Mark- The Gospel of Action - Meaningless Worship
February 26, 2020, 3:00 PM

Mark: The Gospel of Action

“Meaningless Worship” – Mark 12:41-44

 

Matthew 23:1-39 (NIV)
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.
3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;
6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;
7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'
8 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.
9 And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
10 Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.
11 The greatest among you will be your servant.
12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
14
15 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
16 "Woe to you, blind guides…

23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.
28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness…
33 "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

 

Often Jesus is depicted as meek and mild, but I don’t see that here in His statements regarding the Pharisees and the Religious Leaders. I don’t see that in His actions just prior to this in Chapter 11 clearing the temple. Jesus was harsh with the Pharisees. Many people’s objection of Christianity is that they do not like being around religious people. Jesus would have agreed with them. Jesus did not care for the hypocrisy of people who did religious things, yet lived lives that were empty of their faith.

 

The Pharisees have become synonymous with Hypocrisy, but that is not how they started out. The Pharisees were a sect of religious leaders, reformers, that began during the Persian exile over Israel in the 500’s BC, when the Temple was being rebuilt after its destruction by the Babylonians. They emerged initially in revolt to the religious leaders (Sadducees) of their day who were controlling the people and who were compromising their traditions with the effort of assimilating to the Persian culture. The basic reason they formed was to challenge the religious complacency of the day and move people back to the basics of their faith.

 

What a contrast this is to the descriptions and charges made by Jesus here, just 500 years removed from their humble and just beginnings.

 

It is a lesson to us about depravity. We can have transformational events in our lives, we can experience the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in envisioning a future and His plans for us – but if we are not careful – if we do not watch our lives closely, as Paul admonishes Timothy to do, saying…

 

1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV)
16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

If we are not careful in watching our lives we will lose our way. We will lose our purpose for living, for why we are here. The Pharisees and the Leaders of the day had lost their way, they had lost their purpose, they had missed the point of their calling. In the middle of Chapter 12 Jesus reaffirms this purpose…

 

Mark 12:28-34 (NIV)
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
30 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: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.
33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

This teacher got it. The whole point is boiled down to relationship – Loving God, Loving Each Other and Loving the People of Our World.

 

This is the purpose of life. This is what it means to worship God. Worship is not something that you go to on Sunday, but rather a way of living, a daily life of purpose fixed on relationship – Loving God, Loving Each Other and Loving the People of Our World. It is in these things, through relationship, that we find our true fulfillment in life because it is why we were created and why we are here. Unfortunately most of us in this life have missed this like the Pharisees, we get caught up in the humdrum of life, we get fixated on what this life has to offer, “where moth and rust destroy” rather than on what is important to God. Jesus taught us…

 

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)
19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are those treasures in heaven? Well, when we die we cannot take our bank accounts, our houses, our cars, our clothes and designer bags. The only treasure that we can take with us into the next life, eternity, is our relationships, those we love. We can live for the comforts of the here and now or we can choose to live our lives now for what lies ahead in eternity. Have you ever worried about things?

 

Jesus told us not to worry about these things in life. We don’t have to worry about all those other things, if we are putting God’s mission first. As Jesus told us…

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

So often we miss this purpose altogether in our lives. We become fixated on what is unimportant and miss the real reason we were created.

 

Mark gives us a summarized version of the woe statements that we read earlier about the religious leaders and how they had missed the point.…

 

Mark 12:38-40 (NIV)
38 As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces,
39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.
40 They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating here – God is not interested in us looking like people of Faith, He wants us to live lives of faith. That is every moment of every day where we realize that God is involved in all that we do and that everything we do is spiritual, not just our ritual acts on Sunday.

 

Immediately following this discussion Jesus highlights for us and example of this faith, right before their eyes. No He doesn’t perform a miracle, in fact He doesn’t point to His own faith at all. He points to an old widow someone that they for the most part probably considered inconsequential…

 

Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.
42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.
44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on."

Picture this it is Passover week – so many people were there. I like the Life Application Commentary on this scene…

“Almost unheard in the clash of ideas and the noisy crowd, the ring of the widow’s small coins became an eloquent example of truth. Her act sharply contrasted with the much more obvious giving of others and with the teachers who cheated widows such as she (12:40). But it also represented an alternative to business-as-usual in the Temple. All around her were large examples of meaningless worship, shallow honor given to God, frivolous giving, and downright evil. But this woman’s act of sacrifice spoke volumes about herself and her faith.

12:41 Jesus completed his teaching and sat in the area of the Temple called the Court of Women. The treasury was located there or in an adjoining walkway. In this area were seven collection boxes in which worshipers could deposit their Temple tax and six boxes for freewill offerings. From his vantage point, Jesus watched as the crowds dropped in their money. A lot of money came into the Temple treasury during Passover; the increased crowds meant increased money amounts in the coffers. Surely the large amounts from the rich people clattered loudly into the boxes.

12:42 In contrast, a poor widow came with a freewill offering (that is, she was not paying a required tax, but rather giving a gift). As a widow, she had few resources for making money. If a widow in New Testament times had no sons, no protector, and remained unmarried, she was often destitute. Since there was no social security or public aid for widows, a widow would often be without financial support. This widow’s offering totaled only two pennies. Her small gift was a sacrifice, but she gave it willingly.

12:43-44 Jesus seized the opportunity to teach his disciples an important lesson in giving. In Jesus’ eyes, the poor widow had given more than all the others—even the rich people who had contributed large amounts to the treasury. Though her gift was by far the smallest in monetary value, it was the greatest in sacrifice. The value of a gift is not determined by its amount, but by the spirit in which it is given. The rich had given a tiny part of their surplus, but she had given everything, trusting God to care for her. Jesus wanted the disciples to see this lesson in total surrender of self, commitment to God, and willingness to trust in his provision.

—Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary

Let me read a sentence from that statement once more…The value of a gift is not determined by its amount, but by the spirit in which it is given. Likewise the value of our worship is not determined by the amount, mode or piety in which it is exercised, but by the spirit in which it is lived out.

 

Surrender your life in total commitment to God and His plans for you as your true act of worship. Anything less than that is meaningless.

By Carl Friedel


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