This is one of the busiest days in the Gospel of Mark. This short gospel spends 115 verses (3 chapters) on all the happenings it says occurred this day.
Mark 11:20-Mark 13:5-37 (all of chapter 11 through chapter 13 is included in this link)
Mark 11 and 12 show the clashing and conflicts between the Temple authorities and Jesus. Last verses of chapter 11, complete the bookend or framing of the fig tree cursing and temple clearing with Jesus’ disciples seeing the fig tree Jesus cursed the day before now withered. And chapter 13 focuses on the destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of the Son of God.
Lots of good stuff to look at and examine in these chapters.
This morning as I reread these chapters, I was drawn to these verses. This use to be one of my favorite stories: a woman who out of the little she has, gives it all. This is a scripture text that is commonly used to during stewardship season to emphasis sacrificial giving. Most times when the passage about the widow’s offering is shared, the preceding couple of verses are omitted (Mark 12:38-40). And upon closer examination, you realize that the story of the widow’s offering is the back bookend of a bigger picture.
The first bookend or framing story is Mark 12:28-34 where Jesus describes loving God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. In the middle is Mark 12:35-40, Jesus warns about teachers of the law. These are the ones who don’t miss an opportunity to show off their status, their rank, and remind others of their power. These are the ones who wear religious garments that draw other’s attention. These are the ones who demand VIP seating in the synagogues and at other religious gatherings. These are the ones whose motivations come from the attention they earn. As Jesus says, these are the hypocrites. The ones whose hearts are filled with their own self-importance. Their beliefs, their faith, had little to do with their love for God.
As Jesus highlights in verse 40, this is seen in their ostentatious practice of prayer and in mistreatment of widows. While these teachers of the law are outwardly religious, obeying all of the commands, inwardly they are morally corrupt. Some historians say these teachers of the law robbed widows of property, peace, and livelihood in order to support their lucrative lifestyle.
This is quite a contrast to the story of the widow’s offering that follows these verses. I love that in this text–Jesus sits down opposite where the offerings were places and begins people watching. He watches the many rich people as they “threw” in large amounts. And then he notices one poor widow who “put” in two small copper coins. Mark is vivid in the telling of his story. I can almost see the rich walking by the offering place to deposit the money–not making eye contact or showing any real interest. Whereas, in my mind’s eye, I see the widow placing with great care and intention her offering.
I can identify with the teachers of the law, as I too, knowing and unknowingly have exploited others or animals for my own gain. Haven’t we all, if we really think about?
I can also identify with the widow. While I am not marginalized and am not a sacrificial give (for what I give doesn’t cause our family to go without one of the many amenities that we enjoy), but I am an intentional giver.
Where are you in this story?