Jesus sees the need for things to be different in chapter 11, there is a need for drastic change. The physical temple will no longer be the center of Yahweh worship. Jesus is to be the temple. Son of David have mercy on me, the blind man says to Jesus. He knows who Jesus is and that He has the seat of power. This is the setting leading to chapter 11. Jesus strikes a fig tree to bear no more fruit, an example of a punitive miracle we find often ignored in the New Testament. Yes, Jesus did perform some miracles we would see as punishment. But that is not a complete picture of who He was. Let’s consider some questions we could ask from this chapter.
1. What’s up with the donkey? Why would He ride one into town? It’s obviously symbolic but still seems odd, for a king to ride in on a donkey. Maybe a white stallion would fit our vision better. There really are a couple of purposes - this is a new ruler. There are some stories in the Old Testament where the use of a donkey was tied to establishing someone as a ruler. Zechariah 9:9 is really the penultimate story about this however. "Rejoice greatly O Daughter f Zion. Shout in triumph O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble and mounted on a donkey." If we read all around verse 9 of chapter 9 in Zechariah we will get the whole context, something we should do anytime an Old Testament reference is made in the New Testament. Jesus' actions in Mark 11 are really a condemnation of the leadership. Also He represents the antithesis of everything found in the temple, He is the opposite of who they are. Israel has struggled throughout their history with evil leadership. Jesus is straightforward, calls things as they are. Every new ruler wants to start off with declaring peace and unity. So instead of coming in on a war horse he comes on a mule, a humble animal representing His intentions.
2. Did Jesus have anger issues? “But you have made it a robbers den.” Who on earth would condemn a fig tree? Seems odd. The terminology is important. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” Jesus knows it is not the season for figs. What He’s doing is making a point about the temple. This is the end of the showy Jewish establishment. All of the externals everyone sees are like a fig tree with big leaves and no fruit - a lot of talk and no substance. The establishment is going to be gone. This is not the place where you will find growth and spirituality. Again notice the wording - its withered to its roots. That’s a statement of the depth of the corruption. He is not cleansing the temple, He is condemning it.
3. Does Jesus have an authority issue? Maybe He just doesn’t like people telling Him what to do. Actually, it’s the leaders who have an authority problem. They are not submitting to the will of God. Jesus is submitting to the will of the Father and they aren’t, that’s why they want to destroy Him. The reality if they have no interest in the truth. They refuse to admit they are wrong, they refuse to humble themselves. It wouldn’t do any good for Jesus to give them an answer, so He doesn’t. They aren’t interested in the truth. So we need to understand the importance of humility. They don’t have any, to their demise. One undercurrent that runs throughout this chapter. Jesus hates pretense, people claiming to be something they aren’t. If any of us is living a life that is fake, it’s time to change.