Jesus and the Temple- S1E10- John Stapleton

YouTuber John Stapleton continues with the Gospel of Mark 11 – Jesus and the Temple.

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Jesus is the reality behind all the signs in the Old Testament.

This passage deals with Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders in the temple. Jerusalem has been a sign of conflict throughout this gospel. At times, the religious leaders would seek out Jesus to harass him. 

Mark 11 shows us a few key things.

The first being that the temple is as deceptive as a barren fig tree. This is the most intense conflict that Jesus had with the religious leaders. Moreover, the religious leaders have no basis for judging Jesus. Lastly, faith in Jesus can accomplish the impossible.

We’ll pick it up in verse 11: “He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.” This may seem like a throwaway line, but it’s packed with significance.

Malachi 3:1-5 predicts the Lord coming to his temple to purify it.

Jesus “had looked around at everything” to see if the temple was truly serving its purpose and he didn’t find it the way he had hoped. That’s why the next day, he curses the fig tree. Jesus isn’t having a freak-out moment. Jesus is showing a parable, much like the Old Testament prophets.

The Fig Tree and The Dead Temple

The fig tree was full of leaves which means it was ripe with fruit, so it looked. Likewise, the temple seemed very lively,  filled with the traffic of pilgrims visiting for Passover, but the temple is dead. It has replaced the worship of God with commerce.

The way it worked was you had to bring an animal to sacrifice to pay for your sins (Leviticus 1:14; 5:7). The law even considered poor people that couldn’t afford lambs, which were more expensive. God’s intention was that nobody would be hindered from coming to his courts empty-handed. But the religious leaders were blinded by dollar signs and decided not only to set up shop inside the temple, but also to charge.

Guess who got excluded? The Poor.

This is why Jesus was so upset. This is why Jesus came to refine his temple, because the religious leaders “made it a den of robbers” (verse 17). Rather than repenting (which has been the heart behind everything Jesus has ever taught), they decide they want him dead, but they are politicians at heart, so they can’t act on their plans (verse 18).

Verses 20-25 explain the fig tree incident from the other day. His disciples wonder why it withered so quickly and Jesus uses this as a teaching moment. Moving mountains is a metaphor in the Bible for accomplishing the impossible and that’s all possible with faith in God, not in the temple, or religion, or their religious leaders. We can no longer look at the temple as the sign of God’s active saving power, its found in Jesus and in what he’s about to do on the cross.

The Confrontation

Verses 27-33 gives us the confrontation we’ve been waiting for. The entire religious system has ganged up against Jesus – the text says, “the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him” (verse 27). They aren’t approaching him in smaller numbers like they had before; they are scared of Jesus and the crowd, so they assume safety in numbers. Proceeding to question what right Jesus has to not only clear out the temple, bringing the day’s commerce to a halt, but also the right to teach and preach in general. In other words, Jesus’ entire ministry was in question.

But Jesus is infinitely wiser than the wisest scholar or philosopher, so he asks them a question in turn, like any good teacher in his day would do. “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” (verse 30). If they say yes, they are inditing themselves for not believing John (verse 31), if they say no, they will lose popularity and possibly their own lives (verse 32). If they can’t answer (and they can’t), they show that they have no right to critique Jesus’ ministry. This was an honor game and the religious leaders lost!

All we need is Jesus. That’s the point. Everything else are pathetic substitutes for Jesus. We don’t need a temple and animal sacrifices because Jesus is the one who brings us to God by his own sacrifice on the cross.

Q&A

1) Is the Bible overestimated in its ability to establish faith in God?

There are two slogans that frame my answer sola scriptura and solo scriptura. One slogan teaches that Scripture sits on the highest shelf authority and it speaks with authority directly into our lives, answering the deepest questions about what it means to be human. The other slogan teaches that no truth can be found outside of the Bible.

I believe the first slogan. This means the Bible is not overestimated to establish faith in God. There is slight caution, however. Some people are like Pharisees who read the Bible because they think by knowing it better, they will inherit eternal life (John 5:39). More Bible knowledge doesn’t equal more power in life, it is only as good as what you apply (James 1:19; Hebrews 4:2).

If the Bible is used because we want to learn more about God, it’s power cannot be overestimated. Luther spoke of the Bible as the window by which the Holy Spirit can enter your life and interact with you. Without the Bible, we have our own guesses and whims, nothing concrete. Praise be to God for his Word!

2) What does “forgiving one another” mean in Ephesians 4:32?

The Greek word for “forgiving” has also been translated in other places in the Bible as showing favor, or giving freely, or canceling (in the context of debt). Here are a couple examples:

  • “When he could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both.” (Luke 7:42).
  • “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

Forgiveness is therefore cancelling the debt that people have against us. When teaching us how to pray, Jesus said it this way: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). This is Paul instructing us to “not keep a record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5, CSB). This is reminiscent of what Joseph told his brothers: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19). To not forgive is to play god, acting like you rule over a small purgatory that the person has wronged you must suffer in until you consider them to be paid up. Joseph realizes he’s not God, therefore it is not his position to make those calls.

Forgiving is not only cancelling wrongs, but it gives something as well. It not only throws away the sin, but it gives grace. Another word for grace is favor or kindness. So forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean we are friends with those who wronged us, but that we are kind to them. That means we don’t hold any grudges.

3) Why do so many biblical pastors believe that the end times are imminent instead of just soon? Has society reached the end of Christ’s Olivet discourse that he taught the disciples?

Biblical prophecy works in such a way that it has a “far and near” application. The near application was the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. The far application is the story of what happens to nations that reject God’s rule.

Another thing to keep in mind is when the Bible speaks of “the last days.” I’d encourage you to do a study on the phrase. Here are some verses that lead people to believe that we are in the last days:

  • “Understand this, that in the last days there will be times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1).
  • “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (2 Peter 3:3).
  • “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2).

These three facts are true today, which means we are in the last days. The last days simply mean the time from Jesus until the last day (which is the day of judgment; it’s the day that all the last days lead up to).

4) Where can the song of Moses be found in the Bible, and what does it mean? Should we learn it before we pass on so that we will be able to sing it too?

The song of Moses is mentioned in Revelation 15:3 and is from Exodus 15. This song praises God for being a warrior for the Israelites. God went to battle against the Pharaoh (an arrogant man who considered himself a god) by splitting the Red Sea for them to walk on dry ground to the other side while the Egyptians who pursued them were drowned.

The song of Moses appears again in Revelation (which already uses a ton of imagery from Exodus) to show how Jesus has conquered the beast (which is any government that opposes God).

5) If we already had the Bible, why did we need the Quran?

We don’t need the Quran for our holy book, but it is useful to understand the teachings of Islam better. Just like people disagree on what the Bible says, it’s best to just read the Bible. The same is true about the Quran.

I remember coming home from school one day (I was probably 13), and I saw a copy of the Quran sitting in front of everyone of my neighbor’s apartments. I took my copy and kept it for sometime to read it. My mom was scared I would convert so she wanted me to burn it, but it has always been my philosophy that you should never be scared of where the truth leads you; and I believe Christianity is exclusively true, so I’m going with that. Try to change my mind.

But it did give me a little bit more understanding of my Muslim friends.

6) Is the changing from glory to glory in II Corinthians 3:18 synonymous with “the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” mentioned in Romans 1:17?

Yes! When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he spoke of “being transformed into the same image” that we are beholding (which is Christ)… “from one degree of glory to the next.” Paul in Romans 1 speaks of God’s righteousness being from “faith to faith.” (Some translations say, “from start to finish.”). This is like the writer of Hebrews when he says that Jesus is the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

The idea in all 3 of those verses is that we are to look to Jesus (who he was, what he taught, how he lived) and as we do, we become a little more like Jesus.

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