This is a Bible study on Mark 11:11-12:12.

7 pages.

Mark 11:11-12:12 - Do You Respect Christ’s Authority?

Read Mark 11:11-12:12.


Many times, we hear the slogan, “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas!” And many times that is precisely what people do: they keep Christ in Christmas. They confine Christ to the role of an adorable, but powerless, little infant sweetly lying in a manger. They may view this child as growing up, but only to become a kind and gentle man with long hair and cocker spaniel eyes who has great rapport with little children and blesses people. Then this gentle man is tragically crucified. Once again, during the

Easter season, He is the center of attention, but only as a poor, pitiable man hanging helplessly upon a cross.

So often in the eyes of the world, and too often in the eyes of professing Christians, Jesus is only seen as being a figure to be adored as a little infant at Christmas or pitied as a tragic figure hanging upon the cross on Good Friday. In either case He is perceived as being powerless and harmless.

As we approach the next passage of the Gospel of Mark, the picture of Christ in Christmas, (Christ the helpless, adorable babe), or Christ on the cross, (the helpless, pitiable man), is counterbalanced by an encounter with His awesome divine authority as the Lord of glory before whom all men shall one day give an account.

We must be sure to have a true and accurate appreciation of the person and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We Must Recognize Christ’s Awesome Authority🔗

The chief priests and religious leaders of Israel approached Jesus and inquired, “By what authority do you do these things? Who gave you this authority?” (vs. 28) They had just been confronted with Christ’s divine authority when He cleansed the temple:

When they came into Jerusalem, [Jesus] entered the temple. There he began to throw out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple [courts]; and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold the doves. 16He would not allow anyone to carry any merchandise through the temple [courts]. 17As he taught, he said to them, Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it into a den of robbers! Mk. 11:15-17

Note: This incident took place in that part of the temple known as The Court of the Gentiles.

Beyond the temple confines, on the Mount of Olives, there were four markets where pilgrims could buy doves and other ritually pure objects of sacrifice for temple offerings. There was no need for such trade to be conducted within the temple precincts. As a matter of fact, it appears that the sale of sacrificial animals, and all that such trade entailed, was a recent innovation, introduced by the High Priest Caiaphas, who wished to set up a market that would be in competition with the traditional markets located on the Mount of Olives. Thus, the transaction of business within the courts of the temple was an exceptional and shocking desecration, started by Caiaphas around the year 30 A.D., (some forty years before the final destruction of the temple and the city in 70 A.D.)1

In explaining the reason for His action, the Lord Jesus quotes the O.T. prophet Isaiah: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?” (Isa. 56:7). The installation of pens to house the sacrificial animals, together with all the other paraphernalia, such as tables for the currency exchangers, had transformed the Court of the Gentiles into an oriental bazaar and a cattle mart. Consequently, it had the effect of denying Gentiles access to the one area of the temple where they might gather to offer prayer to the God of Israel.2 Following His reference to Isaiah 56:7, Jesus alludes to a passage from the prophet Jeremiah: “you have made [the temple] into a den of robbers!” (Jer. 7:11). By turning the Court of the Gentiles into an oriental bazaar, the Jewish authorities were robbing the Gentiles of their access to the God of Israel.

When Jesus and His disciples return to Jerusalem and are seen walking in the temple precincts, they are confronted by “the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.” They demand to know: “By what authority do you do these things? Or who gave you the authority to do these things?” They have just been confronted with Christ’s divine authority when He cleansed the temple: a tremendous act of righteous, indeed, divine, indignation over the misuse of the sacred temple precincts and the leaders’ own abuse of the religious position to which they had been appointed by God.

Throughout the Gospel of Mark, we have been confronted with Christ’s divine authority:

We are confronted with Christ’s divine authority when He taught in the synagogue:

They came to Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath day he entered the synagogue and taught. 22The people were astonished at his teaching; because he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. Mk. 1:21-22

Christ does not offer us His religious opinion as just one among many competing and contradictory opinions, He speaks to us the very Word of God. John the Baptist testifies of Jesus: “the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives him the Spirit without limit” (Jn. 3:34). Christ does not submit unto us conjecture about spiritual things and the life beyond, He speaks to us as the One who comes from there and is an eyewitness of that place and those things. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen” (Jn. 3:11).

We are confronted with Christ’s divine authority when He expelled demons:

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Keep quiet and come out of him. 26And the unclean spirit, after shaking him violently and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27All the people were astonished, so much so that they questioned among themselves, saying, What is this? [Here is] a new teaching! With authority he even commands the unclean spirits, and they obey him. Mk. 1:25-27

Christ does not only teach with divine authority, He acts with divine authority. The one who is the prince of this world (the devil) cringes before Christ, is compelled to obey His command, and lives in conscious terror of that inevitable day when Christ shall cast him into the flames of hell forever. A graphic portrayal of the devil's final destination is presented in Revelation 20:10, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

We are confronted with Christ’s divine authority when He cleansed the leper:

A man with leprosy came up to him, kneeling down before him and begging him, If you are willing, you can make me clean. 41Being moved with compassion, [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, I am willing; be made clean. 42Immediately, the leprosy left him and he was made clean. Mk. 1:40-42

At Christ’s command, the foul, putrid, flesh-consuming disease of leprosy was not only arrested, but the whole process was thrown into reverse and retreated before the creation of fresh new healthy flesh. Christ brings to a halt the curse of death, and replaces it with fresh new life, simply because He wants to, He has the authority to do so. Note His statement, “I am willing” (vs. 41).

We are confronted with Christ’s divine authority when He forgives the crippled man’s sins:

But in order that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins, (he said to the paralytic), 11I tell you, Get up, pick up your mat, and go home. 12And [the man] got up, immediately picked up the mat, and went out in the presence of them all. As a result, they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, We never saw anything like this. Mk. 2:10-12

A state governor has the authority to issue a pardon that is able to save a convicted criminal from execution. But Christ has the authority to issue a pardon that is honored in the court of God and is able to save a condemned sinner from hell itself.

We are confronted with Christ’s divine authority when He stills the raging storm:

39He awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still. The wind ceased and there was a great calm... 41Then they became exceedingly afraid and said to one another, Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Mk. 4:39,41

All the forces of nature are subject to Christ’s almighty will and operate at His command. Note the testimony of Colossians 1:16-17, “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.”

We are confronted with Christ’s divine authority when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead:

Taking the child by the hand, he said to her, Talitha, cumi, which means, Little girl, I say to you, Get up. 42Immediately, the little girl got up and walked; for she was twelve years old. Mk. 5:41­-42a

Christ not only possesses the authority to halt the process of disease and drive it away before it seizes its victim and drags him away into the dark recesses of death, like a predatory animal dragging its prey to its den. Christ has the authority to reach into the mysterious realm of death and reunite a departed soul with its body, restoring the person to wholeness and physical life. Jesus testifies, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18).

We are assured that, until the day of final resurrection, the Lord Jesus keeps the souls of His redeemed safe in His own immediate presence. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 the Apostle Paul expresses the Christian's confidence, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the LORD.” The penitent thief on the cross cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 43Jesus answered him, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:42-43).

Now, in the temple the Jewish leaders were being confronted with the LORD of glory, witnessing the fulfillment of the prophecy He had made through the prophet Malachi: “the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple... 2But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? (Mal. 3:1-2)

We must recognize Christ's awesome authority. Just prior to His ascension, the Lord Jesus declared, “All authority has been given to me [by God His Father] in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).

The Lord Jesus Christ has the authority to make you a child of God, if you receive Him as your Savior: “to all who received him, to those who are believing in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12).

The Lord Jesus Christ also has the authority to finally condemn to hell all those who remain in their unconverted state of sin and rebellion: “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:41).

We Must Submit to Christ’s Awesome Authority🔗

Following His interaction with the religious leaders, our Lord presents His parable of The Defiant Tenants (12:1-12). The parable would be very relevant to His hearers, since it was based on the societal structure of Jewish Galilee in the first-century.

The story concerns a landowner who had leased a vineyard to tenant farmers who, in turn, had agreed to work the land in his absence. Since the whole of the upper Jordan valley and a large part of the Galilean uplands were in the hands of foreign landlords at this time, such a practice was common. A usual contract between a landlord and his tenants stipulated that rent should be paid in the form of a portion of the produce of the land.

At the appointed time, the landowner would send his agent to collect the rent. It is interesting to note that a papyrus (dating from this period) reports a dispute between the agent of the owner of a vast estate in Beth Anath, (located in Galilee), and hostile tenant farmers who were withholding certain quantities of produce. The papyrus notes that the agent referred to the contract that had been made between the owner and the tenant farmers; the farmers, on the other hand, speak of a “petition” they had drawn up in protest. This was the type of situation that could erupt in the kind of violence described by our Lord in His parable.3

The parable would not only be very relevant to the religious leaders because of its being based on the societal relationships of the time; beyond that, they could not help but recognize its spiritual relevance to themselves. But, tragically, they proved to be just like the defiant tenant farmers (vs. 12), and they would meet the same end.

We must not be like those tenant farmers described in Christ’s parable; those who were constantly rejecting the owner’s authority (vs. 1-5). They refused to acknowledge their position as tenants and respect the authority of the vineyard's owner to which they were subject. We must acknowledge and respect and submit ourselves to the divine authority of God our Maker and His Son Jesus Christ, the only Savior. May we not be like the men described in Psalm 2,

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. 3Let us break their chains, they say, and throw off their fetters. 4The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them... 10Therefore, you kings, be wise, be warned, you rulers of the earth. 11Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. 12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psl. 2:1-4,10-12

We must not be like those tenant farmers, who foolishly misinterpreted their situation, supposing themselves to no longer be accountable to the owner (vs. 6-8). When the landowner sent his son, the tenants mistakenly assumed that the land owner was dead, and if they got rid of his son, they could claim possession of the property. We must not be like those whom the Psalmist describes in Psalm 50,

16But to the wicked, God says, What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? 17You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you... 21These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like yourself [i.e. one who disregards sin or condones it]. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. 22Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue. Psl. 50:16-17,21-22

We must not be like those tenant farmers who were finally confronted with the owner’s authority as he pronounced the just and righteous sentence against them: “Now then, what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and get rid of the tenants” (vs. 9).

We must reverence Christ's awesome authority, acknowledging that rightful divine authority over His creation and all of His creatures, His rightful authority over man whom He created in His image and for the purpose of glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever, and let us willingly submit to that divine authority.

We must always entertain an attitude of reverence towards Christ, which stems from a recognition of and respect for His awesome divine authority as the Son of God and the eternal Lord of glory. It is from this attitude of reverence that true and godly obedience issue forth into a life of righteousness and holiness. Let us pray that such an attitude would indeed be created in our hearts and cultivated by the Holy Spirit as an act of His divine grace and favor.

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. When Jesus enters the temple, what does He find, and what does He do? See Mk. 11:15-17; cp. Jn. 2:14-15. What do you think of Jesus’ display of anger; how does this act compare with your view of Jesus? If you find it to be startling and out of character for Jesus to exhibit such a display of righteous anger, what does that tell you about your view of Jesus, is it not less than biblical? Do you find it shocking that God should express His righteous indignation; if so, why?

When they came into Jerusalem, [Jesus] entered the temple. [There] he began to throw out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple [courts]; and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold the doves. 16He would not allow anyone to carry any merchandise through the temple [courts]. 17As he taught, he said to them, Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it into a den of robbers! Mk. 11:15-17

In the temple courts he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers sitting [at their tables]. 15He made a whip out of cords and drove all [the animals] from the temple courts, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned their tables. Jn. 2:14-15

  1. What motivated the Lord Jesus to express His righteous anger? See Mk. 11:17; cp. Jn. 2:16-17. How do you react when the things of God are blasphemed, or the sacred name of God is taken in vain? Are you, yourself, guilty of doing such things? What does the LORD say about those who take His holy name in vain? See Ex. 20:7,

As he taught, he said to them, Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it into a den of robbers!Mk. 11:17

To those who were selling doves he said, Take these things out of here; do not make my Father’s house into a marketplace. 17His disciples remembered that it was written, Zeal for your house shall consume me. Jn. 2:16-17

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.Ex. 20:7

  1. How does Jesus’ act (cf. Mk. 11:15) compare with the prophecy of Malachi 3:1b-2? What does Jesus’ act tell us about His true identity? How is this present act a precursor of a future act on the Final Day? As Christians, do we live in the light of that coming Day? Note 2 Cor. 5:9-10,

...the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, he is coming, Says the LORD of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like launderers' soap.Mal. 3:1b-2

...we make it our be well pleasing unto him; 10for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive the things [done] in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Cor. 5:9-10

  1. In Jesus’ parable of The Wicked Tennant Farmers, how do those men treat the owner’s son when he is sent to them? See Mk. 12:7-8. Why did the tenant farmers kill the owner’s son? See Mk. 12:7. Do you ever imitate those wicked tenant farmers, thinking you can take what belongs to God and make it your own (cf. Psl. 24:1-2)? Thinking you can remove God’s presence from His world and from your own life (Psl. 139:7-8/Acts 17:28)?

But those tenants said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. 8So they took him, and killed him, and threw his body out of the vineyard. Mk. 12:7-8

The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein; 2for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. Psl. 24:1-2

Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8If I ascend into heaven, you are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there. Psl. 139:7-8 him we move and live and have our being... Acts 17:28

  1. What miscalculation did the tenant farmers make when they assumed that by killing the son, the vineyard would become theirs; when they saw the son, what did they assumed had happened to the father? What miscalculation did the religious leaders make when they crucified the Lord Jesus? Note Mk. 10:34b. What does Job warn us about defying God? See Job 9:4; note Psl. 2:12,

[Jesus said], Listen, we are going up to Jerusalem; but the Son of man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes; they shall condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles. 34[The Gentiles] shall mock him, and spit on him, and scourge him, and kill him; but after three days he shall rise again. Mk. 10:33-34

God is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who has hardened himself against him and prospered? Job 9:4

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in him. Psl. 2:12

To “kiss” the Son was an act of homage, the acknowledgement of the Son’s divine and sovereign authority and the willing submission to Him.

Appendix: Why Did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree?🔗

Verse eleven serves as an introduction to this entire sequence of events in which our Lord’s cleansing of the temple is the main focus of attention. Following the introduction (vs. 11), the sequence of events is as follows: the incident involving the fig tree (vs. 12-14); the purging of the temple (vs. 15­ 19); and a return to the fig tree (vs. 20-21).

In the introductory verse, Mark tells us that, upon entering Jerusalem, our Lord immediately went to the temple; literally, “he entered into Jerusalem, into the temple.” (This is intended to bring to mind the Messianic prophecy of Malachi 3:1, “the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.”) Given the late hour of the day, Jesus merely “looked around,” observing “all things,” and then departed. As the N.T. commentator, Wm. Lane, writes: The point is...that Jesus is the Lord of the temple, who must inspect its premises to determine whether the purpose intended by God is being fulfilled.4 The next morning, as Jesus and His disciples are on their way back to Jerusalem, we are confronted with the incident involving the fig tree (vs. 12-14).

From a distance, the tree presents a promising appearance: “Seeing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, he came to it, hoping that he might find some fruit on it.” But when the Lord draws near, hoping to find some edible fruit, the promise proves to be a disappointment: “when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves.” Consequently, He pronounces a curse upon it: “May no man eat any fruit from you ever again.” But, between our Lord’s disappointment and the curse He pronounces, Mark has inserted the comment: “it was not the season for figs.” This shows the symbolic, prophetic character of the incident: The cursing of the fruitless fig tree is intended to teach a spiritual lesson in a graphic way, much like the unique healing of the blind man (7:31-37) and the peculiar way in which the deaf and dumb man was healed (8:22-26).

Just as the fig tree was full of leaves but devoid of fruit, so Israel was full of religious observance, (Jerusalem was full of worshipers during the Passover season), but lacked true devotion to God, (as seen by the fact that the nation would cry out for Jesus’ crucifixion). Thus, the miracle is an ominous warning: The fig tree symbolizes Israel in Jesus’ day, and what happens to the tree [symbolizes] the terrible fate that inevitably awaited Jerusalem [i.e. its destruction in 70 A.D.].5 The incident that now follows, (i.e. the cleansing of the temple), is the beginning of that judgment.

Again, Mark emphasizes the connection between the city and the temple: “When they came into Jerusalem, [Jesus] entered the temple. [There] he began to throw out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple [courts]; and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold the doves.” The significance of this act of cleansing the temple has been discussed in our study of this passage: It is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy: “the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple... 2But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?” (Mal. 3:1-2)

Following the cleansing of the temple, we are once again introduced to the fig tree (vs. 20-21). Upon passing by it the next morning, the disciples are confronted with an ominous sight: “they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.” Peter now verbalizes what had been left unsaid previously: “Rabbi, look, the fig tree that you cursed has withered away.” This return to the fruitless, and now “withered from the roots,” fig tree, with its judgment both visible and verbalized, is an emphatic warning of what is about to happen to the spiritually barren nation of Israel as it would soon reject the promised Messiah who had now appeared before them and had now come to His temple and to His people.

Note: As the Apostle Paul points out in the Epistle to the Romans (9:6-13; 11:1-5), not all Israel rejected their Messiah. There would be a believing remnant that would form the nucleus of the spiritual nation of new covenant in the form of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, composed of both believing Jews and converted Gentiles. The Scripture also foretells the day when ethnic Israel will be brought to saving faith in Jesus the Messiah (Rom. 11:25-32), a day that will reveal a work of God that can be described as nothing less than bringing “life from the dead” (11:15). This final day of redemption is also alluded to in Mark’s comment that on the Messiah’s first appearance “it was not the season for figs” (11:13), implying that the season for gathering the harvest of fruit was yet to come.


  1. ^ William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publish. Co., 1974), 403­-404.
  2. ^ William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, 405-406.
  3. ^ William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, 417-418.
  4. ^ William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, 398.
  5. ^ William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, 400.

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