Mark 12:35-37… While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is David’s son? 36 David himself, by the Holy Spirit, said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ 37 If David himself calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.
After silencing his adversaries with their condescending questions meant to trap him, Jesus asked the most important question of all: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matt. 22:42). This was a weightier question than the ones his adversaries had asked him. To miss this one would be to forfeit eternal life. Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 and asked for an explanation as to how David’s son could also be David’s Lord. (This is the great King David who reigned as the king of Israel from 1010-970 BC). The religious leaders believed that the Messiah would be David’s descendant (John 7:41-42), but the only way David’s descendant could also be his Lord would be for him to not only be human but also deity. Jesus’ birth in the flesh attests to his humanity, but his miraculous conception and virgin birth (Isa. 7:14; Luke 1:26-38) attest to his deity – not to mention his miraculous works, words, and his resurrection.
The Hebrew of Psalm 110:1 is literally, “Yahweh (LORD) said to my master (Lord).” David’s reference to “master” in this instance was a prophecy about the coming Messiah who was “his Lord.” It was Yahweh who spoke this to the Messiah before his incarnation: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” But how could David call the Messiah, “my Lord,” since the Messiah would come from his own loins? This was Jesus’ question – a question the scribes could not answer. All they knew about the coming Messiah was his humanity.
Now in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 God promised David that his throne and his kingdom would endure forever. Therefore the Messiah would come through his loins, and this king would reign forever. Jesus was born as a descendant of David, but that could be said for many. The religious leaders, in their ignorance of the Scripture’s meaning, failed to understand that the Messiah was not only a man but God. Their view of the Messiah was as shallow as that of the disciples’. They simply believed the Messiah to be a military commander who would return Israel to the monarchy it was under King David. But David’s prophecy in Psalm 110 meant that the Messiah would be more than just a man – he would be God, for he would sit at Yahweh’s right hand with his enemies under his feet (a common picture of a king’s enemies after he had subdued them). The religious leaders didn’t understand this. The Messiah would not only be the son of David, he would also be the Son of God – both man AND God. Clearly Jesus’ miracles in and around Israel for three years proved him to be no ordinary man. So his lineage, his sinless perfection, his powerful words, and his love for God and men – and his resurrection, prove that he was God.
The large crowd was listening with delight in v. 37 – much to the chagrin of the religious leaders. Their plan had backfired, and the people, more than ever, were hanging on Jesus’ every word. Why? Because he answered his critics with truth and tact, showing a true understanding not only of what the Scriptures said but what they meant. They were impressed and delighted.
Food for Thought
Most people who know anything about Jesus rank him as one of the greatest men who ever lived – even non-Christians. But only recognizing Jesus as a great man and ignoring his deity falls short of truth. And to deny Jesus’ deity is to deny oneself eternal life in heaven. Jesus was, and is, God. He existed as David’s son before he was ever even born! Therefore any belief system that hails him as a good man while denying his deity is a false and satanic belief system.
Mark 12:38-40… In his teaching Jesus also said, “Watch out for the scribes. They like to walk around in long robes and to receive elaborate greetings in the marketplaces, 39 and the best seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the property of widows and as a show make long prayers. These men will receive a more severe punishment.”
After being questioned by the religious leaders in Jerusalem (11:27-12:34) and answering successfully and brilliantly in each instance, Jesus asked his own question about the common view of the Messiah (12:35-37). Now it didn’t matter if Jesus was answering questions or posing them because the unbelievers who stood by could never answer him due to their hardness of heart. Ironically, those who posed their questions to Jesus, and those to whom he asked his own questions, were experts in the Jewish law. They were elders in Jerusalem, priests of the holy covenant, and upholders of the Law. Yet they knew nothing!
Mark 12:37 says that the crowds who were observing Jesus fend off the traps being set for him by the religious leaders were “listening to him with delight.” They watched how Jesus answered and put their hypocritical religious leaders to shame. Then in v. 38 Jesus pointed out the futility of following and listening to the Jewish experts in the law (the scribes). After the dust had settled the point was easily made that these men were charlatans, and it was never more clear to the Jewish people than right then. So Jesus said, “Watch out for the scribes…” Not only did they fail to understand the meaning of the law and its application (though they were actually well-versed in the Scriptures), they were leading others astray. No wonder Jesus gave warning.
The scribes had many hypocrisies. First, they liked “to walk around in long robes and to receive elaborate greetings in the marketplaces.” In those days, like the modern-day, it was customary for those on the street to offer a greeting to their religious leaders. They were typically greeted with, “Peace be with you.” Now in order to receive these greetings the scribes would dress themselves in elaborate white garb that made it obvious they were scribes. They stood out among the common folk who wore clothing with color. Their long white robes brought to them the respect they coveted, and everywhere they went they were recognized. Second, because they were scribes, they were able to sit in the most prestigious seats at various banquets, and they of course sat where everyone could see them at the synagogue. They loved this attention, but they weren’t concerned about their inward piety in comparison to their obvious outward “holiness.” Third, because scribes weren’t paid for their work they had a reputation of “devouring the homes of widows” – by which they exploited the resources of helpless widows by demanding religious contributions from them. They promised them protection but demanded their financial support in return to the point that these widows were “devoured.” And to top it all off, they had the gall to stand up in the synagogues and make long prayers that apparently made them look pious.
Jesus condemned these hypocritical behaviors from the religious leaders. They were supposed to lead people to God, but they were more concerned with themselves. These kinds of teachers “will receive a more severe punishment” because they misrepresent God.
Food for Thought
Christians are priests of God and have a responsibility to lead others to the saving power of Jesus Christ. We are the middle men between them and God. But many, like the scribes, are so full of hypocrisy we have to issue the same warnings as Jesus did by saying “watch out” for some. They’re the ones who love to draw attention to themselves for their outward acts of piety. But God weighs the heart, and if it falls short of perfection so will our outward acts of piety.
Mark 12:41-44… Then Jesus sat down opposite and watched the crowd put coins in the offering box. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. 43 He called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I say, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had to live on.”
After warning the people to watch out for the hypocritical religious leaders who simply appeared “religious,” Jesus sat down in the temple and surveyed the crowds who brought their offerings to the offering box. Since people didn’t write checks in those days, they carried their money in bags, so the amounts they gave were obvious to those who watched them. Jesus noted the rich who put large sums of money in the box, and then he noticed a poor widow who put only two small coins in. Seeing a teachable moment he called the disciples over and made an example of this poor widow. For while everyone else gave larger sums, they gave from their wealth. The widow, however, gave all she had even though what she gave totaled less than a single penny!
This episode served as another illustration for the disciples to see who Jesus was and what he wanted from them. He was not interested in money, power, or fame. In fact, Jesus warned against those things because they tend to trap people and take their focus off of God. Jesus, though watching the people’s outward actions, was really looking at their hearts. The scribes looked good on the outside, but their hearts were dead. The poor widow, however, looked destitute on the outside, but her heart was fully devoted to God. She was alive spiritually.
Take note of where the people gave their money that day – in the temple. The widow didn’t go out and find a blind person to give her last coins to in lieu of the corrupt temple, she gave it where God had ordained in the Torah. And Jesus didn’t grieve the fact that she gave to the temple or was duped by the very scribes who took advantage of her. And she didn’t simply give one of her two remaining coins. She gave them both! She didn’t keep one as a cushion to be safe; she didn’t say, “I don’t have enough to live on, so I’ll keep it this month.” She gave all that she had, and this is why Jesus made an example of her in the midst of the others who simply gave out of their wealth. God doesn’t count money, He weighs the heart of the giver.
Food for Thought
Oftentimes it’s the layperson who is more in touch with God than the “religious person.” Sometimes our teachers are dominated by pride and opportunism. So they must be judged for their true spirituality, not their outward appearance and/or popularity among men. The widow had a piety that far surpassed her religious leaders. Jesus took note of her because she served from the heart with no thought of gaining an advantage. Now he may not be physically present and watch us put money into the church offering box at church, but rest assured he’s watching us. What observations would he make about what you give? The gifts we give are praised or cursed in accordance with what we have, not a standard amount that everyone has to give. Folks who make more money than you obviously have the means to give more. But some folks who make lots of money give “till it hurts” only because their giving infringes on their materialistic lifestyles. Giving 5%, for instance, of our salary because we have no more to give due to our lavish lifestyles, is not to be compared with the widow’s offering. She gave everything without keeping anything. Once again, we see how much easier it is for the poor to give all they have in contrast to the rich who have so much more to part with. No wonder Jesus said that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
I) Mark 12:35-37… The Deity of Christ
A) David’s son was believed to be a triumphant deliverer.
B) But David’s son was also his Lord – a view the scribes failed to understand.
C) The Messiah would have to be David’s son and his Lord at the same time.
D) Romans 1:3 & 2 Tim. 2:8 use David as Christ’s earthly father according to promise
E) The Messiah will restore the future Davidic kingdom on earth (Millennium)
II) Mark 12:38-40… Blind Guides of God’s People
A) This is the conclusion to all the questions thrown his way.
B) They were (fig tree) hypocrites & would be severely punished (cf. Matt. 23)
U Seeking greetings… Jesus commanded his disciples to offer the greetings (Matt. 10:12).
U Devour widows’ homes… scribes are like the fig tree – hypocrites!
- Temple authorities managed the properties of widows and took advantage
- Scribes took advantage of the hospitality of widows
- Scribes took homes as pledges of debt since they knew it couldn’t be paid
- Scribes took fees for legal advice against the provisions of the Law.
U Watch out… Continually (verb tense) watch for charlatans. High standing in society can be a cancer, just like riches, that keep us from a humble existence.
- It’s their ostentatious style w/o substance that is condemned.
- Love to receive public greetings
- They love the seats of honor where they can be seen in worship and at banquets
U Today hypocrites tend to sit in the back!
U Today we like to do “holy things”, but we lack holy hearts.
III) Mark 12:41-44… A Poor Widow: An Example of True Piety
U The widow… stands in stark contrast to the scribes and the rich man who appeared earlier.
U Giving… hypocrites give money to ease their guilty conscience
U Sat watching… Jesus watches us give today. What would he say about your giving?
U It’s not the amount we give per se; it’s the amount in proportion to what we make.
U She didn’t give one of her two coins; she gave both!
U She didn’t give it to the poor; she gave it to the temple (and Jesus didn’t condemn that)
U Those w/more have more to part with; that’s why Jesus gives us the warning.
It’s not simply knowing the Scriptures that helps us – it’s know them AND applying them.