“Whatever You Ask” for the Missionary Purposes of the Eschatological Temple: Quotation and Typology in Mark 11-12
The beginning of the Gospel of Mark anticipates—right away—that the narrative will climax at the Jerusalem temple. This “gospel” of Jesus Christ in Mark 1:1 is “as it is written” (καθὼς γέγραπται; 1:2) in Isaiah. The meaning of “gospel,” therefore, should be sought in the first place in Isaiah, specifically in the context of Isaiah 40:3 which is what Mark quotes in 1:3.1 That is, Mark does not simply quote Isaiah 40:3, but indexes the entire Isaianic context, most narrowly 40:1–11, which then provides a definition of “gospel.”2 The “gospel of Jesus Christ” (1:1) that now follows in the entirety of Mark (1:4–16:8) is the manifestation in history of Isaiah’s “gospel.”3 How, then, does Isaiah define “gospel?” In Isaiah 40:9a messenger with the “gospel” (מְבַשֶּׂרֶת; ὁ εὐαγγελιζόμενος) calls people to see (הִנֵּה; ἰδού) the arrival of the God of Israel.4 In the larger context of Isaiah 40–55,5 specifically Isaiah 52:7–10, this also means the reign of God as he returns to Jerusalem/Zion in full view of all the nations.6 This is what Jesus means when he says “the Kingdom of God is at hand” in 1:15—the reign of God over the nations from the locus of Jerusalem.7 Inevitably, therefore, the narrative is headed to Jerusalem.
Interestingly enough, however, Mark 1:2–3 does not quote Isaiah only. Before the quote of Isaiah, Micah 3:1 and Exodus 23:20 are spliced in!8
|Mark 1:1–3||Old Testament Source|
|The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
2 As written in Isaiah the prophet, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.’”
|Get yourself up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” (Isa 40:9)
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. (Mal 3:1)
20 I am going to send a messenger ahead of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. (Exod 23:20)
3 A voice cries out,
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isa 40:3)
Along the canon’s redemptive-historical arc, it is not hard to see what Exodus 23:20 is doing in Mark’s quote of “Isaiah.” In the first exodus the Lord brought his covenant people out of the land of idolatry and oppression along “the way” (הַדֶּרֶךְ; Exod 13:18, 21–22; 18:8; Deut 8:2), led by an angel/messenger to the place of worship (Exod 23:20–24; 32:34). Isaiah’s restoration from exile along “the way” is, in turn, the greater exodus because this time it will include the nations. Mark’s use of Malachi 3:1, however, is puzzling. Rikki Watts argues that the point of Malachi is that Isaiah’s second exodus has been “delayed because of the nation’s sin,” specifically illegitimate temple worship.9 So in Malachi 3:1 “the way” is prepared for the Lord to “suddenly come to his temple,” and 3:2–4 says it will be for judgment and purification.10 The result will be a new priesthood that brings “offerings in righteousness to the Lord” (3:3). Thus, in Mark, Jesus is not headed to Jerusalem merely, but to the temple specifically. “The way” must lead there.
Once Jesus reaches Jerusalem in Mark 11 all of his actions and words in the rest of the gospel bear directly on the temple.11 The goal of this article is to demonstrate how the discourse of Mark 11–12, and specific OT quotations therein, elucidates typological correspondences with Israel’s historic temple. The current temple is judged and a new temple is erected: the temple of the community of Jesus-followers. They will fulfill the eschatological purposes for the temple by extending God’s reign from Jerusalem to all the nations.12 To see this I will give specific attention to the typological function of the temple in the OT vis-à-vis the narrative discourse and quotations in Mark 11–12.13 In so doing, a Markan crux interpretum comes into clarity: 11:24’s “whatever you ask in prayer” is meant specifically in reference to the ministrations of the temple now fulfilled in Jesus’ followers. The church is, therefore, Jesus’ eschatological temple—rebuilt three days after Jesus’ destruction—that can now ask for “whatever” to accomplish its mission to the nations. In short, the events of Mark 11–12 comprise an extended temple antitype.14
Old Testament Temple Typology
Much could be said about the theology of the temple in the OT.15 For our purposes, a big picture survey will be enough to understand typological correspondences in Mark 11–12.
In the OT the temple serves one primary function that also entails several directly related theological results. That primary function is to mediate the presence of God to the people of God. This is clear at the temple’s inauguration when it is filled with the glory cloud of the Lord in 1 Kings 8:10–13. Solomon rhetorically expresses his wonderment at this when he asks in 8:27, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth?” since “Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain [him].” This awe-some juxtaposition accentuates how the temple is the means by which heaven and earth are connected, as God dwells in both.16 Yet this had always been the goal of redemptive-history, seen in the creation account (Genesis 1–2), pre-temple altars like Bethel (Gen 12:7–8; 26:24–25; 28:17–18; 26:25; 35:1), Sinai (Exod 19:9, 16–20; Deut 4:10–12; 5:22–26), and of course the tabernacle (Exod 25:8; 29:38–46; 40:34–48; Lev 26:11–12).17 It is not surprising, therefore, that this temple-inauguration in 1 Kings 8 also marks the fulfillment of so many other covenantal promises. Solomon emphasizes this promise-fulfillment dynamic (8:15–21, 24, 56) and echoes many other redemptive-historical themes: election (8:53), covenant (8:9, 21, 23), exodus (8:21, 43, 51), land (8:36, 40), seed (passim),blessing (8:14–15, 55–56), law (8:58), rest (8:56), Davidic throne (8:20, 24), Davidic temple-builder (8:15–21), and the promise that the Lord be “with his people” (8:57). It is clear that this moment—the coming of God’s glory to fill the temple—is the pinnacle of redemptive-history to which all else has been driving. Indeed, Graeme Goldsworthy is right to call 1 Kings 8–10 the high-water mark of the OT.18 It simply cannot be overestimated how central the temple is to the OT’s theological system, nor the summative role 1 Kings 8–10 plays.
In addition to the fulfillment of covenantal promises and the coalescing of several redemptive-historical themes around the temple, there are also three directly related theological results from God’s dwelling there. (1) God pardons sin. In fact, it is at the very temple where God grants this forgiveness. It is his court and throne. This is clear from the presence of the ark (8:1–9, 21) as well as the recurring request of Solomon’s prayer (8:30, 34, 36, 39), especially its lengthy conclusion (8:40–53). This makes sense as God is holy and sinners are not, hence the entire point of Leviticus and the need for sacrifices there. (2) God hears prayer. This too is the recurring emphasis through 8:29–50. And, as with forgiveness, it is specifically in the temple where God hears prayers; they are “offered toward this place” (8:29–30, 35). Again, this makes sense; if that is where he dwells on earth, then that is where he hears.19 Finally, because of all these things (3) the peoples of the earth will know Yahweh is the only God.20 This was the goal of the exodus, to spread the knowledge of Yahweh’s exclusive glory (Exod 5:2; 7:5; 8:10; 14:18; 18:11 et passim; Josh 2:8–11) as he brought his people to worship in his presence (Exod 5:3; 6:7; 25:8 et passim). Now that he dwells with his people—“forever,” in Solomon’s estimation (8:13)—everything God has done for his glory reaches its climax in this new international demonstration. First Kings 8:60 even uses very similar language from the exodus, “that all the peoples of the earth may know the Lord is God” (cf. also 8:23, 43). In fact, the avenues of prayer and forgiveness are open to the “foreigner” as well (8:41–43) because “they will hear of [his] great name” (8:42).21
In sum, that God would dwell with his covenant people is the goal of redemptive-history. This necessitates in the first place that atonement for sin be made to provide the necessary forgiveness. With that, the reconciled relationship opens the door to the gracious hearing of prayer. All of it results in the nations’ observation of the saving and hearing capacities of Israel’s God, thereby inviting Gentiles to come and also gain access to the house in which he dwells. This all provides a typological scaffold for understanding what we will now see in Mark.22
“The Beginning of the Gospel” and the “Way of the LORD” (Mark 1-10)
Israel’s historic temple did not always fulfill these purposes. It was destroyed at the time of the exile for the idolatry, ironically, it facilitated (cf. Ezekiel 8), and after the historic return from exile, it inhibited the coming of Isaiah’s great second exodus (Malachi 3).23 But with the “beginning of the gospel” “as it is written in Isaiah” and Exodus and Malachi (Mark 1:1–3) the eschatological temple is ready for construction. This will happen when the Lord comes upon “the way.”24
No sooner is “the way” to the temple mentioned in Mark, however, that focus on it falls immediately out of view. The reader does not see it again until 8:27. Not coincidently, that is also the moment when Jesus asks his disciples who he is. When Peter answers that he is the Christ, Jesus immediately makes his firstannouncement of his sufferings and resurrection on the third day (8:31). The narrative then turns decisively toward that suffering and resurrection (9:30–32; 10:32–34) as Jesus continues on “the way” (9:33–34; 10:32, 46, 52). As Mark 1:1–3 foreshadows, “the way” leads straight to Jerusalem in 11:8. And again, as suggested by the use of Malachi 3 in Mark 1:2, “the way” leads specifically to the temple: “he entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple” (11:11).25
Quotation and Typology through Mark 11-12
Now that Jesus has—as expected—arrived at the temple, the next two chapters in Mark persistently teach that Jesus’ followers are the typological fulfillment of the OT temple: the locus of forgiveness, where God hears prayers, and how the nations can know the Lord. This is seen through a contextual symbiosis of direct OT quotations and typology.
Typology is inherently contextually anchored (it is not indeterminate like allegory!) and a form of intertextuality. Types and antitypes are both embedded in contexts and then communicate across the canon. Attention to Mark’s literary context, therefore, and specific OT quotations in that context, helps guide in observing typological correspondences that may otherwise be overlooked. That is how we shall proceed here: first an analysis of the Markan flow of thought (the narrative discourse), then an inspection of explicit OT quotations, and finally a consideration of types and antitypes in dialogue with said context and quotations.
The Markan narrative has a very tight flow through chapters 11–12, and a singular unifying focus: the temple.26 With all the narrative buildup to his coming to the temple, what Jesus now does there is critical.27 Mark tells us that he “looked around.” With Malachi 3:1–4 back in view, this “looking around” is an assizement. The prophet predicts that the sudden coming of the Lord to his temple would result in judgment and purification. Jesus’ going directly there can mean nothing less. That “it was already late” does not mean the time of day, as though Jesus is simply tired and ready to go home from the night. Rather, it is “late” in time, “late” in history (cf. 1:15’s “the time is fulfilled”).28 The ministrations of that temple are at an end. The old era is over, and that means the eschatological fulfillment of Malachi 3’s temple vision.29
“The following day” in 11:12 marks the beginning of judgment on the old temple. The cursing of the fig tree (11:14) should be read in this light; it is an emblematic verdict against the temple.30 It does not bear fruit.31 In Jesus’ pronouncement, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again,” the “you” means the fig tree, of course. But it also means the temple.32 The immediate referent is the tree, but the immediate context cannot be forgotten.33 Jesus did not find what the tree should have had, just as he did in the temple when he “looked around” (11:11).34 Intertextual attention to Jeremiah 8:13 supports this reading: “When I would gather them, declares the Lord, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered.” This verse is an indictment against all of Israel’s leadership (cf. Jer 8:10). But the forecast of the temple’s destruction in the immediate context of Jeremiah 7—which Jesus himself quotes in Mark 11:17 (see below)—makes Jesus’ action read like a prophetic enactment of the whole of Jeremiah 7–8, aimed specifically at the templeleadership.35 Yahweh’s finding no figs (Jeremiah 8) is the reason for the imminent destruction of the temple (Jeremiah 7). Jesus’ finding no figs (Mark 11:12–14, 20–21) means the imminent destruction of the temple (11:15–19, 23; 13:2).
This is made increasingly clear as the setting moves, very naturally, back to the temple (11:15).36 Jesus’ driving out of the merchants and overturning of the tables is no “cleansing,” however.37 It is a prophetic speech-act where God’s messenger shockingly acts out his message.38 Jesus is saying: As these people are driven out and these tables are overturned, in the same way all will be driven out and this entire house knocked down.39 For it has become “a den of robbers” (σπήλαιον λῃστῶν). But how? The money-changers qua money-changers are not the issue.40 Rather, the entire temple leadership is under indictment for their habitual practices.41 One day’s selling and buying matters very little.42 But the priestly aristocracy had long used the temple’s monetary resources to provide loans, and then take people’s land when they would default.43 It is easy to see how that can degenerate into a form of theft (cf. 12:38–44).44 And that is the reason for Jesus’ temple action—such routine corruption profanes the worship of the Holy One of Israel. “Jesus was proclaiming that they did not represent the true temple of God.”45 Perhaps, however, Jesus is not calling them “robbers” as much as “insurrectionists,” also a use of λῃστής.46 Thus, the temple leadership’s lack of reception of Jesus at the “triumphal entry” is a mark of “treasonous rebellion” against the covenant Lord when he suddenly comes to his house (11:11; cf. Mal 3:1).47 Either way, the larger focus is on the temple itself and its leadership, not the day-trading. This is supported by the fact that the chief priests are mentioned first in verse 18 as those who want to destroy Jesus. “The irony, of course, is that the cleansing/expulsion is directed not against the Romans [as would have been expected vis-à-vis 1 Macc 4:36; 13:51; 2 Macc 10:7] but against the present Temple authorities and their functionaries and operatives, who Jesus apparently regards as the true insurrectionists.”48
Relatedly, the nature of the specific action is a symbolic announcement that the kind of worship expected at the temple—paying the right coin and offering the right sacrifice—can no longer be done.49 The prophetic denouncement brings with it the end of the sacrificial system.50 As N. T. Wright succinctly puts it, “Without sacrifice, the Temple has lost its raison d’être.”51
Returning to the fig tree in 11:20, the disciples observe its condition.52 In response, Jesus further demonstrates that it is indeed representative of the temple when he draws their attention to “this mountain” in 11:23.53 What could “this mountain” mean to anyone between Bethany and Jerusalem? It is not a generic statement about any mountain.54 But “this mountain” must mean Mount Zion, the Temple Mount.55 Jesus then proceeds to predict its destruction again: it will be “cast into the sea.”56 Then Jesus’ disciples are immediately instructed to pray and forgive as their Father in heaven forgives them (11:24–25). I will return to comment on these particular matters in the Typology section below, including the necessary faith in verse 22 and the term πάντα ὅσα in verse 24—they are best understood after the whole context is first observed. Suffice it for now to observe how relentlessly Jesus has denounced the temple and its leadership since the “the way” led him there à la Malachi 3:1–4.57 As William R. Telford aptly puts it,
‘the moving of mountains’ expected in the last days was now taking place. Indeed, about to be removed was the the mountain par excellence, the Temple Mount. The Temple, known to the Jewish people as ‘the mountain of the house’ or ‘this mountain’ was not to be elevated, as expected, but cast down! … It is a fitting supplement, therefore, to the equally surprising, if not shocking, story of Jesus’ cursing of the fig-tree, to whose meaning it thereby gives the clue.58
The narrative of the fig tree encases Jesus’ temple-action and leads seamlessly into his mountain and prayer logia.59 All need to be read together.
In 11:27–28 Jesus is still in the temple when the chief priests, among others, ask him where he gets such authority to do (and presumably say) these things.60 At first he refuses to tell them (11:29–33). But he does tell them; the parable that immediately follows (12:1–11) transparently describes the relationship between them (12:12) and Jesus (12:7), the latter of which receives his authority from God himself (for all this is “the Lord’s doing”; 12:11).61 And again, not surprisingly, the parable is also told against the temple. The “vineyard” (12:1) is Israel, as seen in Isaiah 5:1–7, whereby the “tower” and the “wine press” are specifically understood in the late Second Temple literature as symbols of the temple and altar respectively.62 The “tenants,” therefore, are those who care for the vineyard by specifically tending to the business of the wine press and tower (the temple).63 Thus, the tenants are Israel’s priests put in charge of the temple.64 Once again, as in 11:13, the tenants/priests have no fruit (12:2). The result, therefore, is the judgment of the tenants/priests and the building of a new temple (12:10) for a better tending of the vineyard. I will return to the “giv[ing of] the vineyard to others” in verse 9 below.
The next three pericipae involve Israel’s now-condemned leaders stepping forward, one by one, to challenge Jesus’ authority. The question of 11:28 (“Who gave you this authority?”) is, thus, still on the table as they challenge him with issues pressing to each of them.65 The Pharisees ask him about the law (12:13–17). The Sadducees ask him about the resurrection (12:18–27). And a scribe tests his knowledge of the scriptures (12:28–34). After Jesus bests them each in succession, he turns to question them with an interpretive riddle from Psalm 110 (12:35–37). In so doing, he also answers 11:28’s question of his own authority. The answer is: his authority comes from God himself because “the Holy Spirit declared” it in Psalm 110. The quote also reminds the reader that Jesus is the Son of David (as in 11:10 where this all starts), and so has kingly authority directly from God. But there is a sudden and shocking twist: Psalm 110 is also priestly!66 Jesus, in addition to his kingly authority, also has priestly authority directly from God. Thus, even when it seems like the temple is out of view (not discussed in any of the questions other people ask in 12:13–34) Jesus brings it back in force with on OT quotation.
After a warning to his followers to beware of the scribes (12:38–40), Jesus “sits” opposite the treasury (v. 41). As part of the temple, the treasury was the mechanism by which the centralized religious leadership robbed widows (12:40) and made the house of the Lord a “den of thieves” (11:17).67 This “sitting” (form of καθίζω in Mark) is appropriately reminiscent of Malachi 3:3 when the Lord “sits” (form of καθίζω in the LXX) in judgment of the sons of Levi. It is what the reader has expected not only since Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in 11:1–11, but since the first quote of Malachi in Mark 1:2.
Thus ends this lengthy discourse through Mark 11–12. Jesus is ready to judge the “den of thieves.” Not surprisingly, therefore, in 13:1 Jesus leaves the temple and in 13:3 “sits” (form of κάθημαι) on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple (i.e., likewise in judgement of it). If any readers wonder whether Jesus could really have had such an unflinching gaze upon the temple and unreserved indictment of it, Mark 13:2 makes explicit what might have been overlooked in the symbols: “There will certainly not be left here a single stone that will not absolutely be destroyed.”
This review of the discourse through Mark 11–12 has necessarily been brief. I have not commented on everything, but I have elucidated the driving thrust: the current temple is defunct and stands in the way of eschatological fulfillment (which amounts to delaying the second exodus). Therefore Jesus relentlessly critiques and predicts the destruction of the edifice. But first-century Jewish religion is impossible to imagine without a temple.68 What are Jesus and his followers to do? How could the Jewish religion possibly continue without a temple?69 Watts answers, “presumably a new Temple to which all nations will come, will emerge to take the place of the old.”70 Quotations and typologies laced through this section reveal that Jesus and his followers comprise the new temple that will succeed where the previous failed.71
To begin, Psalm 118 is used twice in Mark 11–12. Psalm 118:25–26 is quoted at the triumphal entry (Mark 11:9) which mixes in the Davidic promise of 2 Sam 7:29 (Mark 11:10).72 Then Psalm 118:22–23 is quoted to conclude the parable of the tenants (Mark 12:10–11). In its entirety, the psalm is a song of praise to the Lord for delivering the author from terrible trials (vv. 5–13), even death (vv. 17–18), that then turns to focus on the temple (vv. 19–27) from which the Lord will save all his people (v. 25).73 It is as though the psalmist sees his own deliverance from death as a type of the (future?) temple: he is persecuted (vv. 10–13) but the Lord delivers him (vv. 14–16); likewise the stone that the builders reject (v. 22a) is the very one that the Lord uses as the temple capstone (vv. 22b–24).74 Stephen Dempster has convincingly demonstrated how throughout the OT salvation from death is commonly associated with resultant temple-building.75 The use of Psalm 118:25–26 in Mark 11:9 draws that theology into Mark, with an additional Davidic accent in 11:10. The intertextual deposit of all of Psalm 118’s theology into Mark 11–12 gives the reader this understanding that the coming of David’s great son means two things. (1) Jesus will be persecuted, even unto death as the reader already knows (3:6; 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:33–34, 45), but the Lord will also raise him as the reader also already knows (8:31; 9:31: 10:34; consider also 9:14–27). The additional insight provided by the psalm, then, is to cast Jesus’ sufferings in the language of Psalm 118:10–13 whereby his deliverance is even greater than the psalmist’s. For while the psalmist is saved from death in Psalm 118:17–18, Jesus will be saved after death! (2)The result of Jesus’ resurrection will be the building of the eschatological temple through which others are saved as well. Were this not clear enough in Mark 11:10–11, the psalm is invoked again in 12:10–11. There, again, the killing of Jesus (12:7) is associated with the rejection of the eschatological temple.76 But the Lord will have none of it. After the rejection comes the resurrection. After the destruction of the temple comes its rebuilding. Thus, these two major Markan themes are here coordinated on the same theological axis: Jesus’ death will lead to his resurrection and the temple’s destruction will lead to its rebuilding.77
Next, in the midst of Jesus’ temple action he quotes both Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 (Mark 11:17).78 Isaiah 56:7 comes from a beautiful description of how the Lord will fold Gentiles into his covenant people through the eschatological temple (Isa 56:6–8).79 Jesus’ quote of it “intimat[es] that the future is now present: the promised pilgrimage of the Gentiles and the eschatological re-gathering of exiled Israel ha[s] begun.”80 But the same context, Isaiah 56:9–11, also chastises Israel’s leadership of the prophet’s day. Thus, Jesus’ announcement of the new temple also type-casts Israel’s leaders of Jesus’ day in the same terms, amounting to a serious warning against them.81 Jeremiah 7:11 also comes from a context that rebukes God’s people for presuming upon the status of the temple and promises judgment for the injustice and bogus worship going on there (Jer 7:1–15).82 The point in Markan perspective is that the current temple is not “a house of prayer for all peoples” as it ought vis-à-vis Isaiah 56:7, so it must endure the wrath of God again as it did in Jeremiah’s day.83 “[T]he mountain of the Lord’s house will not be elevated as expected (Is. 2:2 = Mic. 4:1), but cast down.”84 Yet, as I will continue to argue below, the casting down will not be the last word. There is a new temple ready to rise from the rubble—a new house of prayer that will be for all the nations.
Finally, Jesus’ use of Psalm 110 in Mark 12:36 ends the dispute over authority. Jesus has finally answered their question of Mark 11:28. Jesus has authority because he is the Davidic temple-builder, commissioned by the Lord himself who has his Son at his right hand (place of authority). But Psalm 110 is also priestly!85 The eschatological priest-king rules over his enemies (in Mark, those trying to kill him) on the day of his coronation. That is some answer to 11:28’s “who gave you this authority.”86 Jesus’ answer basically amounts to, “The covenant God, Yahweh, gave me this authority when he declared that David’s great son would not only rule the nations, but would do so as the priest par excellence in the midst of a new temple in theological coordination with his own eschatological sufferings and resurrection.87 Moreover, those who not ‘repent and believe this gospel’ (1:15) make themselves God’s and David’s enemies.” No wonder in Mark everyone is “amazed” when Jesus speaks!88
With the discourse of Mark 11–12, and the OT quotations therein, so thoroughly temple-focused many typological correspondences between the OT temple and the Markan narrative jump off the page:
|OT Temple Types||Markan Temple Antitypes|
|Presence of God (e.g. 1 Kgs 8:10–13)
Davidic Temple-Builder (e.g. 1 Kgs 8:20)
Blessing (e.g. 1 Kgs 8:14–15, 55–56)
Prayer Heard (e.g. 1 Kgs 8:29–30, 35)Forgiveness Granted (e.g. 1 Kgs 8 passim)
Nexus of Heaven & Earth (e.g. 1 Kgs 8:27)
Nations to Come (e.g. 1 Kgs 8:41–43, 60)
|Arrival of Jesus at the temple (Mark 11:11)
Jesus the Davidic Son (Mark 11:10; 12:36)
Jesus the Blessed (Mark 11:9–10)
Disciples Pray (Mark 11:24–25)
Disciples Forgive (Mark 11:25)
Response from Heaven (Mark 11:25)
Nations to Come and Pray (Mark 11:17)
Every time we see David, blessing, prayer, forgiveness, heaven, and the nations does not necessarily mean a temple-theology is the primary concern of the text (or necessarily in view at all). But this context is so thoroughly temple-focused as are the explicit quotations. Such saturation creates a symbolic-theological ecosystem inside of which several details can be read typologically. Jesus is the Lord permanently come to his temple.89 He is also David’s great son responsible for building the temple (2 Sam 7:12–13).90 That temple is specifically built of his people who pray, forgive, and are forgiven in/from heaven (11:14–25). And that temple will finally fulfill its mission as a light to the nations.
To see this we return to 11:23–25, whose typologies the context and quotations have prepared us to appreciate. If 11:23 (“this mountain … into the sea”) is another prediction of the temple’s demise (see above), then what will Jesus’ Jewish movement do without a temple?91 Well, the reader need only wait one verse to get the answer: Jesus’ followers become the new temple. In 11:24 they are the new locus of prayer.92 In 11:25 they are the new locus of forgiveness. In the OT, where does God hear prayer and grant forgiveness? In the temple (see above). Well, here in Mark 11:24–25 Jesus says his followers are to pray and forgive. Those are temple activities now practiced among Jesus’ followers (presumably wherever they go).93 Through such activities they are even said to be linked to heaven where the Father is (cf. 1 Kgs 8:27). In such a temple-laden context like Mark 11–12—with explicit quotations of OT temple texts—the language of prayer, forgiveness, and access to heaven should be read as nothing less than a temple typology. The disciples are the new temple. Their prayers and forgiveness are the eschatological temple’s antitypes to 1 Kings 8. And as Solomon’s temple linked God’s people to heaven, so now Jesus’ followers are thus linked to heaven. Or, we could say the disciples perform priestly activities—prayer and forgiveness—within the new temple.94 The result then will be the cry of Isaiah 56:7 in Mark 11:17, that “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”95 This temple will succeed in that mission.96 This temple fulfills the eschatological vision of Isa 56:6–8. The point at which the nations gain access to God is now the community of disciples.
This provides immense help in getting at the crux interpretum in 11:24, “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Could Jesus really mean whatever without qualification? Of course not. All utterances are qualified by the context in which they are made.97 So the question is what qualifies Jesus’ “whatever.” The answer is the narratological discourse in which the statement is housed.98 Since the focus is on the temple throughout, Jesus means this: “Whatever you ask for the missionary purposes of the temple in offering forgiveness and calling in the nations to worship the one true God, it will be granted!”99 In other words, Jesus is encouraging missionary prayer and missionary faith.100 He is saying, “If you believe in the purposes of the community of Jesus-followers as the new eschatological temple whose mission is to expand Jesus’ temple-authority around the globe (i.e. Isaiah’s “gospel”), and you pray prayers to that end, the Father in heaven will hear and give you missionary success.”101 And is this not what the church has experienced for nearly 2,000 years? Perhaps not on a one-to-one, this-prayer-for-that basis. But in the larger vista the missionary prayers of God’s people to bring in more and more peoples to experience the true presence of the true God through forgiveness in Christ have been answered.102 As I write this, I myself am a Gentile in Indianapolis in 2017 (covenantally, geographically and temporally very far removed from Solomon’s temple) writing about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!
All this also clarifies Mark 12:9. When the owner (God) gives the vineyard (Israel) to other tenants (priests), those “others” are the disciples.103 They become the new tenants caring for the “wine press and tower” for the sake of the vineyard. They become the new priesthood serving on behalf of all people, among the Jews and among the Gentiles, who desire temple-access to God. And 11:24’s “whatever you ask” guarantees success to this end as Isa 56:6–8 had always foretold.
To summarize, Mark 11–12 is thoroughly temple-focused. Specifically, Jesus brings a prophetic critique and, like Jeremiah 7–8, predicts the temple’s destruction because of priestly abuses. Conversely, other OT quotations in this context—Isaiah 56; Psalm 110; 118—anticipate the building of an eschatological temple that will draw in all peoples. In that context, and with those OT quotations, a poignant temple typology is applied to Jesus’ followers. They are the newly built temple where prayers are heard, forgiveness is experienced, and heaven is accessed. In short, they are the locus whereby the covenant God of Israel is extending this gospel-reign to the nations. The kingdom of God draws near (1:15) through this temple. All this is accomplished by Jesus—the new temple’s cornerstone—who creates this community through his death and resurrection, thus fulfilling his role as the Davidic temple-builder.
Destruction and Resurrection of the Eschatological Temple (Mark 13-16)
The remainder of the gospel continues to coordinate these concepts.104
The destruction of the temple is the focus of the next chapter (cf. 13:1–2).105 And it will lead to calling all nations (13:10) to participate in the kingdom of God through the gospel (compare 1:15 to 13:10). The last supper is also referential to the temple insofar as Jesus declares, through another prophetic speech-act, the fulfillment of Isaiah 52–53’s suffering servant (anticipated throughout Mark since 1:1–3, and reemphasized in force in 10:45 right before entering Jerusalem) to explicate his coming death. Thus, the cessation of temple sacrifices symbolically gestured in Jesus’ temple action has come full circle: Jesus’ death will provide the necessary eschatological atonement.106 But equally, no sooner do they leave the upper room that Jesus declares his new-temple people will be scattered (14:27), but also regathered (14:28) in Galilee only after Jesus’ resurrection.107 That is, his death will mark the end of the old temple-system, and his resurrection will inaugurate the construction of the new!108
In turn, Jesus’ death and the rending of the veil—the symbolic representation of the temple’s expiry—occur together (15:37–38).109 At that moment (15:39) a Gentile confesses the gospel in the language of Mark 1:1—Jesus is the “Son of God!”110 And so, Solomon’s prayer of 1 Kings 8:41–43 is in the process of being typologically fulfilled:
Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.
In short, with this Centurion Isaiah’s eschatological pilgrimage of the Gentiles has begun.111
Finally, in 16:6 Mark records the most powerful statement ever uttered, equaled only by the power of its subtlety: “He is risen” (a mere word in the Greek, ἠγέρθη). The regathering of the disciples instructed in the very next verse (16:7) is therefore the groundbreaking of the eschatological temple, the community of Jesus-followers who will pray and forgive and gain access to heaven (11:24–25). This is all “as he told you” (16:7).
Mark 11–12 significantly advances a temple emphasis that had been developing since the quotation of Malachi in the opening paragraph. Located right before Jesus’ clearest prediction of the temple’s destruction (Mark 13) these two chapters are loaded with prophetic speech-acts and explicit statements in denouncement of Israel’s largest theological icon. In that context, the more enigmatic statements (like 11:23’s “say to this mountain …” and 11:34’s “whatever you ask …”) take on significant temple meanings, and the combination of prayer, forgiveness and heavenly access—the main themes of the historic temple’s dedicatory prayer by Solomon in 1 Kings 8—appear as temple antitypes now applied to Jesus’ followers. The upshot is that they will be the new locus through which the true and living God will engage the world and welcome in the nations. The community of disciples will finally become the covenant God’s “house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isa 56:7 quoted in Mark 11:17). In sum, the second exodus has come in force. And as with the first exodus, “the way” has led to the new place of worship.112 Thus, the goal of redemptive-history, that God would dwell with his people, is accomplished through the atoning and temple-building work of the (priestly) Son of David. The literary discourse of Mark 11–12 and the explicit quotations therein, have created a symbolic-theological ecosystem inside of which these typological correspondences come into clarity.113
It is not enough to simply spot typologies, however. We also have to say what they mean. What do we learn from them? We should remember that Mark’s narration is but “the beginning of the gospel.” So we are told in 1:1. Thus, we should say that 16:7 is the beginning of the construction of the eschatological temple. This gospel will then continue in all believing communities world without end. Gospel believing congregations should take up Jesus’ promise in Mark 11:24–25 and pray missions oriented prayers and expect the Lord to answer them. We should be bold in our outreach, evangelism and missions, but even more bold in our praying foroutreach, evangelism and missions.114 The point of the first exodus event was to demonstrate the Creator’s exclusive glory to the otherwise idolatrous world. The second exodus through Jesus Christ accomplishes the same with more and longer-lasting effects. For the gospel of the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ continues to shine into a darkness that cannot overcome it. In Israel’s history the drawing of the blind nations to that saving light was the role of the temple. Likewise—and indeed on a higher plane of fulfillment—the church is the new temple: the new beacon lifted up for all to see, the house to which the nations will come to pray, receive forgiveness and gain access to the Holy One of Israel’s heavenly throne of grace. Is this not a divine injunction to the church to turn exegetical inquiry into ministerial bravery, theological waters into missionary wine? Indeed. It is a summons to pray boldly and then go with confidence to the nations with all amazement, trembling, astonishment and fear.