I used the size of an American Football field to give a sense of size. This is the size of the original tabernacle that God told Moses to build.
This is Solomon’s Temple. It was destroyed.
This is Herod’s temple. It is huge! I mentioned last week that Jesus did not like this temple, but I didn’t get to fully explain why. It wasn’t just because it is big. It has more to do with the way the leaders were running things. That brings us to our text today.
The Narrative Lectionary text skipped over two sections and jumped into verse 28. But, we need to cover the whole section if we want to understand what is really going on. So, here’s Jesus inside of Herod’s temple.
He’s facing off with the three majors parties of Israel: The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Scribes. Think of this like the Republicans and the Democrats. They’re all part of the same country, but they have radically different ideas about how things should go. They don’t like each other, but they really don’t like this backwater hick from Galilee who barges into their temple and gets the crowd all riled up. So, they try to trap him. Here the debate begins.
The Pharisees fire first. OK, Jesus. What about taxes? Should we pay them to Rome?
Jesus replies, “Give to Caesar what’s Caesars.” Oh. Good answer.
Then the Sadducess take a crack at him. What about Doctrine? They have this ongoing debate with the Pharisees about whether there is a resurrection from the dead. The Pharisees say there is, the Sadducess say there isn’t, and they have an iron clad argument against it. Jesus, if a woman marries a man and he dies, and then marries his brother, and he dies, and this happens seven times. Who is she married to in the resurrection?
Jesus says, The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t about marriage. wrong question.
Finally, in verse 28, a scribe tests Jesus about the Law. What is the greatest commandment? This is one of the favorite debates among the religious leaders. There are so many laws, how can you decide.
Jesus responds. It’s simple. Love God with your whole heart. And love your neighbor.
The scribe agrees with him, and Jesus says, "you are not far from the Kingdom"
The scribe knew the right answer, but then...
Jesus went on to critique the Scribes. The text says that they took delight in his teaching. They may know that the law is about loving Gos and loving neighbor,but look how they are living. There are three things they do that he critiques.
First, The scribes like to walk around in long robes and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets.
Second, they devour widow’s houses. We need to pause and make sure we understand the impact of this statement. When we think of a widow, we think of a woman whose husband has died and it is incredibly sad. But, in most cases, the widow gets her husband’s life insurance, pension, and she has the ability to work to support herself. It was not that way in the ancient world. Women were completely dependent on their husbands for support. If a woman had no husband and no children, then she was destitute. If her husband had a home she could live in the home, but if he owed money, she could not pay for it. She is helpless. How do the scribes treat them? They evict the widows and throw them on the street to become beggars.
Then they turn around and try to look holy by making long, public prayers.
This makes Jesus sick. So, there he is. He steps back and surveys this political/religious system. You’ve asked me, “What about taxes? What about Doctrine? What about the Law?” I ask you,
What about her? What about the widow whose house you have devoured? He points out a widow who has given her last two coins into the treasury.
Now, here comes the big kick to the head. Listen again to Jesus’ words, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For 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 Mark ends the scene in the temple with this story. I think the widow gives us a picture of Jesus summary of the Law. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Our text today offers us a shokubuku moment. We have the contrast between the scribes and the widow Between those who give from their abundance and seek power and fame on the one side, and those who give everything for the love of God and for each other. Do you know why Jesus was so upset with this system?
Because he knew where it was leading them. It was a violent, selfish, unsustainable system and it was going to be destroyed by the Romans very soon.