|OUR TWO CENTS WORTH
Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Forty
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 17, 2019
Please stand - if you are able - as we come together before God’s word. Would you read with me our passage for this morning - Mark 12 - starting at verse 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. And a poor widow came and put in two small coins, which make a penny.
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. 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.”
Let’s make sure were together on when and where are.
During the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion Jesus enters Jerusalem - on what we call... Palm Sunday - riding on a donkey - people waving palm branches. Familiar scene. Right?
On Monday Jesus heads to the Temple. Which the religious leaders had turned into something resembling Walmart run by the Mafia. And Jesus… cleanses it. Jesus turning over tables - driving out the merchants. And then Jesus goes on to teach and heal people.
On Tuesday - when Jesus returns to the Temple - He’s met by a delegation that’s come together in response to Jesus’ actions.
It’s an impressive group. The Chief Priests. The Scribes. The Elders. Those who served in the Sanhedrin - the ruling body of the nation. These are the heavy weights - the top of the pile of Jewish religious and political leadership.
This delegation comes to Jesus and asks the question: “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” (Mark 11:28)
Which leads to a series of groups that come to ask Jesus questions about Jesus’ authority and education and allegiances and doctrine. Groups that are polarized politically and religiously but they all see Jesus as a threat. So their questions are all designed to take Jesus… down and out.
In responding to all that Jesus - in a “God loves you sort of way” - Jesus schools the religious leadership to the point where no one has the guts to ask Him any more questions.
Sounds familiar. Yes?
Point being - what we need to hold onto in all that is that Jesus is always “on task.” Jesus is always re-framing their questions and turning the discussion back to His ministry and His message. God’s kingdom is at... hand. Have faith in... God. (Mark 1:15)
The truth of Who Jesus is and what it means to have a relationship with God by repenting and trusting in Jesus - what God has done for us in Christ.
All of which came down to what we saw last Sunday - Jesus quoting David - using Psalm 110:1 - to drive home the reality that Jesus is the son of David. Jesus is the Messiah. Meaning that Jesus is THE God in the flesh and blood of our humanity - Who has come to save His people.
And - Jesus making painfully clear - that the spiritual leaders are seriously out of step with God and God’s plan for His people. They’re in it for themselves. They only care about God and God’s people when it benefits them. And God is going to judge them severely for their sin.
Coming to verse 41 is what comes next. What Jesus Observed.
This is a photo of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem. Well, a scale model in the Israel Museum. The Court of Women was located here.
To give you an idea of size. The Court of Women could hold up to 6,000 worshippers. Women were restricted from going any closer to the actual temple but men could go into the court of women.
The Treasury was located here - just to the north side of the Court of Women - in an area where both men and women could go. In the treasury there were 13 trumpet shaped boxes that were used to collect contributions.
After His “discussions” with the groups of spiritual leaders - Jesus ends His public ministry and probably went into this court area and sat down. Probably on a bench. Someplace across from the Treasury where the people’s offerings are being collected. Just close enough to be able to observe what was going on.
Crowds of people are coming by and dropping money into the offering boxes - including a number of rich people.
Josephus - the Jewish historian of the time - Josephus records that when the Pharisees came to make their donation they had a guy with a trumpet who would go before them and blow this trumpet to get people’s attention. Then the Pharisees would ceremoniously come and proudly deposit a bag of gold in the treasury box.
The Pharisee wanted everyone to see his generosity. Because it was crucial for the people - for the Pharisee’s spiritual authority - his place in society - crucial for the Pharisees’ own ego - it was crucial for the people to see how large this offering was - how generous was the giver - how worthy of respect and honor.
While Jesus is sitting and observing these crowds of people giving and performing - a widow comes - alone - without fanfare - quietly - probably unnoticed by the crowd - and she places her offering - all that she has - these two coins - in the collection box.
Those coins - in Greek are called lepton - plural - lepta. Which is what these are. They were the smallest Jewish coins in circulation in Palestine - about 1/2 inch - at the most - in diameter.
Point being - what’s she’s put in here - even to the average person - is almost worthless.
Maybe you do this when you walk around. I’m always looking for change. Even if it’s a penny I’ll pick it up. Change adds up.
People today drop change and they don’t even bother to pick it up - pennies - dimes - sometimes larger coins. Sometimes even paper money. What this widow put in - this is the kind of change that the average person wouldn’t even bother to bend over and pick up.
Jesus sitting there. Watching people putting money in the offering box. Jesus calls His disciples over.
Then Jesus begins to teach. [What Jesus Taught - verses 43,44]
Let’s be careful. In the big picture of where and when - Jesus is teaching about the kingdom of God being at hand - the truth of Who Jesus is and what it means to have a relationship with God by repenting and trusting in Jesus.
So no matter how tempted we might be to think that what Jesus is teaching here is about money, Jesus is not teaching about money but about what it means to have a relationship with God by repenting and trusting in Jesus - what God has done for us in Christ.
So Jesus - in His teaching - Jesus is going to compare two completely different - opposing - value systems. Two completely different understandings of what’s really valuable in life and how that valuing effects our relationship with God. Our trust in God.
One set of values is what we see in the convenient faith of the religious leadership and the rich that values their position and power and the esteem of others more than God what God thinks of them. A valuing that’s demonstrated in the manner and amount of their offerings.
The other set of values is what we see in the widow - her heart level devotion to God - a valuing of God that’s demonstrated in the manner and amount of her offering. A set of heart level values that God values. That Jesus notices and uses and example for the rest of us.
The disciples - and us - we need to understand the heart of this woman who’s given everything. Not for show. Not for recognition. She gives everything because of her devotion to God. She’s totally sold out to God. Dependent on God. Her life is God’s. Nothing is held back. She’s living by faith in God.
Let’s make sure we’re together with Jesus on the widow.
The widow had how many coins? Two. Which means she had choices to make.
Choice number one would have been whether to give at all. But since she decided to give to God she has an additional choice. Choice number two is… how much?
She could have kept one coin for her needs and given the other to God. Nobody would have known. And even if they had known they’d probably wonder why she was giving anything at all.
A person could say, “Well, the coins were worthless anyway. So, she probably just tossed them both in and it really didn’t matter.”
Except that Jesus tells us that those two coins represented all she had to live on. In other words - while most people wouldn’t have bent over to pick them up - those coins had immense personal value - heart level - core of who she is - value to the widow.
So she’s making choices here - between her and God - a willful decision that’s coming from what at the heart level is most valuable to her.
Remember Ananias and Sapphira? The poster couple of epic giving failure.
Sold a piece of property. They had a choice. Give part or all of what they had. Two coins or one or none.
They wanted recognition - to be esteemed - by the church. So they lied about how much they’d sold the property for. Gave the impression that they were bringing the whole amount as a donation but actually were only giving part of the amount.
Reading the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts it’s clear that they were trying to impress the crowd while lying to God. And they ended up getting dead. (Acts 5:1-11)
Do you hear two masters in that? The heart level weighing of what’s really heart level valuable? The value of public esteem verses the value of what God esteems.
The Pharisees - supposed spiritual leaders of God’s people - playing to the crowds - blowing trumpets - rich people at the offering boxes giving - their self worth and position in the community tied to the esteem they receive as they give.
Remember Jesus teaching this… “No servant can serve… two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Luke 16:13)
There’s no way to serve both. One or the other will get the honor and devotion - be valued as a master. The other one gets despised.
Two masters. Each lays a claim to our lives. Each can be served. Each has worth - value. But no one individual can serve both.
Our problem is that we try. We try to serve both masters. To think that we can give value to each.
Let’s be honest. We all want to be the widow. Giving our all to God. But way too often we’re the rich dudes. The Pharisees with guys blowing the trumpets.
We can fall into the trap of playing to the crowd - looking for approval in the esteem of others. Maybe from our kids or people at work or school or even here in the church. What do other people think about what we do? How we live? What our families are like?
We can get hung up on what we’re doing for God - being in a Bible study - in a Life Group - Love God - Love Others - Serve the Church - Serve the World.
And how much time and money and effort we’re putting in to all that and how what we’re doing compares to what others are putting in and whether or not anybody else notices the massive sacrificial effort we’re humbly putting in.
Or we can see value as something tied to our jobs or our financial bottom line - our investments and retirements. Maybe the quality of our lives - or lack of it. Our health or non-health.
Not that any of that isn’t important at some point. But we can be like those rich folks putting money into offering boxes and giving value to all that without first giving ourselves to what God says is valuable.
Ultimately we’re living in slavery to the world system - valuing what the world says is of value - and doing and never being able to do enough - never having enough - never being really secure - never really being at peace - content - free. Even free to serve God freely - from the heart - devoted to God.
Jesus - watching the giving and then teaching about the widow - is contrasting these two masters - two sets of values - and focusing on what we - heart level - really value.
Thinking about our own lives - responding to what Jesus is teaching. At the heart level - at the core of who we are - what drives us to do what we do? To live the way we live in the day-to-day of our lives? What really is of value to us? Who or what are we really trusting with our lives? To Whom or to what are looking to that really worth basing our lives on - having faith in?
Those are really hard questions for us to ask ourselves. But, thinking through why we do what we do in the day-to-day of where and when we do life - it is crucial that we ask those questions. To make sure that we’re not only in sync with what Jesus is teaching. But that our hearts and lives are in sync with God.
Processing all that… What we can take away from what Jesus is teaching for our doing life out there.
Question: Weighing the two value systems. The two masters. The two examples. Thinking through how we do life - at the heart level. In all honesty - how greatly do we value God and what God has done for us in Christ?
Hang on to something.
The prophets tried to describe God to us. When they were given glimpses of what He’s like. Being given visions of His throne room or glimpses of His person. Visions and glimpses of God. From Genesis to Revelation we have descriptions of all of that. All of which falls short of describing the actual reality of Who God is.
God exists. He exists for Himself without dependence or need for anything. And God not only exists at the beginning of time but He exists at the beginning and the end simultaneously and beyond. God is eternal. God has no origin but is the origin of everything.
Which is mind popping to think about. Right?
We know certain things about God because God reveals them to us. God is love and gracious and merciful and holy and just and so on. But even then we don’t really know all of what that means when it comes to actually knowing Who God is.
And beyond what God has revealed about Himself there are other aspects of God’s being that are known only to God. Hidden parts of God that have no immediate meaning for us.
In our study of Who God is - His attributes - His nature and essence - as soon as we think that we comprehend something about God - we’ve placed limits on God by bringing Him down to some manageable - on human terms - kind of understanding of God.
But - ultimately to us - God is incomprehensible.
And yet the message and ministry of Jesus is that - in the person of Jesus Christ - God Himself has come to us. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe. Have faith in God. Trust God for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.
It is important for us to see the value in that - in the day-to-day of our lives as we seek to live by faith - trusting God.
To helps us process what that means - look with me at Isaiah 53 - starting at verse 4: (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed Him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Sorrow is mental - deep down a the core of how we think - anguish as a result of our sin. A brutal empty hopelessness.
Every day we experience physical grief and mental anguish because of our sin. Because of the sin of those around us. Sin weighs on us.
Verse 4 says that Jesus has borne our griefs. He has carried our sorrows. Literally, He’s taken them off of us and put them on Himself. Picked up what weighs us down and carries them with Himself.
In a sense its a picture of Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary. The cross made heavy by our griefs and sorrows. Jesus carrying what burdens us with Him to the place of His death.
In the midst of that - verse 4 goes on - we esteemed Him stricken - smitten by God - and afflicted.
Those who crucified Jesus saw the cross - the suffering - the blood and beatings. They saw that as punishment that God had laid on Jesus. God’s judgment - God’s condemnation. Jesus getting what He justly deserves - from God through the hands of the Romans.
Jesus smitten of God - stricken - afflicted. Because Jesus was not the Messiah. He’s the trouble maker - a rebel - who dared to call Himself God. Jesus the sinner.
Transgressions are when we entertain thoughts and attitudes that are against God’s will. The little lusts and angers and dialogues we replay in our minds - our doubts and fears and self-focused fantasies.
Focusing on what we think of ourselves - or what we think others think of us. Giving all that greater value in our mind than what God declares about us as His children - forgiven - set free.
Iniquities are when we act out in sin. Willful acts of disobedience. What we say and do that’s against God’s will. The perverted behavior of mankind - our own perverted behavior - on display.
Jesus was wounded for our transgressions. The Hebrew is more graphic. Literally He was run through. Think the soldier shoving a spear into Jesus’ body to determine if He really was dead.
Jesus was crushed for our iniquities. “Crushed” has the idea of being crushed to death. My own sin is heavy enough. What would it be like to carry the weight of the world’s sin? Or maybe just the sins of others in this room?
“Upon Him was the chastisement” - upon Jesus was the punishment - which is what the wounding and crushing is all about - punishment that God places on Jesus. God’s purpose of which is to bring us peace.
The Hebrew word for peace is… “Shalom.”
“Shalom” is a wholeness that we can’t find in the world - a nearness to God. Peace with God is an objective reality. Peace with God describes our no longer being subject to God’s wrath because of our sin. Peace means that our relationship with God is right - righteous - restored. We’re no longer separated from God because of our sin.
If you’ve placed your trust in Jesus as your Savior slow down and put your own name there in verse 5 instead of the “us.” Because of Jesus’ wounding and crushing - bearing your punishment - you have peace with God. Hold onto what that means for you.
Then God speaks on through Isaiah: “and with His stripes we are healed.”
Some versions translate “stripes” as “wounds” or “bruised.” Which is accurate. But not graphic enough to capture the meaning in Hebrew.
We need to see the beatings - the scourging with flesh being dug into - torn - blood flowing - the sounds of physical torture - a man in agony. The perverse brutality that leaves the bruising - the wounds - the stripes.
“Healed” - means that we’re broken. The word has the idea of mending - stitching together - repairing. We’re worn and torn by sin. And yet God heals us - mends us - restores us to usefulness.
How? “...with His stripes we are healed.”
How valuable to us are the stripes laid on Jesus? Stripes laid on God to bring healing to us.
“For God so loved the world - us - that He gave - willed for His only Son to be crushed - put to grief - brutalized beyond recognition - striped - so that whoever - no matter how messed up by our sin - how depraved - we are - whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” - so that we are healed in our relationship with God. (John 3:16)
We sing the words: “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.” There’s significant truth in that. We have no clue as to the depth of our depravity and the unfathomable reality of God’s work on our behalf in Jesus.
We would have no clue that God exists if He did not reveal Himself to us. He chooses to know us. Chooses that we should know Him. Chooses that we should have a relationship with Him. Chooses to save us and adopt us and to indwell us and walk with us through life providing for our needs and giving us opportunity to serve and glorify Him. Chooses to make us to be inheritors of His kingdom and to lavish on us every heavenly blessing now and forever.
In the day-to-day of our lives we need to hang on to - cling tenaciously to - marinate in and meditate on - and value as priceless the reality of that.
Serving the value system of the world reduces us to valuing and serving what is so worthless to what God has given us in Christ. Valuing the world’s esteem cheapens the great value God has placed on our lives.
Marinating on Jesus - Who He is and what He’s done for us - brings us back to God who brings His kingdom to us and calls us to repent and trust Him. To what is really valuable in life.
To live like the widow who in her poverty gives everything to God. Because being known by and knowing God is more valuable than anything - two little coins - all that she has - even her own life.
So, processing all that. Bottom line - heading out there - we’ve got to make a heart level choice. The message and ministry of Jesus is that in the person of Jesus Christ - God Himself - God’s kingdom has come to us. In the day-to-day of our lives what value do we give to that truth? Is it enough to repent and believe - to trust God with our lives?
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.