Mark 11-12: What Jesus Did and Taught during His Last Week

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 47–49


Mark 11 begins about three years after Jesus’ baptism. Within one week He would be crucified. The events in Mark 11–16 occurred during the week of Passover—a time when Jews from all over gathered to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice at the temple. It was a perfect opportunity for Jesus to give His final testimony to a large number of people as He prepared to offer Himself as the Lamb of God for the redemption of all mankind.
map(click to view larger)

Topographical map

Understanding the Scriptures

Mark 11

Over against you (v. 2)Ahead of you 
Garments (vv. 7–8)Cloaks or clothes 
Strawed (v. 8)Spread out 
Eventide (v. 11)Night, evening 
Haply (v. 13)Perhaps 
Withered away (v. 21)Dead 
Ought against any (v. 25)Any bad feelings toward any person 

Mark 11:1–10—What Is the Significance of Jesus Riding into Town on the Colt?

See “Understanding the Scriptures” for Matthew 21:1–11 (p. 29).

Mark 11:15–18—Why Were There Moneychangers and People Buying and Selling in the Temple?

See “Understanding the Scriptures” for Matthew 21:12–13 (p. 29).

fig branch

Fig branch with figs

Mark 11:12–14, 20–21—The Cursed Fig Tree

Jesus did not explain why He cursed the fig tree, but a little knowledge about fig trees, combined with the circumstances described in the scriptures, helps us to understand the symbolism of what Jesus did. The kind of a fig tree mentioned in Mark 11 produces an early fig, even before it is full with leaves. The main crop of figs comes later. If a tree produces no early figs, it will produce no fruit at all that year. A tree with leaves (as both Mark and Matthew described it) should also have fruit, but that tree was barren. We could say that the tree gave the appearance of having fruit but actually had none. That is like the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day. They appeared righteous, but theirs was a hypocritical and empty righteousness. Consequently, Jesus cursed this tree of hypocrisy that symbolized the condition of the leaders of God’s covenant people.

Mark’s account says the tree did not have fruit because it was not time; the Joseph Smith Translation, however, removes that phrase and indicates that because the leaves were out, the tree should have had fruit.

Christ teaching

Mark 11:30–32; 12:12—The Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders “Feared the People”

Jesus continually condemned these Jewish leaders for their hypocrisy (for example, see Mark 12:38–40). Mark 11–12 implies that the source of their hypocrisy was pride. As President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment (see D&C 3:6–7; 30:1–2; 60:2). ‘What will men think of me?’ weighs heavier than ‘What will God think of me?’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 4; or Ensign, May 1989, 5).

Mark 12

Hedge (v. 1)Fence 
Winefat (v. 1)Container to hold juice from the fruit of a vineyard 
Let it out (v. 1)Rented it 
Husbandmen (vv. 1–2)People who take care of crops 
Heir (v. 7)One who has the right to receive or inherit something 
To catch him (v. 13)To deceive him 
Carest for no man (v. 14)Treat everyone equally 
Tribute (v. 14)Taxes 
Hypocrisy (v. 15)Pretending to be righteous when one is not 
Image and superscription (v. 16)Words inscribed on the coin 
Seed (vv. 20–22)Children 
Discreetly (v. 34)Wisely 
Durst (v. 34)Dared 
Salutation (v. 38)Greetings of honor 
Devour (v. 40)Rob her of what she owned 
Pretence (v. 40)Pretended to make a show 
Two mites; farthing (v. 42)Very small amounts of money 

Mark 12:18–27—Marriage in the Resurrection

See “Understanding the Scriptures” for Luke 20:27–38 (p. 70).

Mark 12:28–34—“None Other Commandment Greater Than These”

See “Understanding the Scriptures” for Matthew 22:36–38 (p. 30).

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–D) as you study Mark 11–12.

Activity A iconHow Might They Answer?

Imagine you were able to speak to people in the story in Mark 11:1–11. Write how you think they might have answered the questions directed to them in the following list.

  1. 1.

    To the two disciples: Why did Jesus give specific instructions about how to get the colt? What did you think about the way you got it?

  2. 2.

    To the owner of the colt: Why did you let the two disciples of Jesus take your colt?

  3. 3.

    To one of the people who spread a garment on the road and shouted Hosanna: Who do you think Jesus is? Why do you honor Him?

disciples getting donkey colt

Activity B iconInterpret the Symbolism

Carefully consider the story of the fig tree in Mark 11:12–14, 20–23, and the explanation found in the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for Mark 11. What kind of person do you think the fig tree Jesus cursed could represent in our day? Explain how that kind of a person might act or talk.

Activity C iconWhat Not to Do

Choose three actions or attitudes demonstrated by Jewish leaders who opposed or questioned Jesus in the stories and teachings of Mark 11:27–12:40. Explain how those actions or attitudes can keep a person from progressing spiritually.

Activity D iconWhat Is the Message?

Much of Mark 11–12 records how Jewish leaders confronted Jesus. In Mark 12:41–44 we read about a woman who was not at all like them.

  1. 1.

    How is the widow an example of what Jesus taught in Mark 12:29–34?

  2. 2.

    Write the message of Mark 12:44 in your own words and explain what you think Jesus Christ was teaching the people.

  3. 3.

    Write about something in your life that you could change to better follow the widow’s example of sacrifice and obedience. (It does not have to involve money.)

woman in the temple