Drifted Focus

Drifted Focus: Mark 12:41-44
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday February 21, 2021

This passage is very interesting – perhaps you’re new to it, perhaps not. I want to challenge you to hear it this morning, as if it is the first time. I want you to think of it not by what you’ve heard people tell you it is, but by what is here, today we’ll explore a drifting focus in the church.

In remote and immediate contexts.

The remote context of a passage is and outwardly expanded view, here you can go from the entire context of the book you’re studying, to the testament, to the Bible. For today’s purposes we’ll walk the immediate context out to the book of Mark.

Mark, New Testament, Bible – the Book of Mark outlines Jesus life, zooming in in on the final 3 years of active directed ministry, for the purposes of the gospel with a theme of immediacy. With a specific and deep focus on Jesus ministry and expressly His conflict and interactions with the religious systems of the day as well as His own sacrifice for salvation hinged around the statement in Mark 8:27 – “who do men say that I am”.

The immediate verses surrounding the passage these cause us to consider a single verse by those which surround it. So if we see a desk calendar <verse of the day> which motivates us with “if thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine” Luke 4:7 -Satan

This is the perfect illustration for ripping scripture from its immediate context certainly, but also from its remote context, and finding a convenient good feeling meaning. But perhaps for us, reading it for the first time – something more is here.

Culturally, perhaps, we would understand the scripture as a kind of place to go and feel better. Meaning it’s here to serve me like warm mashed potatoes and gravy or an understanding hug from grandma when mom and dad are mad at us. We should rather approach the scripture as God’s Holy Word and find truth there – then, because of God’s goodness, mercy, and sovereignty feel calmed, not because it made us feel better by telling us what we want to hear, but because it’s firmly true, no matter our circumstances.

The kind of comfort that passages like 2 Corinthians 4:8 brings

2 Corinthians 4:8–10 (ESV)
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

We need to come to it with that kind of grit. We’ve been stroked on the head and fed warm milk by hearing things like, God wants what is best for you. OK, that could be true – who defines what is best for you?

Is what’s best for you, the divorce because it frees you to be happy in a new relationship that you’re already pursuing while married. Is God’s best for you an abortion because you are young and have lots of life ahead of you? Is God’s best for you lying to get ahead, because He wants you to be successful? Maybe His best for you is making you rich and giving you more time for Netflix?

What was God’s best for Job? How about Stephen?

Acts 7:54–60 (ESV)
The Stoning of Stephen
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.
55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.
58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

When we come to the scripture saying I want nothing but truth. If we treated the laws of life like we treated scripture we’d be miserable.

Here is what I mean,

With these understandings of the remote and immediate contexts, let’s come to our passage and see what is here because I’m afraid we’ve gone soft.

In order to get the immediate context lets follow our rules and read around the text –

Mark 12:38–40
38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces
39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,
40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Ok, so we see Jesus tell us to be wary of the scribes. OK what do they do, put Pastor John Nicholas talked about their long robes last week – the put on a show fanfare get treated well and what happen with these great seats and honor…

They devour widows houses.

If we’d printed verses 38-41 here is how it would look: we’d be following through this concept of the widow from v40 into v42 with the poor widow. The remote text is helpful – remembering Jesus is in this massive conflict with the religious structure and leadership who seek to kill Him.

Jesus in his teaching and giving warnings on the scribes He specifically ties their actions to a group of people, the widows saying they the scribes, devour they the widows houses for pretense, in verse 42… along comes a scribe – all in the shadow of the most important commandment(s), love the Lord God with everything -0 and love your neighbor

Mark 12:41–44 (ESV)
The Widow’s Offering
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.

Remember the scene Jesus just painted the scribes have this celebratory environment of dress, and being greeted, and best seats/honor at feasts, Jesus has cleansed the temple (twice) from financial ventures taking place and a circus like atmosphere around the temple.

I hit pause here and ask, why has Mark captured this, we’re in Jesus last days; Jesus came into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey colt that had never been ridden (Mark 11) went into the temple (Mark 11:11) looked around inspected what was happening, leaves curses the fig tree – uses THIS as a symbol of what, the fruitless fig tree is the fruitless Jerusalem/temple, the chief priests, scribes, elders, leaders try to argue and trap Jesus – Jesus tells a story we studied from Isaiah 5 about a vineyard with no fruit and a hostile take over of the vineyard (Mark 12:1-11), next Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees try to find a way to murder Him for crimes against God/Caesar, Mark 12:13-28.

Mark 12:1-28 (ESV)
The Parable of the Tenants
1 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country.
2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.
3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.
4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully.
5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed.
6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’
8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.
10 Have you not read this Scripture:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
11 this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
Paying Taxes to Caesar
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk.
14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”
15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”
16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.”
17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying,
19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.
20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring.
21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise.
22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died.
23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?
25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?
27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
The Great Commandment
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Finally this happens, a scribe who was watching all this steps in an engages with Jesus, maybe less about the trap to kill Him and more about interested dialogue and Jesus encourages Him with these haunting words, “you are not far from the kingdom of God” Mark 12:34

Mark 12:34 (ESV)
34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Jesus has a question to:

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?
36 David himself, in 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 is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

Where is scribe, the Herodian, the pharisee with an answer? Nowhere to be heard, but the crowd thought it was great.

Why then did the Gospel writer so focused on Jesus work to bring about the Gospel and build his Church tell OUR story today, on this background? This is our question for the text, no pre-conception, let’s step back in, Jesus is watching people put money into the offering box.

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums.

Opposite the treasury, if you’d come in the Eastern Gate (where Jesus’ triumphal entry happened), you come to the Court of Gentiles paved with colorful stones – open to every9one including money changers, this is the Outer Court – then there is a high terrace with stairs going up, higher than the court of Gentiles protected by a wall with pillars having Hebrew, Greek, and Latin warnings telling gentiles not to enter under the penalty of Death. Then we get to the Gate of Beautiful” from Acts 3:2-10, this is where you come IN to morning and evening worship, through this Gate (hence the beggar being there because what is inside…) you then come into the “Court of Women” this was a large court area with columns under the columns wee 11 treasure chess for voluntary offerings and two at the gate fo the half-shekel tax. Imagine a large box with a cone shaped metal device to receive the coins, each marked by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet to receive gifts for the Temple and the tax. Jesus is sitting opposite all this the backdrop of coming in inspecting the temple when it was empty, cursing the tree, telling the story from Isaiah about the fruitless vineyard that had been taken over by violent thieves, issuing the concerned Peter from the withered tree, stumped the religious elite who ‘devoured windows houses’…

Acts 3:2-10 (ESV)
2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple.
3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms.
4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”
5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.
6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.
8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God,
10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.

Make a penny… what is being said is not a monetary value, but representative of the smallest possible whole denomination, are made up of two of what she put in; very little in actual value. Perhaps some cloth for a Scribe’s robe…

43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.

This poor widow. Why is she poor, well for one she’s a widow but for two, remember the context:

Mark 12:38–40
38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces
39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,
40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

This poor woman had only two significant coins. See why the condemnation will be greater, this system, polluted by men was supposed to provide for her, yet it took from her. And so, Jesus calls over the disciples, who’ve probably been about in the temple, maybe very comfortable with the surroundings maybe it all actually feels more normal, rather than being out and about walking from town to town, here they are in Jerusalem at the temple. Like coming to your home town perhaps, and enjoying the familiar scenery, buzz, smells maybe (unless you’re from Lancaster and you realize something when you’ve come back about, smell).

44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Is the point her giving, yes and no. it was indicative perhaps of faith in her, but it was also an inditement of a center of worship that drifted focus.

This is an indictment on the entire system, the pinnacle of Jesus triumphant entry is sitting on the stairs watching an impoverished woman who should be cared for but now has nothing – and a system that roars on around her, celebrating big giving of people who’s coins cling on the way down, perhaps making a show for all to see.

Matthew 6:1–4 (ESV)
Giving to the Needy
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The point isn’t money, that’s actually missing the point. The point is that Jesus came to seek and save the lost and will provide a church that will finally usher in the new creation, bringing with it redeemed souls; but we cannot drift. We need to heed these warnings. Where is our focus, are we drifting?

I would suggest that maybe money isn’t our issue. Maybe it is. Can you tell me you’re too busy to serve in the church, but also tell me about Netflix shows. Have you watched all 3 seasons of Kobra Kai, but cannot read your Bible. Each episode of Cobra Kai is about 30 minutes, 10 episodes a season 3 released seasons that’s 15 hours of TV you’ve invested – but we’re too busy.

There is a lot going on in this passage, it’s about giving and it’s not about giving. Its the final indictment against a corrupt systems that was supposed to bring God honor, I think some times we get off too easy, wagging our finger and saying eh eh eh scribes/Pharisees, you missed it again, and sometimes we don’t see that we’re missing it, Church lets not drift.

I encourage you to look for drift this week, spend time in these two passages as you think on Jesus’ posturing on the stairs and watching the giving, then centering in on this impoverished widow.

Psalm 73:25–26 (ESV)
25  Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26  My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Proverbs 27:19
19  As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects the man.

“she belongs to us, we’ll take care of her, don’t take her blessing.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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