Few people in the Gospels show as much persistence and eagerness in their desire to be healed as blind Bartimaeus. He is not about to be swayed from his efforts to attract Jesus’ attention. The discouragement from everyone around him only makes him shout louder, determined to get the attention of the healer he has heard about.
The blind man’s actions demonstrate his faith. Beggars in first-century Palestine would spread a cloak on the ground in front of them to collect donations from compassionate passersby. It probably isn’t much, but for Bartimaeus, his cloak is all he has. He throws it aside without a thought—probably along with the coins he collected that day—because he is certain that once he meets Jesus, he will not need to be a beggar anymore.
11 When they had gotten close to Jerusalem, near the two villages of Bethphage and Bethany and the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of His followers ahead of them.
Jesus: 2 Go to that village over there. As soon as you get into the town, you’ll see a young colt tied that nobody has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it back to Me. 3 If anybody stops you and asks what you’re doing, just say, “The Lord needs it, and He will send it back right after He’s done.”
4 Everything happened just as Jesus had told them. They found the colt in the street tied near a door, and they untied it.
Bystanders: 5 What are you doing?
6 They answered as Jesus had instructed and were allowed to take it, 7 so they brought the colt back to Jesus, piled garments on its back to make a comfortable seat, and Jesus rode the animal toward Jerusalem. 8 As they traveled, people cast their cloaks onto the road and spread out leafy branches, which they had brought from the fields along the way. 9 People walked ahead of them, and others followed behind.
People (shouting): Hosanna! Rescue us now, Lord! Hosanna!
Blessed be the One who comes in the name of the Eternal One![a]
10 And blessed is the kingdom of our father David, which draws closer to us today!
Hosanna in the highest heavens!
Jesus enters Jerusalem, but this time He radically redefines the people’s every expectation. His descriptions to His disciples of where they will find the colt He is to ride and how they shall get it has an air of prophecy and supernatural knowledge. He rides a donkey instead of being carried into town on the backs of servants (in a litter as a conquering king would do), fulfilling the prophecy that the King will come riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). After all, donkeys are a poor man’s mount, and even in this triumphal entry, Jesus makes it clear He does not intend to conquer and rule in a worldly way. Now, for the first time, He allows the crowds to voice their excitement about who He is and all that He has been doing.
11 To the sound of this chanting, Jesus rode through the gates of Jerusalem and up to the temple. He looked around and saw that evening was coming, so He and the twelve went back to Bethany to spend the night.
12 The next morning, when they departed Bethany and were traveling back to the city, Jesus was hungry. 13 Off in the distance, He saw a fig tree fully leafed out, so He headed toward it to see if it might have any ripe fruit. But when He reached it, He found only leaves because the fig season had not yet come.
14 As the disciples listened, Jesus pronounced a curse on the tree.
Jesus: No one will ever eat fruit from your branches again.
This is the only time recorded in the Gospels when Jesus uses His supernatural power to destroy. The tree is “fully leafed out”—a stage that usually comes after figs are ripe and not before. Because the tree looks as though it ought to have fruit but doesn’t, it is a perfect illustration of people who believe they have the good fruit of righteousness even though their actions are void of true compassion and love, as empty and useless as leaves. And so Jesus curses the fig tree, not out of anger with the tree itself, but as a warning to hypocrites who think their appearance is more important than the fruit of their actions.
15 They continued into Jerusalem and made their way up to the temple.
Upon reaching the temple that morning, Jesus dealt with those who were selling and buying animals for sacrifices and drove them out of the area. He turned over the tables of those who exchanged money for the temple pilgrims and the seats of those selling birds, 16 and He physically prevented anyone from carrying anything through the temple.
At the temple, Jesus responds in shock to the scene before Him. He acts decisively and with great emotion against those who have turned God’s house into a place where pilgrims are exploited. He has a message and, like the prophets of old, this message is better seen than heard. Because the temple leadership has allowed profiteers and merchants to set up shop in the court of the Gentiles, they are making ridiculous profits. For the people who come long distances to worship, it is a normal practice to have merchants selling animals for the pilgrims to sacrifice. What is not normal and what is immoral is where and how they transact business. Jesus takes issue with robbers profiteering in His Father’s house.
18 The chief priests and the scribes heard these words and knew Jesus was referring to them, so they plotted His destruction. They had grown afraid of Him because His teachings struck the crowds into astonishment.
19 When evening came, [Jesus and His followers][d] left the city again. 20 The next morning on the way back to Jerusalem, they passed a tree that had withered down to its very roots.
Peter (remembering): 21 That’s the fig tree, Teacher, the one You cursed just yesterday morning. It’s withered away to nothing!
Jesus: 22 Trust in God. 23 If you do, honestly, you can say to this mountain, “Mountain, uproot yourself and throw yourself into the sea.” If you don’t doubt, but trust that what you say will take place, then it will happen. 24 So listen to what I’m saying: Whatever you pray for or ask from God, believe that you’ll receive it and you will. 25 When you pray, if you remember anyone who has wronged you, forgive him so that God above can also forgive you. [26 If you don’t forgive others, don’t expect God’s forgiveness.][e]
27 As they arrived in Jerusalem and were walking in the temple, the chief priests, scribes, and elders came to Jesus 28 and asked Him a question.
Leaders: Tell us, who has given You the authority to say and do the things You’re saying and doing?
Jesus: 29 I will answer your question, if you will answer one for Me. Only then will I tell you who gives Me authority to do these things. 30 Tell Me, when John was ritually cleansing through baptism for the forgiveness of sins, was his authority from heaven or was it merely human?
31 The priests, scribes, and elders huddled together to think through an answer.
Leaders (to themselves): If we say, “It must have been from heaven,” then Jesus will have us. He’ll ask, “Then why didn’t you listen to him and follow him?” 32 But if we say, “John’s cleansing was only human,” the people will be up in arms because they think John was a prophet sent by God. 33 (responding to Jesus) We don’t know what to tell You.
Jesus: All right, then don’t expect Me to tell you where I get the authority to say and do these things.