Red Letter Year: 2/19

Mark 12:28-44

28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

32 The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. 33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

35 Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’ 37 Since David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with great delight. 

38 Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. 39 And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. 40 Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.”

41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. 43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”


The first part of today’s reading gives a rare instance of Jesus and a religious leader having a more positive interaction. This expert in Scripture approved of Jesus teaching and seems to have asked a serious question. Jesus answers directly (also rare) and commends the scribe. Jesus then offers his own scriptural discussion question, one hinting at the promised messiah being greater than David (i.e. God’s own son), but no one took him up on it.

The  rest (vv. 38-44) go together, as the advantages enjoyed by the religious leaders are contrasted against the widow who gives all that she had. Like the Temple clearing incident before, Jesus condemns the entire religious economic structure. The Temple as an institution is hopelessly corrupt and ready to be cursed. But it is this same Temple that the widow brings her mite to. Her faithfulness is not abrogated by their faithlessness. Of course, Mark’s point in sharing all this is not to give us insight into the Temple situation itself, but to share teaching still relevant to followers of Jesus in his own day – and still relevant today. Followers of Jesus are to take the widow for our example, not the religious leaders. Giving, not taking advantage. Sacrificing ourselves, not growing fat on the sacrifices of others. 

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.