Jesus comes now to the outskirts of the City of David, and does so in all authority. He is the Son of David, arrived to claim His inheritance. Bartimaeus has set the stage for this by calling upon Jesus as the Son of David, and Mark emphasizes the point by how he cites the praises of the crowd (v. 10). Jesus had earlier defended Himself in a sabbath controversy by appealing to the good example of David (2:25), and the culmination of His dispute with the religious authorities here in Mark centers on the identity of the Son of David (12:35-37).
"And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples . . ." (Mark 11: 1-33).
Let us begin with the colt. Every element of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem is calculated. In a miraculous display of knowledge He sends two disciples ahead to obtain a colt that had never been ridden (vv. 1-2). He sent them for a colt because Zechariah had told of one (9:9), and He sent for a tied-up colt because, millennia before, Israel had included it in his blessing of Judah (Gen. 49:10-11). Everything transpired just as Jesus had described it for them (vv. 3-6). They brought the colt back to Jesus, placed garments on the back of it for a saddle, and Jesus entered Jerusalem, to the glorious antiphonal chanting of the crowd -- chanting the Hallel psalms (113-118). This was not the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, but the event is rich with associations of this feast (vv. 8-9).
The passages cited by Mark form a chiasm (a/b/b/a), clearly with a view to emphasis the center of this chiasm. Blessed be the kingdom of our father David. Jesus then arrived in Jerusalem, and walked around the Temple, not as a sightseer, but as king inspecting how His dominions had been handled in His absence. And then, as it was late, He returned to Bethany (v. 11) -- to the house of Lazarus, the man who had been raised from the dead. Jesus prepared for His death in a house of resurrection.
On the way in the next morning, Jesus saw a fig tree that was all leaves and no figs (vv. 12-13). The fig tree is Israel, all leaves, a fair profession, and no fruit. Jesus spoke to the tree and said that no man would eat fruit from it "into the age" (v. 14). And a lot of exegetes have wasted too much time, paper, and ink feeling sorry for the fig tree.
Jesus has been received as the king of Jerusalem, and so the next day He goes into the Temple and conducts a royal purge. The abuses were very probably of recent origin, established by Caiphas. In the outer court, the place where Gentiles could pray, they had set up stockyards, currency exchange booths, and bird tables (v. 15). People were also using it for a shortcut (v. 16). While clearly angry, Jesus had not lost His temper. He did this thing teaching (v. 17). He quotes Isaiah 56:7 and Jer. 7:11 in the midst of the purge. The established authorities feared Him and sought to destroy Him (v. 18). Jesus then left the city (v. 19).
Next morning Peter saw the blasted fig tree (vv. 20-21). Now remember this was a miracle of judgment. Jesus teaches His disciples that they, if they had faith, would do the same thing (v. 22). They would say to this mountain (remember, they are coming to the Temple in Jerusalem, which is built on a mountain, Mt. Moriah), "be removed," and it would be. This is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in response to the prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:8). Jesus is not speaking about moving mountains about as a general practice; He is talking about His followers being used to bring about the judgment of God on the faithless covenant order centered on a mountain in Jerusalem. God promised to hear their imprecatory prayers for judgment (v. 24). But at the same time, they must guard their hearts and spirits, and be the kind of men who forgive (vv. 25-26). Imprecation is dangerous in two directions -- for the one the prayers are about, and, if the one praying is not guarding "what manner of spirit he is of," it is dangerous for him as well.
Jesus comes back to Jerusalem, and is walking in the Temple as He teaches, and the enemies of God come to ask one of their very favorite questions: "By what authority?" (v. 28). These men are the chief priests, the scribes and elders, and most probably representatives of the Sanhedrin (v. 27). The answer the Lord gave has been categorized by some critics as evasive, but his answer is directly aimed at the point. John the Baptist had clearly testified to the identity of the Lord. So what do you think of his testimony, Jesus asks. His answer is shrewd, but not evasive (vv. 29-30). The leaders of the Jews are afraid of the people, who believed in John. Remember this the next time you hear of the fickleness of crowds. They were trapped and could not answer (vv. 31-33). Jesus replies, in effect, you did not believe the first witness. Why should I give you a second? And we should hear these words and tremble. Imagine the Word of God saying, "Neither will I tell you . . ." We should never want the Word to be silent.