The Final Act: Studying Mark 11

Final Act
Final Act

The final act of Jesus’ ministry began when he entered Jerusalem for the last time. You can feel the tension rising as the hero strides onto the stage. Join us as we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark.

I encourage you to take a break from following the news on Covid-19, and focus on the eternal timeline of redemption. Holy week, between Palm Sunday and Easter, is a gift and an opportunity. May God bless your meditations as you focus on your Savior’s love for this world. And for you.

When I opened to Mark 11 this morning, I was immediately struck with how deliberate were Jesus’ actions as he entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. After three years of teaching, healing, and demonstrating the saving love of God, the curtain was rising on the last act.

Opening Night

Since I’d loved theater from grade school, it reminded me of a play as it goes from rehearsal to opening night. Naturally, the lines–written months or years before–have all been committed to memory. Hours before, the actors had arrived at the theater to don their costumes and apply make up. Stagehands dressed the set, putting props in place, or ready on a table backstage.

Finally, the audience having bought their tickets weeks before, arrived took their seats. Actors and audience are both ready, separated by a thick curtain. It’s showtime.

Except this is God’s play and we’re in the final act. God himself is the author, director, and leading man.

The First Day of the Final Week

The timing has been established from before the dawn of history. “At just the right time” Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6). When he entered Jerusalem on the first day of the week, it was the day after that weeks’ Sabbath.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:6

Seven days later would be the final Sabbath of the old creation. As the next day dawned, it would bring the first day of the new creation. Between now and then, God would die.

This chapter contains several scenes, spaced over the first three days of the final week. If you, like me, wonder what was up with the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple, here’s some background information from Tim Chester:

Pilgrims paid a temple tax, but they had to pay it in the temple’s own currency. Traders also sold animals for sacrifice. Much of this activity took place in the court of the Gentiles, which was originally intended to be the part of the temple set aside for people from other nations to pray to the Lord. This could no longer happen because the court of the Gentiles had been taken over by a market. Jesus is not simply attacking the commercialism of the temple. He is judging Israel for not bearing the fruit they should have, and for preventing the temple from being what it should have been.

It was the barrenness of the nation that he cursed.

Day 1: Context — Study the prophetic context for this chapter by looking up the following verses and answering the questions.

  1. Read Zechariah 9:9-10 and Mark 11:1-11. What was Jesus saying by the way he entered Jerusalem?
  2. Read Psalm 118:26 and Mark 11:9. What were the people saying?
  3. Read Malachi 3:1-5. How does this help us understand Jesus’ actions in the temple?
  4. Read Read Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. How do these help us understand Jesus’ actions in the temple?

Day 2: Observation — Read Mark 11 as five scenes recorded over the first three days of passion week.

  1. What did Jesus do on the first day? What do you observe about his priorities? His demeanor?
  2. What did Jesus do on the second day? What do you observe about his priorities? His demeanor?
  3. What did Jesus do on the third day (that day begins in Mark 11, we’ll talk about the rest of it in Mark 12 next week)? What do you observe about his priorities? His demeanor?

Day 3: Meaning — Read Mark 11 as the beginning of the carefully rehearsed final act, written and directed by God.

  1. Although it’s only days before the crucifixion, Jesus is still offering chances to repent and believe. What ones do you see here?
  2. The cursing of the fig tree and the lesson of the withered fig tree are book ends to the scene where Jesus cleanses the temple. What connection do you see between the two? Why do you think Mark “frames” the temple scene with the fig tree scene?
  3. How is the humility of Jesus, the Servant, demonstrated in this chapter?
  4. How is the authority  of Jesus, the King, demonstrated in this chapter?

Day 4: Application — Read Mark 11 as a personal word from God to you.

  1. Meditate on Zechariah 9:9. What does it mean to you today that your King came to you righteous and having salvation? Humble and mounted on a donkey? Rejoice in him!
  2. See how much God cares that all nations have a chance to believe. Who can you reach out to in your life? Ask God to show you who and what step to take next.

As you meditate on this chapter, remember that the drama of our redemption has been written, directed, and enacted by God. Aren’t you glad he’s the hero and you and I aren’t?

And aren’t you amazed you and I are written into the script when we believe?

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