Mark 11:1-33

"Let's turn in our Bibles to Mark chapter 11. I'd just like to welcome the new faces this morning...But we're gonna continue in Mark chapter 11. Let's say a word of prayer. 'And Father, as we enter this time of just looking together upon your Word, give us eyes to see Lord, what you have here for us Lord. Give us ears to hear, heart to understand and receive. But we thank you for your Word. And Lord I do pray that all of us would be doers of the Word and not hearers only. I pray this in Jesus name, Amen.'

Let's begin in verse 1, "Now when they drew near Jerusalem to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives..." Now, as you remember last week, it was just a few weeks before the crucifixion. Now we're about a week before Jesus is crucified on the cross. [To read a complimentary study on this subject http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/lamb/lastsix.htm ] And they've come to the area of the Mount of Olives, and if they just transverse over the Mount of Olives they'll begin to descend upon the city of Jerusalem. Whenever you come to the area of Jerusalem, even today on a tour, anytime of history God's eyes have been on that part of the world. It's just a very emotional, powerful experience. Many religions look to Jerusalem. And this is just about Passover time, so there are many people who have come from around the world and have just centered and focussed on this city. Josephus, a Jewish historian, tells us there were millions and millions of sacrificed lambs this particular year, it's recorded. And with that you can kind of get a guess of the number of people [one sacrificed lamb was supposed to be used to feed 10 to 20 people as recorded in Exodus]. Some say with taking into account Josephus number of lambs recorded as being sacrificed, there's nearly three million people that converged at this time upon the city of Jerusalem [normal population for then of 300,000, so the population has been multiplied times 10!]. So there's a lot of energy, a lot of anticipation, a lot of excitement. [And this is just part of the normal Jerusalem Passover cycle of those times, without even going into the stir Jesus was creating.] [For another very interesting study on Passover and it's meaning to Jew and Christian alike as told by a man who grew up a Jew and is now a Christian pastor, http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/lamb/whatispassover.htm .] As we studied last week, when Jesus was going this last time to the city of Jerusalem, his disciples just began to get a sense to them, to see what was ahead of them, a face like flints set for the city of Jerusalem. And he walked ahead of the disciples and they began to sense that something was going down, and just, you know, as you remember last week. There was even fear in their hearts, so it's been this time of emotion. And now as they come near the city of Jerusalem with all that's going on, man it must be a very emotional time for these disciples and for Jesus. Especially, Jesus knowing just days away what is going to take place. I would think just every time Jesus woke up and got that much closer to the cross, all the more that just as a man, the emotion and the sense in his heart that just knowing that he was going to be betrayed and be crucified on a cross, and to endure that. So that's where we find ourselves here. And now they're converging upon the city of Jerusalem, but they're at this area of Bethany and here it's unique, just a tremendous time for the disciples. He says to the disciples, he says to them specifically, 'Go to the village opposite us here and go in and I want you to get this colt. You're gonna find a colt when you get there, a foal, the foal of a donkey, and I want you to bring this donkey (and it's foal), and I want you to bring them to me. When you get there, if anyone sees you there taking this colt, you're gonna...You're gonna find this colt, it's gonna be near the entrance to the city--but when you take this colt if anyone has any questions just tell them that the Lord has need of it. And when you tell them that, they're gonna let you take them.' So the disciples, as we read in a moment are gonna go and do that. Let's continue reading. I'm getting a little ahead of myself, aren't I. We haven't read these verses yet.

Mark 11:2-6, "He sent two of his disciples, and he said to them, 'Go into the village opposite you, and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you Why are you doing this? Say The Lord has need of it. And immediately he will send it.' So they went their way and found the colt tied by the door outside the street, and they loosed it, but some of those who stood there said to them, 'What are you doing there, loosing the colt?' And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded, so they let them go." Just as I told you, as we now read, these are the things that begin to happen. Jesus instructs his disciples, and they go and do accordingly.

Now when you and I are pursuing paths that Jesus has led us on, when we're going down a road that we feel God has led us on, we're gonna see that God has prepared the way before us. Wherever I go, if I believe God is leading me, God's gonna prepare the way. What that means is, when I go down a certain path, I'm not gonna have to strive, I'm not gonna compromise, I'm not gonna need to manipulate people for things to take place. When I'm going somewhere God has led me, he's gonna prepare the way, without a doubt. No need to force doors open, just simply to do as he says and to walk in faith, because he wills, he's just gonna prepare the way. It'll never ever require that I manipulate people, it'll never require that I compromise, just simply that I walk and step out in faith. The Psalmist stated in Psalm 85, "Righteousness will go before him and shall make his footsteps our pathway." It says 'Righteousness goes before God and his footsteps will prepare my pathway', meaning the footsteps of God. If I'm going the way that God desires me to go, his footsteps are going to prepare the way, and that's a way of righteousness, of right doing. Therefore there's no compromise if I'm going the way God wants me to go, or no manipulating. If you think you are in the will today, the will of God, but you find yourself in compromise, it's clear that you're not in God's will. God didn't lead you into compromise. If you feel you are pursuing a path that God has led you on, but yet you find yourself manipulating people, a relationship that maybe you have, you're not going the way that God desires you to go, because God will prepare the way before you. That's one thing we know, that when we go in the will of God, God has spoken to me to do something, I'll know that he's prepared the way. I'll see that he's prepared the way as I go. Are God's footsteps your pathway? Would Jesus be doing what you're currently doing? If not, it's a good chance that you've not gone on a route that God has led you to go on. Where God guides God provides, where God leads he prepares the way, as we see here in these verses.

The disciples go and do as instructed, and in verses four to six you find they find this colt. And then they lose this colt, and as they lose this colt the folks say, 'Hey, ah, what are you doing?' And they say the exact words that Jesus instructed them to say and the people let the colt go, just as Jesus said, to fulfill the purpose of God. And that's definitely how it is when God leads you. Sometimes it requires persevering. This seems pretty easy, this one, they go and there it is and they come back. Sometimes it requires a persevering chin and faith to trust the Lord a little longer. But when God leads he'll prepare the way--you'll sense 'God is preparing the way.' 'Things are working out, man, look at that door open.' 'Look at this conversation I just had, amazing that they would be receptive to that.' God will prepare the way before you. Here, you see that God has set aside a colt for his purposes and in his perfect timing this colt appears before the disciples. They go and there it is, just as God determined. I wonder if the owners of the colt realized that when they tied the colt to the street that day, outside their home, evidently, that they realized they were being used by the Lord? But this colt is set aside, and no matter what it is, if God has determined that it's for his purpose, it will be set aside for his purpose. We can just trust him for it. Here is a donkey, I think of the people of Israel. It was an entire land, a land that was inhabited by other communities, other nations, even had high walls--but God said 'This land is your land. I'm gonna set this land aside for you.' And of course God did set aside that land for them. They just needed to trust the Lord and walk in faith. No matter how big or how small, whatever it is, if God is leading and if it is set aside for his purposes, and he's told us that, we can trust him for it. The Psalmist said in Psalm 135, "For I know that the Lord is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does. In heaven and in earth and in the seas and all deep places, whatever he chooses to do he does, because he's above all gods." And there he says specifically, he gave this land to the nation of Israel, a great work that God did and he led the people to trust him for it. As we are led by the Lord, we just walk in faith, we trust him, there's never ever any need to strive. Sometimes I find myself striving, even thinking that God was leading me, and maybe he was, but just not letting him prepare the way and just striving. But of course, Psalm 127 comes to mind, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, to eat the bread of sorrows, for so he gives his beloved sleep." He says 'When God builds the house, he builds the house, when he leads, he leads.' You just trust him and you walk. You don't even have to eat the bread of sorrows, striving and hoping and trying to work this out and bumming out that it's not workin' out quite yet. You just trust God and say 'God has led me in this way, I trust him and therefore I don't strive, I don't need to go without sleep and be weary hearted, weary in heart--but just trust God for what he says. [I'm going to add a short but appropriate quote from Franklin Graham's autobiography titled Rebel With A Cause. The title of this quote is "God Room", and perfectly fits what this pastor is talking about, and expands a little on how God provides. "From India we went to Katmandu, Nepal, and Iran. While traveling with Bob (Pierce, late founder of Samaritan's Purse), I learned many of life's lessons. But the lesson Bob taught me that stands out above all else is what Bob called "God room." "What do you mean?" I asked him once when he started talking about "God room." He gave me a glance that was close to disgust, almost to say, "Don't you know?" He took a deep breath and sighed before he said, "'God room' is when you see a need and it's bigger than your human abilities to meet it. But you accept the challenge. You trust God to bring in the finances and the materials to meet the need.

"You get together with your staff, your prayer partners, and supporters, and you pray. But after all is said and done, you can only raise a portion of the resources required.

"Then you begin to watch God work. Before you know it, the need is met. At the same time, you understand you didn't do it. God did it. You allowed Him room to work." Rebel With A Cause, page 159, paragraphs 3-6.]

Verses 7-11, "Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and he sat on it, and many spread their clothes on the road and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out saying, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the kingdom of our father David, that comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!' And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when he had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve." Just an intense time, I'm sure for the disciples. They've got this colt, just as God has led them, and they bring it to Jesus and he sits upon this colt. We learn in the other gospels there's actually a mother donkey with her young, there's actually two. And evidently the colt is the primary one that the attention is focussed upon, but there's actually two we learn in the other gospels. But Jesus sits on that colt, and then he begins to approach the Mount of Olives towards the city of Jerusalem, and the disciples are there, and there's a multitude as usual. Jesus, just before, we read in Luke, healed and raised Lazarus from the dead--so there's a ton of excitement around him, especially because of Lazarus. And there's this great multitude, and they just began to praise and worship Jesus. Now, consistently prior to this time Jesus always prohibited people from worshipping him. Whenever people wanted to make him king he always withdrew himself. But this is one time, it's a very unique time, that Jesus presents himself as King and allows the people to worship him, and to just praise him, and he doesn't withdraw himself. We know from Zechariah 9 that this specific day is a fulfillment of prophecy. In Zechariah chapter 9 we read, "Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion, shout O daughter of Jerusalem, behold your King is coming to you. He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt the foal of a donkey." Zechariah prophecied of a time when the Messiah would come. Although the Jews, the people of Israel expected the Messiah to come differently, even when he came as King they expected him to come more like a Roman king. You know when a Roman ruler would come, after a battle, he would have a parade that would last sometimes for days, with all the bounty and all the loot, just all the pazzaz and just be a tremendous thing--and he'd ride on a white horse. But Zechariah 9 said when the King of Israel was going to come [the first time], he was going to come lowly and meek on the back of a donkey. And they didn't quite--it didn't register in their minds, they didn't quite understand that. [Why? Because of the Old Testament prophecies of what we know as the Messiah's 2nd coming are so spectacular by comparison to those of his first coming (and the two prophecies run one into one another in the passages they're written in)--that it paled to insignificance the prophecies of his first coming, lowly and riding on a donkey, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 14:1-15 is a superb example of a stunning 2nd coming prophecy. These powerful prophecies kind of confused the Jewish scholar, Scribes and teachers into believing that the Messiah would only have one very powerful coming, not two totally different comings.] And you see that very clearly being fulfilled [Zechariah 9], this wonderful prophecy in Zechariah, and just Jerusalem shouting, the people shouting with joy and with praise [probably and obviously many of them thinking the Messiah had finally come to save them from the Romans].

Let's look at Daniel 9. We're briefly going to look at this prophecy. [And this prophecy can be interpreted two ways, as we will see.] There's been different times in the past where I've taught on this, but I thought I'd just quickly lay it out this morning too. But a tremendous prophecy. The Word of God is the Word of God. God's Word stands up historically, God's Word stands up spiritually as far as truth, and God's Word stands up prophetically. You can test any one of those and you'll never find one instance where it doesn't. Here's a tremendous prophecy. Here Daniel has been exiled with the people of Israel [really, Judah, the House of Judah], because of God's judgment, there in Babylon. While in Babylon Daniel receives different visions from the Lord, and here Gabriel in these verses of chapter 9 appears to Daniel in verses 20-23, and begins to share with him a vision and wants him to write it down. And as you read in verses 24-26 this is what Daniel is told by Gabriel to write down, "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty two weeks. The streets shall be built again and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary [70ad?]. The end of it shall be with a flood until the end of the war desolations are confirmed" (Daniel 9:24-26). And then he goes on to share about one last seven, one last week. Here, you see that Daniel refers to these sixty-two sevens and seven sevens and another seven and then another seven, the seventieth seven that I didn't read there. You read the Hebrew literally, it refers to a period of seven, just seven in general, not necessarily seven as far as a week. And he says, "Sixty two weeks, and a seven-seven, we understand with those Scriptures he's referring to years [a prophetic day for a year principle], specifically. And he says that there's gonna be a decree, Daniel, you're in exile, Jerusalem has been destroyed. But there's gonna be a decree by a king that it will be written, and after that decree is written you can count exactly sixty-two sevens and seven-sevens, meaning those number of years, and at that point after that decree, the Messiah is gonna come. Now the decree will be to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And this guy [famous acheologist Sir Rawlenson] discovered not too long ago that on March 14th, 445 B.C. king Artaxerxes I wrote a decree to Nehemiah [20th year of Artaxerxes I] (as we study Nehemiah) telling Nehemiah that he could go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. We know the specific date [there are two dates you can calculate this decree from, giving you two separate interpretations for Daniel 9. The one he uses times right to when this pastor and his denomination believe Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The other date of another similar decree times right to the start of Jesus' ministry in 27 a.d.]. We've discovered that in recent time that this decree was written (and when). Well, if you go from that point 483 years [7 prophetic weeks + 62 prophetic weeks x 7 = 483 days. With a prophetic day for a year principle, 483 days = 483 years. By some denominations way of calculating, this decree to rebuild Jerusalem went out under Cyrus (II Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-2) in 457 B.C. 483-457 = 26 + 1 (year zero adds 1) = 27 A.D., the year Jesus' Christ's ministry started. With this way of timing, Jesus ministry and crucifixion ended in the spring of 31 A.D., which would have had the crucifixion held on a Wednesday from 9am to 3pm, and his resurrection on late Saturday afternoon, 3 days and 3 nights later. Now for the other interpretation.] When you convert the Babylonian calendar to the Julian calendar you'll come up with exactly 6 April 32 A.D. from March 14th 445 B.C. [Artaxerxes I, 20th year]. You take 483 years, convert it to a different calendar, from when Artaxerxes issues the decree to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that took place after this time of Daniel, you come up with April 6, 32 A.D. Well, of course, that's where we are in Mark chapter 11. That's the date that Jesus is there coming down the Mount of Olives and this time of praise and worship is taking place. The Messiah himself has come. Well then you read that the Messiah shall be cut off (verse 26), but not for himself. Well, just a few days later from this time Jesus will be crucified, not for himself, not for anything he has done, but for all of us, for our sin. And then you go from there that the city and the sanctuary will be destroyed in this war. Well, forty years later from that time General Titus came in and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. And the people of Israel, the nation of Israel hasn't existed until this century [1948]. So that prophecy was fulfilled to the very day, right to April 6, 32 A.D. [by one method of calculating]. And I've gone through it kind of quickly, because I'm gonna go to other places today, but you can still study that for yourself. But amazingly, Daniel saw a vision, and we know today that the day the Messiah came and was cut off just after this, and (40 years later) the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. And then we have the 7th week that's yet to be fulfilled, ah, after the age of the church. Well, all this took place according to prophecy. The people that are around Jesus there back in Mark chapter 11 evidently have a sense for some of this prophecy because they cry out the words to Psalm 118, "I will praise you for you have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone the builders have rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing. It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now I pray O Lord, O Lord I pray now send prosperity, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." The word "Hosanna" means literally "save now" or "deliver we pray". And they're just quoting Psalm 118, and Psalm 118 says "The stone the builders rejected is become the chief cornerstone. This is the day the Lord has made." And they're just quoting a very clear Messianic prophecy, even of the suffering of Christ. And don't think they completely understood it. That Psalm, Psalm 118 was sung during the Passover, and it's that time of year, which is interesting too, to note that. [Singing these verses from Psalm 118 was called singing the Hallel, and it was being sung by the Temple singers at this very time. What must have surprised the Scribes and Pharisees is that here is Jesus riding the foal of a donkey and the crowd around him are singing this very same thing, the verses, that the Temple singers are singing--and they are singing them to and about Jesus who is riding through their midst! This point is brought out by Dr. David Hocking in his sermon about Passover.] Well, these people are worshipping and praising. The Pharisees we read in Luke, come to the disciples and come to Jesus and they say "Jesus, rebuke your disciples" (because they're worshipping him). And he answered and said to them, 'I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.' Now as he drew near he saw the city and wept over it saying, 'If you had known, even you, especially in this your day that things that make for your peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side and level you, and your children within you, to the ground. And they will not leave in you one stone upon another because you did not know the time of your visitation.' But evidently they didn't know. But you know, you see this worship, and this praise and this incredible multitude. Matthew says that the emotion is so intense that all of Jerusalem--it's just like an earthquake, it's moved. The word in the Greek suggests like an earthquake. The city is just shook by this parade that comes in with Jesus. But you know then, I think, I think just a few days later, these people are praising 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord', but where are they just a few days from now? You have Jesus betrayed, and then you have Pilate and the multitude there saying 'Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!'. And where did all these people go? Jesus said they didn't, the people of Jerusalem didn't even know it was the day of their visitation. Evidently a lot of them are just going along with--there are some obvious believers there--but a lot of them are just going with the crowd, and with the emotion, it's good, and it's cheering. And then a little later they're gonna be with the crowd going 'Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!' You know there are many even today that do that. Go along with the church, go along with the crowd if it's good--there's the parade of people there--but when it really comes down to the nitty-gritty, what are they gonna do? What are they gonna do later? I guess it's a question for all of us--all this excitement, and then you just think a little later, evidently many of [some, not all] of these same voices are saying "Crucify him! Crucify him!". Jesus goes into the city and he goes to the temple and looks around, it's late, and he returns outside the city to Bethany, which he does every day this week. We have three specific days we can see in this chapter during this last week.

Verses 12-14, "Now the next day when they had come out from Bethany he was hungry, and seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves he went to see if perhaps he would find something on it. When he came to it he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, 'Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.' And his disciples heard it." Here we have the next day. Interesting day, you wonder what exactly is going on here. Jesus is hungry. Hasn't eaten in a little while, has done a lot of traveling and he sees in the distance a fig tree with leaves. So he goes over to this fig tree, wanting a bite to eat, and he goes to it and there's no figs. Mark tells us it's not the season for figs. But even with that, he curses this tree, he says 'Man, let no one ever eat from you again.' We read in other gospels that immediately--the disciples evidently don't see it immediately--but immediately the tree withers, just withers right up. And the disciples maybe aren't up close to see that, but they at least hear him. They're like, 'What is going on?'. Now he curses this fig tree. Why did Jesus do this? Well, generally I learned from study, couldn't tell you because I'm not a tree guy, but I've learned from study anyway from commentaries that generally if there's leaves on a fig tree, generally there will be fruit on a fig tree. Even though it's not the time of year, this has put out some leaves kind of early. Maybe it's in the right soil, maybe it's in the right shade, it's looking pretty good, and it's rather early for it, but there should be something else to follow up--evidently some fruit. But there's this promise but there isn't any performance. And with that, Jesus curses it because it's fruitless. It seems to promise one thing but it doesn't have that. Now why does he still do that? The fig tree, as you study different parts of the Bible, we learn the fig tree represents the nation of Israel. And this is a perfect picture of the nation of Israel, got the green leaves, looks good, looks religious, looks like they're the people of God--but when you really look up close they're hearts are far from God. As we read even a little while ago, Jesus quoted Isaiah 29, 'You draw near to me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.' So the fig tree is a perfect picture of the nation of Israel. And Jesus curses this fig tree and that's also a perfect picture of what's gonna take place in a short time with the nation of Israel [the House of Judah]--in 70 A.D.--it's gonna cease to exist for nearly 2,000 years. So it's a picture of what is taking place in this entire nation. I wonder how we appear to Christ?--how you appear, how I appear? Do we look like we have nice leaves, maybe, others say, 'Ah, what a nice tree', but when you inspect closer, do you see the fruit? Is there fruit that he can partake of in your life and in my life? Jesus stated a similar thought in John chapter 15:1-8. For some of you I'm sure that's already come to mind, that passage. Jesus said "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit. For without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is cast out as a branch and is withered and they gather them and throw them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit so you will be my disciples." Jesus says to the church, he says to you and I, he says, 'Abide in me. If you abide in me you're gonna bear much fruit. But if you don't abide in me and you don't bear fruit, you're gonna wither right up, and you're gonna be cast into the fire.' [Almost shows that Jesus is not an advocate of once saved always saved. Refer to Matthew 24:13 also, with this in mind. Just an observation.] So Jesus shows that same truth with this fig tree and Israel applies to you and I as the church. And what type of fruit is Jesus looking for in our lives? Obviously the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, meekness, self-control, gentleness, goodness, temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). But also we read in Hebrews 13, the fruit of praise, the fruit of thanksgiving...in Colossians, the fruit of the gospel, in James, the fruit of righteousness--when he looks in your life does he see those things? Or does he see a tree with just green leaves that looks nice, looks religious, but does he look deeper and say, 'You know, there's self-control in that person's life, powered by the Holy Spirit. There's peace, man, the peace of God, there's love abounding from their life, there's gentleness, humility, meekness, goodness. Praise and thanksgiving just comes from their heart, from their lips, and they live rightly, there's righteousness before me. What does Jesus see in your life? Definitely a warning to you and I, this fig tree, it's a picture of what Jesus says in John, that if he comes and there's no fruit, we're not abiding in him--that the tree will be withered up. John says, quotes Jesus saying it will be cast into the fire.

Verses 15-19, "So they came to Jerusalem, and Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple and overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And he would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then he taught saying to them, 'Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.' 'But you have made it a den of thieves.' And the Scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy him, for they feared him, because all the people were astonished at his teaching. When the evening had come he went out of the city." [This is the 10th Nisan or Abib when the lambs where chosen, Jesus is crucified on the 14th Nisan or Abib, when the lambs were slain.] Tremendous time. You know, in this city you've got these guys, these religious leaders that think they're on top of the world. They've really worked to maintain their position. They have a sense of control. But they're very threatened by Jesus. Jesus is not a respecter of persons, he comes in on this parade, the city is just quaked like an earthquake, and then he goes the next day into the temple and begins to toss over the tables, and toss over the seats of dove-sellers, right there in their own temple. He goes right in, he doesn't even respect so much that they think they're religious. He just goes in and cleans house, as the Son of God. This is probably, as we read, this is probably the second time Jesus goes into the temple and does this. John chapter 2, we have another time. And if you lay it out there are some differences. And it seems he must have done this twice. He did it early on in his ministry. Was away from Jerusalem, so the guys, a little time later came back in and set up their tables and started to go right back at it. Comes in later [at the end of his earthly ministry]. Evidently, he's thinking they are, so the day before, he goes in and maybe no one's in there, must be the Sabbath. Then he comes in the next day and they're in there and he goes to town and begins to flip over--I mean you can just imagine a guy coming in, one individual, and there's all these people, with their tables, and he just flips over their tables. Why does he get so angry because they're doing this? Well, no doubt God detests when he's misrepresented. He completely detests being misrepresented. God hates when in the name of religion, people take advantage of other people. God detests when we try to show that he is one way to our benefit when he is not. And for that reason Jesus is angry. These people are really inhibiting worship of God.

What would happen was these money-changers, when they set up this system so that you could only purchase goods from the temple with temple currency. And of course for the sacrifices you would need doves and certain animals [bulls, lambs, goats, etc.--big money items] and they needed to be approved by the priests. [Think how much money a whole lamb or bull costs. This is big money we're talking about here.] They needed to be of a certain quality, and that's according to the Law of Moses. But they used that in a manipulative way. You'd go out to your own area and get a dove that was nice and beautiful and bring it to the priest, but he would look at it and he would look at it, and he would look long enough till he found a flaw, and say, 'No, this dove just doesn't cut it. You need to get a dove from us. You know, we've got ones already approved by the temple, the temple committee, that are temple worthy.' So with that you'd have to purchase one, but then also if you were from a foreign country, you'd have to get your currency changed to get this temple currency [and three million Jews, many from foreign lands, would descend on Jerusalem for the Passover/Unleavened Bread/Pentecost season, cf. Acts 2]. And of course they would just sell these doves [and other animals] for ridiculous prices. And the exchange rate on the currency was really high, and they were just ripping people off. And Jesus couldn't stand it. In fact, you read in verse 16, after he cleans house, even then he's still in this state of just anger--it's a righteous anger--he doesn't even let people come into the temple area--the temple mount is quite a large area--he wouldn't even let the people in that area carrying goods...And with that he teaches in verse 17, he says, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.' 'But you have made it a den of thieves.'"--you've just made a mockery of it.' And the house of God is to be a house of prayer. I pray that God looks at this congregation, the folks that come here, and see this church as a house of prayer. You know, prayer is a vertical thing. When you have people coming together to pray they're coming together around God. He's the focus. Prayer is vertical. A church that prays is centered and focussed on God. If a church doesn't pray much, what is the focus? What is the center of attention if you're not a church that prays very much? When you pray, you say "God, please, God please..." He is the center of attention. And that's the place for the house of God is for you and I to come and to come around with God, and seek his face together, not to get focussed on anything but that. And that's what Jesus says. God's house is a house of prayer, people coming individually--you have your own line of communication right to the Lord--individually coming and just calling upon him and praising him, and worshipping him. May God see that in our lives and may he see that here in the ministry of this church.

Well, the Scribes and chief priests, they just can't handle him, they're so threatened by him that they want to destroy him. [Annas was supposed to be the High Priest for life, but Pilate made him step down. To retain the power behind the throne, so-to-speak, Annas had one son-in-law after another appointed as High Priest. Caiaphas was one of those appointees, his son-in-law. Annas owned exclusive rights to all the money-making concessions around the Temple. So when Jesus overturned the money-changer's tables and drove out all that bought and sold animals on Temple grounds, he was striking right at the personal financial heart of the person who was the real High Priest in actuality. Jesus also must have been aware of the date that he was doing this on--the tenth of Nissan, the day all the lambs were to be selected by the head's of households for the Passover. What he was doing, in reality, was interrupting the massive selling and selecting process that was taking place on this special day of selection--which forced the High Priest to select the real Lamb of God for sacrifice--crucifixion--and all this was done on the proper day. Cf. Exodus 12:1-8. To read of this incredible timing and about these last six days in the life of Jesus Christ http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/lamb/lastsixdays.htm ] But it says, here the people are still very much with Jesus, and they fear the people. [The people, the large majority of Jews, according to Jim Bishop in his work "The Day Christ Died", never turned against Jesus. He was speedily taken off the scene, tried illegally at night--and Jim Bishop indicates the crowd that accompanied the High Priest and Jesus to Pilate for Pilate's judgment were none other than the Temple Guard and everyone in the Temple employ who could be mustered up. So, even the crowd that cried 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' was a "staged crowd" and not really composed of the masses of Jews gathered from around the world for the Passover season.] What we don't have here, but in another account in Matthew is that Matthew says that those that were lame, and the paralytics and the blind, they came to Jesus again and he was healing them right there in the Temple. So he's doing these miracles before their eyes, he's touching lives, all these prophecies are being fulfilled but yet the Scribes and Pharisees still wanted to destroy him and wouldn't accept him. At night, as he does each evening, he departs from the city.

Verses 20-26, "Now in the morning as they passed by they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter remembering said, 'Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has withered away. So Jesus answered and said to them, 'Have faith in God, for assuredly I say to you, Whoever says to this mountain, Be removed and cast into the sea', and does not doubt in his heart but believes that those things that he said will be done, he will have what he says. Therefore I say to you, whatsoever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them and you will have them. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins." Next day they're going down again, evidently the Mount of Olives, somewhere in that area, back into Jerusalem from Bethany, and they pass by this tree again. Peter says 'Whoa! Check it out! That tree is dead! Not only did it just die, it withered up from the roots! Man, that tree is dead forever!' He says, 'Rabbi, Jesus, check this out!--You cursed this tree and it just died.' Obviously with that the disciples are wondering, going down, and Jesus goes right to the heart of all the issues, and he says, 'Have faith in God, have faith in God.' Jesus is probably saying a lot in that statement, as you again consider the fig tree. He's cursed this fig tree that represented the nation of Israel. A nation that was religious, had the leaves, but had no fruit, no faith. Faith is a key element to fruit. A faithless nation, again they don't even know the day of their visitation. They've missed it altogether, they're just not people of faith. So Jesus has cursed it, and now they ask why, 'Look, Jesus, what have you done?' Jesus uses this to teach them 'Have faith in God, I've curse this tree because it was a fruitless tree. If you don't want to be a fruitless tree have faith in God.' It's all about faith. Faith pleases him, faith is the key to a life of fruit. The nation of Israel wasn't a faithful people at this point, so God judged them. Then he continues, though, he says, "I say to you, if you say to this mountain over here, Move from there and into the sea', and you believe it, it will happen." It will happen just like that. And then he goes further, he says, 'Whatever, whenever you pray, if you believe what you're asking for, you're gonna get it, if you believe him.' Now this passage many folks have used, manipulated and taught strange things. If you understand, obviously, all the Scriptures, it balances out. Not too many folks in the past I think have moved mountains. In fact, I was looking at J. Vernon MaGee's commentary and he says, "You know, I like the mountains where they are. I wouldn't want to move a mountain into the ocean. Why would I want to do a silly thing like that?" That's Jesus' point, though, is this point of faith. It's key to understand this passage, it's key to understand who he's talking to, his disciples. He's talking to folks that have denied themselves, left their careers, left their families, left all to follow him. He talking to certain folks with certain hearts, that want to seek him and glorify him. And he says to them, 'If you believe, you can do these things. It's key to understand he's talking to disciples. A disciple isn't gonna go to Jesus and say, "Jesus, I want a Mercedes. And I'm gonna pray right now and believe. I'm gonna just visualize in my mind positively thinking this Mercedes--Boom!--it better be there!" A disciple isn't gonna do that. "I want the biggest house in my town, I want it to be mine. I'm gonna visualize it. I want it to be mine." That's not a disciple. People have taken this passage and abused it, misinterpreted it. I think they need to read back about people who misrepresent God and his Word, what Jesus thinks of that. But that's not what Jesus is referring to. He's talking to the heart of the disciple. Like what the Psalmist says. The Psalmist says, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart." Delight yourselves in the Lord--that's the condition of your heart--he will give you the desires of your heart. That is a truth [cf. Matthew 6:25-33.]. If my heart is delighted in the Lord and I'm seeking the Lord, man, he will give me the deepest desire of my heart. But my desires are probably gonna be a little different than Mercedes, the largest house in my hometown--our desires are gonna be for his kingdom, as I've delighted myself in him. The Psalmist goes further, he says, "But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." Those that seek the Lord won't lack any good thing. If I seek God I'm gonna have all I need, and you know, whatever I've sought him in prayer for, I'm gonna get what I need, what I asked for. Those that seek the Lord, the Psalmist in Psalm 84 says, "No good thing will be withheld from those who walk uprightly." No good thing will be withheld if you walk uprightly, walk according to the ways of God--which is to love your neighbor as yourself, to love God and to seek him and his ways. If you walk uprightly you will see that nothing will be withheld from you as you pray and you seek God. I love Psalm 81 for those people of God, "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." [This was George Mueller's favorite Scriptural promise from God that he constantly put to use in his orphan house ministry. Be sure to look up George Muller in the "What is Prayer?" section.] God just wants to bless us. That's what Jesus is saying, 'If you believe', he's speaking to the disciples--if your heart is to serve him, lay it down for him, if you seek him in prayer, you're gonna have a certain heart--and you're gonna see God do radical things, man, radical things as you pray. He's talking obviously about effective prayer. Effective prayer is prayer that is full of faith.

Let's look at James chapter 1. This passage, you know, you wrestle with. My wife and I were even wrestling with it this week, talking about it. There's been times I've come to this passage, and, I'm like, 'Well Lord, are you telling me that you want me to do such and such?' And then I pray. And then I'm like, 'Well am I not praying with enough faith?' and 'Why don't I have enough faith?'--you know, we wrestle with this thing. [Certainly is nice to see pastors go through this too, isn't it?]--If I believe God will do it, if I don't believe--well James chapter 1, verse 6. Referring to someone who wants wisdom, God says, "But let him ask in faith with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He's a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." So now we see Jesus is saying, 'You pray in faith', James is saying, 'If you are asking something that God wants to work in your life--I mean obviously God wants to give you wisdom, you can be guaranteed of that--God wants to give you wisdom. Read the Proverbs. God wants you very much to be given wisdom--but if you go in faith, you go to the Lord in prayer and say, "Lord, give me wisdom, but I really wonder if you're gonna give it to me, Lord. Give me wisdom, Lord. But, boy, I just don't think you want to. You seem to ignore me a lot Lord." Well James says, man, he's not gonna receive anything from the Lord, the man that's like that. In fact he says he's a double-minded man, he's unstable. Man the life of an unstable man or an unstable woman is hard, an unstable environment. But the person of faith is a pillar, is strong--just in the Word. Faith comes by hearing [and reading in the Word of God]. I recently was given some tapes, a program where you can listen to the Bible in forty days. The whole program is called "Faith Comes By Hearing", and lots of churches have done that. And I've been kind of going through the material. But faith comes by hearing the Word as you're in the Word, seeking His face, you get faith, and as God speaks to you about such an issue, or about one of his promises, with that, I go to him and I pray and believe and I receive. But if I don't believe, man, it's--why pray if you don't believe? Why pray if you're just going through the motions? You know, why pray for your spouse or pray for these other people if you really don't believe it in your heart? Effective prayer is full of faith, man, gettin' on your knees and going, 'Lord, you can do it, not only can you do it, I know you're gonna do it because you've told me, you've promised me, and because you said that I just cling to that...' You know, faith counts things that are not as though they are. Faith counts things that are not as though they are. Let's look at Hebrews chapter 11. Hebrews 11:1-16, "For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God [John 1:1-11], so that the things which are seen are not made of things which are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, to which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, and was not found because God had taken him. For before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. By faith Noah being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob the heirs with him of the same promise. For he waited for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed as she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and from him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude, innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And if truly they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now these desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." It goes on and on to talk about, by faith Moses, Abraham, Joseph, the great ones of the past looking to things not yet seen but accepting God for his word and just stepping out in faith and responding in faith. Faith pleases God. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen of that God has spoken to you in your life. If there's something that he's spoken to you about a promise that he wants to do in your marriage or with your children or your family or some other area of your life, he wants you to accept his promises in faith. If God has led you to go out and do some sort of ministry or work in some sort of area, he wants you to step out in faith and trust him in faith. Faith pleases God. Effective prayer is full of faith, it's prayer that says 'Lord, you can, and I know you will.' And may we be in his Word, hearing his voice, learning his character so that we get that faith, to pray in faith. [For a super series on faith click on http://www.intouch.org and order Charles Stanley's six cassette series titled "Learning To Walk By Faith".]
Verses 25-26, "and whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." Jesus says effective prayer is full of faith. But he also says effective prayer is a prayer of meekness and humility. It's a prayer when you come to the Lord and there's somebody that's done something that has hurt you, and you have issue with, and you forgive them. And if you don't forgive them, Jesus says, if you come and you're praying to your heavenly Father who has forgiven you of all your sin--Jesus has gone to the cross for your sin--if you come to him and yet you have something against another, your prayer is just a waste of time.

Mark 11:27-33, "They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 'By what authority are you doing these things?' they asked. 'And who gave you authority to do this?' Jesus replied, 'I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John's baptism--was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!'

They discussed it among themselves and said, 'If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men'...' (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, 'We don't know.' Jesus said, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'" The priests and scribes asked Jesus about all these things...I mean, to come in a parade like he did, knock over these tables, to create this havoc in the temple and to chase these folks out. 'Who gave you the authority to do that Jesus? "But Jesus answered and said to them, 'I'll ask you also one question, then answer me and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven or men? Answer me!' And they reasoned among themselves saying, 'If we say from heaven he will say 'Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say from men', they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed. So they answered and said to Jesus, 'We do not know.' And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.'" Well, the religious leaders challenge Jesus' authority. They've seen him do the miracles again. They've seen all this stuff that he's done, but it certainly is threatening to them, so they come to him, 'Alright, you tell us, Jesus, what authority do you have to do these things?' And Jesus goes right again to the heart of the matter. He says, 'Tell you what, I'll tell you if you tell me something. John, John the Baptist, where did he get his authority? Did it come from heaven, or was it from men? You tell me where he got his authority and I'll tell you where I got my authority.' And of course he trapped them, because, well, they didn't accept John the Baptist's ministry. In accepting his ministry they gotta accept Christ, because John said, 'Here's the Lamb of God, right here, Jesus.' So they can't accept John the Baptist. But then, everybody respected John the Baptist. Millions went out and were baptized by him--many of the folks standing around, I'm sure at this moment. So they're not gonna say, 'Well, from men', because the people are gonna go, 'Hey, you Scribes and Pharisees are really out to lunch!' So they're trapped. They say, 'I don't know.' And he says, 'You don't know, I don't know. You're not gonna tell me, I'm not gonna tell you. You tell me, I'll tell you. That's where that's at.' So he traps them in their own way. But, he says, 'Your problem is faith. You want to know my authority, man. If you had faith you would have seen who John the Baptist was, and that he pointed to me, and you'd receive me.' But these people were so blinded, they would not receive Jesus, and like the fig tree they tried to look good, but not receive Jesus. And like the fig tree, forty years from this point, man, this nation was going to be destroyed for many, many years [1878 years to be exact]--judged because their heart was hard. They'd been given so much, they'd been given the Law, they'd been given the Prophets, they'd been given the Sacrifices, all that, the Tabernacle, the Temple, but they still refuse to accept God in faith, and his Word and to just humble themselves before him. And God, God judged them, judged them severely. Well, that concludes Mark chapter 11.