Jesus' authority and judgment. Though there is much that happens in these verses they are held together by their location, in and around Jerusalem, and the issues of God's judgment and Jesus' authority. The story of Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple is surrounded by the living parable of the fig tree Jesus cursed. The tables overturned in the Temple is what some scholars believe led the religious leaders to see Jesus as particularly threatening and plot His demise. Especially interesting is the note in v. 20 that the tree is withering from the roots up. Normally we observe trees withering from the outside inward. This is a divine or supernatural cursing. The implication from Jesus' answer to Peter is that those having faith can do extraordinary things because of God's power. But note that Jesus says "this mountain" and not "a mountain" while likely being on the Mount of Olives over looking the city of Jerusalem that also sits atop a mountain. Lest we see only selfish motivations, the example Jesus gives of this power is that such extraordinary things like forgiveness can happen through prayer. Judgment and forgiveness go together.
The decaying nature of the religious leaders is evidenced in their inability to answer the issue of Jesus' authority. They can't decide, not because the question is too difficult, but out of fear. Thus Mark reveals to us that these religious lack of faith. Those supposed to be leading the people of God are in fact devoid of fruit within. The fig tree is a living parable of what is happening between God and His people.
What reasons does Jesus give for His actions in the Temple? How might Jesus' actions in the temple teach us about righteous anger? What things would Jesus be angry at today? Why would this cause such a commotion among the religious leaders?
Why does Jesus curse the fig tree? If Jesus were to look at you as a fig tree would he see fruit or just the appearance of leaves yet without fruit? What about the church? (Look up Jeremiah 8:11-13 and 24:1-10)
How does Jesus' authority connect with the extraordinary possibilities that exist for believers? When is the last time you prayed in a spirit of boldness? When is the last time you prayed for forgiveness?
Earlier in Mark's Gospel Jesus' authority had to do with healings and the sort. Now what is Mark implying about Jesus' authority? What might Jesus' authority, the possibility for extraordinary activities say about discipleship?