Mark 11.12–19: A warning from history (8 February 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

Joseph Interprets the King's Dreams

1After two years had passed, the king of Egypt dreamt that he was standing by the River Nile, 2when seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the river and began to feed on the grass. 3Then seven other cows came up; they were thin and bony. They came and stood by the other cows on the river bank, 4and the thin cows ate up the fat cows. Then the king woke up. 5He fell asleep again and had another dream. Seven ears of corn, full and ripe, were growing on one stalk. 6Then seven other ears of corn sprouted, thin and scorched by the desert wind, 7and the thin ears of corn swallowed the full ones. The king woke up and realized that he had been dreaming. 8In the morning he was worried, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. He told them his dreams, but no one could explain them to him.

9Then the wine steward said to the king, “I must confess today that I have done wrong. 10You were angry with the chief baker and me, and you put us in prison in the house of the captain of the guard. 11One night each of us had a dream, and the dreams had different meanings. 12A young Hebrew was there with us, a slave of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us. 13Things turned out just as he said: you restored me to my position, but you executed the baker.”

14The king sent for Joseph, and he was immediately brought from the prison. After he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came into the king's presence. 15The king said to him, “I have had a dream, and no one can explain it. I have been told that you can interpret dreams.”

16Joseph answered, “I cannot, Your Majesty, but God will give a favourable interpretation.”

17The king said, “I dreamt that I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18when seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the river and began feeding on the grass. 19Then seven other cows came up which were thin and bony. They were the poorest cows I have ever seen anywhere in Egypt. 20The thin cows ate up the fat ones, 21but no one would have known it, because they looked just as bad as before. Then I woke up. 22I also dreamt that I saw seven ears of corn which were full and ripe, growing on one stalk. 23Then seven ears of corn sprouted, thin and scorched by the desert wind, 24and the thin ears of corn swallowed the full ones. I told the dreams to the magicians, but none of them could explain them to me.”

25Joseph said to the king, “The two dreams mean the same thing; God has told you what he is going to do. 26The seven fat cows are seven years, and the seven full ears of corn are also seven years; they have the same meaning. 27The seven thin cows which came up later and the seven thin ears of corn scorched by the desert wind are seven years of famine. 28It is just as I told you — God has shown you what he is going to do. 29There will be seven years of great plenty in all the land of Egypt. 30After that, there will be seven years of famine, and all the good years will be forgotten, because the famine will ruin the country. 31The time of plenty will be entirely forgotten, because the famine which follows will be so terrible. 32The repetition of your dream means that the matter is fixed by God and that he will make it happen in the near future.

33“Now you should choose some man with wisdom and insight and put him in charge of the country. 34You must also appoint other officials and take a fifth of the crops during the seven years of plenty. 35Order them to collect all the food during the good years that are coming, and give them authority to store up corn in the cities and guard it. 36The food will be a reserve supply for the country during the seven years of famine which are going to come on Egypt. In this way the people will not starve.”

Joseph is Made Governor over Egypt

37The king and his officials approved this plan, 38and he said to them, “We will never find a better man than Joseph, a man who has God's Spirit in him.” 39The king said to Joseph, “God has shown you all this, so it is obvious that you have greater wisdom and insight than anyone else. 40I will put you in charge of my country, and all my people will obey your orders. Your authority will be second only to mine. 41I now appoint you governor over all Egypt.” 42The king removed from his finger the ring engraved with the royal seal and put it on Joseph's finger. He put a fine linen robe on him, and placed a gold chain round his neck. 43He gave him the second royal chariot to ride in, and his guard of honour went ahead of him and cried out, “Make way! Make way!” And so Joseph was appointed governor over all Egypt. 44The king said to him, “I am the king — and no one in all Egypt shall so much as lift a hand or a foot without your permission.” 45-46He gave Joseph the Egyptian name Zaphenath Paneah, and he gave him a wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, a priest in the city of Heliopolis.

Joseph was thirty years old when he began to serve the king of Egypt. He left the king's court and travelled all over the land. 47During the seven years of plenty the land produced abundant crops, 48all of which Joseph collected and stored in the cities. In each city he stored the food from the fields around it. 49There was so much corn that Joseph stopped measuring it — it was like the sand of the sea.

50Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons by Asenath. 51He said, “God has made me forget all my sufferings and all my father's family”; so he named his first son Manasseh. 52He also said, “God has given me children in the land of my trouble”; so he named his second son Ephraim.

53The seven years of plenty that the land of Egypt had enjoyed came to an end, 54and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in every other country, but there was food throughout Egypt. 55When the Egyptians began to be hungry, they cried out to the king for food. So he ordered them to go to Joseph and do what he told them. 56The famine grew worse and spread over the whole country, so Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold corn to the Egyptians. 57People came to Egypt from all over the world to buy corn from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

The Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem

1As they approached Jerusalem, near the towns of Bethphage and Bethany, they came to the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of his disciples on ahead 2with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a colt tied up that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3And if someone asks you why you are doing that, tell him that the Master needs it and will send it back at once.”

4So they went and found a colt out in the street, tied to the door of a house. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders asked them, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”

6They answered just as Jesus had told them, and the bystanders let them go. 7They brought the colt to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the animal, and Jesus got on. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches in the fields and spread them on the road. 9The people who were in front and those who followed behind began to shout, “Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! 10God bless the coming kingdom of King David, our father! Praise God!”

11Jesus entered Jerusalem, went into the Temple, and looked round at everything. But since it was already late in the day, he went out to Bethany with the twelve disciples.

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

12The next day, as they were coming back from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13He saw in the distance a fig tree covered with leaves, so he went to see if he could find any figs on it. But when he came to it, he found only leaves, because it was not the right time for figs. 14Jesus said to the fig tree, “No one shall ever eat figs from you again!”

And his disciples heard him.

Jesus Goes to the Temple

15When they arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple and began to drive out all those who were buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the stools of those who sold pigeons, 16and he would not let anyone carry anything through the temple courtyards. 17He then taught the people: “It is written in the Scriptures that God said, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for the people of all nations.’ But you have turned it into a hideout for thieves!”

18The chief priests and the teachers of the Law heard of this, so they began looking for some way to kill Jesus. They were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

19When evening came, Jesus and his disciples left the city.

The Lesson from the Fig Tree

20Early next morning, as they walked along the road, they saw the fig tree. It was dead all the way down to its roots. 21Peter remembered what had happened and said to Jesus, “Look, Teacher, the fig tree you cursed has died!”

22Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23I assure you that whoever tells this hill to get up and throw itself in the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24For this reason I tell you: when you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for. 25And when you stand and pray, forgive anything you may have against anyone, so that your Father in heaven will forgive the wrongs you have done.”

The Question about Jesus' Authority

27They arrived once again in Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the elders came to him 28and asked him, “What right have you to do these things? Who gave you this right?”

29Jesus answered them, “I will ask you just one question, and if you give me an answer, I will tell you what right I have to do these things. 30Tell me, where did John's right to baptize come from: was it from God or from human beings?”

31They started to argue among themselves: “What shall we say? If we answer, ‘From God,’ he will say, ‘Why, then, did you not believe John?’ 32But if we say, ‘From human beings…’ ” (They were afraid of the people, because everyone was convinced that John had been a prophet.) 33So their answer to Jesus was, “We don't know.”

Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you, then, by what right I do these things.”

1Human life is like forced army service,

like a life of hard manual labour,

2like slaves longing for cool shade;

like workers waiting for their pay.

3Month after month I have nothing to live for;

night after night brings me grief.

4When I lie down to sleep, the hours drag;

I toss all night and long for dawn.

5My body is full of worms;

it is covered with scabs;

pus runs out of my sores.

6My days pass by without hope,

pass faster than a weaver's shuttle.

7Remember, O God, my life is only a breath;

my happiness has already ended.

8You see me now, but never again.

If you look for me, I'll be gone.

9-10Like a cloud that fades and is gone,

people die and never return;

they are forgotten by all who knew them.

11No! I can't be quiet!

I am angry and bitter.

I have to speak.

12Why do you keep me under guard?

Do you think I am a sea monster?

13I lie down and try to rest;

I look for relief from my pain.

14But you — you terrify me with dreams;

you send me visions and nightmares

15until I would rather be strangled

than live in this miserable body.

16I give up; I am tired of living.

Leave me alone. My life makes no sense.

17Why are human beings so important to you?

Why pay attention to what they do?

18You inspect them every morning

and test them every minute.

19Won't you look away long enough

for me to swallow my spittle?

20Are you harmed by my sin, you jailer?

Why use me for your target practice?

Am I so great a burden to you?

21Can't you ever forgive my sin?

Can't you pardon the wrong I do?

Soon I will be in my grave,

and I'll be gone when you look for me.

God's Mercy on Israel

1I ask, then: did God reject his own people? Certainly not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people, whom he chose from the beginning. You know what the scripture says in the passage where Elijah pleads with God against Israel: 3“Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me.” 4What answer did God give him? “I have kept for myself 7,000 men who have not worshipped the false god Baal.” 5It is the same way now: there is a small number left of those whom God has chosen because of his grace. 6His choice is based on his grace, not on what they have done. For if God's choice were based on what people do, then his grace would not be real grace.

7What then? The people of Israel did not find what they were looking for. It was only the small group that God chose who found it; the rest grew deaf to God's call. 8As the scripture says, “God made their minds and hearts dull; to this very day they cannot see or hear.” 9And David says:

“May they be caught and trapped at their feasts;

may they fall, may they be punished!

10May their eyes be blinded so that they cannot see;

and make them bend under their troubles at all times.”

11I ask, then: when the Jews stumbled, did they fall to their ruin? By no means! Because they sinned, salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make the Jews jealous of them. 12The sin of the Jews brought rich blessings to the world, and their spiritual poverty brought rich blessings to the Gentiles. Then, how much greater the blessings will be when the complete number of Jews is included!

The Salvation of the Gentiles

13I am speaking now to you Gentiles: as long as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I will take pride in my work. 14Perhaps I can make the people of my own race jealous, and so be able to save some of them. 15For when they were rejected, the human race was changed from God's enemies into his friends. What will it be, then, when they are accepted? It will be life for the dead!

16If the first piece of bread is given to God, then the whole loaf is his also; and if the roots of a tree are offered to God, the branches are his also. 17Some of the branches of the cultivated olive tree have been broken off, and a branch of a wild olive tree has been joined to it. You Gentiles are like that wild olive tree, and now you share the strong spiritual life of the Jews. 18So then, you must not despise those who were broken off like branches. How can you be proud? You are just a branch; you don't support the roots — the roots support you.

19But you will say, “Yes, but the branches were broken off to make room for me.” 20That is true. They were broken off because they did not believe, while you remain in place because you do believe. But do not be proud of it; instead, be afraid. 21God did not spare the Jews, who are like natural branches; do you think he will spare you? 22Here we see how kind and how severe God is. He is severe towards those who have fallen, but kind to you — if you continue in his kindness. But if you do not, you too will be broken off. 23And if the Jews abandon their unbelief, they will be put back in the place where they were; for God is able to do that. 24You Gentiles are like the branch of a wild olive tree that is broken off and then, contrary to nature, is joined to a cultivated olive tree. The Jews are like this cultivated tree; and it will be much easier for God to join these broken-off branches to their own tree again.

God's Mercy on All

25There is a secret truth, my brothers and sisters, which I want you to know, for it will keep you from thinking how wise you are. It is that the stubbornness of the people of Israel is not permanent, but will last only until the complete number of Gentiles comes to God. 26And this is how all Israel will be saved. As the scripture says:

“The Saviour will come from Zion

and remove all wickedness from the descendants of Jacob.

27I will make this covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

28Because they reject the Good News, the Jews are God's enemies for the sake of you Gentiles. But because of God's choice, they are his friends because of their ancestors. 29For God does not change his mind about whom he chooses and blesses. 30As for you Gentiles, you disobeyed God in the past; but now you have received God's mercy because the Jews were disobedient. 31In the same way, because of the mercy that you have received, the Jews now disobey God, in order that they also may now receive God's mercy. 32For God has made all people prisoners of disobedience, so that he might show mercy to them all.

Praise to God

33How great are God's riches! How deep are his wisdom and knowledge! Who can explain his decisions? Who can understand his ways? 34As the scripture says:

“Who knows the mind of the Lord?

Who is able to give him advice?

35Who has ever given him anything,

so that he had to pay it back?”

36For all things were created by him, and all things exist through him and for him. To God be the glory for ever! Amen.

Reflect

Daily Reflection: Mark 11.12–19

The cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple are linked not only in time, but in what they symbolise. Jesus is hungry, but there's no fruit to eat because it's not the right season. He enters the temple, where spiritual hunger is to be satisfied, and there's no nourishment there – it's just a marketplace run for profit. The season is wrong. The overturning of the tables and the withering of the tree correspond to each other.

The 'cleansing of the temple' is often portrayed as an example of Jesus' anger. He loses his temper, righteously so. But in Mark's Gospel there's no hint of this. It's more like a surgical operation; there's no emotion in it at all. It is just judgement: the temple is failing in its purpose, and needs to be reformed or ended. When the Romans took Jerusalem in AD 70, that end came as the temple was destroyed.

The story is a very sobering one. It speaks to us of our own purpose. Paul tells the Corinthian church, 'Surely you know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you!' (I Corinthians 3.16, GNB). Later he speaks to individuals and says, 'Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God?' (6.19).

If we fail in our purpose, we may face judgement. There may be a painful cleansing of our lives or our churches. We may be called to repentance. If we don't heed the call, we may find ourselves useless to God.

Pray

Pray

God, thank you for your grace and mercy towards me. Help me to face up to what's wrong in my life, and to hear you calling me to repentance.

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