What is Truly Amazing

Mark 12:38-44

Warning Against the Teachers of the Law

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 with respect 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. These men will be punished most severely.”

The Widow’s Offering

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 few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, 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.”



Isn’t it amazing how there are some things in life which just seem to amaze us, which cause us to stand in awe of them as we look at them?  Since becoming a parent, and in light of Veterans Day, the reaction of a child or a loved one when they see their solider for the first time in a long time … it is something which is truly amazing, something to be in awe of.

When thinking about other truly amazing, awe struck things, I’m sure that we can all make a long list of different things.  One of the things I can’t help but think about is sitting around a fire pit late at night.  Not only do you have the crackling and popping of the wood burning in the fire, the glowing embers as they dance in the breeze, but you have that majestic masterpiece painted for you in that vast sky above.  When looking up at the heavens, thinking in the back of my mind of how many stars there are and that God has named each and everyone them, and then thinking about how small I am in comparison … the love and dedication which God has for someone like me, for someone like you is truly amazing.

Of course, the beauty of nature is not the only thing which can amaze us.  I remember rollerblading up and down the Lake Shore Drive or driving around downtown Chicago late at night with my sunroof open admiring the beauty of the city skyline and all of the tall buildings.  As many times as my friends and I did one of those things, the view of the city skyline at night for me was never anything short of being truly amazing.

I mention these things because magnificent buildings, events, and moments with nature do have a way of impressing us.  And sometimes, when we are moved to amazement and awe at what we see, it is very easy for us to lose focus on what is truly important.

I feel like this is what is going on in our Gospel reading for this morning.  Let me set the stage for you a little.  Jesus has just entered into Jerusalem for the last time.  In a few days from our reading, Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, wrongfully tried, beaten, and crucified.  So while in Jerusalem, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach his disciples a little something.  Jesus takes his disciples to his home away from home as they go to the temple of God.  Jesus goes to the temple where he teaches the crowds and seeks to give his closest followers some last little bits of insight about what it means to live in a faithful relationship with God.

First Jesus teaches the disciples that they need to beware of the scribes, they need beware of those who like to walk around with long fancy flowy robes.  They need to watch out for those who are always demanding respect and honor wherever it is they go.  They need to beware because even though they say they care about the poor, they really don’t.  They only really care about themselves.  Even Jesus suggests that the Pharisees may try to take advantage of the poor by buying the houses of widows who are desperately in need of money really cheap and then turn around and sell them for a sizeable profit.

After this teaching lesson … Jesus and his disciples go and sit down so they can watch the crowd put their money, their offering into the Temple treasury.  Jesus briefly points out how the rich people put in sizeable amounts.  But this isn’t why Jesus brought the disciples to this place.  Jesus directs the disciple’s attention to the poor widow who quietly slips in.  Jesus directs their attention to her as she slowly approaches, slowly reaches out, and drops two very small copper coins into the box.  Because they were the smallest coins in use, they probably didn’t even make a sound and certainly her offering made no impression on those around her who saw her.  But this act of charity made an impression on Jesus as he says to his disciples, “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44).

These lessons on the surface seems to be pretty clear.  Don’t be so impressed with the prominent and powerful people.  Don’t marvel at the size of their offerings.  Instead, look at this poor widow, look at this the poor lady who had so little to give, and yet Jesus says that she has given for more than anyone else because she has given her all to God.

What applies to the disciples, applies to us as well.  Be careful about the different things which impress and amaze us.  Keep what we think is truly amazing and put them into perspective of living the Christian life.  How do these things we find truly amazing fit with living within a faithful relationship with God?  Are they held up higher than our service to God?  Just like the disciples of Jesus, we too have a hard time grasping the significance of what Jesus is trying to convey here when he compares rich people to the poor widow.  We have in our minds what we think is truly amazing just like the disciples do.  We tend to think that the things we see, the things we touch, the things we admire are more amazing than anything else.  The disciples in the next verse, at the beginning of Mark 13, are thinking this way when Mark tells us that “as {Jesus} was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher!  What massive stones!  What magnificent buildings!’

After the lesson that Jesus just tried to teach on how one’s love and service to God is what is truly amazing, I’m sure that Jesus wanted to just hang his head in shame.  He’s probably wondering, “when are they going to get it?”   Thing is though, no one ever gets what Jesus is doing Mark until Jesus is hanging there on the cross.  And even then, it isn’t the disciples who figure out who Jesus is, it is a Roman guard.  So in all honesty, we should not be surprised that the disciples found the temple and the other building structures in Jerusalem amazing.  From what we know, this temple of God was a magnificent structure and at the time of Jesus it could have easily been considered to be one of the great architectural wonders of the world.  I can picture the disciples who lived and fished in a quiet, back water town of Galilee, being in awe of the temple.  It’s no different than a somewhat rural kid going and seeing the skyline of Chicago.

I can see the disciples being in awe of the ornate robes and dress of the Pharisees and scribes as well as their positions of honor which they held as the leaders of Israel’s faith.  It is probably no different than when some of my youth kids from Nebraska saw Jonathon Scott, the construction brothers from the HGTV show Property Brothers in New Orleans at the last National Youth Gathering.  Three of the four girls ran about five blocks to catch up to him and see if he would take a selfie with them … which he did take with them.

It’s natural for us to be impressed by magnificent structures and to honor those who hold positions of leadership or celebrity fame.  It’s natural for us to look inward and what it is that I am doing.  But Jesus is wanting us to do something different.  He is want us to put things into proper perspective.  He is wanting us to look outward and upward.  He is wanting us to look to him for what is truly amazing … not to those who think they are important, not to those who act like they are important, or not to the things we and others possess.  He is wanting us to look to him

The poor widow Jesus calls our attention to this morning, she gave her all.  She gave her all in her love and devotion to her truly amazing God.  She is a great example of what it is that Jesus would soon do himself.  Jesus gives his all.  Jesus gives his all on a Roman cross for your forgiveness, for your redemption.  We don’t deserve this.  We don’t deserve this in the least.  It should really be you and me up there suffering.  But instead, what is truly amazing is that Jesus gave his all out of his love and devotion for you.  He gave his all for you and me as he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:7-8).  But not only that, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Phil 2:9).

Of all the natural wonders of the world, of all the different things which we find impressive … nothing is truly more amazing than the sacrificial love and devotion of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Nothing is more impressive than the love of God which He has shown to us through the giving up of His one and only Son.  May we humble ourselves like the poor widow, may we, through all the things we say and we do, not do them to bring attention to ourselves, but bring the glory and honor to whom it really belongs.  May all we say and do bring glory and honor to Christ alone, who truly blesses us with more than we can comprehend, who truly blesses us with what is truly amazing … His never-ending peace, presence, and protection.  Amen.

The peace of God, which truly surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.