Sunday School Lesson 10 - Mark 11:15-19; 12:41-44 - CLEANING HOUSE
LAST WEEK: In Mk. 10:35-45, we heard Jesus respond to James and John after they asked Him for the top positions of authority in what they imagined would be the forthcoming Messianic Kingdom. Instead of giving them the reprimand they deserved, He carefully explained the leadership role of disciples in the Kingdom of God, and we ended the lesson with four principles of Kingdom leadership, as follows: (1) Kingdom power is not ruling over others but placing yourself under others as a self-sacrificial servant; (2) Kingdom power obligates the leaders to serve the people, as opposed to the people serving the leaders; (3) Kingdom greatness is measured by a person's willingness to deny himself or herself for the benefit of others; and (4) Kingdom definitions of greatness and power will always be in conflict with the world's secular human definitions.
THIS WEEK: In today's lesson text, we skip parts of Chapters 11 and 12 and cover Mk. 11:15-19 and 12:41-44, where the gospel writer highlights two episodes that occurred in the Jerusalem Temple courtyards during Jesus' final week before His crucifixion. Both of these incidents focused on the conflict between peoples' attitude toward money and their attitude toward God. In the first story, Jesus entered the Temple courtyard and saw people buying and selling items in the very sacred place which had been intended for prayer and worship of God. In an act of righteous indignation, Jesus overturned the moneychanger's tables and drove them and those dealing with them out of the courtyard. In the second story, Jesus and His disciples were resting in the Temple area near where the worshiper's offerings were being collected when they noticed a poor widow depositing her coins.
Read Mark 11:15-19 - JESUS DRIVE OUT THOSE WHO WERE SELLING AND BUYING
15 Then they *came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying on the temple grounds, and He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple grounds. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written: 'MY HOUSE WILL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS'? But you have made it a DEN OF ROBBERS." 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and they began seeking how to put Him to death; for they were afraid of Him, because all the crowd was astonished at His teaching. 19 And whenever evening came, they would leave the city.
v. 15a: "Then they *came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying on the temple grounds" - By His actions, Jesus was simply exercising His rights as Lord of the Temple, which at the same time was symbolic of an important spiritual truth-that as Lord, Jesus Christ has absolute authority over anything and everything that belongs to His Father. We should notice that He didn't go to the place where the priests served and lodge a complaint, but walked straight in, inspected the place, and took immediate action to cleanse the "filth" that that was defiling His Father's house.
v. 15b: "and He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves" - These tables-set up in the Court of Gentiles to enable worshipers to readily change their currencies into the coins required for payment of the Temple tax and to also sell them pigeons, lambs, oil or other things to be offered as sacrifices-were activities that should not have been allowed anywhere within the Temple precincts. Annas, the High Priest at that time, allowed these things to take place within the Temple to boost its revenues and most likely to line his own pockets. In effect, as Lord, Jesus went in and literally and visibly "overturned" the High Priest's decision to allow these things in the Temple.
v. 16: "and He would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple grounds" - This detail is found only in Mark's account. Apparently the Temple area was being used as a shortcut between the upper part of the city, where the priests and the aristocrats lived, and the Mount of Olives.
17: "And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written: 'MY HOUSE WILL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS'? But you have made it a DEN OF ROBBERS." - Jesus is alluding to Isa. 56:17, which assured godly non-Jews that they would be allowed to worship God in His Temple. By allowing the Court of the Gentiles to be turned into a smelly, boisterous market place, the religious authorities were actively degrading God's provision to the Gentiles. Jesus referred to it as a "DEN OF ROBBERS" that not only took financial advantage of the people but robbed the Temple of its purity, and His intent, though temporary, was to restore it as "A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS."
Observation: We need to take note that as Christians, we don't have a modern equivalent of the Temple, which was specifically designed and built as the sacred and holy dwelling place of God. As NT believers, the "temple"-God's Holy Spirit-resides in each one of us. So, we don't have the same relationship with a physical place of worship like the Jews of antiquity did with their temple. Our modern churches are more like the local synagogues, where Jews met to teach and discuss Scriptures. While we should strive to maintain neat and orderly churches, we realize the church building is not the equivalent of the OT Temple where people went to meet God. We don't have to go to a church or anywhere special to meet with God because we are able to meet Him anywhere at any time through the Holy Spirit that lives inside us.
v. 18: "And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and they began seeking how to put Him to death; for they were afraid of Him, because all the crowd was astonished at His teaching" - As we look at this, we should see the huge contrast between Jesus and the chief priests and the scribes: the religious officials who favor and benefit from the commercial activities in the Temple want to destroy the cleanser rather than be cleansed themselves. And their actions are totally motivated by fear: Fear of Jesus' popularity with the people; fear of losing power-social, financial, and political; and fear of a public uprising, in which case the Romans would intervene. In short, they saw Jesus' actions in the Temple that day as a direct challenge to their authority.
v. 19: "And whenever evening came, they would leave the city" - "They" refers to Jesus and His disciples. During this time period, they are staying in Bethany on the Mount of Olives at night (where Lazarus' house is located) and returning to Jerusalem during the day.
Read Mark 12:41-44 - SHE GAVE ALL SHE OWNED
41 And Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and began watching how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two lepta coins, which amount to a quadrans. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on."
v. 41: "And Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and began watching how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large amounts" - In the Woman's Court along the wall, were thirteen large metal, horn-shaped receptacles made to receive offerings. It was a visible and public place to donate if your main motive was to draw attention to yourself. The receptacles sat in plain view within earshot, and wealthy donors could draw attention to themselves by the noisy clink and clank made by their big coins as they went down the funnel.
v. 42: "And a poor widow came and put in two lepta coins, which amount to a quadrans - A lepta, a tiny copper coin, was the smallest denomination of currency at that time and was worth about ten-percent of a worker's hourly wage (92.5 cents in AR today). In those days, two lepta (a quadrans) was enough buy food for a modest meal. Only Jesus noticed the two barely audible clinks and understood their significance.
v. 43: "Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury;" - Jesus begins with His familiar formula-"Truly I say to you"-to announce an important teaching (so it's a heads up to us, too). Although Jesus isn't necessarily criticizing the large gifts of the rich people, he's emphasizing that this woman's offering is even larger in His measurement of value. His calculation is not based upon how much she gave, but what she has left afterward. The widow's approach was totally different than the rich people. The rich calculate a percentage of their earnings that determines how much they plan to budget for an offering within a given timeframe. We might say that this is simply good stewardship. Amen? The widow, however, didn't calculate percentages or check her budget. The sum total of her cash position consisted of only the two small coins, and without hesitation or consternation, she cast both into the funnel, and she probably felt regret that she didn't have any more to give.
v. 44: "for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on" - The term, "out of their surplus," implies that they could afford to give much more but didn't. The widow, in contrast, gave everything she owned. So, Jesus measured the widow's gift based not on the amount she gave, but the amount she kept back for her own use-nothing. (Note: caring for destitute widows became a central issue in the early church.)
1. Money isn't a substitute for authentic worship of God. The commercial activities allowed in the Temple precincts showed that the religious leaders in Temple were more concerned about the gathering of money than the worship of God. Although the religious officials gave lip-service and piousness to temple worship and rituals, they were more interested in increasing the Temple treasury as a means of benefitting themselves. It was truly a case of "blessings for sale." It's no wonder that Jesus was indignant.
2. The size of our giving to God reflects the size of our faith. The widow's story isn't a follow-this-example point in the sense that Jesus is telling us to bankrupt ourselves in order to give everything we own to the church and/or Christian charity. At the same time, however, we should listen carefully to what He saying about Christian stewardship. It's not satisfactory, for example, to give God only a small fraction of our surplus after paying all the bills. In terms of financial responsibility, Christ expects us to put God at the head of the line rather than the back. A tithe is the clearest Biblical standard for stewardship, a minimum really, and God calls some people to give much more. And unlike the rich coin clinkers noted above, we should give quietly, in a way that doesn't draw recognition to ourselves.
PRAYER: Our Father in heaven, we are thankful to be here to today as a class to study the truth of Your word. We thank you for this church, where we are free to gather together and worship You as the one true God. We thank for all the mothers gathered here and pray that they will fell honored and uplifted on this special day. Lord, Mark's gospel this morning brings up an uncomfortable topic-money and giving. If we're honest, all of us worry about money at times. Help us to remember and understand, Dear God, that everything-all the money in the world-really belongs to you and we're only expected to give back a small part of it. Please help all of us to be good stewards of what You have given us and to be faithful and cheerful in giving Your part of it back to You. Lord, I do pray for the health and well-being of JR, our Pastor, and ask that you will guide the efforts of the doctors who are diagnosing his problem and determining the treatments he needs, and also ask that You will put Your healing hand on Him so that He can return to us very soon. I ask all these things in the name of Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, AMEN.