Today’s Scripture Focus: Mark 11:12-25
Mark 11 begins a new section of the Gospel. The rest of Jesus’ ministry will take place within the confines of Jerusalem. The event known as the “Triumphal Entry” inaugurates Passion Week, the final week of Jesus’ life. The Triumphal entry is a deliberate action on Jesus’ part indicating He is the Messiah foretold by the Old Testament prophets. The clue to its understanding is found in Zechariah 9:9— “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Today is Palm Sunday, which commemorates this messianic act.
Approaching Jerusalem from the east, Jesus sent two of the disciples into Bethany to retrieve a “colt”, which in this case means a young donkey that had never been ridden. Unused animals were regarded as especially suitable for religious purposes. Word quickly spread that Jesus was going to be entering into Jerusalem as the people of the village questioned why the disciples were taking the colt. Soon, people began chopping down leafy branches to wave, and throwing their coats on the ground in preparation for Jesus’ entry. “Hosanna!” means literally “God save us!”, and is a quote from Psalm 118 that was used in worship during Passover.
During Passion Week, Jesus would spend His days preaching in the Temple. Then, at night, He would head out to Bethany and the Mount of Olives. On Monday morning, Jesus saw a fig tree that already had leaves on it. This would have been unusual, for fig trees didn’t come into full bloom until later in the spring. Being hungry yet finding no figs on the tree, Jesus cursed it, proclaiming it would never bear fruit. The next morning, the disciples were amazed to find the fig tree “withered from its roots”, meaning its destruction was total. Jesus used this as an object lesson on faith for the disciples.
We don’t understand exactly why Jesus cursed the fig tree, but we know it is a key in understanding the events of the Temple. Sandwiched between the cursing of the tree and its death is the story of Jesus clearing the Temple. Though the fig tree was leafy and looked good from a distance, upon closer inspection it was barren. In the same way, the disciples marveled at the beauty of the Temple, but in reality it was unfruitful, a “den of robbers” that left any looking for spiritual nourishment empty. Jesus came to Jerusalem to freely offer what the Temple promised but failed to deliver—new life. This new life was made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus to those who believed.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask the discussion questions below*. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
* Do you think the disciples thought it was unfair of Jesus to curse the fig tree when figs weren’t in season anyway? What do you think Jesus was trying to teach the disciples?
* As you read the Bible this week, what is something you noticed for the first time?
* What questions did you have?
* Was there anything that bothered you?
* What did you learn about loving God?
* What did you learn about loving others?
- How can we pray for you this week?