Study Notes

Mark 12:35-44


As you may recall, people have been asking Jesus a lot of questions during His final trip to Jerusalem. We saw the chief priests, scribes, and elders ask what authority He had to do these marvelous things - He answered by asking where John the Baptist's authority came from. We saw the Pharisees and Herodians ask Him whether it was lawful to pay the poll-tax to Caesar - He answered by asking whose picture was on the denarius. We saw the Sadducees ask Him about the resurrection - He answered by asking,

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God?

Now Jesus is going to ask the first question...

12:35-37 Son Of David

Jesus quotes Psalm 110 to them, which says,

Ps. 110:1 THE LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet."

God was speaking this to the Messiah, so David says, "The Lord says to my Lord..." Yet the Messiah was supposed to be a son - a descendant - of David's. In the Jewish mind, you would never refer to your offspring as "Lord."

So the Messiah must be divine, yet He must be human! He was "not only David's son, but David's Lord." (J.J. Given) In their thinking, this would be a contradiction! Jesus was challenging them to change their thinking about the Messiah.

12:38-40 Beware Of The Scribes

The Scribes were the ones who were the copyists, preservers, and teachers of the Word of God. They interpreted the Law, and set themselves up as experts in matters regarding the breaking of the Law.

But they were the ultimate violators of "practice what you preach." Matthew 23 details their sin specifically. Here in Mark 12, we have a brief overview of why Jesus warned the multitudes, "Beware of the scribes."

Long robes: The scribes liked to walk around in long robes. Why were their robes longer than other peoples? The Lord commanded in Numbers 15,

Num. 15:38-40 "Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, in order that you may remember to do all My commandments, and be holy to your God.

But as was the case in most of the Jewish leadership, obedience became excess. Jesus tells us,

Matt. 23:5 "But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments."

They would make these blue tassels longer and longer, making themselves to appear more and more spiritual. Although this practice has not continued into the church, it has manifested itself in other ways. Some churches watch the length of your hair, the length of your dress, the veil on your head, or the spiffiness of your suit. Different garments, same garbage.

Respectful greetings: The scribes also loved to be greeted in the marketplaces with their title of "Rabbi," which means "teacher." They loved the title and they loved knowing that great crowds were hearing the greeting. Today, we still have people who call themselves "reverend" or "grand exalted this-or-that." The "proper" way to address the Pope is "your Holiness" and "very holy father." Sickening.

Chief seats: In the synagogues, the chief seats were those right in front of the ark which held the Torah scrolls. These chairs, which had the appearance of thrones, have unfortunately found their way into many church stages today.

Places of honor: At banquets, seating was in a horseshoe shape. The host would sit at the right corner, and the place of honor was at the right hand of the host. Today, churches have transformed this into reserved parking spaces for the minister and high-ranking assistants. Terrible.

Devour widows' houses: When a woman's husband died, she was at risk of falling prey to religious men who would convince them to sponsor their religious endeavors, thus devouring whatever inheritance they had received. How sad that today, this still goes on through the likes of televangelists.

Long prayers: We are encouraged to pray without ceasing, yet the scribes only offered long prayers for appearance's sake. This unfortunately still happens today. I believe that the majority of true prayer warriors will never be referred to with that title, because they obey the commandment of Christ,

Matt. 6:5-6 "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

These things are all despicable, yet they continue to proliferate in the church. Let's make sure that we don't fall into any of their traps.

Greater Condemnation

Notice that Jesus told the people,

Mark 12:40 "...these will receive greater condemnation."

Why will God judge the scribes harsher than other people? Because they knew the Word of God. They taught the Word of God. They had been given much, so much would be required of them. James warns us,

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.

Just how much stricter will that judgment be? Luke 12 answers that question in a frightening way:

Luke 12:42-48 And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, {both} men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect {him,} and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know {it,} and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

Jesus is not talking about unbelievers, because this servant will be assigned a place with the unbelievers. This the servant who is put in charge of the other servants, and responsible to give them their rations. I read that as being those in leadership, or specifically, teaching positions in the kingdom. The scribes will certainly receive greater condemnation. I wonder how we who teach the Word of God will be judged as well?

12:41-44 How She Gave

Notice that small word "how" in verse 41. He sat down opposite the treasury to observe HOW people were giving. What did Jesus see about how this widow was giving? Obviously, it wasn't the huge amount of money, because the two copper coins she dropped in didn't amount to even a fraction of what was given to the temple that day. The Lord wasn't seeing HOW MUCH she was giving, but HOW she was giving. It was all she had - complete and total sacrificial giving.


Of course money has become a sensitive issue in the church over the last 20 years. We can thank greedy televangelists for most of that discomfort. But regardless of what they might have propagated with their lies and deception, it has never mattered how much you give. What matters is how you give. Paul told the Corinthians,

2Cor. 9:6-7 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.

The word "cheerful" in Greek means "hilarious." God wants you to give to Him hilariously! If you can't give money to Him with a hilarious, cheerful heart, don't bother to give it at all. It's not going to be a blessing to Him, and it will cause bitterness, anger, and resentment in your heart. Your giving must be hilarious, for the Lord desires it to be an act of thanksgiving, of joy. It is about joyfully giving thanks, knowing that God is the one who always taken care of you - in the hard times and the good times. He's always made sure that you had what you needed.


True thanksgiving to the Lord will also always be sacrificial. When David was called to offer a sacrifice to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he said, "Ornan, I need this threshing floor to make a sacrifice." And Ornan said, "Sure, David - take it, plus I'll give you everything - the oxen, the wood, the wheat - I'll give it all to you."

1Chr. 21:24 But King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing."

"I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing." It's not a sacrifice if it's not sacrificial. Jesus was watching how the widow gave - and she gave sacrificially and hilariously. That was a blessing to Him, and He said,

Mark 12:43 ..."Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury."

It wasn't the quantity of her gift, it was the quality of her giving. But she couldn't afford to give, right? Isn't that how we justify it in our minds - "I can't afford to give."

On the contrary, you're never too poor to give to Jesus Christ. Paul told the Corinthians,

2Cor. 8:1-5 Now, brethren, we {wish to} make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability {they gave} of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and {this,} not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

Throughout Macedonia, the churches were giving abundantly - way above and beyond what could even reasonably be expected of them. They were poverty-stricken, yet begged Paul to let them give - and they gave beyond their ability.

People don't give according to how rich God makes them, they give according to what it says in verse 1: according to the grace of God. The more a person experiences the grace of God, the more they give to God.

Paul continued to the Corinthians,

2Cor. 8:12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what {a man} has, not according to what he does not have.

The widow's example and Paul's exhortation here tell us that if we're willing to give to God, then we don't have to worry that the dollar amount isn't as much as someone else. It's according to what we have, not according to what we don't have.

Why Should We Give?

Why would the widow even give money to the temple at all? There are two very practical reasons that God has both ordained and commanded the giving of money to His house.

Equalization Of Provision

Paul told the Corinthians that they needed to give because,

2Cor. 8:14-15 at this present time your abundance {being a} {supply} for their want, that their abundance also may become {a supply} for your want, that there may be equality; as it is written, "HE WHO {gathered} MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO {gathered} LITTLE HAD NO LACK."

He was wasn't taking up the collection so that the church at Jerusalem could live in luxury while the Macedonian churches starved. It was an equalization. When people give money to the church, it is up to the church leadership to make sure that people who have genuine need are provided for. It is the application of the simple rule that John the Baptist gave us:

Luke 3:11 ..."Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise."

The equalization of provision. James wrote,

James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

We need to get away from this, "I earned it, it's mine" mentality. The spirit-filled, Jesus-based church was equaling out the provision:

Acts 2:44-45 And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

Acts 4:32-35 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one {of them} claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.

The witness of Jesus Christ was so powerful at this time because the love of the followers of Christ was so powerful at this time.

Provision For The Priests.

The second reason that God's people are called to give to His house is to provide for the priesthood. The Law commanded that the priests and the temple were to be supported by the tithe.

Num. 18:21 And to the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.

But during Nehemiah's day, after the people had come back from the Babylonian captivity, they were not obeying many of God's laws, including the Law of the Tithe. When Nehemiah was overseeing the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem, he wrote,

Neh. 13:10-11 I also discovered that the portions of the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field. So I reprimanded the officials and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?"...

The people had not been giving their tithes and offerings to support their ministers. So to survive, the priests got jobs and worked in the fields. Nehemiah rebuked the people for this, as does God through Malachi.

The same principle is in practice today, as Paul tells us in 1Corinthians 9,

1Cor. 9:14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

The priests we support today are the pastors and church staff. The temple we support today is the church building and ministries.

How Could The Widow Survive?

You might be thinking, "That's all well and good, but how is that widow going to survive the fact that she just gave away her last penny?" Remember, every penny we have, God supplied. And the more generous we are with God's money, the more He feels free to entrust us with. Paul told the Corinthians,

2Cor. 9:8-11 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ABIDES FOREVER." Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.

It is up to the widow to be faithful with what God entrusts to her. It is up to God to make sure that He provides sufficiently for her.

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