Friday, April 15, 2011

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 17, 2011

(Take a risk and welcome JESUS into your life)
(Mark 11:1-17)

Mark chapter 11 marks the beginning of the final week of JESUS’ life here on earth. Here John Mark opens up with a vivid description of our LORD and SAVIOR setting the stage for HIS triumphant final entry into Jerusalem. It is a fitting climax to the last leg of JESUS’ incredible journey to meet with HIS OWN execution, which was to be crucifixion on a cross by Roman method, on Calvary Hill.
As JESUS and HIS disciples neared Jerusalem and came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany, on the Mount of Olives, HE sent two of them ahead into the village to retrieve a young colt that had never been ridden, and they were to bring it back to HIM. They were to tell the owner that the LORD needed it, and that they would return it soon.
The disciples followed JESUS’ instructions to the letter, and soon returned with the colt, throwing their garments over its back as a cushion for JESUS to sit on. As they came into Jerusalem, many in the crowd spread their coats on the road ahead of JESUS, and still others cut off leafy branches from the fields and spread them along the way. JESUS rode in the center of the procession as shouts of “Hosanna!” filled the air.
In the first century, if a king rode into a city on a steed, it would be for the purpose of war. However, by JESUS riding in on a donkey, HE was sending a clear signal to all, that HE would be a “King of Peace”. This was all, apparently, in sharp contrast to what the people had expected from JESUS in the end. In fact, here we see them greeting HIM as the “Son of David”, no doubt, expecting HIM to rush into Jerusalem that morning with fierce fighting, just as King David had done some 950 years earlier, and rescue them from their Roman oppressors.
And so we see that, even now, in the last week of HIS mission, people still didn’t seem to understand the whole purpose of why JESUS had came. Here we see in verses 8-10, the people thinking of JESUS’ kingship in terms of a physical conquest that some of them had waited all of their lives to experience. It is even suggested in their shouts of “Hosanna”, which is translated, “save us now”, what JESUS’ arrival really meant to them. It was a welcome that befitted, not a king of love and peace, but rather, it befitted one who was a conqueror that came to slay all of their enemies. They were looking for a physical savior, but instead, they would discover, in time, a spiritual one.
When JESUS first arrived in Jerusalem HE went straight to the temple, inspected it, and saw that it wasn’t being used at that time. No one was praying, and no one was being spiritually fed, because it was considered to be too late in the day. HE then left and went to Bethany with HIS disciples. On the way back from Bethany the following morning, JESUS felt hungry. Just then HE spotted a fig tree and went over to inspect it for figs. However, HE found none, because it was too early in the season for fruit. JESUS cursed the fig tree, and then, they continued on their journey back to Jerusalem. The uselessness of the fig tree, and its failure to provide physical food when needed, had brought “physical disaster” upon it from JESUS.
Upon arriving back at Jerusalem, JESUS again went directly into the temple. This time, instead of finding it not being used, HE found a “spiritual disaster” as it was now being misused. It was filled with crooked merchants and moneychangers, who were taking unfair advantage of the poor and out-of-town visitors who had come to Jerusalem to observe the Passover and worship GOD with animal sacrifices.
When JESUS saw what was going on HE immediately cleared the temple of all the unsavory characters that were there to exploit the needs of the righteous. In the biblical Greek the word used to describe GOD’s anger is “agathosune” (ag-ath-o-soo-nay). It is a word that is not found in secular Greek. In fact, it actually is defined as “GOD’s goodness”. It is the goodness and mercy by which GOD rebukes and disciplines HIS people for their acts of disobedience against HIM. Here in this passage, this word also applies to JESUS’ actions against the robbers and moneychangers who were desecrating GOD’s Holy Place, creating a spiritual disaster (Vs. 15-17).
Man’s exploitation of man will always provoke the wrath, or “agathosune” of GOD, especially when it is done under the guise of the Christian religion. By overcharging the people for animals to be used to give sacrifice to GOD at the temple, and, by charging exorbitant fees to convert their foreign money into the local currency, they were, in effect, blocking many people from worshiping GOD.
Here JESUS seeks to remind everyone that no one is to block another from the worship of GOD. And because people of many nations participated in the Passover, even in the first century, HE is also saying that GOD wants all people to be saved, not just the Jews, and not just the rich, but all mankind, for all time, would be covered by the blood of CHRIST, in just a few short days.
There is perhaps no other place in scripture where we feel more reminded that we need to make a more conscious effort to be fair in our dealings with one another. There were many crooked people in the temple court that day, but there were also many others whose hearts were fixed on GOD. The LORD will never hold blameless, those who make it hard or impossible for others to worship HIM. Sometimes even professed ministers of GOD are more concerned with imposing their own ways of doing things on their congregation than they are with adhering to the will and ways that GOD HIMSELF wants things to be done. But the worship of GOD and the disputes of men will never be compatible in GOD’s plan. Remember, Jesus didn’t send everyone away that day, only those who were blocking the worship of GOD the FATHER, by making it difficult, or impossible for the poorest among them to purchase the sacrificial animals to be used in worship of HIM.
Need, will never be sent away empty by JESUS CHRIST, and just like GOD the FATHER, HIS anger is never merely negative. It always goes to the heart of helping those who are in need of HIS assistance. And with that said, those who haven’t already, should, make every effort, to let JESUS make a triumphant, life-changing, heart-cleansing entry, into their personal existence.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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