Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, "How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit:
'The LORD said to my Lord,Therefore David himself calls Him 'Lord'; how is He then His Son?" And the common people heard Him gladly.
"Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."
Then He said to them in His teaching, "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation."
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."
- Mark 12:35-44
Yesterday we read that, as Jesus was in the temple (it is Holy Week) and being tested by the leadership, one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all" Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandment is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." So the scribe said to Him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." But after that no one dared question Him.
Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, "How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool." Therefore David himself calls Him 'Lord'; how is He then His Son?" And the common people heard Him gladly. Up until now, Jesus has been quizzed -- tested, really -- by the various groups representing the parties of the leadership in the temple. But here, Jesus begins to quiz them Himself. And we mustn't forget that, as the text tells us, He's also saying this in front of the people, it's a teaching for everybody. Jesus points to the Messiah as more than a "son of David." David as king could not address anyone by the word "Lord" except God. But Jesus quotes from Psalm 110, in which David refers to the Messiah as "Lord." Therefore, the Messiah must be God. In Christ, we have both a fully human descendant of David, and the divine Son of God who shares Lordship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. It's interesting that this teaching comes right after His conversation with the wise scribe, who was told, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."
Then He said to them in His teaching, "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation." Here Jesus continues, on the "offensive," so to speak. Perhaps He speaks for the benefit of the scribe who has answered Him well in yesterday's reading. This emphasis on pride of place, honor from "men" rather than God, making a show to others, and craving material goods from those who are vulnerable, all takes away from the real work of prayer and worship, and a heart that makes all its room for love of God and love of neighbor. Once again, we turn to reflect on the teachings from yesterday's reading, that the greatest commandments are inseparable, teaching first love of God, and in that commitment, love of neighbor. We notice once again "material mindedness" -- the focus on impulses of the "flesh" absent putting first the love of God. That is, in this instance, our desire for wealth, for recognition, for external show -- loving the "praise of men more than the praise of God." The problem is the deceitfulness -- what comes first in the heart, what one loves first that guides how we relate to everything else. All of His criticism and His act of cleansing the temple focuses on this central problem in the place that is to be the house of prayer for all nations.
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood." My study bible says that, according to the Fathers, the Lord accounts the value of a gift not by how much is given, but by how much is kept back. So this poor widow is counted to have given a great gift, leaving nothing for herself. By contrast, those who give out of their abundance but keep plenty for themselves give much less. The story of Cornelius the centurion teaches us that God takes note of our giving (see Acts 10:1-8).
Jesus continues His criticism of the material-mindedness He finds in the temple which is supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations (see Monday's reading, the cleansing of the temple, in which Jesus said, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"). Over and over again, we find an emphasis on the selfish nature of the leadership, a kind of corruption that has obscured the purpose of worship and prayer for the people. But, of course, this isn't just about the temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. It's a clear warning about ourselves, in every generation, especially for those of us who would be His disciples. What compromises our love of God? What gets in the way of the relationship we have to the kingdom of God? Christ comes to the world to leave us with the great grace of knowing that each of us is also a temple of God. St. Paul asks the Corinthians, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 1:3:16), and this is a question for each of us, for all of us. Do we know that we are a temple of God? What kind of room do we make for the Spirit of God? What do we allow into our lives, into our hearts, that interferes with our depth of relationship to that Spirit? The temple in Jerusalem is our example for our own lives, where the "living God" dwells, a place that is meant to be the "home" of God -- the place where God's people can worship and pray in relationship. This is the really important thing, the great essence, of all that Jesus is doing in Jerusalem. He is the Son come to tell the stewards to give God the appropriate place, in all ways. It is the same as He taught in yesterday's reading, we are to love God without reservation, with all our heart and soul and mind and strength -- this is inseparable from love of neighbor. The poor widow is an example of that kind of love. Those who live for show and the opinions of others cannot be that kind of example, there is too much to get in the way of the Spirit in the heart. Let us consider His words and His teachings. They apply to us, they teach us about our own tendencies and weaknesses, they teach us where we go wrong, and how to correct ourselves. We turn back to that love of God, we turn to Christ Himself -- He is the "cleanser," the One who leads our steps in the right way, the One who just seeks our love and loyalty. He is the One who teaches that we are forgiven as we forgive (see Mark 11:25). Today's example of the poor widow tells us all we need to know about how God sees things, about how we need to try to see things ourselves. It's all about love, it starts with our love of God who is love. Christ is the One who shows us the way, and the Spirit who dwells within us must be given true "pride of place." There are all kinds of ways in which we fail to do that, all kinds of things we can do to put God first. How do we spend our time? Do we associate with that which builds up our faith, restores our understanding of the love of God? How is our prayer life? Let us think about what we put first, whose opinion comes first. Sometimes it may mean rocking our particular boat, but we know His example first.