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Mark 11:18

ESV And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.
NIV The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
NASB And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and they began seeking how to put Him to death; for they were afraid of Him, because all the crowd was astonished at His teaching.
CSB The chief priests and the scribes heard it and started looking for a way to kill him. For they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was astonished by his teaching.
NLT When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
KJV And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.

What does Mark 11:18 mean?

The priests, scribes, and Pharisees have a long list of reasons they want Jesus dead. He claims to forgive sins (Mark 2:5–7). He socializes with sinners (Mark 2:15–17). He doesn't follow their rigid traditions (Mark 2:23–24; 7:1–5). He heals on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1–6). And He challenges their character and their faithfulness to God (Mark 7:6–13; 8:11–12). All that might have been ignored, except that He is also well-respected and honored by the people. Even Pilate, when faced with the decision of what to do with Jesus, "perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up" (Mark 15:10).

Jesus' condemnation of the chief priests and scribes is ironic here because He is actually enforcing scribal tradition! In Seder Zeraim, Berachot, the scribes prohibited staffs, sandals, and wallets from the Temple Mount. That was to avoid the very situation now causing Jesus to cleanse the temple—earlier scribes forbade instruments of travel and commerce in order to ensure the temple was used for worship only. The religious leaders have broken their own rules by allowing money-changers, merchants, and pedestrians in the temple courtyard.

John 12:12–50 gives more detail about what Jesus is teaching that makes the chief priests and scribes so upset. Jesus tells some curious Greeks that He will die and be glorified, resulting in a great harvest. He also says that those who follow Him must be willing to sacrifice themselves to gain eternal life. He acknowledges that His soul is troubled at the thought of what is to come, but He knows He has come for this moment and it will glorify the Father's name. In response, God calls down from heaven, startling the crowd around Jesus. Jesus reiterates that He will be "lifted up," meaning crucified. The people show their confusion as to how the Son of Man mentioned in Daniel 7, who will be given dominion by the Ancient of Days, can die.

Not all the people understand or believe Jesus. God blinds and hardens some so that they cannot have the prideful claim that they've come to understand salvation through their own cleverness, without God's grace or submission to Jesus. Some do believe Jesus but remain silent for fear of losing their positions (John 12:42). Jesus also condemns those who do not believe Him, saying God will judge them on the last day. The priests and scribes cannot suffer a man to live who declares that they will be judged by the God they supposedly lead the people in serving.
What is the Gospel?
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