The focus of today’s story is on the widow, not the scribes. The widow was insignificant and almost invisible in their society, but somehow Mark focuses on the story of the widow, not the scribes who are powerful, visible, influential, popular. Mark brings up the lowly, not the people who have high status. That is a difference between the Gospel and other books. Other books put heroes, kings and queens and all the stories of the powerful people, but the Bible talks about the story of the people who otherwise would be invisible voiceless and they, I mean she doesn’t even have name, but Mark puts, highlight and focus on this person and he shares what Jesus said about this woman. Jesus said she, out of her poverty, has put in everything she had, all she had to live on. That was what Jesus said, but I’m not sure whether it was a compliment or expression of a sigh. Was Jesus praising this woman or was Jesus sighing about the situation that they were in?
The Corrupted Temple System
At the time the temple was very corrupted. The temple was at the centre of their lives. It wasn’t just a religious centre. It was a political centre and an economic centre All the powerful in that society were in Jerusalem, and not only in Jerusalem, but they were also centred around and somehow connected with the temple. Either they have a job there or have some very intimate connection with the temple. All the powerful people, all the rich people has something to do with the temple. Slowly the temple lost its purity, its essence. It became corrupted. People used it for their own benefit. People used it to keep their status quo and their power. That’s why Jesus cleansed the temple. When he came, he went into the temple and he was not pleased, seeing the temple. He cleansed the temple and he said this; my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.
It is a quotation from the Old Testament, but Jesus mentioned that you, I mean this is the place where you come and pray, but you make it as a den of robbers. Jesus saw the corruption of the temple. Jesus saw the corruption of society. The powerful people exploited the weak and the vulnerable. Even in today’s passage, Jesus said to be aware of the scribes, and he said this; they devour widows’ houses, it shows the corruption of the rich and the powerful. You devour widow’s houses. He was so common for the powerful to take advantage of the weak. The people took it as simply a reality of life. We’ve been living like this all our lives and that is simply the reality that I just have to accept, and these people did this corruption legally, not illegally. The whole legal system was for the rich and powerful. They justify themselves by saying that they are legal, but in the end they exploit it.
The widows, the weak, and the vulnerable. Jesus knew this situation so well. That’s why he was never pleased with the powerful leaders of that society. Describe last week, I told you one scribe, he was the only exception that Jesus complimented. He complimented nobody, no leader, but he was the only one Jesus complimented because he was not very pleased with what was going on in Jesus’ time. You know, to live well, you have to side with a powerful, the rich, powerful, and influential people. Otherwise, you don’t survive in this society. You have to go get along with them, but Jesus did not get along with them. That’s why he was hated by them, and ultimately they killed him.
The Widow’s Sacrifice
Jesus knew fairly well that the temple became not a place of prayer, but a den of robbers. Right after this story that is the end of chapter 12, you go into chapter 13 and the disciples went out and saw the temple, a magnificent temple. They probably came from Galilee and they’re like country people. They never saw this kind of big building. You know, they were farmers and the fisherman. They saw this magnificent structure, the temple and said, wow, look at this. Let me read it for you. Chapter 13 verse one and two the first two verses as he came out of the temple, one of the disciples said to him, look, teacher what large stones and what large buildings? They were so impressed, but then Jesus asked them, do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another. All will be thrown down the temple, which it looked so magnificent, will be destroyed. Jesus foresaw the destruction of the temple, knowing, knowing all that, Jesus made this comment about the widow. She gave everything she had in the temple offering box. This widow gave everything she had for the corrupt temple, for the temple that will be destroyed soon. She gave everything she had. I wonder whether Jesus complimented her or he was a sign of Jesus.
Of course, this widow did not know how corrupted the temple was. She didn’t even know that she was adding to the corrupt system. Even though it is very small money, a few pennies a few cents. I’m sure that it must have been hurting for Jesus to say about the widow’s offering. I’m sure there was a sigh of Jesus seeing this ridiculous scene. Maybe there was even Jesus, holy anger for this injustice.
If you’re a film director and choose an actor to play out Jesus, that actor should be very very good, because that actor should be able to portray this very mixed emotion, anger, sigh and sadness, all these things. Plus what I’m willing to say, all these things should be expressed through one expression of face, that actor should be really, really good to be able to do that. How do you do that? With one face, all this mixed emotion? Jesus also saw the heart of this woman. This widow showed a very different image from the scribes and all the elites of that time, Jesus could see a clear contrast. They all used the temple to get their own benefit and use the temple as their tool to keep their power and the status quo. But to this woman, this temple was a real temple. She kept the purity of the temple, to this woman the temple is the place where God dwelled. Temple was a place of prayer to this woman. Not to the scribes, not to the Pharisees, but to this woman, the temple was the temple. In its original purpose.
That widow did not lose a sense of the purity of the temple, the of the temple. That’s what Jesus saw in this woman. First of all, her offering was her thanksgiving for the grace she experienced from God. She knew what God’s grace was all about. She didn’t have much, a few cents. That was everything she had, but at the same time, she was full of God’s grace. And I realize that you feel the grace of God more when you don’t have (things) When you have so much you don’t experience. The grace is such an irony, but that’s something that I see, the people who have so much, they don’t feel the grace of God, but people who have nothing they feel the grace of God. When I went to Madagascar, the grace of God is just an everyday reality, very different.
She experienced the fullness of God’s grace. That reality, that was a spiritual reality. The rich can never experience, they cannot even fathom what that grace is all about. Overflowing grace of God. The abundance is not how much you have, but the abundance is about how much you share. God will never judge you at the end. How much you had. God will judge you, how much did you share? Money, talent, time, effort. Throughout your life, how much have you shared with what you have? That’s what God will see.
Secondly, her offering was her absolute trust in God. I mentioned last Friday about studying the book of James. The trial is there, there are two kinds. One, absolute trust you have in God and then you’ll have wisdom and with that wisdom, you deal with your trial. You’ll survive, you’ll live, you will become whole. You’ll achieve wholeness, but trial comes. The other side is your desire. You’re greed. Ultimately you’ll be destroyed. James is very clear on that. She had complete trust in God. She’d lift every moment with that trust. All the other people lived with their desire, with their greed, but she lived with one desire, and that is absolute trust in God every day. Isn’t that the blessed life, when you’re able to live every day with absolute trust in God? If you are able to do that you are a blessed person. There’s nothing to worry about.
Jesus said do not worry about tomorrow. I will take care of you tomorrow and she lifts out. Jesus message. Jesus teaching. Happy is the person who lives with this absolute trust. If you’re able to do that you’re a blessed person and there’s a problem ahead of you? Have absolute trust in God, you’ll be all right. You’ll be able to overcome all kinds of trials. You’ll be strong people. And we talked about that last Friday, that you know that a lot of people worried about their children. If they don’t build muscles, how can they deal with the trials that come to them? It’s like a muscle. When you’re able to deal with the trial, with absolute trust in God, then you build a muscle, and with this muscle, any trial comes? You’ll be fine. And one of the people, in my group, said, even if I lose everything right now, I think I’ll be all right. Why would he say that? Because he has muscle, muscle to deal with any kind of challenge. Riches, if there is good if there is? Then be thankful. If there is not, you’ll be all right. They come and go. Important thing is to have this muscle of trust in any situation.
The Beautiful Sacrifice
Thirdly, what the widow did, showed what Jesus would do for her and for all of us soon. It pointed to Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus gave everything for us. Jesus sacrificed everything he had for us. Her action was exactly what Jesus did, show in the end. There are some people who take lightly, the sacrifice of the people. They think, oh, they’re stupid. They sacrificed everything for the church, and for God and Oh, they’re stupid. I think people who say that they are stupid are the stupid ones. Sacrifice is a beautiful thing. Your life is built on the sacrifice of somebody else. You’re not here on your own. You are here because of somebody’s sacrifice.
When I went to Madagascar, I said, you know, when we preach the Gospel they accept, they’re so responsive. They receive. Why? Because that country is built on the sacrifice of the martyrs built on the blood of Christ. I realized the blood is so precious. Without sacrifice, life is not possible. Without Jesus’ sacrifice life is not possible, so we should not take anybody’s sacrifice so lightly because God takes people’s sacrifice so preciously. No matter how small sacrifice that maybe, that sacrifice is beautiful in the eyes of God. And to all of us, that sacrifice is beautiful. Jesus said this, very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. The widow’s offering was like a grain of wheat.
Today is the hundredth anniversary of the end of world war one. As Edward beautifully prayed, we are remembering their sacrifice. 14 million lives were sacrificed. 14 million. I pray that their sacrifice may not be in vain. I pray that their sacrifice may become a grain of wheat that ends the war in this world. War should not be justified in any way. Their sacrifice showed, my friends. Jesus sacrificed for you. That’s precious blood and Jesus also called all of us to take up your cross, to deny yourself and take up the cross and live a life of sacrifice. That’s what Jesus saw in this widow, that widow, you may say, what she did was stupid, but in Jesus’ eyes, that widow did a beautiful, precious sacrifice. She was not tainted by the evil system of that time. Don’t be tainted by this evil system of this world. Be Pure like that woman and your sacrifice will be precious.