MacArthur's First Message at Shepherd's Conference 2011

John MacArthur
Mark 11:12-17
  • A monumental, profound day in redemptive history, Tuesday of Passion Week
  • Saturday, he had stopped in Bethany to visit with his friends Mary, Martha, and recently-resurrected Lazarus
  • Best understanding is that Jesus remained in Bethany Sunday and crowds came to see him there and to see Lazarus, an immense curiosity
  • On Monday, a very bizarre event occurred, the false coronation of Jesus, not official, authorized, or acknowledged by the leaders of Israel or anybody else
  • The true heavenly coronation was acknowledged by all the hosts of heaven at his ascension
  • He came riding on the foal, in humility.
  • The crowd numbered in the hundreds of thousands
  • Verse 11 says he came into the temple and looked around at everything, “casing the place.”
  • He went back to Bethany that night.
  • The destroying of the fig tree is an analogy for the destruction of the temple which is an action for a greater destruction.
  • [Background on the 3 Jewish temples]
  • The story of the temple is the story of repeated tragedy.
  • It’s remarkable how patient God is before the destruction of each temple.
  1. The Curse, previewed and portrayed in the analogy (v. 12ff)
  • Jesus was hungry; he was human. Where was Martha? Wasn’t this right up her alley? Food? Not so much where Martha was but where Jesus was. Probably praying.
  • He is coming and it is not going to be pretty. He has a plan in mind.
  • In his humanity, he is angry; in his deity, he is coming to judge.
  • Fig trees are often used in prophecy as pictures of judgment.
  • Numbers 13, the 12 spies reported that there were fig trees everywhere. Fig harvest was mid-August-October. This is March-April.
  • Figs grow fruit before leaves. The fruit is immature, not ripe, but is edible. Because the tree had leaves, Jesus assumed there would be some edible buds there. It was a false hope.
  • His response was the only destructive miracle in his entire ministry.
  • It becomes a graphic picture for the false pretense of religious worship. Hypocrisy to the max!
  • Peter calls it a curse in v. 21.
  • Luke 13:6-9, another story Jesus made up may fit into this somewhat. He says he will cut the fig tree down, but there’s still a little time. Later now, in his ministry, the time is up.
  1. The Curse, previewed and portrayed in action (v. 15ff)
  • The last thing they expected the Messiah to do was to attack them, but He comes to assault them at their heart.
  • The disciples knew it was coming, since he had done it before in John 2:13ff. He bracketed his ministry this way, once at the beginning and once at the end. His whole ministry focused on how God is worshiped. He was never concerned with political or social action.
  • The measure of any society is its worship, its relationship to God. Jesus always goes to the temple. He found that in spite of his ministry over three years, there was no difference there.
  • This is not the cleansing of the temple. It wasn’t any different when he finished. This is an attack on the temple, a preview of devastating judgment.
  • Remember, there were temple police and all kinds of other temple staff. I think he used the power he once delegated to Samson… [laughter]
  • There was no renewal, no reform, no repentance.
  • Early in the book of Mark, he said he was the Lord of the Sabbath; now he says he’s the lord of this place too, the great High Priest.
  • He validated what he did because of what Scripture said. He quotes Isaiah 56:7 and exposits it right in the middle of the melee.
  • As they leave the city, they pass the cursed fig tree, which is rotten from the core, from the roots up. That’s Jewish religion.
  • Peter’s affirmation is that when our Lord curses, it will be destroyed.
  • The destruction of the temple started not at 70 A.D., but on Friday when the veil was ripped in two. It started when Jesus died.
  • True worship, then, shifted at that moment from the temple to the cross, to Calvary. That’s where all true worship has been conducted ever since, at the foot of the cross and at the empty tomb.
  • The promise of the destruction came on Tuesday that started dramatically on Friday and ended on 70 A.D., smashed to bits. After that, no Jews knew what tribes they were from, no more Sadducees, records all destroyed. So, where do people go to hear the message of the cross? The church. The church is now the temple, the house of prayer, the house of God.
  • Peter later wrote “Judgment must begin at the house of God.” He got the message. If you say this is the house of God, it better be. If you’ve corrupted it at all, if you’ve deviated from the prescriptions that God has ordained in honest and true worship—take it from Peter, you’ll experience judgment.
  • If you want a vision of that judgment, turn to Rev. 1:12-16. It is Jesus, in the garb of the OT priest, walking through his churches. Do you know what he is doing? He’s casing the place. The picture here is one of judgment. He’s not coming in sweet, dulcet tones. 
  • So when we say “isn’t it wonderful that the Lord met with us today?”—it’s wonderful, but it’s the most serious thing that has happened in the world that day.
  • What is he looking for? Churches who have left their first love for Christ. If they don’t repent, he’s going to put them out of business. He’s looking for churches who compromise with the culture (Rev. 2:14-16). He’s looking for churches who have nothing but programs for dead people (Rev. 3:1). He’s also looking for churches like Smyrna and Philadelphia.
  • This is the most serious business that you could ever be engaged in. We will give account. This is nothing to trifle with. You want to fool around with your creativity and innovation and popularity? Do not accept the stewardship of the temple of God.
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Brian McCrorie's picture

No, I'm just watching via the Internet. But it helps me to absorb more the message when I take notes, so I just pass them on FWIW.

Brian McCrorie Indianapolis, IN

Brian McCrorie's picture

Jon Kirby is at the conference, however. He is a graduate of Masters Seminary.

Brian McCrorie Indianapolis, IN

JimD's picture

I was able to catch some of the services live...was a great blessing...On Friday I listened to Alex Montoya on Preaching, it was a huge Blessing! Also Sunday Afternoon watched the Vesper Service!


Joel Tetreau's picture

Shepherd's was outstanding as usual.

Phil Johnson kicked it off with an outstanding sermon.

Sorry I didn't have the time to blog as it went.

Straight Ahead!


Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (; Regional Coordinator for IBL West (, Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Jay's picture

Media is now up at the ]Shepherds' Fellowship Website .

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells