Preaching Commentary On Mark 12:41-44

Commentary On Mark 12:41-44

I am reminded of an old pastor that once said, “The ways of God are typically non-commonsensical.”  He went on to say, “Take any verse of the Bible and interpret it in a very commonsensical way, then reverse it and you will most likely arrive at the meaning of the text.”   This older pastor was on to something.  The ways of God are typically backwards to our ways of thinking.  Think about the un-commonsensical nature of the following statements:
  • The last shall be first.
  • Publicans and prostitutes entering the kingdom of God ahead of Pharisees.
  • Whoever wants to save his life will lose it
  • Blessed are the spiritually bankrupt
Francis Rossow says, “The Gospel is a rum thing, always warming the cockles of our heart with its introduction of the unexpected and its endorsement of the underdog.”[1]

It is no different with our text for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost.  Jesus in the text simply states that the woman, who gave a fraction of what the rich gave, essentially gave more.  She gave more because she gave out of her poverty; she gave everything that she had, all that she had to live on.

Focusing on the woman in this text we can derive a wonderful Law and Gospel handle.

First, let’s examine our Law handle.  Looking at the woman and her sacrificial giving brings each and every one of us to shame.  She wasn’t giving spare change, but was giving money that was most likely used for her basic food needs.  It seems that she gave it all freely from her position of poverty.  She gave as an act of worship; it was an act of absolute trust/faith.  Obviously, as we look to the actions of the woman, we are all confronted by our lack of faith and our lack of trust.  How many of our congregations freely give to God, out of limited resources, trusting and knowing that God holds them?  How many times in our personal giving do we give holding a little back for ourselves?  Thus, the woman as an example should crush you, me and our congregations.  The woman as an example should drive us to repentance and confession.

Now, the Gospel handle in our text is not, “You better be grateful and give more.”  That is simply Law.  Keep in mind that we can’t coerce the old Adam or reform this old Sinful nature.  Rather, the Law needs to expose our hearer’s sin and then each and every one of us needs to look at the woman again.  As we contemplate this story a second time we can see that this is Jesus’ last visit to the temple.  From this story forward the narrative of Mark takes us to the climatic cross of Jesus.  At the cross, we see the similarity between the woman who literally gave ‘everything’ and Christ who gave His ‘life.’  Rossow states, “…we see in the widow’s sacrifice a microcosm of the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice.  Both gave their all.  The widow gave her living.  The Lord Jesus gave His life.”[2]  Just think about it!  We consistently fail in our sacrificial giving.  We fail in thought, word and deed.  However, our Savior Jesus Christ was not stingy at the cross.  He paid the price that we don’t want to pay and certainly cannot make.  In His payment on the cross, we hear that it is all finished.  In Christ’s payment we see that He ‘gave’ up His spirit.  No one took it from Him, rather He gave it up on His own accord.  He did this for you, me and our congregations.  He did this to forgive us of our sins.  He did this to forgive us for our lack of faith and our stinginess.  He did this to bury us in His wounds and resurrect us in Him.

Praise God that there is one greater than the poor woman, and that is the all-giving Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus gave and didn’t hold back.  This gift excites us and drives us to gratitude.  Furthermore, without even knowing it we may find ourselves giving, not from our limited resources, but out of and from the grace that we have been given.


[1] Francis Rossow, Gospel Handles: Finding New Connections in Biblical Texts (Concordia Publishing House, 2011), 154.
[2] Ibid.


terriergal said…
I thought Macarthur had a great commentary in his exposition of this passage as well -- that it is a continuation of his scathing rebuke earlier where he was going after the false teachers for devouring widow's households. He wasn't particularly praising her, but judging them more severely than her, judging that whole legalistic system for putting people into bondage.