MARK 11:12-33 (NIV – UK)
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Clears the Temple Courts
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 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. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts 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, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’ [Isaiah 56:7]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ [Jeremiah 7:11]”
18 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.
19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
27 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. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
29 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
INTENTIONS & MOTIVATIONS
At first glance, we might have some sympathy with the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders here (v. 27). They ask Jesus what seem to be two straightforward questions: “By what authority are you doing these things?” and “Who gave you authority to do this?” (v. 28). And Jesus refuses to answer (v. 33).
But why does Jesus refuse to answer? Jesus already knows their intentions – he already knows why they are asking him and what their motivation is. The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders really want to undermine Jesus – they want to put him on the spot – to embarrass him. This stems from their unbelief and the fact that they have already decided not to receive Jesus. But Jesus turns it back on them – asking them where John the Baptists’ baptism was from heaven or of human origin – a question they can’t answer without embarrassing themselves (v. 29-33).
It raises an important question for us: when we ask a question of Jesus, what is our motivation? Are we looking for weaknesses, for reasons not to believe, for reasons not to follow him – are we looking to trip Jesus up? Or are we genuinely seeking to know more of him, with the intention of coming closer to him? Jesus wants to reveal himself to us – to joyfully share his depths and riches with us – but that is only possible if we genuinely want him.
Question: How can we make sure we are asking questions of Jesus in a healthy and fruitful way?