Mark 11:27-33

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 10, 2005


We need to remember where we are in this story of Jesus’ last week.

A while back we talked about Jesus’ grand entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with the crowds shouting “Hosanna”. When He came into Jerusalem, the first thing He did was to go to the Temple and look around. But He didn’t say or do anything else that day except go back to Bethany to spend the night.

On Monday morning Jesus got up early and started toward Jerusalem when He spotted this fig tree. As we talked about, it wasn’t time for the full figs, but at this time of year there were these small edible buds that grew on fig trees called the “early ripe fruits”. Because the leaves were already on the fig tree, this small fruit should have been there as well. When Jesus saw that there wasn’t any fruit, He said, “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever”.

Why did Jesus say this to the tree? Was He just cranky? No. He said it because God desires fruit.

We talked about how the fig tree was one of the symbols of Israel. We talked about how Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was His coming to look for fruit.

Later as Jesus went into the Temple on Monday, He had apparently already thought about what He was going to do. Because He didn’t see the right kind of fruit in the Temple, it was time to clean house.

(Mark 11:15 KJV) And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

The scribes and chief priests were upset that Jesus had done this. They had quite a lucrative racket going on in the Temple since they took a cut from those who sold these animals and exchanged money.

Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish historian and cultural expert says that at this time in history, the priests were netting the equivalent of $300,000 a year in money exchange alone.

Early Tuesday morning, when they were making their way back towards Jerusalem, they walked by the fig tree that Jesus had cursed, and it had been completely withered away. In twenty-four hours it had completely shriveled from the roots up.

Jesus used this opportunity to talk about how to get your prayers answered. He talked about the importance of faith and the importance of forgiveness. It’s at this point that they make their way into Jerusalem on Tuesday morning.

:27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,

These are the fellows that Jesus had upset the day before when He cleaned house in the Temple.

Matthew tells us that Jesus had already started teaching in the Temple when they came up to talk with Him. (Mat. 21:23). Luke tells us that Jesus was not only teaching the people, but also “preaching the gospel” (Luke 20:1).

These three groups of men are what the Sanhedrin was made up of.

The chief priests were not the high priests, but the leaders of the priests chosen to be in the Sanhedrin (Gill).

The scribes were the lawyers, not like on Law and Order, but these were the religious experts in the Law of Moses.

The elders were the secular leaders of the Jews.

Of these three groups, some would be Sadducees and others would be Pharisees.

The idea is that a delegation from the Sanhedrin has shown up to put Jesus in His place.

:28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?

Or, “Who do you think you are?”

In reality, this is a legitimate question. If someone were to walk into your house or work and start teaching and changing things, you’d want to know who they were.

God had warned Israel that they needed to test people who claimed to speak for Him.

(Deu 18:18-22 NLT) I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will tell that prophet what to say, and he will tell the people everything I command him. {19} I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf. {20} But any prophet who claims to give a message from another god or who falsely claims to speak for me must die.' {21} You may wonder, 'How will we know whether the prophecy is from the LORD or not?' {22} If the prophet predicts something in the Lord's name and it does not happen, the LORD did not give the message. That prophet has spoken on his own and need not be feared.

What are the things that they’re questioning about Jesus?

It could be the fact that He’s teaching in the Temple.

It’s more likely the fact that He threw out the animal sellers and money changers the day before.


Sensitivity about money

I imagine that some might think that these members of the Sanhedrin were just looking out for the purity of the Jewish religion.
Personally, I think they were bothered because Jesus was affecting their bottom line.
People will sit and let you tell them all sorts of things, but when it begins to get a little too close to home, then it gets personal.

Two elderly, excited Southern women were sitting together in the front pew of church listening to a fiery preacher. When this preacher condemned the sin of stealing, these two ladies cried out at the tops of their lungs, “AMEN, BROTHER!” When the preacher condemned the sin of lust, they yelled again, “PREACH IT, REVEREND!” And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying, they jumped to their feet and screamed, “RIGHT ON, BROTHER! TELL IT LIKE IT IS...AMEN!” But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet, and one turned to the other and said, “He’s quit preaching and now he’s meddlin’.”

I don’t want to excuse the fact that there are indeed churches that place too much emphasis on money.
But sometimes when I hear people use that as an excuse for not going to church, I get to wondering if maybe God is just putting His finger on something they need to deal with.
A few weeks back we talked about the Rich Young Ruler,

(Mark 10:21-23 NKJV)  Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me." {22} But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. {23} Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"

Some might be so cynical to say that Jesus was just like every other preacher, only looking for the money.

But in reality, Jesus is trying to get this man to let go of the one thing that is keeping him from God.

The Bible tells us that what we have has been given to us from God.
(Deu 8:18 NKJV) "And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

God has given us even the ability to get wealth.

All that we have is from God, and He expects us to use it wisely
(Mat 25:14-30 NKJV) "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. {15} "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. {16} "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. {17} "And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. {18} "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. {19} "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. {20} "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' {21} "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' {22} "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' {23} "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' {24} "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. {25} 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' {26} "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. {27} 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. {28} 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. {29} 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. {30} 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

The two faithful servants never considered what was given to them to be theirs. They considered that they were simply stewards, investment advisors, portfolio managers.

It was the “unprofitable” servant that felt like the Master was always taking what wasn’t His.

And yet in reality, all that he was held accountable for was what the Master had given him in the first place.

Who owns the “stuff” you have?  Who has access to your bank account?  Are the funds in your trust being used wisely?  Are they being used in a way that you’ll be proud to display to your Master when He returns?


Authority comes from God, not man.

Paul had this problem with the Judaizers in the book of Galatians.
They questioned Paul’s authority.
But Paul was an apostle because Jesus Christ had chosen him, not because he had some magical ceremony done by the apostles that somehow transferred his apostolic authority.
(Gal 1:1 KJV) Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
Paul’s message wasn’t a message that he learned in a seminary, he learned it from Jesus Christ.
(Gal 1:11-12 KJV) But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. {12} For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
This is one of the shortcomings of the Catholic, and even the Mormon churches.
They both feel that they have some kind of special “authority” that was passed down from one apostle to the next.

The Catholic church claims to be the only true church because it claims to trace it’s authority from one pope to the next, all the way back to the person they call the first pope, Peter.

The Mormon church, falling into the same assumption that authority is passed on from one man to the next, claims that there was a break in the line of authority, which was restored by Joseph Smith, after God gave him back this authority. And then the Mormon church has continued on with this line.

But both err.

True authority is given by God.  Paul was an apostle because God made him one.

The best man can do is recognize what God has done.

How could this impact a person’s life?
We have the authority to serve the Lord.
We are all priests

(Rev 1:6 NKJV)  and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father

Here’s an example of what a priest can do:

(John 20:19-23 NKJV)  Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." {20} When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. {21} So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." {22} And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. {23} "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

There are some that say that this last verse refers to what a priest is able to do.  If you confess your sins to a priest, then the priest is able to give you God’s forgiveness.

That’s only kind of partly true.  The truth is that God is the one who forgives sin.  But we can have a part in it and we actually can form a function like a priest.

When you are sharing with your friends about Jesus, you can share with them that the Bible says,

(1 John 1:9 NKJV)  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

You can share with them that if they will confess their sins, that God will forgive them.

And if you pray with your friend and give them a chance to confess their sins to God, you can declare to them with the authority of Jesus Christ, that their sins have been forgiven.  Not because you say so, but because God says so.  That’s WAY COOL!!!

:29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.

It seems that Jesus is trying to get them to answer their own question.

:30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.

John was a wild man who stirred up the crowds. He spoke against corruption. He encouraged true repentance. When people repented, he would baptize them in the Jordan River.  But it seems that he mainly stayed out in the wilderness, away from the city and the Temple.

Jesus on the other hand has come right onto the turf of the religious leaders. He is threatening them on their soil.

Jesus’ question seems to have been one of the great unanswered questions of Jesus’ day. Just what did these religious leaders think of John? It seems that they didn’t have to really deal with John because they just allowed Herod to take care of the problem for them.

:31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?

reasonedlogizomai (“logic”) – compute, calculate, to deliberate

Apparently they pulled back to huddle together and come together on how they are going to answer Jesus.

:32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.

Luke tells us a little more as to what they were afraid of from the people:

(Luke 20:6 KJV) But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.

It’s kind of sad when you don’t really consider what’s true, but you are considering how people will respond to you.

Some of us call this “politics”.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “The Jewish leaders were caught in a dilemma of their own making. They were not asking “What is true?” or “What is right?” but “What is safe?” This is always the approach of the hypocrite and the crowd-pleaser.”

:33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.


Make sure you’re on the right side

The Sanhedrin is having difficulty with Jesus’ questions because they’re on the wrong side. If they had been honest, they would have said that they thought that John was simply some jerk stirring up trouble with the people.
But they would have been wrong. They had been on the wrong side.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we have to make a choice between what is right and what is wrong. But because we’ve been hanging out with the wrong folks, we find ourselves choosing the wrong things.
What are you going to say to Jesus when you see Him? What are you going to do when He asks you why you didn’t choose to follow Him? Are you going to say, “My friends didn’t follow You”? They won’t be standing with you when you face Him.