And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.
I. The questioners here, we are told, were the Pharisees and the Herodians. With the Pharisees we are well acquainted. Of the Herodians we know nothing, except what this incident reveals. Whether they were a religious sect or a political party, we are not informed. Their name only shows that they were favourable to the ascendancy of Herod, and Herod's family. The Pharisees and the Herodians alike must have had a genuine interest in the question which they asked, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not." It was not a mere speculative question; it was a direct, pressing, personal, practical matter. It was a question which a perfectly sincere but somewhat bigoted Pharisee might have asked. But these men were not sincere. The evangelist speaks of their craftiness—their hypocrisy. Our Lord addresses them as hypocrites. Their object was not to solve their own difficulties, but to involve Christ in difficulties.
II. Our Lord's reply is not direct, not "Yes," nor "No." He asks for a penny, a denarius, the common silver coin of the day. What do they see there? The broad brow, the laurel crown, the stern, cruel, impenetrable visage of Tiberius, the reigning emperor, or perhaps the singularly handsome regular features of his predecessor, the now deified Augustus. And this portraiture, this name thus stamped on the coin, is, in some sense, a mark of ownership. It comes from Cæsar's mint and must be restored to Cæsar's exchequer. Our Lord declares, not, indeed, the divine right of Augustus or Tiberius, not the divine right of kings or emperors, nor yet the divine right of democracies, but the divine right of established governments, the divine right of law and order. The argument would have been just as valid, if, instead of Augustus or Tiberius, the head of the Roman republic had been stamped upon that coin.
III. When, having first asked, "Whose image is this?" Our Lord closes with the injunction, "Render to God the things that are God's," is it too much to infer that the connecting link between the symbol and the application was the familiar text at the beginning of Genesis, "In the image of God created He him." In the second creation the same image was restamped upon us. The blessed lines were resharpened as we passed once again through the mint of God. The obverse is still the face of God, while the reverse is the cross of Christ! "Render to God the things that are God's."
Bishop Lightfoot, Penny Pulpit (New Series), No. 971.
References: Mark 12:17.—J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., pp. 392, 402; vol. vii., pp. 24, 36; G. W. Shalders, Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 199. Mark 12:18-27.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 269; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 394. Mark 12:24, Mark 12:25.—W. Gresley, Parochial Sermons, p. 381. Mark 12:24-27.—J. J. Murphy, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 102. Mark 12:26, Mark 12:27.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 116.
Mark 12:27I. Man the worker, who knows all the labour, all the skill of work, thinks much of work. Man the seer, who gathers in all his knowledge by sight, thinks much of sight. Man the speaker, who carries on all his projects by speech, thinks much of speech. And deeds done, and things seen, and powers of speech, so possess the world, so fill up its space, that few ever stop to examine what more there may be, and whether works and sight and speech are indeed the grand realities they claim to be; the all in all, which their size and pretensions make them seem to be. Men deal with themselves in the same way. They take the things done and seen, the words and actions, and call them their lives. And a great man is a man who has made a great noise in the world by the rush of his thoughts, or his words, or his deeds, and his life is written, strange contradiction of terms, his life is written, a catalogue that is of the most important sayings of the man, with the writer's reflections of them; I do not say that more can be done in writing; neither do I say that it is not sometimes good to do this; but to call it a man's life, that is indeed a curious trick of language, a strange untruth.
II. What is a man's life? The life, I mean, which really is himself; the life which, for good or evil, moves in the world; that life of which it is said, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap." Let me draw your attention to all having it. All in God's kingdom have God's life. This was what stirred the heathen world so when the first message of life came. Philosophy, if true, only touched a few learned, favoured men, whilst the whole world lay in emptiness and misery and hunger of soul. They knew what it was to have life offered to all. What then is life in its practical human sense? I answer, practically, life is not doing, but bearing; life is the inward patience which every minute is content to bear what that minute brings to be borne, whether it bring movement or non-movement, work to be done or the waiting without work. The readiness to bear and obey is life. Life lives, is always living, always quietly waiting on its day, gently bearing each little annoyance, and so learning to bear; firmly meeting each little task, and so learning to work; and so at length the hero is made God's hero, the man who bears and does all things gently, easily, lovingly; and men marvel, as time passes, how silently he has taken his place in the hearts of men; and when he is gone, even like his Lord, he becomes known in the parting, in the evening, and hearts burn within them as they think of him.
E. Thring, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 209.
Reference: Mark 12:28-34.—R. Lee, Sermons, p. 156.
Mark 12:29-30The Ideal of Christian Consecration.
I. The character of the love of God. It is not necessary that we should accurately determine the philosophical signification of the words—heart, soul, mind, and strength or might, in the Hebrew of Deuteronomy, or the Greek of Mark. Briefly, Christ is saying that the whole man must be enlisted in our love of God. (1) God claims from us a warm personal affection. Nothing will make up to God for the want of affection. The highest appreciation, the noblest worship, is that of love. (2) God must be loved for His moral excellence. Not only must our conscience approve our affection; it will be ever supplying us with new material for exalted worship. The sense of His righteousness will kindle gratitude into adoration; passionate desire after God will become enthusiasm for God as our moral sensibilities are disciplined to the perception of His holiness. (3) God claims from us, moreover, an intelligent affection. We must know whom we worship and wherefore we worship Him. Truth is a prime element of reverence, and reason and understanding have as their function to guide us in the knowledge of the truth. (4) God claims from us that we love Him with all our strength. The whole force of our character is to be in our affection for Him.
II. The unity of spiritual life in this love. The command of the text is introduced by a solemn proclamation, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." Consider the infinite worthiness of God. He is the source and object of all our powers. There is not a faculty which has not come from Him, which is not purified and exalted by consecration to Him. As all our powers make up one man—reason and conscience, emotion and will uniting in a complete human life—so for spiritual harmony and religious satisfaction there must be full consecration and discipline of all our powers.
III. The grounds and impulses of this love. In reality it was but one reason—God is worthy of it; and the impulse to render it comes directly from our perception of His worthiness and the knowledge that He desires it from us. The claim for love, like all the Divine claims, is grounded in the character of God Himself, and it takes the form of commandment here because the Jews were "under the law."
A. Mackennal, The Life of Christian Consecration, p. 1, (see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 200).
References: Mark 12:29.—R. Lee, Sermons. p. 169. Mark 12:29, Mark 12:30.—R. Molyneux, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 279. Mark 12:29, Mark 12:31.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xix., p. 93; R. Lee, Sermons, p. 197. Mark 12:30.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 162; R. Lee, Sermons, p. 183.
Mark 12:30-31The True Application of Christian Doctrines.
I. Jesus came, first, to teach men of God. Without this knowledge man can never understand himself, either as to his nature, his duties, or his possibilities. Jesus taught men, (1) that God is Spirit, (2) that man is spirit also, (3) that between us and God is the relationship of child to parent, for He revealed unto human kind the Fatherhood of Deity.
II. Jesus gave great instruction touching the destiny of man. The doctrine of immortality had many disciples before He came. But it is none the less true that Jesus brought life and immortality to light. He brought life to light because He put a proper definition on it. And by Himself living rightly, the first man that had ever done it, he showed all men what life was and what it meant. He brought immortality to light in His resurrection from the grave. His descent to, and His ascent from, the place of the dead, demonstrated that the living die not at all; demonstrated that the body is one thing and the life within another; demonstrated that the flesh alone is corruptible, but that the spirit is beyond touch or taint of mortality.
III. There is very little speculation among people touching the teachings of Jesus, and the reason is, because His teachings are too plain to leave anything in doubt; and where there is no doubt there can be no speculation. What Paul meant you can speculate about; for Paul saw things as through a glass, darkly. But what Jesus meant you cannot speculate about, for He saw the truth face to face, and His statements are transparent. All, therefore, that remains for us to do, touching the teachings of Jesus, is to apply them to the government of our lives. The teachings of the Master are, therefore, practical; and they are of actual service to you and me, provided that we have a desire to live rightly; and this living rightly includes both our treatment of ourselves and our treatment of others. If you read the sayings of Jesus, you will find that He had an exalted opinion of man. Other men in His name have spoken meanly of man. Jesus never spoke meanly of him. He always graded men up, never down. He could see in man not only something worth saving, but something that was so valuable that it justified Him in dying to save it. Contemplate Calvary in the light which it throws upon yourself. If you are what it reveals you to be, how nobly you should live.
W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 246.
References: Mark 12:31,—R. Duckworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 193; R. Lee, Sermons, p. 228; J. H. Thom, Laws of Life after the Mind of Christ, 2nd series, p. 300.
Mark 12:32The Divine Echo in the Human Heart.
God's word may be received controversially, speculatively, or lovingly; men may argue about it, or let it argue with them to their conviction and redemption. Take for example the doctrine, Man is a sinner. You may make it a matter of controversy, and by all the poor devices of self-conceit may endeavour to escape its consequences; it may be met with flat denial, or received with many modifications. But take it into the heart, when the heart is in its best mood, ponder it when far from the influence of the world's excitement and flattery, and say whether there be not a voice which responds affirmatively to the tremendous charge. Take again the doctrine, Man needs a Saviour. It is possible to meet such a doctrine in a captious and resentful spirit; it denies the possibility of self-redemption; it dismisses all the fancies which the soul has been treasuring, and shows man his poverty and weakness. But take it also into the heart under circumstances which allow it to be carefully considered, and say whether there be not a voice answering God's appeal, with "Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth." We do not ask for the acceptance of doctrines which ignore or override the instincts and experience of the world; on the contrary, Christianity addresses itself to the intuitions of every man. What are the practical consequences of our having this responsive faculty?
I. Man is made a co-worker with God; not a machine, but a co-operating agent. This gives confidence to personal hope and authority to personal teaching.
II. Man enjoys the restraints of conscience. Upon practical morals man is his own Bible; he carries an unwritten law which warns him from forbidden ground. The conscience is God's witness to our apostasy. The Bible appeals to it, and works with its full consent.
III. God bases His judgment upon the responsive faculty. The judgment day will be short, because every man will be his own witness.
Parker, Pulpit Analyst, vol. v., p. 603.
Mark 12:34It was one of the many instances in which Jesus took a very kind view—and saw, and was not afraid to say that He saw—the good that was in everyone. Many perhaps see it, who do not think it well to say that they see it. You need not be afraid. True praise never does any harm. On the contrary, it softens and humbles.
I. But there is a much higher lesson than this, contained in the kindliness of our Saviour's conduct. If any of you are ever inclined to think of God as a faultfinder—as One who is quick to see what is wrong and who does not see and appreciate what is good in us—read the accounts of Christ's intercourse with those among whom He was thrown; and you will unlearn your false estimate of that kind, loving, hopeful heart.
II. The text shows clearly that there is a kingdom of God in this world, and that it has distinct boundary lines. These boundary lines do not shade off, so that either it should be impossible to say whether you are in it or not in it, or that you can be partly in it and partly not in it. The words evidently convey the contrary: you may be "near" it, or you may be far from it, but either you are in it, or you are out of it. And now the question necessarily forces itself upon us, What was there in this man which made Christ speak of him as "Near to the kingdom" of His grace. (1) This scribe spoke practically and sensibly and without prejudice—as Christ expresses it, "discreetly." And the evangelist gives this as the very reason for our Saviour's judgment about him. (2) It is plain that he saw before his age and generation, the true, relative value of the types and ceremonies of the Jewish Church. He recognised them as entirely inferior to the great principles of truth and love. (3) His mind had travelled so far as to see that the sum and substance of all religion is love, first to God, and then, growing out of it, to man. (4) And perhaps, still more than all, that enlightened Jew had been attracted and drawn near to the person of Christ. Consequently he consulted Him as a teacher, "Which is the first commandment of all?" and when Christ had solved the question, he gave his ready assent, and hailed Him as the great exponent of the mind of God. "Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth"—his intellect following where his faith had led the way, to one centre, and that centre—Christ.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 293.
Mark 12:34Nearness to the Kingdom of God.
I. In what this nearness consists. The current idea is that we are not far from the kingdom of God if we stand in any kind of touch or connection with it. But nearness to the kingdom of God implies more than this; it implies an inward connection, a motion of the heart, a drawing of the soul towards it. When indifference to Christ, the Sovereign of this kingdom, or to God Himself, still rules in any human heart, it were indeed unfitting to speak of nearness. We enter the kingdom of heaven through conversion. We are not far from the kingdom of God when we are awakened by God, but still unconverted. Conversion is in its essential nature a new birth, and to be not far from the kingdom of God is to be on the way to the new birth, but not yet born again.
II. What is the worth of the nearness to the kingdom of God which we have described. It is a great thing to be near the kingdom; but is an unsatisfactory, we might rather say, a dangerous, condition. (1) Of what use is it to stand on the frontiers of God's kingdom? Of what use to see the promised land from afar, and to know that for us it is lost for ever? Of what use was it to Agrippa to have said to Paul: "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian? (2) But not only for the individual, for the kingdom itself, this state of being not far off is less advantageous than we might have supposed. We might fancy that it would greatly further the advancement of that kingdom that there should be many standing, not indeed within, but at the doors. But the result has been that the kingdom of God has been despised. Men have thought that it was leaving the world as it was, that it had brought a shadowy kingdom of heaven upon earth, but never a true one. And they have said: Let us keep to the path on which we travelled before. Open scorners and mockers have not done nearly so much to injure Christianity in the opinion of men as those who stop halfway, and do not let their light shine before men.
III. But even amongst those who are not far from the kingdom there are different classes. A wide distinction may be drawn between those who feel an impulse drawing them to enter the kingdom, and those who are contented where they are. The noblest natures and the most honest minds have often to struggle long, and to wait for the seal of their adoption. Happy are they. At last the door will open to them; and it may be they shall be placed far above those who found the entrance quickly and with little toil.
R. Rothe, Predigten, p. 60.
We are led to form a favourable opinion of the man to whom these words were addressed. He seems to have been thoughtful and reverent, to have been attracted by the teaching and character of Christ, and to have detected the nothingness of all religion not based upon the love of God and man. He. was an earnest, true-hearted man, and his earnestness made him clearsighted. It was a comfort to him to be told that holiness of heart was the one great thing required by God.
I. It was his declaration in Mark 12:33 which drew from our Lord the remarkable judgment, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." To enter the kingdom of God is to become a true Christian; first to understand, and then to obey habitually, the laws by which God endeavours to govern our hearts. A man is qualified to be a member of any earthly kingdom by acknowledging its government and yielding a willing obedience to its laws. And so with the kingdom of God. There is a certain state of mind which fits a man to be a loyal subject of that kingdom. To be Christlike, to acknowledge Christ's person, to love Him, to try to find out what He wishes and do it numbly in dependence on Him—this is to have entered the kingdom of God, and to be an active citizen in support of its government. And the words of our text remind us that there are approaches leading up to this holy city. There is a state of mind in which we are nearly Christians, but not quite. We have not actually entered the kingdom of God, but we are not far from it.
II. Now it is plain that there are vast differences among those who are "not far from the kingdom of God,"—campers, as it were, on the frontiers of Christendom. There are some who deserve praise for having advanced so far; others—doubtless infinitely more—who deserve blame for having pushed no farther. The scribe to whom our Lord spoke belonged plainly to the first of these classes. He had done what so few of us, living in the full blaze of Christian light, are able to do—he had come to see that religion was essentially an inward spiritual thing, a thing of the heart; and that, however correct a man's acts or beliefs might be, he was not a religious man unless with every power of his body, his intellect and his soul he loved God and his fellow-men. Those to whom the words of Christ can be addressed in a tone of approval are, in our day, those who have not had great advantages, but have made the most of these. God has all along been preparing their hearts though they knew it not. When at last His call speaks to them in some vehement tone—perhaps by a terrible sorrow, or an outburst of wickedness in some one for whom they care—we feel sure that they will embrace the call.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 63.
The deepest interest must ever attach to those utterances of Christ in which He has pronounced upon the moral and spiritual state of those who came before Him. He knew what was in man: he knew, that is, the human heart in all its tendencies and capacities; and, besides, he could infallibly read individual hearts with clear decision and perfect equity.
I. That our Lord speaks of His kingdom as a definite reality. It is a distinct sphere or region with a frontier line marking it off from all else. Between the Law which the scribe professed and the Gospel which Christ was offering, there was a sharp, intelligible, boundary, which he must cross if he would pass from the one to the other.
II. But while this is made abundantly clear, while it is certain that Christ has created a sharply-defined barrier between the kingdom of God, and all that lies outside it, it is equally clear that he recognises, welcomes and rewards every approach towards that kingdom. He does not look upon all as equally distant from God until they have obeyed His call, and enrolled themselves as His disciples. Wherever conscience is awake, wherever a man is cherishing the light, is fearful lest by his unfaithfulness he should turn it into darkness, he is assuredly near, and is coming nearer, steadily nearer, to the kingdom of God. There is nothing more touching or more admirable in the ministry of Jesus Christ than His untiring outlook for what is hopeful in human nature.
III. Nevertheless, there was a higher state for this man to reach; he was on the verge of the kingdom; he was still outside it, and why? Because, though he understood the necessity of love, he had not yet learned to love; because, though he knew how he ought to walk and to please God, he did not know himself; he had as yet no sense of his own weakness, no real perception of the evil which taints all men's service, no consciousness of that hopeless insufficiency which can be met only from without and by a Divine Deliverer. And more than this, he had no idea as yet of his own relation to Christ. He knows not what He is, and what He is capable of becoming to him. The critical, redeeming step to which Christ invites us all is impossible until a man awakes to see the gulf which lies between what he is and what he ought to be, and to feel and know that never can he bridge that gulf by any mere effort of his own. When a man comes to realize what sin is; when he sees that if he is to be saved from himself, his weakness must be reinforced by a supernatural strength, and casts himself upon the Deliverer who is mighty to save, then the passage takes place from the natural and earthly to the Divine and heavenly, the boundary line is crossed; he who was nigh is no longer outside, he is within the kingdom, a fellow-citizen with the saints of the kingdom of God.
R. Duckworth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 193.
Obedience to God the Way to Faith in Christ.
In the words of the text we are taught, first, that the Christian's faith and obedience are not the same religion as that of natural conscience, as being some way beyond it; secondly, that this way is "not far," not far in the case of those who try to act up to their conscience; in other words, that obedience to conscience leads to obedience to the Gospel, which, instead of being something different altogether, is but the completion and perfection of that religion which natural conscience teaches.
I. We are plainly taught in Scripture that perfect obedience is the standard of Gospel holiness. A multitude of texts show that the Gospel leaves us just where it found us, as regards the necessity of our obedience to God; that Christ has not obeyed instead of us, but that obedience is quite as imperative as if Christ had never come; nay, is pressed upon us with additional sanctions; the difference being, not that He relaxes the strict rule of keeping His commandments, but that He gives us spiritual aids, which we have not except through Him, to enable us to keep them. And if we look to the history of the first propagation of the Gospel, we find this view confirmed. As far as we can trace the history, we find the early Christian Church was principally composed of those who had long been in the habit of obeying their consciences carefully, and so preparing themselves for Christ's religion, that kingdom of God from which the text says they were not far.
II. Now let us see the consequences which follow from this great Scripture truth. We see the hopelessness of waiting for any sudden change of heart, if we are at present living in sin. "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." This is the exhortation. God acknowledges no man as a believer in His Son who does not anxiously struggle to obey His commandments to the utmost; to none of those who seek without striving, and who consider themselves safe, to none of these does He give "power to become the sons of God." To obey God is to be near Christ, and to disobey is to be far from Him.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. viii., p. 201.
I. Look at some of those things which bring a man near the kingdom of God. (1) It may be said that those are not far from it whose life brings them into connexion with some of its members and privileges. (2) A man is not far from the kingdom of God when he shows a spirit of reverence and candour towards Christ. (3) Another feature which brings a man closer to the Gospel is kindliness and amiability of nature. (4) The last hopeful feature we mention is an interest in the spiritual side of things.
II. Consider what is needed to make a man decidedly belong to the kingdom of God: (1) The first requisite is the new birth. (2) The other is the new life.
J. Ker, Sermons, p. 121.
You may be very near the kingdom, and yet never enter it, and of all cases of spiritual ruin there are none so melancholy, none so sad, as of those who were almost saved, and yet were lost. No doubt there is a sense in which, until we are born again, we are all equally far from the kingdom. The difference between the dead and the living, between the darkness of midnight and the radiance of noon, is one not of degree, but of kind. There is some truth here, but it is truth that requires to be wisely and guardedly stated. There is a hard and extravagant way of stating it that is repugnant to thoughtful and cultured minds, and sometimes brings the Gospel into ridicule. There cannot be a question that, of persons yet unsaved, some are nearer to salvation than others. There are circumstances in life, there are elements of character, there are conditions of mind, which make this man's case more hopeful than that, and his conversion a thing less to be wondered at. Note four features in this young scribe's case, which probably brought to our Lord's lips the words of my text.
I. He was "not far from the kingdom," because he had begun to think seriously on religion. You observe that in his manner and language there is not a trace of frivolity or captious-ness. The spirit of earnest, reverential inquiry is one to be commended and encouraged, and rarely leads a man into the entanglement of error. Because this lawyer was devoutly feeling his way, and seeking further light, our Lord looked him kindly in the face, and said "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."
II. He was not far from the kingdom, because he had already begun to attach greater importance to the spirit than to the letter. "To love the Lord with all one's heart, and to love one's neighbour as oneself, was more," he said, "than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." As a German theologian profoundly observes on this passage, "He who recognises the worth of love is near the kingdom of God; he who has himself felt it is in that kingdom."
III. This young man was pronounced "not far from the kingdom of God," because he was sincerely desirous of acting up to the measure of light which he possessed.
IV. He was declared to be "not far from the kingdom of God," because he was amiable and virtuous. He was strictly moral, circumspect and pure. He was a gentleman, a man of sound principle, and good breeding. His high-toned principle and character were in his favour, and made his salvation more probable than had they been otherwise.
J. Thain Davidson, The City Youth, p. 267.
References: Mark 12:34.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1517; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 77; F. W. Farrar, In the Days of thy Youth, p. 265; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 170; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 139; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 120; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. v., p. 297. Mark 12:35-44.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 274. Mark 12:37.—S. A. Brooke, Christ in Modern Life, p. 31; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 19; A. Mursell, Ibid., vol. xxiii., p. 388; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 36. Mark 12:38-40.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 401.
Mark 12:41-44The Widow's Gift.
I. Look first at the giver; a widow and a poor widow. Sorrow often makes people selfish, but the benevolent donor in the case before us was a widow.
II. Look next at the gift. Two mites. Wealth called the offering small, commerce accounted it small, religious custom reckoned it small; but, in relation to the means of the donor and the heart of the donor, and in the judgment of God, the gift was exceedingly great.
III. The interest attaching to it is greatly increased by the place or scene of the gift. It was bestowed in the temple of God, it was deposited in one of thirteen boxes in the women's court. It is meet and right that we give where we receive. And what a place of blessing is a true house of the Lord; it is Bethel and holy ground; it is beautiful Zion and Bethesda, a house of light and love, of healing and salvation and redemption.
IV. And what, fourthly, was the object of this gift? These two mites were given as a freewill offering to the support of the temple, its institutions and its services, and the offering them, with this intent, constituted this poor widow a contributor to all that the temple yielded, to all it offered to heaven, and to all it gave to the children of men.
V. Note the spirit of the offering. The spirit of the offering was the spirit of true piety and of real godliness. It may be that in her worship she had been saying, "I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength," and that love, increased by worship, carried these two mites from her scrip to her hand, and from her hand to the treasury of the Lord.
VI. Notice the Divine recognition of the gift. Jesus Christ saw the gift, estimated it, approved it, and commended the giver.
VII. There is something to be learned from the fact that Jesus Christ calls attention to this gift. Such lessons as these: (1) That the greatness of a gift depends upon the possessions of the individual. After the gift has been made: (2) that grief need not hinder giving; (3) that we may learn well-doing from each other; (4) to act as under our great Master's eye.
S. Martin, Rain upon the Mown Grass, p. 380.
References: Mark 12:41.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 277. Mark 12:41-44.—H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. i., p. 83; vol. xxviii., p. 140; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 401; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 152; Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 314. Mark 12:42.—Ibid., vol. vii., p. 150.
Mark 12:43-44The Widow's Offering and the Stones of the Temple.
The spirit that led the disciples to admire the stones of the temple, while Christ pointed them to the widow's offering, is a spirit natural to us all; and by considering it in the passage before us we shall reach certain facts which will guide and help us in our daily Christian life. The truths suggested by this contrast are twofold.
I. The true measure of sacrifice. Not the greatness of the outward act, but the perfectness of the inward motive. We judge men's acts by their outward forms, rather than by the spirit which impelled them—we are so apt to regard only the great temple stones. In the light of the judgment day many of the world's notions will be altered. There are unknown heroes and silent martyrs now, whom the world passes by. It is not the great outward act, but the perfect yielding of the soul, which constitutes the sacrifice which God will not despise.
II. The true idea of a temple. The disciples saw God's dwelling-place in the house of stone, with its Holy of Holies and altars of sacrifice; Christ saw it in the broken heart of the widow. This idea characterised all His teachings. It is the inner motive and heart, as He constantly proclaimed, that God regards, and in the spirit that He must be served.
III. From the foregoing arise three practical lessons. (1) A lesson of duty. Every man may be spiritually heroic. Believe that the work you are appointed to do is God's work, and you will always find scope for the heavenly spirit, and for living out the principle which Christ indicated when He pointed to the widow's mite. (2) A lesson of encouragement. Love God in all things—consider no sacrifice too great or too small—do your best in everything as in His sight, and you will find Him everywhere. (3) A lesson of warning. The Jews had come to see God only in the temple at Jerusalem. As a consequence they became formalists—the surrender of their souls was forgotten. And the splendid temple fell. So now and ever. Forget the divinity of all life, and the temple of your soul will become desolate.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 213.
References: Mark 13:1.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 177. Mark 13:1-13.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 279. Mark 13:8.—Ibid., vol. iv., p. 160. Mark 13:24-36.—C. Stanford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 277; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 290.
And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.
And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.
And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled.
And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.
Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.
But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.
And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.
What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.
And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:
This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.
And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.
And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.
And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.
Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,
Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.
And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.
And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.
In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?
For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.
And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David?
For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.
David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.
And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,
And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:
Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.