In part one of Mark 12 we saw last week the beginnings of the answer to why Jesus was quite justified in the judgment of Israel that he pronounced in chapter 11; just like the tenants in the parable of 12:1-11, the religious leaders were rejecting the son, Jesus and plotting to kill him for their own gain (see 11:18 and all their attempts to discredit him with testing questions in 11:27-12:27).

But there's still more to be said in 12:28-44.

First up, we seem to have a scribe who's understood what Israel were meant to be doing: loving God whole-heartedly, giving their all to him. That, of course, is something Jesus has already hinted at in 12:16-17 (c.f. Gen 5:1), and Mark's recording of the repetition of this in both v30 and v33 hammers the point home.

Yet when we read v35-40, this was clearly not something the scribes were doing - quite the opposite in fact. While outwardly looking God, inwardly, rather than loving God and others, they simply loved themselves. This whole issue of the hypocrisy of Israel's outward appearance compared to her inward reality is a big theme of this section - and surely the scribe's answer in v33 that to love God and neighbour 'is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices' puts the finger on this problem. After all, this was the very heart of the comparison Jesus made between the fig tree and the temple in ch11 - both were leafy (outwardly impressive) but fruitless (inwardly corrupt).

The widow in v41-44 shows up what the scribes should have been doing (note in v44 the words 'all' and 'everything' - this is an act of whole-hearted worship). And the fact that she, a widow is doing it renders them excuseless.

After all, these were the scribes - they were supposed to be the experts in the Jewish law! Of all people, they should have known God's standards. They could hardly plead ignorance, 1) because one scribe in v28-34 shows that this isn't complicated or beyond their understanding and 2) because even this poor widow knows what she ought to do.

No excuse - God's expectations were clear, and the scribes ignored them.

Questions for application

  • What reasons make us look at our friends and think that God would not be just to judge them? What more are we learning in terms of general principles about God's justice? (Read Rom 1:18-23)
  • How is this passage a rebuke to the way we view our lives? How does it expose our sin and show us our need for the cross?
  • How should the extent of God's expectations of us change the way we make daily decisions?