Mark 11:11 – One Last Look
And He entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple; and when He had looked round at everything, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.Mark 11:11
It almost appears as an anticlimax. Mark has just recorded how the Lord Jesus entered Jerusalem surrounded with the cheers and cries of many residents of the city: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" Right after this Jesus went straight to the temple, looked round at everything, and went to Bethany. Why did He come just to look around at things? And what is the significance of a visit made just to look around?
Jesus' actions here become clearer for us when we recall that this is His last formal visit to the temple. This is a visit which ushers in the final week of His work on earth, a week filled with mounting bitterness, strife and envy against Him. To be sure, He returned to the temple to drive out the money changers. And His teachings and debates of the final week occurred in and around the temple. But here Mark records a specific visit by the Lord Jesus to the temple for the sake of the temple itself. Jesus looks intently at everything in the temple, its furniture, its utensils, the fine needlework and decorations, the altars, and the dividing curtain.
We can compare this last look of the Lord Jesus with the first look at the temple as anointed Messiah. Then the devil took Him to a pinnacle of the temple and told Him to jump down and so manifest Himself as the Son of God in the court of the temple. The Lord Jesus knew what Scripture prophesied concerning the messenger of the covenant. The prophet had said that "…the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold He is coming…" The Lord Jesus knew that He was the messenger of the covenant. He also longed to fulfill the temple and its administration, its services, sacrifices and offerings. But Jesus also knew that what the devil suggested was wrong. His was not the way to fulfil the temple.
But now the Lord Jesus has come to the time of fulfillment. Now He looks around at everything with both feet on the ground. And now He knows that He must follow through with the mandate given to Him by His Father. To be sure, from this point He must continue to proceed one step at a time, and one day at a time. So Mark also adds that, because it was late, the Lord Jesus left the city and returned to Bethany. The same zeal and longing that remained with Him throughout His life was still there. But longing and zeal must be coupled with patient obedience. The Son of God must bring forward the fulfillment as one who is the Son of man.
Yet this look – a deep and intent looking as occurred more often in His earthly life, cf. Mark 3:5, 34, 5:32, Luke 6:10 – was just what Jesus needed in order to proceed with that final intense week leading to His death on the cross. As He looks at everything, He is assured that the hour has come. For He sees the altar and dividing curtain, the mark of the separation between God and man due to sin. He realizes in His heart that He is the one to bring down the curtain – indeed, to have it torn in two.
The Lord Jesus was obedient to the call given Him here by His Father. The first thing that Matthew narrates after the Lord Jesus died is: "And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom" Matthew 27:51
The dividing wall of partition was broken down, giving us access to the throne of grace. Priest, altar and sacrifice came to fulfillment in Him, because He saw His own office as willing High priest and Victim for the sins of His people.
The temple – it had pulled the Lord Jesus from the first days of His life on earth. As a twelve-year-old boy His heart was filled with the things of the temple. And why not? This was where the Lord gave reconciliation and life to His people. But Jesus also saw that the temple had to be fulfilled. His great love for the temple led Him to see how He was the fulfillment of the earthly temple, and how He had to break with the earthly temple in order to place His body as a pure offering and eternal sacrifice before God, through which justification and life is given to all who believe.
So that is all that this was – a last look, nothing less and nothing more. After His resurrection Jesus never visits the temple again. And in His final week He also prophesied the destruction of the earthly temple. Not one stone would be left upon another that would not be thrown down, Matthew 24:2, History proved the truth of His words, for only forty years after His death, the temple was completely destroyed.
The earthly temple is gone, but in Him the heavenly temple is ours! We may be cleansed from sin in the eternal offering of His heavenly body, and may also be nourished by it to life eternal! We may share the life of Him who came to fulfill the temple, making Himself a new and heavenly temple for us. He looked at everything – and followed through! This remains our joy all our days!