And He charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of Herod.  (Mark 8:15)

We are going to read the account of Jesus riding into Jerusalem, prior to His crucifixion from Mark 11:1-12:12.

As Jesus’ actions through the chapter of Mark 11 are prophetic in nature, He is actually responding to information that no one else in the story is yet aware of. His behavior is as the True judge and prophet of Israel; the Messiah.  His actions are actually in the context of occurences, and conversations which have not happened yet, or which His own disciples are not yet privy to.  In keeping with the Spirit of prophecy, Jesus actions, and life are the ultimate foreshadowing of future events.

As this is the case, we are going to look at some preliminary information which Jesus was aware of, but His disciples were not. We will also expound the passage in question backwards so that we can see the begining fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic actions.

Recently – begining in Mark chapter 8 – Jesus had begun to teach His disciples of what the Sanhedrin would do to Him. Of course, He knew what would happen even before the Sanhedrin sat in counsel, and determined to murder Him.  Probably when He began to teach it, they had not yet held the counsel which John describes in the passage below. However, Jesus appears to have increased the frequency of His teaching about these things after the counsel to be described (John 11:47-54) had officially convened, and the decision been made, and ratified that they would kill Jesus. In the natural, it is unlikely that anyone in Israel outside of the plotters were aware of the Sanhedrin’s judgment. Wherefore when Jesus spoke plainly about being delivered to the chief priests who would put Him to death, no one understood what He was talking about.

We will see as we get into Mark 11:27-33, that the key to the sanhedrin’s rejection of Jesus as the Messiah is the ministry of John the Baptist, but he was not the only prophet which had declared the motivations of the sanhedrin against Jesus. Around 500 years before John the Baptist came, Isaiah prophesied the coming of Christ; he also prophesied that Messiah would be rejected and killed by the leaders of Israel. Below we’ll look at a parable from Isaiah’s prophecy of Christ’s coming to Israel, and the judgment to follow; the whole prophecy is four chapters long (Is 2-5), but we will only look at the parable of Is. 5:1-8.  We will also see that Jesus uses this parable of Isaiah, quoting it to the sanhedrin (in the same context in which Isaiah had written it).

Here is Isaiah’s parable which Jesus will quote to the sanhedrin in Mark 12:1-12:

Isaiah 5:1-8
Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:

2 And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

5 And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

6 And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

Isaiah declares that the parable is about the nation of Israel (v. 7); that Messiah would come searching for judgment, but beheld oppression; searching for righteousness, but beheld a cry. Jesus entered into judgment with the sanhedrin, and found them oppressing the poor – and with the poor, they oppresssed Him, who was the rightful king of Israel. Jesus sought righteousness among them, but beheld the cry of the poor who were under them, and with them He also cried under their tyranny, and the cry He made was the very cry that God hears from the poor oppressed in every age: ‘Eli Eli lama sabachthani!’ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt 27:46)

What was the key element of oppression that caused oppression rather than justice, and a cry, rather than righteousness? Again:

8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

Isaiah prophesied that the religious rulers sought to keep, and hold for themselves the land, and the nation of Israel, until there was no place for anyone else but their orthodox rulership in Israel. They lay house to house, and field to field until there is no room for the poor and oppressed. There was no room for the Samaritans of Jesus day, and there is no room for the Arab Palastinians today.

The statement of Isaiah was evidently fulfilled, and the proof of it in the other preliminary passage: John 11:45-54.

Chronologically, the following passage immediately follows Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead, and is sometime before His return to Jerusalem described in Mark 11.

John 11:47-54
47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,

50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;

52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

54 Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.

In the passage an official counsel of the sanhedrin was called together, with the high priest presiding. The statement is made, that if Jesus is allowed to continue His ministry, all the nation would turn to Him, and then THE ROMANS WOULD COME, AND TAKE AWAY THEIR PLACE, AND THEIR NATION (John 11:48).

The principal reason which the Sanhedrin officially decided to kill the Son of God was religious nationalism.

They were not concerned about justice, they were concerned about keeping their land. They were not concerned about righteousness, they were concerned about their nation. They prove this thoroughly by their actions: they idolized their land and their nation so much that fear of losing these was enough motivaion to murder the Messiah.  To use a modern term, the reason that the Sanhedrin conspired to murder Jesus was ZIONISM.

These points are essential to understsanding the events of Mark 11:

  1. The Sanhedrin had already sat in judgment on, and determined in official legal counsel to kill Jesus prior to His entry in Jerusalem
  2. The reason they had decided to do so was to preserve their position over the land, and the nation (religious-political Zionism)

Now let’s look at Mark 12:1-12 (<- Here linked, rather than transposed for convenience)

Four things to notice from the above passage:

  1. Notice, Jesus is using Isaiah’s parable from the prophecy in which Isaiah foretells God’s condemnation of the rulers of the nation of Israel.
  2. Notice that the motivation of the rulers of the vineyard is to inherit the vineyard for themselves. (v. 7)
  3. Notice also that Jesus clearly implies that they KNOW He is the Son of God, and rightful heir to the nation of Israel (v. 7)
  4. Notice that the sanhedrin counsellors understood that the parable was spoken about them (v.12)

Remember, the events we looked at in John 11 have already taken place. When it says in verse 12 that they sought to lay hold on Him, it means they were trying to figure out how they could carry out their plan to kill Him.

Now, as I’m expositing this passage backwards, let’s take another step back to Mark 11:27-33

This passage (verses 27-33) is the key to understanding the earlier portions of the chapter. As we go through them, we will see that all the acts which Jesus has just done in Mark 11 are acts which clearly illustrate He is taking authity in Jerusalem, and in the temple as the Messiah.  However, His behavior did not endorse the current ruling class of religious rulers – the sanhedrin – or the currrent ruling class of political leaders – the Herodians – rather, His behavior indicated that neither the religious system, nor the political system had any relevance to Jesus’ authority in Jerusalem.

The controversy between Sanhedrin, and John the baptist was the core of what had now become the conspiracy to murder Messiah.

When the sanhedrin challanged Jesus about His authority to behave as Messiah, and yet disregard their authority as the spiritual rulers of Israel (keep in mind they had already decided to kill Him) Jesus didn’t shy away, but addressed the central issue with them: whether or not they accepted the ministry of John the Baptist.

If you’ve followed the book of Mark, you will recall that after an earlier passage that the Pharisees demanded that Jesus verify His ministry (Mark 8:10-12) that Jesus counselled His disciples to BEWARE of the teachings of the Pharisees, and of Herod (Mark 8:14-21). In context He was speaking of the theological system, the worldview, or the paradigm that they espoused (this is clarified in Matt 16:12); but the disciples had not yet fully realized what Jesus was talking about, and religious-political nationalism had crept into their own beliefs that Jesus would become an earthly king over earthly Israel.

They believed it because of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.  Zionism was the commonly accepted paradigm of the day (espoused even by the disciples at times); were not the Jews God’s chosen people?  Had God not established the sanhedrin Himself (those who sat in Moses’ seat (Numbers 11))?  Had He not promised through the prophets that Messiah would reign eternally in Jerusalem?

All Israel assumed the interpretation of the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Herodians about the coming Messiah was – generally – correct.  Even the disciples… BUT NOT JOHN THE BAPTIST.

John was the first to announce the coming of the kingdom of God to the people of Israel publically; to declare that the prophecies were coming to fulfillment, and that Messiah was already among them. The John’s disciples understood that he was declaring the coming of an invisible kingdom, AND that those who did not enter through repentance, and faith in Christ would be cut off from Israel… not the NATION of Israel, but the invisible kingdom of God.

John’s doctrine would have seemed spiritually esoteric and eccentric to the nationalism of the Herodians and the ultra-orthodox Pharisees.

His teaching flatly contradicted the teachings of both here was the central contrast: John was not a ZionistThe sanhedrin on the other hand was so zionist that they had decided to murder Messiah for the sake of preserving their land, and their nation.

Matthew 3:7-12:

When the sanhedrin had sent a embassage to John to decide what to do about his ministry, John publicly condemned them all, declaring them to be nothing but a brood of snakes (Matt 3:7). If that sounds harsh, remember that history proved him correct, for the same religious rulers would murder their Messiah in just a few years. He went on to tell them that their heritage as Jews meant nothing, and that God could raise up children to Abraham from the rocks (Matt 3:9).

In no uncertain terms John made plain that ONLY those who repent and believe in Jesus would be accepted into God’s True Kingdom, and that the old order of the nation of Israel was chaff to be burned if they would not repent and believe the Messiah. (Matt 3:10-12)

If the sanhedrin was willing to accept the message of John as a prophet, they would have to humble themselves, repent and acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ – an act they were unwilling to do because of their sense of entitlement to the land, and nation of Israel. If what John said were True, then the invisilble kingdom of God would be more important than the land, and the nation… in fact, if what John said were True, and God could raise up children of Abraham (those who were to inherit the promises) from among gentiles, they were no longer entitled to the land, and the nation physically at all!

But, because the people of Israel – the poor and oppressed – knew that John was a prophet, the sanhedrin was also unwilling to publically condemn him… because that too would jeopordize their percieved authority in Israel. So instead of condemning the ministry that unambiguously condemned their own, they declared that they didn’t know whether John’s ministry was from God, or from man.

Though they may have fooled some of the people, Jesus understood that they knew John’s ministry was from heaven, but weren’t willing to admit it because they had planned to kill Him so they could preserve their position. (You’ll notice this was also the reason that Herod the Great attempted to murder Jesus at the time of His birth: to preserve his own place as king in Israel – the phenomena is an earmark of the spirit of antichrist.)

Part 2 to follow: HERE.