all of these things. But he is not only these things. Some might even have the idea that Jesus is weak, non-confrontational, and passive, but this is not true at all. In fact, we should not confuse meekness with weakness.
This passage containing the cursing of a fig tree and the tossing of temple tables shows another side to Jesus. We see that he is not only meek, but Jesus is also filled with zeal and ferocity. The fact that he is humble does not nullify the fact that he is also mighty. Revelation 5:5-6 refers to Jesus as both the Lion and the Lamb. The lion depicts his ferocity, his might, his rulership; and the lamb depicts his meekness, his lowliness, his humility, and, ultimately, his sacrifice. He is all-powerful yet vulnerable. He is Meek and he is Mighty. Jesus is like no one else who has ever walked the face of the earth. Do you typically view Jesus as one of these things over and above the other? What does it mean for us that Jesus is meek? What does it mean for us that Jesus is mighty? Is there room in your belief about Jesus for him to be confrontational to you? Do you see that as antithetical to his nature? What does is look like to encounter the mighty Jesus?
2. The order of events here, as Mark unfolds them, is important and helps us to understand what’s going on with Jesus and the fig tree. Read alongside the confrontation in the Temple (vv. 15-19) the cursing of the fig tree highlights the fruitlessness of Israel and how their rejection of justice, humility, repentance, mercy, and eventually Jesus shows that they are not bearing fruit as they should be. Jesus is warning us of a frightening reality. That is, that it is possible, just like the Israelites, to be in the midst of spiritual things without actually having a genuine relationship with God. It is possible to know about him without actually knowing him.
The question for us is, how might we be in danger of the same thing? As christians we were challenged from this passage with a list of questions for reflection. Here are the questions again, they are food for thought and worthy of the time to pause, consider, and pray…
- Are you bearing fruit, or are you like the fig tree, without any fruit?
- Do you know what your struggles are? Do you evaluate yourself and your life? Do you allow others to point things out?
- Is your church attendance a delight or a duty?
- Is your prayer an item on your checklist or a genuine enjoyment of God’s presence?
- Do you possess a smug superiority because you think work harder than others?
- An inability to take criticism? A subtle pride that notices everyone’s flaws but your own?
- Do you feel you’re morally superior to those with different struggles than you?
- Do you give in to lust?
- Are you impatient with your spouse, your family, friends, or co-workers?
- Are you envious of your neighbor’s income?
- Do you list a thousand qualifiers to justify your behavior every time you do something wrong? “yes, but”?
- Do you have the need to always be right? Are you condescending? Exacting?
3. When Jesus enters the temple he is outraged by what he sees, the outer area of the temple that was meant to be a place of worship for those Gentiles who were seeking God had become an absolute madhouse. Jesus was upset about this and rightfully so, he was decidedly and intentionally reacted to a grievous situation with actions fitting the severity of the transgression. The worship of God and restoration of relationship with him is the only hope for those who are broken by their sins and the sins of the world, Jesus was desirous of the restoration that relationship with God brings but those who ran the temple had excluded thousands from this opportunity by turning the temple courts into “a den of robbers.” The most unloving thing that Jesus could do is respond to a severe situation mildly. Jesus’ table-flipping, shouting, and demands on the people in the temple is actually a sign of his love for humanity. This shows that he cares deeply for humanity, and longs for them to be restored to their Creator. The most loving thing Jesus can do is to show us our darkness. The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference… the love of Jesus, at times, when necessary, drives him to confront. Where have you seen love expressed through confrontation? Is this a hard concept for you to grasp? Why? Why does God want us to worship him? Why has God made it possible for us to have relationship with him? Do you see relationship with God with the same importance that Jesus gives it in this passage? How do we join with Jesus in making relationship with God (restoration to peace with Him) a priority in our relationships? …in our church? …in our city?
4. This entire episode is appropriately understood in light of Luke 19:41. In that verse Luke records a brief pause Jesus makes before entering Jerusalem (this would be just before the temple cleansing), it is a moment where Jesus lays eyes on the city and when he does he weeps over it. His heart was grieved. His upheaval of the temple was not void of genuine care for the people. His heart was pleading for them. Jesus longed for their flourishing. Let us use this as an example for ourselves. Sometimes confrontation or harshness is a necessity, but let us ensure that we have wept for the other party, and pleaded for their good before we confront them. How many of us can say that we’ve done this? Do we genuinely want our neighbors/loved ones/co-workers to flourish? What does it look like to have a heart that grieves for others? What would change if before you went to confront someone you prayed for them, wept for them, grieved over their sin?
5. Jesus not only upends the temple due to his anger, and the fact that God is being robbed of genuine worship, he is also showing us that the temple was never meant to be the ultimate means by which we relate to God. The withered fig tree towards the end of our passage also symbolizes this. Jesus actually cleansed the temple twice. And after the first time, the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things? (John 2:18) and in v. 19 “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’” Jesus is referring to his own body here. He is saying that he is ultimate temple. He is the ultimate “God with us” - Immanuel.
The original temple was only a shadow of the true temple. The presence of God was conditional based up on the obedience of the Israelites. When they disobeyed, God departed. Jesus Christ obeyed in our place so that if we are in him, the ultimate temple, we will forever have communion with God. And not only is Jesus the true temple, he is also our great high priest who, in every respect, has been templed as we are, yet was without sin. The original priesthood had to offer sacrifices continually for the sins of themselves and the sins of others. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice (the lamb of God), offered once for all, perfecting those who believe. So… Jesus is the Temple! Jesus is the Priest! Jesus is the Sacrifice! What does it mean to believe that Jesus is the True Temple? What does it mean for us that Jesus is the True High Priest? What is the significance of Jesus being the True Sacrifice?
When we believe in Jesus Christ and his work on our behalf, God sends his Spirit to live inside of us. So that we are now also the true temple of God, the body of Jesus Christ. God dwells in you, believer! Take great joy in this unending mercy.
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