Chapter 39

Sincerity, deity, hypocrisy, and generosity
Mark 12:28-44 (ESV)

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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?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And 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 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 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, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 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. 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. 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.” 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. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 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. 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.”

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Mark 12:28-34
The greatest-and the second greatest-commandments

Not all religious leaders are selfish and hypocritical in opposing God’s truth. Like a breath of fresh air, we meet a scribe who is impressed by Jesus’ answers to his colleagues. He asks Jesus, Which commandment is the most important of all? Jesus replies from Deuteronomy, something known by every serious Jew: Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.[1] This summarises the first four of the Ten Commandments, concerning our duty towards God.[2] Jesus volunteers the second commandment is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. That summarises the last six of the Ten Commandments, showing how to treat others.[3]

The scribe applauds Christ’s answer. He considers that loving God and others from the heart and with understanding dwarfs outward ceremonies, of offering sacrifices. He is not yet converted to Christ, but Jesus tells him, You are not far from the kingdom of God. Previously he probably wrongly considered himself in God’s kingdom. Anyone aware that he must honour God completely, and treat others kindly and rightly, will recognise his own unworthiness and guilt. If that causes him to come to Christ, who shed His blood on the cross to pay the penalty for all repentant sinners, Jesus will enter, indwell and start to remake him through God’s Holy Spirit,.

This man is not far[4] from the kingdom of God. But he is not there yet! He still needs to repent and trust Christ to get there. Are you far away, near, or there?

Mark 12:35-37
Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is Lord

Jesus teaches in the temple. Using David’s Psalm 110: 1, He asks, How can the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? (that is, Messiah). David calls Him Lord. How can David’s son also be David’s eternal Lord? Jesus’ question underlines that He, the Messiah, is both God and man. One hymn calls Him ‘great David’s greater Son.’

The Deity of Christ is clearly taught in the Bible, but not always easy to grasp. Yet the great throng of ordinary people heard Him gladly. When the Holy Spirit works, Joe Public can receive and accept deep Bible truths, if faithfully held and simply explained.

Mark 12:38-44
Hypocrisy and generosity

Jesus criticises the scribes’ hypocritical, self-seeking, showy falsehood. Whilst exploiting poor widows financially, they enjoy acclaim, greetings, and honour in high places at feasts. They will receive greater condemnation for that. They are religious, but lost.[5] All sinners need Christ—especially religious sinners.

Jesus watches people giving into the temple treasury. Many richer donors donate large amounts, some ostentatiously. A poor widow gives her two small copper coins—all that she has. Jesus tells His disciples that her sacrificial gift is out of her poverty. It is greater than others’ ‘larger’ gifts. Christ loves sacrificial giving from the heart.

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[1]   .  Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This is known as the ‘Shema’ by Jewish people.
[2]   .  Exodus 20:1-11;  Deuteronomy 5:6-15.
[3]   .  Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:16-21.
[4]   .  My emphasis.
[5]   .  Remember, for example Nicodemus in John 3 was a sincere man and a religious leader, but he was not yet saved before He came to Jesus, who made it quite clear that he needed to be ‘born again’.

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Questions on Chapter 39
Mark 12:28-44 Sincerity, deity, hypocrisy and generosity.

A. How do the two commandments, regarded as the greatest by Jesus, summarise so well the Ten Commandments?   Exodus 20:1-17   Mark 12:29-31   Mark 12:32-34   Romans 14:9

B. What does Jesus’ logic in verses 35-37 teach you about who He really is?   Mark 12:35-37   2 Peter 1:21   John 10:35

C. Why does Jesus regard the poor widow as the most generous person in the temple, and what challenging lesson does it put to Christians about giving to God’s work?  Mark 12:41-43   Mark 12:44    2 Corinthians 8:12