Mark 12: The Jewish Leaders Did Not "Get It"--Do We?

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Reading: Mark 12

38 As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely."
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on." (Mark 12:38-44)

Reflecting and Thinking
The six narratives of this chapter hold together with their shared focus on what one does in response to Jesus. The Jewish leaders rejected him, as illustrated in the parable of the tenants. They knew he had spoken against them. Then they sought to trap him with questions: a legal question about taxes, a question about Levirate marriage at the resurrection (which was also a divisive point between the Sadducees and the Pharisees), and a question about putting the Old Testament laws in priority order.
In our text, Jesus says that in seeking the way of the kingdom, the leaders had found prestige and personal reward, prominence and power. They abused the least in the society, stealing in the name of religion from those least able to pay. For Jesus, the sacrificial, generous response of the poor widow says it all. That is how one follows Jesus; that is how one responds to Jesus.

Based on the explanation above of this chapter, what is the real point of the story about the widow's offering? How can Christians today imitate her? Does it require that we give everything? How would you explain the principle and the application? Does the modern church ever resemble the questioning Jewish leaders-trying to settle every detail while missing the overall point of what Jesus is about? If yes, think of specific examples from your experience where you have observed this. Pray specifically about how we Christians today can more accurately reflect what Jesus is about as we work and live in our communities.

Dear God, we ask you to give us generous hearts and to help us as strive to understand the message of Jesus and strengthen our faith. Help us to be about what he was about. Help his reasons to become our reasons, his priorities our priorities, his purposes our purposes. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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Last updated August 16, 2011