Mark 12:35-44

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 22, 2005


The time frame of our passage today:  It is still Tuesday of the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  He has been in the Temple teaching the people and fielding questions and challenges from various religious leaders.

:35-37 Son of David

:35 How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David?

The scribes were the religious leaders that were experts in the Scriptures. They taught correctly that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David. But what they taught about the Messiah was incomplete.

:36 For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Jesus is quoting from Psalm 110:1.  In the Hebrew text, it reads, “Yahweh said unto my Lord …”

:37 David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son?

The idea is that David has overheard a conversation in heaven. God (Yahweh) is speaking to someone whom David calls his “Lord”. God is telling this person to sit at His right hand until God takes care of His enemies.

Everyone agreed that this spoke of the Christ, the Messiah, the one who would come one day and deliver Israel from its enemies.

Here’s the problem:

A son was not considered greater than his father.

Yet if the Messiah was to be the son of David, how is it that David is calling the Messiah “Lord”?

The answer is simple:

Jesus was greater than David because He was not only the son of David, but He was the Son of God. Jesus was both fully human and fully God.

But the scribes didn’t know what to do with this question.  The scribes were very religious men but they didn’t know everything.

:38-40 Warning about scribes

:38 And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes,

And … – the other parallel passages (Mat. 23:1; Luke 20:45) use the word “then”. There is a connection between this passage and the previous one.

doctrinedidache – teaching

Bewareblepo – to see, discern, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine

Watch out for those scribes.

:38 which love to go in long clothing,

lovethelo – to will, to take delight in, have pleasure

long clothingstole – a loose outer garment for men extending to the feet, worn by kings, priests, and persons of rank.

They took great pleasure in wearing fancy clothes that showed people how important they were.

:38 and love salutations in the marketplaces,

salutationsaspazomai – greetings; they loved the way people greeted them out in public.  A salutation was made not merely by a slight gesture and a few words, but generally by embracing and kissing.

Matthew records Jesus saying that they loved …

(Mat 23:7-12 KJV) And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. {8} But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. {9} And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. {10} Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. {11} But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. {12} And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

:39 And the chief seats in the synagogues …

They like to sit in a place of prominence whether they were at church or whether they were at a party. They loved the spotlight. They loved attention. They loved recognition.

:40 Which devour widows' houses,

Because of their knowledge of the Law of Moses, scribes were often used as judges.  Yet they would use their position as judges incorrectly and adjust claims against wealthy widows or to get them to bestow on them their estates.

:40 and for a pretence make long prayers:

pretenceprophasis – an alleged reason; they made up a reason for long prayers

Jesus taught

(Mat 6:5-6 KJV) And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. {6} But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

It’s not wrong to pray out loud in front of others, unless your reason for doing it is so others will be impressed by you. We pray together in groups because it’s a good practice to pray in “agreement” with other brothers or sisters.
A test is whether or not you would pray the same prayer if other people weren’t around to listen. That’s why Jesus encouraged His disciples to learn to pray in their closet.

Matthew records a little more about the religiousness of the scribes.

(Mat 23:5 KJV) But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

Phylacteries are little leather boxes that contain a portion of scripture and are worn either on the hand or on the forehead. They are to be a reminder to always keep God’s Word in mind.
The borders were a fringe on the garment that was supposed to be a way of remembering to obey God’s commandments.
Yet these guys made their phylacteries and borders larger than everyone else so that people would see how “devoted” they were. They didn’t do these practices so they could get closer to God, they didn’t do them to impress God, they did them to impress the people around them.

:40 these shall receive greater damnation.

damnationkrima – judgment; condemnation of wrong


Jesus hates religious pride

Jesus abhors this kind of behavior.
(Luke 18:9-14 KJV) And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: {10} Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. {11} The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. {12} I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. {13} And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. {14} I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Word to Baruch:
Baruch was Jeremiah’s sidekick.  There was a time early in his and Jeremiah’s ministry when he was very discouraged with the way things were going.  Jeremiah had been under house arrest.  So God gave Jeremiah a command to have Baruch write down all of Jeremiah’s prophecies and take them into the Temple and read them to the people.  These weren’t prophecies that brought comfort to hurting people, they were strong warnings to a rebellious people, intended to wake up the nation and get it to turn around.  It seems that Baruch was struggling with all of this.  And so it was at this time (Jer. 45:1; Jer. 36:1-8) that a message from God came addressed to Baruch:
(Jer 45:2-5 NKJV)  "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch: {3} 'You said, "Woe is me now! For the LORD has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest."' {4} "Thus you shall say to him, 'Thus says the LORD: "Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land. {5} "And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh," says the LORD. "But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go."' "

Baruch was discouraged because his focus in life was on himself.  It’s not wrong to “seek great things”.  The issue is whether or not you are seeking great things for God’s sake or for yours.

William Carey (1761–1834), the first modern missionary, said, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.”

When my goal in life is to satisfy my own desires, I’ll never be happy.

(Prov 27:20 NKJV)  Hell and Destruction are never full; So the eyes of man are never satisfied.

There are times when I have to confess I’m just waiting to get my “atta boy”, my pat on the back from someone.  The reason I do some things is simply to get recognized.  And when I don’t get “recognized”, I get discouraged.

There is a sense in which we are all very needy people. We are all craving for some kind of attention, we are all craving to feel loved and accepted.  It’s when we are looking to get this love and acceptance from others that we can fall into traps like the scribes and Pharisees, constantly looking to classify ourselves as better than others, as “holier than thou”.
The way to keep ourselves out of trouble is to learn to go to the right place for love.  We need to go to Jesus.

(John 4:13-14 NKJV)  Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, {14} "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

A fellow named G.D. Watson (1845-19240 wrote an essay for those in ministry, but I can’t help but see that it applies to all of us.
If God has called you to be really like Jesus He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other people do things which He will not let you do. Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it, and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent. Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their successes, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works. Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence upon Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury. The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious He may let others get credit for the work which you have done, and thus make YOUR REWARD TEN TIMES GREATER WHEN JESUS COMES. The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting your time, which other Christians never feel distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an Infinitely Sovereign Being, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you, but if you absolutely sell yourself to be His love slave, He will wrap you up in Jealous Love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle. Settle it forever, then that you are to DEAL DIRECTLY WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this PECULIAR, PERSONAL, PRIVATE, JEALOUS GUARDIANSHIP AND MANAGEMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OVER YOUR LIFE, then you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

:41-44 Widow’s mites

:41 … beheld how the people cast money into the treasury

howpos – how, in what way, not how much, but in what manner they did it.

treasurygazophulakion – a repository of treasure

There were thirteen chests located against the wall in the “women’s court” of Herod’s temple. Each chest had a funnel called a “trumpet” attached to it. Coins were dropped into the “trumpet” and they would roll into the chest.

beheldtheoreo – to be a spectator, look at, behold; to view attentively, take a view of, survey

We like our privacy when it comes to money and giving.

But here is Jesus, watching what the people are doing, even pointing out to others what the people are doing.  It would be kind of like He was standing next to our agape box, making comments as people put their money in the offering.

:42 …a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites … farthing.

poorptochos – someone so poor they are reduced to begging for money.

miteslepton – the smallest of copper coins; worth about a 1/5 of a cent

farthingkodrantes – a quadrans, twice the value of the “mite”. The quadrans was worth 1/64 of a denarius, 1/64 of the pay for a day’s labor.  She threw $1.50 into the treasury.

:44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want …

abundanceperisseuo – to exceed a fixed number of measure, to have more than enough.  They had money left over at the end of the month and they took their offerings out of that excess.

wanthusteresis – poverty; she didn’t have anything left over, but she gave anyway.


What if Jesus was watching and pointing to you for His lesson on giving?

Here’s some tips on how to pass the test …
(2 Cor 9:7 KJV) Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
(2 Cor 9:7 NLT) You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully.
Do you give what God wants you to give?

The amount of your giving is between you and God.

Some say that a person should give a tenth, or a “tithe”, of their income to God. Some argue that this isn’t valid for us because this is an Old Testament concept and we are no longer “under the Law”. It is in the Law, but it also predates the Law because it was practiced by Abraham in Genesis 14, so don’t be too quick to toss it out.

I’ve heard it suggested that the New Testament concept of giving is not a tenth, but all. Jesus commended the poor widow woman because she gave everything.

The most important thing is that you and I spend time with God to find out what He wants us to give. If you are giving what God wants you to give, then He’d be proud to point to you and show you to the crowd as an example.

(Mat 6:19-21 KJV) Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
You can measure how much you are looking forward to heaven by how much you are investing in it now.

Don’t misunderstand me. We aren’t going to heaven because we gave money. We go to heaven because of what Jesus has done for us by dying on a cross. We are saved by trusting in Jesus to pay for our sins. But when Jesus has changed our lives and we discover how much He loves us and we learn to love Him more and more, then we’ll be interested in the things He’s interested in, and He’s interested in building up His kingdom, and part of how that happens is through financial support.

If we were to look at your checkbook and your credit card statements, we would find out where your heart is. You’re going to spend money on the things that are important to you. Where is Jesus on your bank statement?

Some of you may be thinking, “Oh there goes another one of those preachers hitting the people up for money”. But I’d like to challenge you to think about how much you are looking forward to heaven. I have some friends who get mad at me for not preaching more about giving because they are VERY interested in the things of heaven and they wish the whole church would learn to give as much as they do.

But keep in mind, Jesus isn’t just saying that your giving is a measure of your love of heaven. He encouraged His disciples to actively lay up treasures in heaven by investing in the things of heaven.

I think the idea is that if you want your heart fixed on heaven, they change where you put your treasures.


Jesus loves complete commitment

To God, the actual amount you give isn’t the issue.  God is more concerned about what is behind your giving; “how” you give.
When Jesus fed the five thousand, He did it using the lunch that a little boy was willing to give.  It wasn’t much, but it was all the boy had.  And yet Jesus blessed it to feed a multitude.

When you are focused on the amount you give, you’re not looking at things from God’s perspective.  God isn’t looking for an amount, God is looking for the totality of our commitment to Him.

Jesus can ask us to give everything we have to Him because that’s what He did for us.
In a passage where Paul is writing to the Corinthians and encouraging them to give money to the poor in Jerusalem, he writes,

(2 Cor 8:9 NKJV) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Jesus hates it when our religion makes us haughty and look down on others.  Jesus loves it when we learn to give Him our entire life.
I read a story about a pastor of a small, rural church in Scotland. He struggled in his ministry and was concerned that he didn’t see much fruit.  One morning, when the offering plate was passed during a service, a young boy placed the plate on the floor, stood up, and stepped into it. When asked to explain, he replied that he had been deeply touched, and while he had no money to give he wanted to give himself wholly to God.  The boy who stepped into the plate was Bobby Moffat, who in 1817 became a pioneer missionary to South Africa. He was greatly used of God to touch many lives.
Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that every good Christian will now open up their checkbook and write a check to the church for the balance of what is in their account.
But what I’m saying is that Jesus wants to put in the agape box is you.  And when you are in the agape box, He wants to be able to direct all that you own – your finances, your time, your desires, your life.