BRIEF INTRO: As we move forward in time, relating to our context, we will witness Jesus communicating His views about the Pharisees. His statements relate not only to their teaching but their actions as well. Jesus did not want His disciples, or anyone else for that matter, to be deceived by a false religiosity that only condemns but can never save anyone. We will see this transpire in three ways; you will notice this in my section outline.
35 And Jesus responded and began saying, as He taught in the temple area, “How is it that the scribes say that the [a]Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself said [b]in the Holy Spirit,
‘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 in what sense is He his son?” And the large crowd [c]enjoyed listening to Him.
FOCUS ONE: Jesus teaching (vv.35-37)
The first words in verse thirty-five are interesting and could be a bit confusing, so let’s look at them quickly. “And Jesus answering began to say. . .” Who is He answering? He already responded to the scribe asking Him which commandment is the greatest (vv. 28-34). Nobody else dared ask Him anything. Interesting, isn’t it? Granted, some translations do not have it this way; some might say, “and Jesus responded” (as seen above, ironically, both the above and what I began this section with come from the NASB only different years). Still, others translate it this way: “and continuing.”
I believe the latter is a better translation of what is going on in the text. Strongs defines the Word for answering as “to answer, reply, or take up the conversation.” In other words, when someone begins to speak and continue a conversation. Jesus, already involved in a conversation in which He spoke last (v. 34), continues the discussion by asking His question! Now that makes more sense as I read it.
Here Jesus challenges the scribes relating to their teaching on the Messiah as the Son of David. Oh, How they esteemed David. He was probably the most esteemed person in all Jewish history next to Moses. So, Jesus asked what these scribes meant “when they said that the Christ, the expected Messiah, is the Son of David, who would be the triumphant deliverer (cr. 10:47).” This “sonship” was a massive part of the Jewish belief system of that day (John 7:41-42). But did they believe that the Messiah was David’s Lord?
Their view, in general, was correct but not complete! Jesus, with great wisdom, leads them to reflect on scripture from Psalm 110. The question “how” reflected in the words “in what sense,” are directed at a more targeted response, how is He His son?
Did this quote from Psalm 110 cast any doubt on their assumptions? It most certainly did. In what he wrote, Jesus showed them that David, their esteemed one, “complicates their understanding of what it means for the Messiah to be the Son of David, since David himself assigned to the Messiah a superior title and psition.”
That the Messiah was the Son of David in a physical sense is true but not complete. That the Messiah, in a divine sense, is also David’s Lord (master, supreme in authority-God) completes the whole picture of precisely who the Messiah is. The Hebrew writing of Psalm 110 most clearly evidences this truth.
In Hebrew, we would read it this way: “The Lord (Yahweh, the proper name of the God of Israel), said to my (David’s) Lord (Adonai-master, owner, sovereign ruler). What is indisputable is the fact that David called the Messiah Lord! So the million dollar question is this: How is David’s son BOTH God (David’s Lord) and man (David’s son; cf. Romans 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:8)?
The response to a seemingly bold yet veiled depiction of who He is is two-fold. First, we read of no reaction by the scribes; nothing is mentioned. Second, we read that the “great crowd” enjoyed or gladly listened to Him (v. 37). That doesn’t mean that they understood it all, but simply that they enjoyed listening to His teaching.
You probably, like myself, love to hear the preaching of the Word. Sometimes we don’t understand it all either. But our response should be much different than those we read about in this section. It is good to enjoy hearing the Word taught, but understanding and applying it are far better responses than enjoyment or apathy. Perhaps, we need to discipline ourselves to be more studious in our bible study.
38 And in His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like personal greetings in the marketplaces, 39 and seats of honor in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive all the more condemnation.
FOCUS TWO: Jesus’ warning (vv.38-40)
By Jesus using the word “beware” in His teaching in the Temple, He wants all those listening to understand that the manner in which the scribes operate on a daily basis is not the pattern they should follow in their walk of faith. He wants them to look more intently at how the scribes model their faith. He wants them to perceive the difference between a true example of godly living from a false one.
Jesus mentions four areas in which their hypocrisy is evident:
- 1. The long robes (speaks of them continually exercising their will from a motive of a desire to be seen).
- 2. Greetings in the marketplace ( They loved attention their “holy facades” fostered but were fakes and frauds, spiritually speaking. They expected to be addressed with titles of dignity).
- 3. The chief seats in the synagogues and at banquets ( It gratified them to receive such deferential recognition at religious services).
- 4. Greed for money ( As one of their functions, scribes serve as consultants in estate planning for widows. Their role allows them to convince lonely and susceptible women that their money and property should be given to the scribe for his holy work or to the Temple for its sacred ministries. In either case, the scribe gains personally).
We must keep in mind that Mark only gives a brief snippet of the teaching of Jesus at the Temple. For a complete account, I direct you to Matthew 23:1-39. Matthew reveals that after Jesus rebukes the scribes, He pronounces eight woes upon them! Matthew helps us understand how bad these people were and why those listening to Jesus’ teaching needed to grow in their discernment.
“The disciples are to continually beware of them because they are ungodly, do not truly know God, have no true spiritual wisdom. As MacArthur says, “They are agents of Satan sent to fight the purposes of God…False religion never restrains the flesh. So these people operate like the worst of the unregenerate, except that it is not apparent on the surface. But false religion cannot subdue their wretched heart, for that can only be subdued by regeneration by means of the truth of the Gospel. So these men are to be avoided because they are always one thing on the outside and something else on the inside. They have nothing to offer spiritually and are destructive…deadly…dangerous. Do not get near them because you will get singed, stained.”
With all that being said, it becomes much clearer how hypocritical the scribes were and why they deserved such condemnation.
But what about today? Are there hypocritical false teachers among us? Absolutely! A good portion of what we see on most “Christian” networks would easily fit this prototype. But why do so many people watch it? Why do many professing Christians digest such teaching every week? I think for the same reason, the people of Jesus’ day blindly followed the instruction and examples of the scribes and Pharisees-lack of discernment.
41 “And Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and began watching how the [a]people were putting [b]money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two [c]lepta coins, which amount to a [d]quadrans. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all [e]the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their [f]surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, [g]all she had to live on.”
FOCUS THREE: Jesus observing (vv. 41-44)
Note the shift in location from the Court of the Gentiles (the large, open area where thousands could hear his teaching) to the smaller Court of the Women, which contained the thirteen Treasury chests or ‘trumpets.’ He was observing the offerings (how they offered their money). The Scribes and Pharisees made a great show strutting around like peacocks to attract men’s attention. Jesus focuses on the contrast of a poor woman presenting her offering.
Next, we take “notice” of what Jesus observed as He “sat down opposite the treasury.” He noticed a contrast between what one poor widow contributed and “all the other contributors” (v. 43). So, what is the difference between putting money in the treasury from your surplus or out of your poverty?
Before I answer that question, I want first to exercise some discernment. We have just observed Jesus criticizing the Scribes and Pharisees, But He does not identify these “givers” or “contributors” as from either group, but only as the rich. While one might postulate that is what these rich were doing, Jesus does not specifically say that in this section.” “Likewise, while we might suppose they were doing their giving for show, Jesus does not say that this was their motive. Yes, He had just finished issuing a series of “Woes” to the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-36, even saying in verse 5 that “they do all their deeds to be noticed by men.” So, we want to be careful moving forward.
As He sits there observing, He notices what people are giving. This text shows a contrast between the rich and the poor. Whereas the “rich” were contributing large sums, the “widow” put in “two small copper coins,” which equaled 1/64th of a denarius (a Roman silver coin worth about 15 cents).
We are quick to notice the obvious-the giving of the rich required no sacrifice; they had an abundance. But for the poor widows giving required great sacrifice. But is that the point to walk away with? Perhaps not:
“Her piety and personal sacrifice are to be applauded, but what is the (cause) of her poverty, and what will be (done) with her gift? Mark has just pictured Jesus condemning religious leaders who reduce widows to poverty” (Mk 12:38–40). Maybe that’s the point to walk away with!
“She literally put in less, but Jesus assesses her gift as more. He does not say it is better, but just that it is more than all the others. He will explain this “quantifying” statement in the next verse.”
“So the reason she gave more is not because of the (quantity) she gave, but the proportion she gave. Notice Jesus neither condemns the rich for not giving like the poor widow. But neither does He laud the poor widow for giving a greater proportion (literally 100%). He is simply stating the contrast between the givers.”
Lesson to be learned:
The poor widow’s (degree of sacrifice) is given great weight, but history is replete with stories of those who have shown great sacrifice for a cause they believed in, and many of them had nothing to do with faith in Christ. “Considering, then, that she is casting money in the Temple treasury, it seems fair to say that she is supportive of the religious system that her money will go to undergird. So sacrifice by itself is no indicator of one’s faith in Jesus.”
To reiterate, we cannot discern the motive of her heart for giving all she had. Jesus did not comment on the (state of the heart) but on the degree or proportion of her giving. And He did not tell the disciples, “Go and do likewise.
What is our motivation for giving?
The Bible Knowledge Commentary
Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament