Mark 11:19

As soon as evening fell, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

strategic retreats
are part of every
guerrilla action

a silence for reflection
can up the ante
for raised anxiety

when will they strike again
causes over-reaction
perpetual preparation

eventually systems wear out
from high alert
abused resources

not as regular
as a tide’s ebb and flow
but as sure

every action’s non-action
forwards a march
to fruitful crisis

There are some who translate the last phrase as, “whenever it was evening they used to leave” [Bratcher354]. This brings to mind the Weathermen in1968 who would enter Chicago for their disruptive action and return to Evanston every evening to evaluate the day and plan for the next.

Though this raises an intriguing argument that changes a one-time symbolic action to intentionally continual engagements such as suggested by Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, Mark’s style of “BANG” calls for a single, definitive action.

Evening means the first quarter of the night, after sundown (6-9 p.m.). This also connects with the report of the first days of creation that had a pattern of, “It was evening and morning, of day X”. Evening is the beginning of the action, rather than its conclusion.

It is in our leaving that we enter the “rest of our life”. [No, not “rest” as in sleep, but the next part of a larger arc.] There is a sense that we need to say goodbye to our protective attachments before we have an opening to say hello to moving beyond our fear of suffering. This is the destruction of Jerusalem before its physical destruction.

Early on Jesus walked into a wilderness. The witnesses there were beasts and angels, the creation and meta-creation. Here he has ridden into a temple. The witnesses were a domesticated animal and religious leaders.

In light of Mark’s tendency to give hints to the reader that they might remember prior events that have an overlapping connection—What internal destruction took place in the wilderness and what vision comes forth from the temple? What new day comes with the setting of this day?

Mark 11:18

Now the chief priests and the teachers of the Law heard this and began to look for some way of putting Jesus to death; for they were afraid of him, since all the people were greatly impressed by his teaching.

beyond uncertainty
lies entrenched response
when poked it swarms

roulette’s red and black
is much too iffy
for privilege’s comfort

here no odds are brokered
only sure things count
and death is surer than taxes

no balance of power here
if it is not for us
it sure as hell is not for you

this is no game
of mutual assured destruction
it is all for you

your pause for prayer
leaves plenty of room
for a legal lynching

The first line can be better understood with the translational addition of the small word, “of”—The chief priests and legal experts came to hear of this….”

It doesn’t take much for us to feel threatened and to respond in kind. Just a whisper, an overheard or misheard word, or a suspicious mind putting the worst possible interpretation on a phrase can set a preemptive strike in motion.

It is one thing to call for “thoughts and prayers” and another to identify the underlying problem that comes with establishing power and holding on to it—that the means of control require ever more violence. In identifying the priests and moneychangers in the Temple as having the same methodology as the bandits who lay in wait along the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, the enthralled and amazed crowd could begin to see the shape of authority without its trappings. When the emperor’s clothes can no longer hide the mechanisms of control, a milling crowd can be organized. Their yearning to reset the current inequities might actually be possible to implement.

Even without the upset in the Temple, Jesus is from Galilee and the rising tension there set leaders who relied on violence on edge. Galilee, both away from the religious center of Jerusalem and controlled by Rome from cities within such as Sepphoris and Tiberias, had a revolutionary fervor regarding both the Herodian royal priesthood and the colonizing power of Rome. Now that Jesus is here in Jerusalem, the vague threat he posed when in the hinterland needs to be addressed more immediately.

Mark 11:17

Then he began to teach. “Does not scripture say,” he asked, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

prayer is no guarantor
of repentance

the lure of profit
taking advantage
of human foibles
is persistent
prayer is no guarantor
of repentance

models of meaning
live well beyond
every evidence
that it crashed
prayer is no guarantor
of repentance

its assumptions
rest on unverifiable hope
unsubstantiated trust
conditioned love
prayer is no guarantor
of repentance

soft power is still power
susceptible to trembling
all too quick to abandon
a fruitful wilderness
prayer is no guarantor
of repentance

The preceding actions of stopping and blocking commercial activity in the Temple sets the scene for a Teach-In.

Sabin2101 helps us distinguish between the two writings referenced.

In interweaving these two passages, Mark is juxtaposing two very different strands in biblical tradition. The passage from Jeremiah [about crooks] expresses a warning about being corrupted by foreigners…. The passage from Isaiah [house of prayer] expresses the vision of a time when foreigners will want to join Israel in worship….

Noting a “tension and complexity” of the joining of these two quotes into one sentence, Sabin2 continues:

On the one hand, the quotation from Jeremiah places [Jesus] in the tradition of the reforming prophets seeking to purify Temple worship of foreign influences. On the other hand, the quotation from Isaiah places him in the tradition of the visionary prophets seeking to bring all people together by welcoming foreigners into God’s house.

There are other comparisons to be made between court prophets and reforming prophets. Court prophets, or priests, are those who are morally injured by their self-imposed limit of protecting whatever religious leadership is currently in place. This brings a next news cycle about a religious leader who is caught with their hand in the till or the pants of another.

Whether suffering and death come from fear of foreigners or those who maintain injustice, universal partnership is a key antidote.

Mark 11:16

and would not allow anyone to carry anything across the Temple Courts.

tables in one direction
chairs in another

doves released
coins scattered

all in all
quite a mess

needing fallow time
not a quick fix

so don’t bring
a broom just yet

such a picture
needs living with

imprinted on souls
for constant reflection

every system
comes to this

its calculated good
still frail

Remember—no story takes place in a vacuum—there is a Judean security police and a Roman garrison close at hand. These bodies exert the control needed to see that commercial interests are cared for.

This is the case for both those directly involved in transactions within the Temple setting and for those who save steps by using the temple ground as a shortcut from one part of Jerusalem to another or the carrying of goods to and from one of the gates of the city.

If the upsetting of tables is a direct action against those controlling the temple economy and means to access the favor of G*D, then this action is equivalent to what we know as a boycott or blockade of the public to raise their awareness of a current difficulty.

In both cases, this moment of disruption is but a prelude to the eventual collapse of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE when it is destroyed by the Romans as its political and military inconvenience came to outweigh its commercial benefit to them.

It is one thing to interfere with the day-to-day business of a religion, it is quite another to interfere with the business of individual citizens who make up one crowd or another. Every boycott or blockade reveals both supporters and opponents. Awareness of the larger issue that would bring forth this act of resistance is raised and more supporters gained. Interference with or interruption of daily business turns passive followers into active adversaries.

Beyond the reactions of those directly affected, security forces have their own interest in keeping a tight control on disputes and will use any needed force to preempt any potential or active disruption.

The odds are this event was relatively short in duration.

Mark 11:15

They came to Jerusalem. Jesus went into the Temple Courts, and began to drive out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers, and the seats of the pigeon-dealers,

still a-hungering
an exorcism
is all that rises
to every occasion
in need of mercy

oh we say first
no harm
but seeking all the harm
already done and done again
options become limited
to never again

into which our best cure
sets a next stage
for harm’s never-ending variety
to adjust its baseline
and bloom with a vengeance

a push here
a shove there
an expletive undeleted
scatters doves
as well as coins
hunger happens

Still hungering, Jesus comes to the Temple looking for sustenance. While the fig tree bore no fruit to sustain, the Temple is bearing bad fruit. This is just as problematic, if not more so. Here one gets empty calories while believing that such nutrition will see them through. It doesn’t.

The verbal-curse at the fig tree is here turned into an action-curse. This is not just a rotational issue of seasons, which might be excused, but an intentional selling of a patent medicine based on the patter of the seller and need or gullibility of the buyer, not the worth of the potion itself.

Sabin-2101 is clear that, “these actions must be understood in the context of … prophetic traditions.”

The confrontation is in line with the prophetic intention to purify the Temple from commercialization that ultimately runs counter to a Jubilee reset of generations of economic inequity. Sacrifices with a financial component, such as the selling of indulgences or promises of prosperity, can be traced back to Samuel’s sons, Abraham gifts to Melchizedek and the offerings of Cain and Abel.

The particular of doves is about the “sacrifices” of the poor—the sacrifice needed for the “purification” of women and the certification of a leper’s cleanliness. Jesus overturns “the stations used to make a profit off those condemned to second-class citizenship.” [Myers147]

Mark 11:14

So, addressing the tree, he exclaimed, “May no one ever again eat of your fruit!” And his disciples heard what he said.

driving forces
destination bound
brook no detour

all options
devolve to
either or

no excuse
for being
out of season

even absent
strange fruit
hangs heavy

this now
is all
there is

until awaking
beyond season
in larger love

This is often seen as an unnecessary curse (why would one naturally expect the fruit of figs before their season); it is not much different than prior teachings about dismissing a “Holy Spirit”, refusing to sell possessions, hanging millstones around the necks of others, and self-amputations.

Mark’s readers have, by now, become accustomed to knowing Jesus actions are as parabolic as his stories. At question is whether this action is literal rather than metaphoric and what justification there is for treating it literally.

We know the disciples have heard other things by Jesus, even specific directions, and have often not gotten the point.

We might remember them coming to Jesus complaining about others who are encroaching upon their territory and healing in Jesus’ name.

In hearing this curse, the disciples are likely to hear that they have another key that they can leverage into power and control.

They heard this statement to be about the fig tree, not about their not being ready for a next season or about Jesus’ hunger for mutual hospitality.

Mann441 looks at “the tradition which nurtured Jesus” and notes that “the Messianic Age, the Age of Blessings, will cause the earth to produce abundantly and beyond human expectation”. There will be “natural wonders which will accompany the time of restoration [an un-cursing of the ground Adam was to till]” (see examples in Isaiah 40:4-5, 45:2, 49:11, 51:10; Psalm of Solomon 11:4; and 1 Baruch 5:7). “Fruit out of season may be looked for, or expected, only by one entering upon the New Age who is hungry and righteous.”

Sabin-183 uses a midrashic approach that connects with G*D’s curse of the ground in Genesis so this has a larger context than just Israel and is a set-up for a universal reversal of all curses, even Jesus’.

Mark 11:13

and, noticing a fig-tree at a distance in leaf, he went to it to see if by any chance he could find something on it; but, on coming up to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.

a mirage of food
is no less compelling
than a desired lake
in a thirsty land

a hunger to be satisfied
rises from general awareness
a commander of attention
reorienting every decision

a crowd-size need is narrowed
to one and only one imperative
from mission to maintenance
regardless of any other reality

without sufficient resources
in season or out
we’ll search out
trees or dumpsters


A season of belovedness is not yet here. We look for it. We yearn for it. We hunger for it. It is not yet present. Yet it could be.

That which satisfies the resolution of a current lack is yet present. What else have all the healing stories been telling us? That which is out-of-whack, out-of-season, dis-eased can, now, be aligned, harvested, made whole.

All our energy has gone into leaf-making, not fruit-making. Fishing for people is disciple-making not simply carrying prior-revelation forward.

It is not yet time for a new heaven and new earth, a new age. Yet, the experience of wilderness with beasts and angels gives evidence of a season available that is not currently acknowledged. Experience of the emergence of the future into the present can be gained, consolidated, and enjoyed.

The story about a fig tree (a prophetic symbol of Israel, see Hosea 9:10, Micah 7:1, and Jeremiah 24:1-10 for some references) will be interwoven with arguments within the Temple. Both will be found to be exhibiting a linear fault that comes with seasons—that the seasons are distinct instead of each one carrying the others within them. Whichever aspect of the multiverse we are in is available and is less limited than commonly admitted.

To see through “hungry” eyes is to be realistic about the limits we habitually use to keep us in our place, stuck. Our first reaction will be that of sorrow or anger that we use “normal” or “natural” to avoid the investment of energy, work, needed to take our gift, our “belovedness”, into the real world of wilderness that will refine it into being able to engage all the seasons of life from within any of them.

Mark 11:12

The next day, after they had left Bethany, Jesus became hungry;

hunger is a suffering
residing deep within
bodies with a future
emotions with a present
spirit with a past

person hungers for person
place calls out to place
to meet habitual expectations
to cover a recent loss
to finally begin a quest

leaving little Bethany
for a short stroll to Jerusalem
is not a place for hunger
if Martha has any say
but Mary’s curiosity is never sated

Jerusalem to Bethany and back
is a long journey
calling for surprising reserves
unplanned-for preparations
unexpected wearing details

Another scene begins and we are met with a strange comment about Jesus’ hunger. It would be a huge breach of hospitality to have a guest, particularly one in whom are seen great events, leave hungry.

The word for hunger here is πεινάω (peinaō, craving) and is the same word Matthew uses in his Beatitude: Privileged are people who are hungry and thirsty for “the rightwising eschatological activity of God”…. [“rightwising” phrase from M. Eugene Boring in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII179.]

Here we might speak of heart hunger instead of stomach hunger.

This shifts our perspective from individual desire to that unbending arc of justice or mercy enacted so needed if a community is to have a core strength beyond an economic measure of relative worth. It also returns us to the scene with the one asking the cost of eternity only to find it beyond his means to divest himself of the reigning power of resources.

To come to Jerusalem with cheers is a cheap victory. Even if Jesus had come to Jerusalem early on the previous Day of the Colt, he would have had to leave to come back “hungry”. The lateness of the day was not the triggering of his prior leaving, but a recognition that he had not given his “Son of David” title away.

Unlike a recent Snickers commercial, his hunger was not going to negatively happen to others, but it did need to be sharpened. His time back in Bethany was a return to his days in the wilderness following an announcement of belovedness—a hunger for mercy for all.

Mark 11:11

Jesus entered Jerusalem, and went into the Temple Courts; and, after looking around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

what an anticlimax
specific risky plans
suspiciously complex preparations
extraordinary responses
arrival at the center
only to find it bare

there is no power here
nor its vacuum
only ordinary lives
trapped in ordinary lines
the holy of holies leads back
to an ordinary little town

This is quite the dud of an adventure. “We came all this way to turn around?!”

All the build-up of redemption and overthrow seems to have come to nothing. Only a resurrection sputtering away into silence could be worse.

What false bravado we had. Our chants and banners turn out to be fake news, not good news.

Kings in David’s line are not supposed to surrender without a fight. At best this might be described as a feint, a casing-of-the-joint, for a later theft of power. “Surely, tomorrow will bring victory. Just as Joshua had to spy out Jericho and camp out for three days, so we will exalt over a new Jerusalem.”

Trying to follow these early days in Jerusalem leads Carrington236 to recognize:

These notes of time in Mark do not help us to frame a chronology of the Gospel. The sense of motion and continuity and development is conveyed in other ways, by the dramatic presentation of various crises, by the repetition of important words or phrases, by the use of place-names, and so forth.

One of the clues of place-names lets us know this is the conclusion of the colt vignette. We began this chapter with reference to Bethany and Jerusalem. We end with Jerusalem and Bethany. If we were coding a website this portion would begin with <bethany><jerulsalem> and conclude with </jerusalem></bethany>.

We can’t help wondering what Bartimaeus is making of this. His “Son of David” reference seems to need redefining. Is Jesus not going to take a false ruler’s life when he had it right in his hand to do so? Surely Jesus will take over the failed kingship of Saul and the Temple Priests and the Romans. But, how if not by overthrow? Undermining?

Mark 11:10

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! God save him from on high!”

so enthralled are we
with a golden past
we mistake tomorrow
as its extension

not knowing any better
we see only empire
ours theirs ours again
in unending line

condemned to repletion
we roller-coast stock prices
twitter feeds and inner angst
falsely analyzing progress

We have heard a blessing on Jesus as he enters the danger that Jerusalem has become. We now hear a blessing on a still future presence of that which David and his physical descendants were not able to sustain.

We are also led back into further confusions in “Hosanna”. In particular to what a “highest” Hosanna might mean.

Bratcher348 says it bluntly, “In English the phrase ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ is virtually devoid of meaning, since ‘hosanna’ conveys no meaning, other than as a shout of praise, while ‘in the highest’ … may be misunderstood as signifying ‘in the highest degree.’ Eventually Bratcher follows “Lagrange: ‘the acclamation rises as far as heaven, as though to thank God for inaugurating his salvation, and to ask him [for] his help.’”

Barkley268 notes, “[Hosanna] occurs in exactly the same form in 2 Samuel 14:4 and 2 Kings 6:26, where it is used by people seeking for help and protection at the hands of the king. When the people shouted Hosanna it was not a cry of praise to Jesus, which it often sounds like when we quote it. It was a cry to God to break in and save his people now that the Messiah had come.”

Bartimaeus called out to the “Son of David” for mercy. Bartimaeus now joins with others in continuing that mercy or saving (Hosanna) into a presence of the best intention (“kingdom”) of David that will be for all, not just for some. This thanksgiving is also a plea.

Jerusalem is the seat of the current occupier—Rome. To have a “higher Hosanna!” is to call past Rome to a higher power. For everyday mercies (read Everyday Mercies by Evie Yoder Miller) we are thankful, praiseful. Yet, we yearn for them to be more than particular incidents, but a universal presence signified by a larger process of mercy for which we have no other language than “heaven come on earth”, G*D present, Neighb*rs present, and a plea, “Come!”.