from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 24

Mark 11:12-33: Cleansing the Temple

The Story


You remember that after the great multitude had gone up to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday it is said that when the Lord had entered the temple and looked round about upon all things He went back again to Bethany with the twelve.

On Monday morning He went again to Jerusalem, and we are told the Lord was hungry and seeing a fig tree covered with leaves He came to it but found no fruit on it. It was early for the tree to be covered with leaves; generally the early fruit begins to form before the leaves. The Lord said to the fig tree which promised so much and had nothing to give, "No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever."

Then they came into the city and going into the temple He found the people buying and selling, and changing money in the temple courts, making God's house a marketplace, and a dishonest marketplace too. The Lord commanded them all to leave the temple and not even carry things back and forth through the courts. And He said, "Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves." All these things made the scribes and Pharisees very angry, but the simple people were loving Him more and more.

In the evening He and His disciples again left Jerusalem and crossing the valley of the Kidron climbed the hill to Bethany.

Again we think of them starting out on Tuesday morning, and as they came near they saw the fig tree that the Lord had spoken to the day before, and now it had all withered away even to the roots.

Then they came again to the temple and the Lord spent the day in teaching. It was the last day of His public teaching, but instead of listening lovingly to His words the Jews were trying to catch Him in His talk.


We must learn what happened between the Sunday when the Lord rode into Jerusalem, and the Thursday night when He was betrayed and taken. Monday in the morning they went again over the Mount of Olives to the city. (Take the order of events from Mark 11:11-19, adding particulars from Matthew 21:12-19.) As they walked the Lord was hungry. A fig tree full of leaves stood near the way, but when they came to it there was no fruit. Many fig trees grew on the hills about. They have large, dark green leaves, and the sweet fruit is formed by the thickening of the little twigs, the flowers being hidden inside the stem. It was now early in April, not yet the usual time for figs to be ripe; but on the sheltered slope of the Mount of Olives this tree was already green. The new fruit might also be forming or last year's figs might still hang on the branches. But there were none. Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever; and presently (which means immediately) the fig tree withered away, though apparently the disciples did not see it till the next morning when they came again over the same path.

After hearing the words to the fig tree the disciples came with the Lord into Jerusalem. It was a few days before the Passover. The city was full of people, and in the very courts of the temple men were selling oxen and doves for sacrifices, and lambs for the Passover. Where all should have been quiet for worship, there was quarrelling and cheating and confusion. Money changers too were there, for the pilgrims came from all countries, with all kinds of money, and they must have every one a half shekel piece, a silver coin rather smaller than a quarter of a dollar to pay to the temple. There was much cheating in the money changing. The Lord had once before driven the traders from the temple. (John 2:13-17) But now they were there again. Once more He cast out them that bought and sold, and overthrew the tables of the money changers and the seats of them that sold doves, and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. It must not be made an ordinary marketplace, or still worse, like a cave where robbers quarreled over stolen goods, but it must be quiet and holy for those who came to worship. We do not bring such things into the Lord's house, we think. But do we not sometimes bring them in our feelings and our thoughts? What must we do? The priests were much displeased and sought how they might destroy Him. And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there. So passed the Monday.

It was Tuesday in the morning as they went again over the Mount of Olives to the city, that they saw the fig tree withered. They went on into the temple courts, and all day they listened to the Lord's words as He taught the people and answered the questions of the priests.

1. What happened on Palm Sunday? What on Monday? What on Tuesday?

2. Why was the fig tree withered? Does it teach you any lesson?

3. What did the Lord find in the temple? and what did He do? Does this teach you any lesson?

Spiritual Study


The Lord came looking for fruit upon the fig tree, and when there was none caused it to wither away, because it would be an object lesson to teach us something about ourselves, and about the people in Jerusalem at that time. Do you remember other places where a man or the Lord's church is likened to a tree? (Isaiah 65:22; Psalm 1:3) Where the church is likened to a fig tree? (Luke 13:6-9) What quality in a man or in the church is especially meant when comparison is made to a fig tree? The low spreading fig tree with its sweet fruit represents our intelligence in regard to kind uses of charity. First we must learn how to do these uses, and think about doing them. But if we stop there, what kind of a fig tree are we like? If we do so, even our learning will some day be forgotten. The tree with leaves only, withers away. The lesson applied to the Jews, for they had the Scriptures and abundant knowledge of what was good, but did not do the good works of charity. (E. 386, 403; A. 885)

Remembering that the temple represented the Lord's own Humanity (John 2:19-22; Revelation 21:3), what did this cleansing mean? (E. 220, 325, 840) Do you see any likeness between what the Lord had done in the temple and the work of John the Baptist? It was a deeper work of the same kind. If the priests cared for the Lord's help to repent and make their lives good, they would understand both John's baptism and the Lord's cleansing of the temple. As it was, they cared for neither and understood neither.

Is the mountain which we may remove by prayer natural or spiritual? A spiritual mountain in a good sense is an elevated state of heavenly affection, but in a bad sense it is a state of pride and selfish elation. The promise is that we can with the Lord's help overcome not only the idle thoughts represented by the leafy fig tree, but the worst forms of selfish love. Every victory is possible with His help. (E. 405, 510)

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