Matthew Poole's Commentary
And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,Mark 11:1-11 Christ rideth into Jerusalem in triumph,
Mark 11:12-14 curseth a barren fig tree,
Mark 11:15-19 drives the buyers and sellers out of the temple.
Mark 11:20-26 The cursed fig tree is dried up: Christ exhorteth
to faith in prayer, and to forgiveness of enemies,
Mark 11:27-33 and silences the priests and others, who called in
question his authority.
Matthew saith nothing of Bethany, mentioned by Mark and Luke. It was the town of Lazarus, John 11:1. Some think that Bethany was rather a tract of the Mount of Olives than a town, and that Bethphage was a kind of suburbs to Jerusalem, at the remotest part of which Bethany began, but the town itself called Bethany was fifteen furlongs, near two miles, from Jerusalem. It was the place from which Christ ascended to heaven, Luke 24:50, a sabbath day’s journey from Jerusalem, Acts 1:12, at some distance from the town called Bethany. From this place, called still Bethany, upon the borders of Bethphage, he sent out two of his disciples.
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.Matthew saith an ass and a colt. The other evangelists speak only of the colt. The heathens, by a light of nature showing them there was a reverence and honour due to the Divine Being, were wont, in the use they made of creatures for any Divine service, to use such as they had not before used for common uses: the Philistines, 1 Samuel 6:7, sending home the ark, set it on a new cart, and took two milch kine on which there never came yoke. But our Saviour probably made choice of such a colt for the further notice of the miracle, (colts being when first backed more unruly), or for some other wise end which we know not.
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.Ver. 3-6. See Poole on "Matthew 21:3", &c. All along the story of our Saviour’s life and actions we shall find certain indications of his Divine power and virtue: his knowing men’s thoughts, and declarations of such his knowledge to them: his certain prediction of future contingencies, being able to tell persons such particulars as no man could know. How could he who was not God have told the disciples, that at their entrance into the village they should find a colt on which never man sat, that the owners would not resist strangers to take it away? Yet notwithstanding all this disciples very imperfectly believed him to be so, until he was risen from the dead. The time was not yet come when Christ would have this published, and till he gave them a power to believe it, i.e. to have a full persuasion of it, all these moral arguments were not sufficient to work in their hearts a full persuasion. The faith of the Christians of that time seemeth to have had these three gradations:
1. They believed him a great Prophet, that had received great power from God.
2. They owned him as the Messiah, as the Son of David, and now and then they would drop some expressions arguing some persuasions that he was the Son of God.
3. Last of all, they came to a firm persuasion that he was truly God, as well as man, after that he was risen from the dead, and declared with power to be such, as the apostle saith.
Yet what means imaginable could they have had more than,
1. A voice from heaven declaring it.
2. The Spirit descending in a visible shape.
3. The great miracles he had wrought by sea and land, commanding the winds and the waves, healing incurable diseases and all others in an instant without use of rational means, raising the dead, &c.
4. His telling their thoughts, foretelling future contingencies, &c.
Yet all these produced in the generality of the people no more than amazement and astonishment; and in the apostles themselves, rather a disposition to such a faith, or an opinion or suspicion of such a thing, than a firm and fixed persuasion concerning it.
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.See Poole on "Mark 11:3"
And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?See Poole on "Mark 11:3"
And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.See Poole on "Mark 11:3"
And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.Ver. 7-10. See Poole on "Matthew 21:8". See Poole on "Matthew 21:9". It appeareth by our Saviour sending for the colt, that this little rural triumph, and the acclamations attending it, were designed by him both to show the people:
1. That he was the King whom God had promised to set upon his holy hill of Zion; and;
2. That his kingdom was not of this world. For, as he elsewhere saith, if his kingdom had been of this world, his servants would have fought for him.
So it may be said: You may know his kingdom that he spake of was not of this world; for if it had there would have been found a more stately beast than the colt of an ass, or at least a saddle for that; the ways would have been covered with tapestry, rather than poor men’s coats and cloaks; and other heralds would have been found than a company of children and poor men, crying Hosanna. This was such a thing as would but have ridiculed a government to be afraid of, nor indeed (to give Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor at this time in Jerusalem, his due) do we find him the least disturbed, though the scribes and Pharisees, (which were the Jewish churchmen), seeing their kingdom going down, were something nettled; and though they had more modesty than to bring this little triumph in judgment against him, yet their great charge was, his declaring and making himself a King, in order to which this was the greatest show he ever made.
And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.See Poole on "Mark 11:7"
And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:See Poole on "Mark 11:7"
Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.See Poole on "Mark 11:7"
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.Ver. 11-19. See Poole on "Matthew 21:12", and following verses to Matthew 21:17, where having so largely spoken to this part of the history, considering also what Mark and Luke hath to complete the history, few words will be needful about it here. Though Mark seems to relate it so, as if the first day Christ came into the temple, looked about it, and did no more till he came back from Bethany (whither he went that night) the next day, yet the other evangelists’ relation of it would make one think otherwise, besides that interpreters think it not probable that our Saviour the first night should only look about, and patiently see and suffer those abuses; most do therefore think that our Saviour the first day did cast out those that sold and bought in the temple. In the notes upon Matthew we have given an account of the market in the court of the Gentiles, which was the outward court of the temple, where, through the covetousness of the priests, some say there were constant shops. In the temple there were, the most holy place, into which the priests only entered, and the holy place, into which entered all the circumcised, whether native Jews or proselytes: these two places they accounted holy. But there was also a court which they called the court of the Gentiles, of which they had no such esteem, but allowed the keeping of shops and markets in it, especially before the passover. Concerning our Saviour’s driving out these buyers and sellers, See Poole on "Matthew 21:12". See Poole on "Matthew 21:13". In those notes also I have fully opened the history concerning our Saviour’s cursing the barren fig tree, and given what account interpreters do give of the difficulty arising from Mark 11:13, as to which I have nothing to add here, save this only, offering it to learned persons to consider, whether the sense of these words, ou gar hn cairov sucwn, be any more than, for there were no figs. He found nothing but leaves, for there were no figs, as if it had been ou gar hsan suca. So as cairov there should neither signify the common time when figs use to be ripe, nor yet signify the seasonableness of the year for figs, but particularly relate to that tree, which at that time had no figs. But enough hath been before said as to that text.
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:See Poole on "Mark 11:11"
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.See Poole on "Mark 11:11"
And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.See Poole on "Mark 11:11"
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;See Poole on "Mark 11:11"
And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.See Poole on "Mark 11:11"
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.See Poole on "Mark 11:17"
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.See Poole on "Mark 11:18"
And when even was come, he went out of the city.See Poole on "Mark 11:11"
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.Ver. 20-23. See the notes on "Matthew 21:21". It is I confess the opinion of many excellent interpreters, whom I reverence, that the main end of our Saviour’s cursing and blasting this fig tree, was to let his disciples see in a type what would be the consequent of a spiritual barrenness. That spiritual barrenness is exceedingly dangerous is out of question; our Saviour teacheth us it plainly by another parable of the fig tree, Luke 13:6-9, and the apostle teacheth us it, Hebrews 6:7,8. But I see nothing to guide us to any such interpretation of this action of his, which was a miraculous operation, by which as he;
1. Plainly showed his Divine power; so;
2. These verses inform us, that it was his design to show his people the power of faith, that is, a full persuasion, that whatsoever we ask of God according to his will, and which may tend to his glory, shall be done for us.
Which interpretation of this action of our Saviour’s solves all the difficulties relating to this story, about which interpreters have so disquieted themselves.
And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.See Poole on "Mark 11:20"
And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.See Poole on "Mark 11:20"
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.See Poole on "Mark 11:20"
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.Ver. 24-26. See Poole on "Matthew 21:22". See Poole on "Matthew 6:14". See Poole on "Matthew 6:15". See Poole on "Matthew 7:7", in which texts we before met with what we have in these verses, teaching us the necessity of faith and charity to those who would so pray as to find acceptance with God. This also lets us know the necessity of people’s full satisfaction, that what things they ask of God in prayer are according to the will of God, without which it is not possible they should pray with a full persuasion that they shall receive whatsoever they in prayer ask of God. And because it is impossible we should in this point be fully satisfied, without a Divine revelation, as to things not necessary to salvation, our faith or persuasion can rise no higher, than a full persuasion, that if things of this nature, when we ask them of God in prayer, be such as are for our good, and for God’s glory, we shall receive them. The cause was otherwise as to those to whom Christ had given a power to work miracles; what they asked of that nature they must know it was the will of God to effect by them, and they could not without sin doubt of it.
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.See Poole on "Mark 11:24"
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.See Poole on "Mark 11:24"
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,Ver. 27,28. Our Lord went every night to Bethany, (two miles, or near as much), and returned in the morning to Jerusalem. Our Saviour walked and taught in the temple. Matthew saith the priests and the scribes came to him as he was teaching; Mark saith,
as he was walking: possibly he at the same time both walked and taught, for in his whole story we shall observe that he lost no time, if he were walking by the highway, or sitting in the house, wherever he was, we still find him teaching.
See Poole on "Matthew 21:23", where we had the same thing.
And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?See Poole on "Mark 11:27"
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.Ver. 29-33. See Poole on "Matthew 21:24", and following verses to Matthew 21:27, where are the same passages opened.
A prophet here, Mark 11:32, signifieth, one extraordinarily inspired and sent of God to reveal his will, so as his baptism must needs be from heaven. This reputation John it seems universally had, so as to have denied his baptism to have been from heaven, had been to have exposed themselves to the mockings, if not the rage, of the people, which they were loath to do. If they had said,
From heaven, they had accused themselves for not believing him, John 7:48. This makes them choose rather to make themselves doubtful in the case, and giveth our Saviour a fitting occasion to deny them satisfaction as to what they asked of him.
The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.See Poole on "Mark 11:29"
And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?See Poole on "Mark 11:29"
But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.See Poole on "Mark 11:29"
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.See Poole on "Mark 11:29"