2021_05_31 Insight Post- Kim Feld
This week's reading- Mark 11-12
Today is Memorial Day, and I want to begin by acknowledging all of our armed forces’ families who have suffered tremendous loss for the sake of the freedoms that we enjoy in the United States. God bless the men and women who gave their lives for our country and whose families carry that loss. We honor and remember you today. The religious freedom that allows us to openly practice our faith is the greatest freedom we have, so today, as we discuss our Bible reading, I hope you will all join me in giving thanks to God for the brave men and women who have given their all.
We are moving quickly through the book of Mark and are focusing on chapters 11-12 this week. We read some of the same parables and teaching from Jesus that we read in Matthew, but there are distinctions in Mark’s writing. A literary device that Mark uses throughout his biography is called interpolation or intercalation, which means to place something in the middle of something else. Several times throughout the book of Mark, he places a story within a story, adding greater significance to both by placing them together. His frequent use of this technique has caused it to be known as a “Markan Sandwich.” (See Mark 3:20-35; 5:21-43; 6:6-31; 11:12-21; 14:1-11; 14:53-72; 15:40-16:8). In Mark 11, the story of the cursing and withering of the fig tree surrounds the cleansing of the temple.
Fig trees do not produce fruit until they have grown about 3 years. Once they begin producing, they yield fruit twice a year in late spring and early autumn. Mark tells us that the fig tree in question was full of leaves, but it was too early in the season for it to bear fruit. It looked great on the outside but had no fruit. At first glance, this looks like a petulant move on Jesus’ part. Why curse a tree that is out of season for fruit? “Mark placed the cleansing of the temple between the cursing and the withering of the fig tree to indicate that it was an enacted parable on the judgment God would bring on the temple (Jeremiah 8:13; Micah 7:1-6)” (NIV Quest Study Bible, 2011, p. 1484). Jesus used the opportunity to demonstrate truth in a way that his disciples were not likely to forget.
I think the chief priests and teachers of the law knew exactly what Jesus was doing in the temple. After the temple cleansing, Jesus quotes from Isaiah and Jeremiah. Verse 18 of Mark 11 says, “The chief priests and teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching” (NIV, emphasis added). Chapter 12 begins with Jesus telling a parable about a vineyard owner and tenants. Verse 12 says, “Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.”
Jesus disrupts the status quo. He wants to shake us out of apathy and complacency. He’s not content with the outside looking good while the inside is empty. We’ve read about His strongest reactions occurring amid hypocrisy, especially related to religion. Jesus calls us from just following rules to a transformative relationship where we are compelled to act out of love.
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17, NLT
NIV Quest Study Bible. (2011). Zondervan.
Executive Director of Education and Outreach