Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,XI.
(1-10) And when they came nigh.—See Notes on Matthew 21:1-11.
Unto Bethphage and Bethany.—The better MSS. give “Bethany” only.
And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.(2) A colt tied.—St. Mark, with St. Luke and St. John, omits the mention of the “she-ass” bound with the colt, on which St. Matthew lays stress as a literal fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9.
Whereon never man sat.—The fact is mentioned by St. Mark and St. Luke only.
And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.(4) Without in a place where two ways met.—Each touch is characteristic of St. Mark, and implies personal observation on the part of his informant. The colt was at the door—outside, not inside, the court-yard; it was not at “a place,” but at “the place,” as we speak of “the cross-roads,” where two ways met.
And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?(5) And certain of them that stood there.—This again, though perhaps implied in our Lord’s words, is not reported by St. Matthew.
And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.(8) Branches off the trees.—The Greek word for “branches” is used by St. Mark only. It describes the leafy boughs forming, as they were thrown down, a kind of litter or matting, rather than the woody branches.
Off the trees.—The better MSS. give “from the fields,” a reading which, perhaps, agrees better with the account of the “branches” given in the preceding Note.
And strawed them in the way.—Omitted in the better MSS.
Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.(10) Blessed be the kingdom.—The shout of blessing for the kingdom as well as for the king, is another touch by which St. Mark’s record is distinguished from the others.
And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.(11) And now the eventide was come.—On the apparent discrepancy between St. Mark’s narrative and that of St. Matthew and St. Luke, see Note on Matthew 21:12. The minuteness and precision of St. Mark’s report are in themselves, primâ facie, an evidence in its favour. The word “eventide” is somewhat indefinite, but it included the two or three hours before sunset, as well as after. The procession, if it started in the morning, had probably been delayed by frequent halts, and its movement through such a dense crowd must have been but slow.
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:(12-14) And on the morrow.—On the chronological difficulty presented by this verse, see Note on Matthew 21:18-19.
And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.(13) For the time of figs was not yet.—It has been sometimes urged that this gives the reason for our Lord’s coming to seek “if haply he might find” fruit. The fig season had not come, and therefore the fruit, if any had been borne, would not have been gathered. There is nothing, however, against taking the words in their more natural sequence. The precocious foliage had suggested the thought that some of the early ripe figs might be already formed; but it was no exception, as far as fruit was concerned, to others of its kind. For it, as for them, the season, even of the earliest fruit, had not come. The seeing the fig-tree “afar off,” is a touch peculiar to St. Mark, and adds force to the narrative, as implying a keener pressure of hunger than St. Matthew’s description.
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;(15-19) And Jesus went into the temple.—See Notes on Matthew 21:12-17.
And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.(16) And would not suffer that any man.—Peculiar to St. Mark. The vessels referred to included, probably, the baskets and other common implements of traffic. Men were using the courts of the Temple as a short cut from one part of the city to another.
And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.(18) They feared him.—Peculiar to St. Mark. Note also his omission of the facts recorded by St. Matthew: (1) the healing of the blind and the lame in the Temple; (2) the children crying Hosanna.
And when even was come, he went out of the city.(19) And when even was come.—Another note of time peculiar to St. Mark.
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.(20-25) And in the morning.—See Notes on Matthew 21:20-22.
And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.(21-22) And Peter calling to remembrance.—St. Mark alone names Peter as the speaker. The form of our Lord’s answer, “Have faith in God,” is also peculiar to him.
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.(23) Those things . . . he shall have whatsoever he saith.—The better MSS. give, “that the thing which he saith cometh to pass,” and “he shall have it.” The promise is specific rather than general in its form, and so prepares the way for the wider generalisation of the next verse.
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.(24) Believe that ye receive them.—The better MSS. give the latter verb in the past tense, “Believe that ye received them.” It is obvious that, as a rule, such words imply prayer for spiritual rather than temporal blessings. In that region the subjective faith becomes an objective reality. We are to believe, not that we shall one day have what we pray for in a future more or less distant, but that we actually receive it as we pray. In most, if not in all cases, in prayer for peace, pardon, illumination, the promise, though it sounds hyperbolical, is psychologically true.
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.(25-26) And when ye stand praying, forgive.—See Notes on Matthew 6:14. The reproduction of the words which are recorded as having been spoken in the Sermon on the Mount, is very significant. The prayer even of intensest faith is not perfect, unless the temper of the worshipper is also that of the Charity which forgives offences. Such words exclude from the prayers of Christ’s disciples wishes more or less vindictive, which, as in Psalms 69, 109, had seemed natural and right under a less perfect manifestation of the will and mind of the Father.
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,(27-33) And they come again to Jerusalem.—See Notes on Matthew 21:23-27. Peculiar to St. Mark is the fact that our Lord was “walking” as well as teaching in the Temple.
But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.(32) That he was a prophet indeed.—The intensifying adverb is one of St. Mark’s graphic touches of emphasis.
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.(33) We cannot tell.—Better, as also in Matthew 21:27, We do not know. The repetition of the verb “tell” in the English, gives an unreal emphasis which is not in the Greek. The real stress lies on the pronoun “I.”