Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 12:38-44

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.
Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you O Christ

Now through the Holy Spirit may these words that are about to be spoken and heard bring thoughts and insights acceptable to you O, Lord. Amen

In some Bibles the words we just heard are divided into two separate stories
Jesus condemning the scribes
The WIDOW’S offering
But it its probably better to hear the two stories as one story with two parts.

If we were together in our Thursday or Friday Bible study sessions, I would start by asking you a few questions:

what words jump out at you?
What new ideas did you hear?
What questions come to your mind?

because questions often lead to discussion and answers and then we would spend an hour together letting Scripture speak to us. And it’s amazing, we never seem to run out of ideas and questions even though we may have heard and discussed the passage many times before.

The Self-righteous Scribes and the Widow and her offering are stories we probably have heard many times and we might wonder: what else can we learn?

We don’t really have an hour for study and discussion today and we don’t have time to spend in dialogue, but in this time together let’s dive in and see what we might uncover.

Maybe a good place to start is with the characters


From their brief description Do you think you would you like to call them friends?

Jesus says “Beware of the scribes,
who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!”
And here’s the real kicker,
“They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.”

In the OT (The Hebrew Bible) , widows are often grouped with the most vulnerable members of society such as:

the poor

The Bible says widows are to be treated with honor and compassion and offered protection so that no one takes advantage of them.

A childless widow endured double adversity, with no husband to provide for her and protect her, and no son to carry on the family name and care for her in her old age She might have been considered a disgrace to her family and left in a precarious, almost hopeless position.

Even in our own times – the life of one who has lost a spouse is filled with difficulties and loneliness – sometimes beyond our imaginings.

Scripture tell us that:
God recognized the widow’s plight and rose to her defense:.
A person who denied justice to a widow was cursed by God:
Laws and special provisions were put in place to safeguard widows against neglect and abuse.

At harvest time, widows could glean in the fields of grain and gather leftover grapes and olives:

God’s plan WAS and IS for the widows to be protected and cared for.

SOMEHOW THESE SCRIBES THE TEACHERS of the LAW, the EXPERTS on Hebrew Scripture, the pillars of their society with long flowing robes and seats in the places of honor never read the memo never got the message about how widows should be treated.

Instead of respect and care and protection the widows had their houses devoured – THEIR WHOLE LIVES eaten up by men without scruples with no sense of honesty, compassion or decency
We don’t have time to explain it all – but Jesus was right to SAY

Which brings us to JESUS
First he is TEACHING and he says BEWARE
And then he sits down to people watch
And he keeps his eye on the treasury box
and he keeps his eye on the people and HOW they put their offerings into the treasury box
MANY RICH PEOPLE “PARADED” by to put LARGE SUMS in the treasury –
just imagine the flair with which they came by, the production they made of dropping in their HUGE SUMS of money

And when the parade of proud peacocks ended Here came the WIDOW
She didn’t have to be there
The poor were not required to make offerings in the temple
She may have felt greatly embarrassed by her shabby clothes, by her status as a widow by her position as one of those left out of society, destitute, penniless, ignored, with little shelter, little food, living in squalor and with almost no possessions

AND WHAT DOES SHE DO? – with a dignity that we can only imagine, she comes out of the temple’s shadows and approaches the treasury box and she drops in two small copper coins (lepta they were called – worth about a penny – able to purchase almost nothing in life)

And Jesus enters the drama again – He is the Master Teacher and this is the perfect teachable moment

So THE MASTER TEACHER calls his disciples

the disciples who very often just didn’t get it
the disciples who have been arguing among themselves about who is the greatest
the disciples who wanted the prime seats at his right and left hand in his kingdom
the disciples who wanted no part of this journey to go up to Jerusalem (ON THE WAY) ON THE WAY INTO THE REALITY of THE KINGDOM of GOD) to suffer and die and to deny themselves and take up their cross, to become the servant and slave of all

And Jesus THE MASTER TEACHER begins to teach

she has no name
she has no status
she probably has no place to live

We don’t know if he calls her over and honors her or just points to her as she retreats into anonymity again –
AND JESUS’ brief lesson is this:

More than those in their fine robes
more than those with the places of honor
more than those who could say the finest of long prayers for the best of religious shows
more than those who despite God’s clear command to care for the widows and orphans could not even see them – let alone help them.
More than all of them put together


WHY? would she do that? Why did the widow in our first lesson give the last of her grain and oil to make a cake fro share with God’s prophet Elisha

Lots of possible explanations:
Great sense of devotion to THE TEMPLE
Maybe if she was good to THE TEMPLE, the TEMPLE would rescue her from her misery
Maybe she had heard this Jesus preach about THE WAY (THE KINGDOM of God) and how one can and should live in the Kingdom

SOMEHOW she understood that:
every breath of life was a gift of God
every morsel of bread was a gift of God
every sip of water was a gift of God
every small seemingly worthless coin was a gift from God

and she was going to dedicate whatever time and breath and food and coins everything she had – her whole life – to doing God’s will
Maybe – just maybe she got a small glimpse a sneak peak at what Jesus was about to do as he denied himself, took up his cross, suffered and died AND ROSE AGAIN that our lives might be changed forever.

SO what do you suppose happened to this widow – what became of her?
You can search the scripture and you will never find a word, but it might be interesting to imagine.

I like to think that she left the temple that day not saying _ OH NO WHAT HAVE I DONE, HOW AM I EVER GOING TO LIVE

I think she might have said to herself THAT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO
I wonder what God has in store for me today? and as she walked the city of Jerusalem – I’ll bet God had a whole “TO-DO” list for her, as she gave a cup of cold water to someone who could not walk to the well to quench his thirst, as she helped a mother bring her baby into the world

as she shared a small barley cake with a distressed friend
as she helped a small lost child overwhelmed by Passover crowds of people get back to her parents
as she held the hand of a dying man to give him comfort in his last breaths

Here’s what’s even more important in my mind –
I wonder what The Lord might have in store for us this day? What’s on his TO DO list for us as we use our gifts (EVERYTHING WE HAVE) to follow HIS WAY?

Take our lives and let them be consecrated Lord to thee.