New Testament in 6 months – day 34

17 May

Mark 11:1-33
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ” They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:  ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” The chief priests and the 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. When evening came, they went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism–was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Lots of good stuff here, but the most interesting, for me at least, are the last few verses.

The chief priests, teachers of the law and elders all came to Jesus to ask Him what authority He had to turn over the tables in the temple. Now, clearly Jesus had already declared who by saying “Is it not written:  ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”, for He was quoting His Father. But they clearly wanted Jesus to say it plainly, as a way of gaining proof to have Him killed. So Jesus goes and turns their question back on them, by asking who’s authority John the Baptist had when he baptised people.
Now, they had very little to fear from when John was around. Whilst he spoke against the Pharisees and others for the way the twisted God’s Law he was never a serious threat as he remained in the wilderness. And so, it would appear, they never really made any decisions about whether John’s ministry was legitimate or not. And so when this question was asked it shows they are undecided on it, potentially with some being like Nicodemus was to Jesus and more inclined towards John and others being against. But clearly they are either unable or unwilling to make a decision and, not wanting the people who held John in high regard to kick up a fuss, they cop out of giving an answer and say they don’t know. And in response to this, almost in an act of disgust at the unwillingness of them to commit one way or the other, Jesus says that He will not answer their question.
And this reminds me of the letter to Laodicea in Revelation, in particular verse 16 where God says that he rejects the church because they are neither hot nor cold. The same was true of the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law, for they refused to make a decision and stand by it, even if it was wrong.

The interesting thing is that so often we find ourselves with leaders, in various areas of life, who are unwilling to declare themselves in favour of anything but remaining circumspect. We just have to have a look at many of the current politicians in the Western world, no longer led by conviction but by the desire to remain in power.
It is the challenge to us that we must stand FOR something, rather than leaving it one ended. God says He wants people to be “hot or cold”, at least that way they are taking a stand. But He clearly has no time for those who are neither, hence the imagery of being spat out.
Let us pray that we are never lukewarm with our faith.

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