And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,
The Silent Looks of Christ.
I. The Lord is always looking. He looketh from heaven and beholdeth the children of men. The Lord looked to see if there were any that feared Him and that honoured His name. There is no protection from His eye. This is a terrible statement to be delivered to the bad man! You are never alone. When you think you are alone, your solitude is but relative. "Whither shall I flee from Thy presence?" The question is unanswered and unanswerable. God fills the universe, overflows infinitude, and thou canst not escape His eye. The eyes of the Lord are very terrible, flames of fire are the only symbols by which they can be likened among us; but they are also gentle, melting with dewy tenderness, yearning with unutterable pity; looking out for us; watching our homecoming, looking over the hills and along the curving valleys, if haply they may see somewhat of the shadow of the returning child.
II. If such be the looks of the Father and the Son, how should we return looks that are so full of significance and purpose? Hear the word of the Lord: "Look unto Me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth." How? Look not with the eyes of the body, not with curiosity; but with reverence, with eagerness of heart, with determination of love, with all the urgency and importunity of conscious need. He asks us to look; to look at Himself; not on the throne of judgment, but in His capacity as Redeemer and Saviour of the world. We shall have to look; the only question is, How? Are we prepared for His coming? How are we prepared for His fan? By going to His cross. He proposed that we should meet Him in His weakness. He appoints the place. He says, "Meet Me where I am weakest; where My right hand is maimed, and my left; where My feet are pierced with iron, and My side is gashed with steel, and My temples are crushed with cruel thorns—meet Me there!" Then, having met Him there, when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all His holy angels with Him, He will be the same Saviour, as gentle and as pitiful as ever. And now the Lord's hands are His again, He will use them for the opening of the door of His kingdom, and the lifting up of all who put their trust in Him.
Parker, The Ark of God, p. 180.
Mark 11:12-14The Barren Fig-tree.
I. What is "fruit." The fruit of a tree is that which the sap formed in the branch; the sap, springing out of the root, passes through the stem, circulating through every little spray and tendril, deposits there the germ of fruit; and that fed by the same sap, warmed by the sun that shines on it, and strengthened by the wind, gets stronger and grows larger, till ripe and fit for the gathering. This is the operation in the kingdom of nature. Now look at that in the kingdom of grace. The Spirit of God is always flowing from the roots of the everlasting covenant of the Father's love, and it all flows through the Lord Jesus Christ. With those who are grafted into Christ there is a passage by which the Spirit may come to them. The sunshine of mercy and the wind of trial come, and these, operating together, soften and strengthen, and the individual takes the savour of the Spirit that flows into it; it sweetens, it grows, it fructifies. It is like that from which it comes; it is fit for the Father's use, and this is "fruit." Therefore, you see how much is required to make the action really pleasing to God. (1) First, you must be a member of the Lord Jesus Christ, or else you are cut off from any interest in the love of God. In Christ alone is life—you must be a branch. (2) The action must take its existence, its strength, its colour, its character, from God's own Spirit. (3) The action, which is single, must have in it the flame of God's love.
II. As it is the intention of nature that everything shall be subservient to the production of fruit, the leaves are only to minister to the fruit. The plant produces fruit, first that it may bear fruit, and then the leaves protect the fruit after it is formed. So in grace, a thousand things a man may make ends which were never intended to be ends. And one is holiness of life. It is a beautiful leaf, like the longing of the soul; but the fruit is when you carry away a mind more humble under the truth, a mind more active for the service of God. Or perhaps your familiarity with Divine subjects increases, so that you are able to grasp the Word; understanding more its meaning, its mysteries being more unfolded to your view. It is well! These things feed the soul; but it is only a leaf, unless the heart thereby has taken a firmer hold upon Christ, and been watered in Divine things.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 36.
The Barren Fig-tree.
I. When our Lord pronounced His curse upon the barren fig-tree, He taught men a great lesson by an acted parable. It was was not about fig-trees that He really spake. Doth the Lord take care for fig-trees? or saith He it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written; and the lesson that it teaches is that what He requires of His people is reality, not profession; truth in the inward heart, not outward appearance of goodness; not a fair show which man can see, while God sees that the inside is very different from that show; fruit—the real fruit of true holiness and inward devotion to God—not leaves; not the semblance and reputation and outward character only, without any corresponding clinging of the heart in faith and good works to God.
II. There can be no doubt that the first application of this very significant act of our Lord was to the Jewish nation. It was like a fair-looking fig-tree, full of leaves. The hill of Sion was a fair place and the joy of the whole nation. But there came One who, seeing afar this fine-looking tree having such a profusion of leaves, came nearer, if haply He might find the fruit thereon which those leaves should have indicated. Alas for the nation! The temple was doomed; not one stone, ere fifty years had passed, should be left standing on another. Under all the thick, fine, flourishing leaves not a single fruit was to be found; no faith, no love, no Divine knowledge, no real understanding of the Scriptures, nor of the prophets, read in their synagogues every Sabbath day.
III. The case of the barren fig-tree applies also to individuals. We too each one of us, have to look to it very seriously, as in the sight of God, that our religion be not fair-seeming leaves only, but fruit too; not only outward show, but true earnest, inward reality. God forbid that we should be satisfied with ourselves. God forbid that we should rest in the consciousness that, in the sight of man or in our own overweening thoughts, we put out fair leaves and a good show; when in fact and as God sees us, there is no fruit of holy, humble, self-distrusting love; no good fruit of that sacred fear of God which alone keeps the heart of man watchful and sober and faithful in Christ until the end.
G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 169.
References: Mark 11:12-14.—G. Macdonald, Miracles of our Lord, p. 252; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 36; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 240; A. Lloyd, Church of England Pulpit, vol. x., p. 493. Mark 11:12-19.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 377. Mark 11:12-23.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 119.
Mark 11:13The words "for the time of figs was not yet" are not given as a reason why Christ found nothing but leaves. He went to this one tree which had leaves on it; and that, therefore, was one of those trees which naturalists describe as never shedding their leaves. On this species of fig-tree the fruit of the last year commonly hung to the spring of the next; and the foliage might thus well induce an expectation, which barrenness afterwards disappointed. As man, Christ perceived from the appearance of the tree that fruit might fairly be expected; and therefore, as God, He might justly condemn the plant.
I. The narrative of the curse of the barren fig-tree must be considered as designed in the first place, to represent to us the state and the doom of the Jewish people; without doubt the fig-tree itself is a figure of the nation of Israel. God had planted His vineyard, He had sent a succession of prophets and priests who, as dressers of that vineyard, might attend to its culture. But though everything had been done for it, yet the fig-tree yielded no fruit. Amid all the emblems of moral painting there could not be found a more accurate delineation, both of national privilege and of national character, than that of the barren fig-tree.
II. The uniform tendency of ancient prophecy may require that we erase the words "for ever from this curse when transferred to the Jewish nation, but we dare not blot out this awful conclusion when we apply it to the case of hypocritical professors in general. There are many ways of losing the soul; there is only one of saving it—even the receiving of Jesus Christ in simplicity and faith; and then glorifying Christ Jesus in the sanctity of practice. The former is the true and vital sap: the latter is the consequence—the production of fruits that glow and blossom with the bloom of the morning.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,191.
References: Mark 11:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 555; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 152. Mark 11:13, Mark 11:14.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 92.
I. At the place where the market was held. It is called a temple. But you are not to think that it was actually a temple, properly so called; this would be to do the Jews great injustice. They were wonderfully scrupulous about their temple, and would never have actually held a market in any place which they themselves accounted sacred. It was in the outer court—the court of the Gentiles—that the sheep and oxen and doves were sold, and the money-changers had their tables. As the Jews did not regard this court as having any legal sanctity, they permitted it to be used as a market, the temple of those who came thither to worship.
II. There is too much reason for supposing that it was on purpose to show their contempt for the Gentiles, that the Jews allowed the traffic which Christ interrupted. And here, as we believe, you may find the true cause of our Redeemer's interference. It was not as a simple man, acting under the passions and upon the principles of men, but it was exclusively as a prophet and a teacher sent from God to inculcate great truths, that Jesus drove out the buyers and sellers. When Christ entered the court of the Gentiles, and found, in place of the solemnity which should have pervaded a scene dedicated to worship, all the noise and tumult of a market, He had before Him the most striking exhibition of that vain resolve on the part of His countrymen, and which His Apostles strove in vain to counteract, the resolve of considering themselves as God's peculiar people, to the exclusion of all besides; and the refusing to unite themselves with converts from heathenism in the formation of one visible Church. Christ declared, as emphatically as He could have done in words, that the place where the strangers worshipped was to be accounted as sacred as that in which the Israelites assembled, and that what would have been held as a profanation of the one, was to be held a profanation of the other. To ourselves, at all events, this is manifestly the import of the symbolical action; it is prophetic of God's gracious purposes towards the Gentiles. It was our church, if we may so express it, for it was the church of the Gentiles, within whose confines the oxen were stabled, and the money-changers plied their traffic. They were our rights which the Redeemer vindicated, our privileges which He asserted when He made a scourge of small cords and said, "Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations a house of prayer? but ye have made the court of the Gentiles a den of thieves."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,589.
References: Mark 11:15-17.—C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons Chiefly Practical, p. 387; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 181. Mark 11:20.—H. Griffith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., pp. 264, 281, 299. Mark 11:20-26.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 240. Mark 11:20-33.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 382. Mark 11:22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1444; vol. vi., No. 328; J. Aldis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 312; W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. ii., p. 211; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 98; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 67. Mark 11:22-24.—A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 86. Mark 11:22-24.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 281. Mark 11:24.—A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 78; T. G. Bonney, Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 257. Mark 11:25.—A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 102; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 149.
Mark 11:27-28I. There is something just and legitimate in the words of Christ's enemies. The idea of a Divine revelation is inseparable from the idea of authority. Jesus to the scribes is a person without authority. For them authority is wholly in the priestly institution. Now Jesus did not belong to the tribe of Levi and to the descent of Aaron. He had not received the official consecration, He had not demanded the investiture of the synagogue. He was without authority. Christ lived in their sight; they had been able, day after day, to look on His conduct and to scrutinise His acts. The whole of His life had been holiness and mercy. The scribes saw that, and it did not move them. It was not a question with them to know of Christ's accomplished works of holiness, but in virtue of what authority He did them. Holiness, justice and mercy may burn with a superhuman brilliancy, may inspire a sublime teaching, may bring forth magnificent works, all will be nothing; rather than that they will prefer a parchment of the synagogue conferring on its possessor all the rights of authority.
II. A grand teaching comes out of this scene. Let us never put questions of hierarchy and of the Church above the truth. That is a miserable narrowness which we must hold in abhorrence. The sectarian spirit is not peculiar to small sects, as is too readily believed. Perhaps nowhere does it grow and develop with more intensity and in a more unconscious manner than in the shelter of great institutions and ancient traditions. There is a moment when it becomes a crime; it is when it shuts its eyes to the light, it is when it judges with disdainful pride all that is done outside of its regulations, it is when it attributes to Beelzebub the most manifest works of the Spirit of God. We must choose between the Pharisaical spirit that says to Christ, "By what authority doest Thou these things?" and the spirit of truth which, when it sees the light, comes to the light, and says, God is here.
E. Bersier, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 61.
References: Mark 11:27, Mark 11:28.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 98. Mark 11:27-33.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 249. Mark 11:29.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 53. Mark 11:30.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 99. Mark 11:27-28.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. i., p. 47. Mark 11-13—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 329. Mark 12:1-9.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 40. Mark 12:1-12.—R. Calderwood, The Parables, p. 317; A. B. Bruce, Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 447; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 254; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 382. Mark 12:6.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 284. Mark 12:10.—Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 145. Mark 12:10, Mark 12:11.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 108. Mark 12:10-12.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 318. Mark 12:15.—F. O. Morris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 195.
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.
And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.
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.
And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?
And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.
And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.
And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.
And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:
Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.
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.
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
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.
And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
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;
And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye 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 was astonished at his doctrine.
And when even was come, he went out of the city.
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
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.
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
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.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
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,
And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?
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.
The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.
And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?
But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.
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.