Whose Abundance?

Mark 12:38-44

Rev. Christopher Harbin

08 November 2015

We have long conflated the gospel with other issues that have little or nothing to do with the gospel. Sometimes those issues are actually in direct opposition to the principles of the good news Jesus preached. We are too immersed in those issues, however, until it becomes very difficult for us to distance ourselves from our cultural, social, and political perspective to actually see what Jesus taught and how it should apply to our lives. We claim to follow Jesus, but all too often the claim is more lip-service than a considered reality. Deep down, we are much more concerned with retaining the structures that lend us a sense of security than following what Jesus actually taught. Consider our economic presumptions. Whose are the possessions in our control, anyway?

Today's passage is part of a larger context of Jesus' teaching. We might look at the twelfth chapter of Mark and simply say that Jesus was addressing the questions posed by different religious segments of Jewish society. We would be right, of course to do so. At the same time, if that is all we did we would miss the larger picture of Jesus' teaching while answering the questions posed to him.

The chapter begins with Jesus' parable of the wicked tenants who refuse to give the owner of the vineyard the appropriate portion of the production from the land. The religious leaders understood Jesus was referring to them. They began trying to trap Jesus with a series of trick questions. The first dealt with taxes, and Jesus reminded them of responsibilities that went far beyond their greed for personal gain. The second question was equivalent to the medieval debates over “how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.” Jesus called them to focus on placing our lives in eternal dependence and service to God. They asked about the greatest commandment, and Jesus responded in regard to love for God and others. He then placed Messiah as greater than David and shifted the topic to more important issues than those of the religious elite.

It is from this background that Mark shifts Jesus' words to this condemnation of the scribes for abusing their position and status with economic oppression of the needy. He called down the scribes for enjoying their status and economic privilege in society. They enjoyed the adulation of the people, yet they failed to take notice or care that their economic advantage had come at the expense of the poor and underprivileged. They were making a show of their spirituality and knowledge of the Scriptures, but their actions denied any appropriate application of those same Scriptures....

...for the full text of this sermon, see Whose Abundance?, at SermonSearch.com

—©2015 Chri­stopher B. Harbin

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