The Day of Visitation
(Behold the Lord shall come suddenly into His temple. Malachi 3:1)
We are living in unprecedented, difficult times. Riots, unrest, and divisions plague our nation and our world like never before. Each generation has said pretty much the same thing, and each generation has been right, in a sense. With each generation, the end draws closer and closer. In 1 Timothy 4:1 and following, the Holy Spirit warns us that there will be an increasing turning from the truth in the Church as the end draws near. And 2 Timothy 3:1 and following tells us that evil will increase in the world.
We need to be aware of the times we live in and how they relate to God’s plan for the world. The people of Jesus’ day were misled and thus missed the day of their visitation. Jesus and the Apostles tell us to watch and be sober. (Parable of the virgins and 1 Thessalonians 4) There are two things that must concern us. One concern is that we are prepared for His return, and the other is that we are engaged in what the Father has given us to do.
In the Scriptures, God’s coming or visitation can mean either blessing or punishment. In our context today, it can mean either. For those who are ready, it will meaning blessing, but for the unprepared, it will mean suffering. Jesus warned the people of His day about missing their day of visitation (God’s coming to them). For example, in Luke 19:43-44, He says:
Luke 19:43–44 (NKJV) 43For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
In our study of Mark 11, we will see that Israel was neither prepared nor engaged in the Father’s business. Therefore, they missed the day of their visitation.
First, in Mark 11:1-11, we see the promised King entering Jerusalem.
There are two sides to this picture. The first side of the image is Jesus preparing to enter Jerusalem. The second side of the image is the people welcoming Jesus.
In preparation for entering Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of His disciples ahead of Him to bring back a donkey’s colt. He told His disciples what would happen, and it happened just as Jesus said. In this action, Jesus showed His sovereignty and foreknowledge. He even knew the words that would be spoken before the disciples went.
This action should have instilled confidence in the disciples and increased their faith, and it probably did. However, by the end of the week, they all deserted Jesus and fled during the time of trial. We are no different. This is why the New Testament tells us repeatedly to stand firm and persevere. I will give one text as an example.
Matthew 24:12–13 (NKJV) 12And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
Lawlessness is abounding more and more, but we must never forget that Jesus told us this would happen. Everything is under His control.
In choosing to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey, Jesus also showed that He was King. His actions proclaimed that He knew who and what He was. All Israel knew to expect their King to come to them riding on a donkey. The prophet Zechariah said:
Zechariah 9:9 (NKJV) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.
By His actions, Jesus announced that He was the expected King. As He entered the city, the people demonstrated that they understood.
As Jesus and His disciples enter Jerusalem, the second picture comes into focus as a crowd gathers and welcomes the King into the city. As the people shout and sing Hosanna, their song of praise shows they know He is the King. For example, Mark 11:10 says,
Mark 11:10 (NKJV) Blessed is the kingdom of our father David, That comes in the name of the Lord!
These are the words of the people celebrating the coming of their King.
Having established who He was, Jesus waited until the next day to confront Jerusalem. We see this confrontation in Mark 11:12-24.
At this point, the Holy Spirit inserts a vital illustration. On the way to town, Jesus and those accompanying Him come upon a fig tree. But when Jesus found it had no fruit, He cursed the tree. Mark 11:20 tells us that in the morning, the disciples observed that the fig tree was dried up. When questioned about it, Jesus used it as an opportunity to tell His disciples they must have faith. However, in the bigger picture of the context, the fig tree symbolizes the nation of Israel. In the Old Testament, God sometimes uses a fig tree to represent Israel. For example, in Joel 2:21-25, healthy fig trees represent a restored nation.
In contrast to this, withered fig trees represent God’s judgment. Faith enters into this discussion because the lack of faith in the nation was what was bringing judgment. Unbelief is what Jesus was confronting. Israel as a nation was about to be judged and would wither. Jesus even warned of this when He told them:
Mark 13:2 (NLT) Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!
Jesus illustrated what was about to happen to the nation. This was the day of visitation by the King, and they were missing it. The consequences would be the shriveling and dying of the nation.
Jesus had cursed the fig tree on His way into Jerusalem. On this second day, Jesus went straight to the temple and chased the banking interests and the livestock marketers out of the temple. While doing this, He said:
Mark 11:17 (NKJV) Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”
Treating the house of prayer as a market shouts unbelief. They had no faith in prayer or that there even was a God who listened to their prayers. Their temple was filled with what they worshiped - MONEY. Their minds were set on earthly things, so they missed the day of their visitation and actively opposed the King.
Jesus confronted the problem of their unbelief by challenging what they were doing in the temple. However, this did not bring about their repentance. Instead, they hardened their hearts, and as verse 18 tells us, they sought to destroy Him. Those that sought to kill Jesus were the leaders. The people had recognized Jesus as the promised King. However, the leaders were more interested in their own position and authority. These leaders misled the people.
Our day is no different. Underlying the unbelief of the world is the worship of money. Jesus taught that a person cannot serve God and money at the same time. Our day of visitation is drawing near, but few are prepared and doing the King’s business.
After confronting Jerusalem in the temple, Jesus went out of the city for the night. Let’s review. On day one, Jesus entered the city as King. On day two, He confronted the unbelief of the nation. Then, on day three, Jesus answered Jerusalem. His answer is found in Mark 11:27-33.
Jesus’ answer starts with the leaders of the nation asking Him a question. They asked by what authority He was doing these things, referring to Him chasing all the money and livestock people out of the temple. Power over the temple belonged to them, and they controlled the temple police. So, what business did Jesus have to be playing God in their temple! Jesus recognized their unbelief and commitment to themselves, their position, and their money. For this reason, Jesus asked a question of His own.
Mark 11:29–30 (NKJV) 29But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: 30The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.”
This is a straightforward question. The men Jesus was talking to were the shepherds of Israel. Knowing what was and was not from God was their job.
The discussion between these men that followed is enlightening.
Mark 11:31–33 (NKJV) 31And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, 'From heaven' He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him? 32But if we say, ‘From men’”—they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed. 33So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.”
As we look at this discussion, we notice that they are not asking what the truth is. The leaders are looking at how to protect themselves. Their consideration is only political in nature.
Such reasoning is a symptom of their unbelief. For Jesus to tell them that He was God and this was His temple, would have been a waste of breath. After learning that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, these were the same people who did not believe but considered how they could kill both Lazarus and Jesus to silence the truth.
Therefore, Jesus simply said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
On several occasions, Jesus pointed to the evidence that is available for faith. Jesus told a parable about a rich man who did not believe and was in hell after he died. Suffering much, this man asked for water, and when he could not have water, he asked that his brothers be warned. In response, he was told:
Luke 16:31 (NKJV) But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”
This was proved true when Jesus rose from the dead. When the Jews asked for a sign so that they could believe, Jesus said:
Matthew 16:4 (NKJV) A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
This reference to the sign of Jonah points to the three days and three nights that Jesus spent in the grave.
The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are sufficient evidence for our faith. However, there is much more. Let’s read the rest of the context of Matthew 16:4.
Matthew 16:2–4 (NKJV) 2He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; 3and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. 4A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.
Before telling them of the evidence of His resurrection, Jesus told them that they had all the evidence they needed. The signs of the times refer to the Old Testament’s prophecies being fulfilled in their day. The Scriptures speak for themselves. No other book tells us what is going to happen with 100% accuracy.
Our day is no different. People that ask for a sign only get the answer, “Consider the evidence.”
We are living in unprecedented times, and Jesus will be returning soon. He will come as King, riding on a horse as a conquering King. However, a few things must happen first. The day of God’s wrath, the Great Tribulation, must first occur, but the Church is not destined for God’s wrath, so we must first be taken out of the way. The Church being removed will be a huge sign, and many will believe. However, most will continue in their unbelief.
Since we do not know the day or the hour, it is essential for us to always be ready and to always be about the Father’s business. One of the signs of the times is the leaves appearing on the fig tree. A few decades after Jesus ascended to the Father, the nation of Israel ceased to function as a nation. In an effort to erase the memory of the nation, the land was given the name “Palestine.” However, in 1947, Israel was reborn. Consider the prophecy of Matthew 14.
Matthew 24:32–34 (NLT) 32“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 33In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. 34I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place.
The generation that will not pass away is the generation that sees the branches bud and leaves begin to sprout. If the nation of Israel is the fig tree, then our day of visitation is very near. Are we ready? Are we about the Master’s business?