Narrative Lectionary - Lent 4 - Mark
Mark 12:28-44 - New Revised Standard Version
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" 29 Jesus answered, "The first is, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 32 Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that "he is one, and besides him there is no other'; 33 and "to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and "to love one's neighbor as oneself,'—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question. 35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, "How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, "The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet." ' 37 David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?" And the large crowd was listening to him with delight. 38 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, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 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. 44 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."
They're trying to trap him, catch him saying something he'll regret or something that will anger the masses or something that is not politically palatable. They're looking for the sound bit that will discredit him.
But he keeps answering "well."
Jesus is being interrogated essentially by the leaders of his religion. They're asking him about taxes. They're asking him about resurrection. They're asking him about the law.
Taxes? Pay to the emperor what is the emperor's
resurrection? God is the God of the living not the dead
the law? The Lord is One.
But then Jesus asks the crowd a question. I assume the scribes were still present. It's a question about King David.
How can David be the Messiah, I mean after all.... yadda yadda yadda... yep that's how I hear the question. He starts pontificating about one reference here and how whole doctrines are build on one reference and then how that one doctrine needs to be upheld by other doctrines that also are created from one reference here or there.
I've been in those conversations. Every academic field has been in those conversations. Beliefs build by the elite and then passed down to those in the pews who neither understood the meaning nor questioned the purpose of the doctrines.
The people in the "pews" or in this case, on the field or in the synagogue or in the town square - wherever Jesus happened to be talking to them that day - had found their everyday leader.
He didn't speak like the scribes, the leaders, or the emperor. He didn't wear long robes, he wasn't given the place of honor. Those who do wear the long robes, who are greeted in the marketplace, who are given the honorable seat, they are to be condemned. There. He finally gave them the soundbite they were hoping for. I wonder what they can do with it. What kind of commercial can they make with it? What kind of harm can they do to this growingly popular leader of the people?
He doesn't stop though with the indictment. He turns to an opposing figure, a widow who would've gone unnoticed. She did not wear long robes, was not given the place of honor. she gave of herself, fully. And she was giving to the treasury - of the same system whose leaders were the recipients of Jesus' condemnation. She gave herself fully.
For me, this lengthy narrative is more about how Jesus' teachings and demeanor was not fitting into the subscribed religion of his day. He was headed to death. He was not saving himself or his legacy or his religious upbringing.
As we move closer to the cross, this interrogation and indictment invites us to look at our own systems, our own blindspots, our own unquestioned doctrines to see how they help us follow the Palestinian Jew named Jesus. He was headed to death. Do our beliefs, actions, values head there too?