MARK 12:32



Jesus had just stated to an inquisitive scribe what are the two greatest commandments: to love God with all the heart and to love one’s neighbor as thyself. The response of the scribe to what Jesus said is given in Mark 12:32-33 that says, “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 neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”


The two greatest commandments and the commandments that result in the keeping of all others are made of the verb to love. The greatest commandment of all is the commandment to love God, and the second is like unto it: to love thy neighbor as thyself. This scribe understood exactly what Jesus was saying. The scribe said that such love “is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” The burnt offerings and the sacrifices were central to the religious ceremonies that took place in the temple. This is a statement of the fact that religious ritual, organization, and ceremony are nothing compared to the true worship of God, which is entirely spiritual in nature.


That is why the reply of Jesus to the scribe in Mark 12:34 was made. It says, “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 dared ask him any question.” If you want to get to the kingdom of God, you will never get there through religious ritual or ceremony. You must come into contact with God’s love through the spiritual experience known as being born again. Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God has made it easy for you to love Him, if you just think about all that He has done for you. If someone introduced you and said, “I would like to introduce my friend, someone who loves the Lord,” would that be a true statement about you? If not, then you are failing at the most important of all the commandments.


Here in Mark chapter 12 near the end of Jesus’ life He had defeated all of His enemies simply with the power of His words. That’s why it says at the end of Mark 12:34, “And no man after that dared ask him any question.” But Jesus was not finished asking questions. He asked questions in order to get people to think. Your education is not complete until you have learned to think for yourself.


Jesus asked the Jewish people a question about the Messiah in order to try and help them to think about the true nature of the Messiah. This is a vitally important question. Who is Jesus Christ of Nazareth? There are millions and millions of people who do not hold to the correct answer about who is Jesus Christ and because of it their eternal destiny is in serious jeopardy. The Bible says in Mark 12:35-37, “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.” 


Of course, the Jews knew that the Messiah was the son of David: that is, a descendent of David. The Messiah would one day occupy the throne of David, and to do so legally, he had to be a descendent of David. Everyone knew that. But to be a descendent of David means that he came after David. David wrote many of the Psalms, and some of them were messianic, they were prophecies about the Messiah. One of those prophecies is found in Psalm 110 and it says, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” The Lord is God, and the Lord is the Messiah. The way to understand this is to understand Jesus. Jesus Christ existed before His birth in Bethlehem because He is the eternally existent Son of God. God the Father said to God the Son, “Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”


This is one of many places in the gospels where Jesus shows His divine nature as the Son of God. In the same verse Jesus also states very clearly the origin of the scripture. Concerning the writings of David in the Psalms of the Old Testament, Jesus said in Mark 12:36, “For David himself said by the Holy Ghost…” Jesus was stating very directly that when David was writing the Psalms, more was going on than just David writing the Psalms. The Holy Spirit had moved David to write exactly what God wanted him to write. That’s true of all the scriptures. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Second Peter 1:21 says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.


Several of the great doctrines of the Bible are mentioned in these few verses. Jesus spoke about His own divine nature as the Messiah and the Son of God. He spoke about the divine origin of the scriptures. That’s what makes the Bible different than any other book. He also mentioned the trinity. “David said by the Holy Ghost.” That’s the Holy Spirit. “The Lord said unto my Lord.” That’s the Father and the Son: Father, Son, Holy Spirit; the trinity.


In this chapter of the Bible Jesus had some things to say about true religion. He gave the two greatest commandments. He also gave His own true divine nature as the Messiah. In the next few verses Jesus will say something about false religion. The Bible says in Mark 12:38-40, “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 pretense make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.” 


What was the problem with the scribes and the other religious leaders? Their problem is with what they loved, and what they did not love. Listen to what Jesus said that these religious leaders loved. Jesus said that they loved four things. They 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.” The implication is that they did not love God and they did not love their fellowman. They loved themselves, and their reason for being involved in organized religion was for what they could get out of it to massage their own egos and to make themselves look important. Instead of loving God and man, they loved the power, the prominence, and the prestige that they craved from being visible leaders in a religious organization.   


Jesus told us what they loved, and He also told us what they did. Two of the activities of these religious leaders were given to us by Jesus. Jesus said that they devour widow’s houses and for a pretense make long prayers. By saying that they “devour widow’s houses,” Jesus is saying that they take advantage of widows from a material standpoint. Somehow these religious leaders find a way of taking control of the financial assets of those among us who are more helpless or defenseless. When religious leaders such as these scribes see a widow, dollar signs light up in their eyes. Of course, a person with the right kind of motivation would see a person in need, and they would want to know what they could do to help. James wrote in James 1:27, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction… 


Religious leaders such as these scribes do not have pure religion. Another evidence of that fact is that Jesus said that they “for a pretence make long prayers.” The purpose of prayer is to talk to God. Sometimes prayer in public is appropriate such as thanking God for the food that we eat before a meal. But prayer is never appropriate when it is done just to be seen of men. Religious leaders such as these scribes do not have a relationship with God, so they cannot really pray to God anyway. Their entire reason for praying is to be seen of men. They are trying to bring attention to themselves and to bring honor on themselves by means of long, phony, public prayers. Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount concerning prayer. He said in Matthew 6:5-6, “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward thee openly.” 


Jesus made it clear what these scribes and religious leaders loved and did, and Jesus also made it clear what would be the consequences that such people would ultimately face. Jesus said in Mark 12:40, “These shall receive greater damnation.” The judgment is coming. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” At the judgment, for those who are condemned, who shall receive the greater condemnation? Will it be adulterers, liars, thieves, or murderers? No, according to Jesus, it will be religious leaders like these scribes. Their evil is so great because of the responsibility and opportunity that has been given to them. They are supposed to be doing things that bring people to God and to the truth. But because they love themselves, and because they do not know or serve God; they make their hearers two-fold more the children of hell than themselves. Theirs is a pernicious evil that goes beyond the grave because their sins influence others to miss paradise. They are the blind leading the blind. Just as these scribes opposed Jesus, similar evil religious leaders today oppose those who are involved in spreading the gospel. It’s no wonder that Jesus spoke of religious leaders and said of that future day when He will sit in judgment on them, “These shall receive greater damnation.”


In order to clear up another misconception and abuse in organized religion we are told the story of the widow’s mite in Mark 12:41-44. It says, “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 said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow has 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.” In the history of organized religion, the giving of money by the average person to support that religion has always been an important thing. It is especially important to the religious leaders, because from a practical standpoint it is their only source of income: the free-will offerings of those who wish to see the religion prosper.


Buildings cannot be built, salaries cannot be paid, books and literature cannot be printed or distributed unless someone gives something. Because of the importance that some people place on money for the practical side of things, those who give a lot of money are sometimes given a great deal of honor and even power in the religious organization simply because of the money that they give. Measured by dollars and cents, the rich can give more than the poor; and so they should. The measure of your responsibility is the measure of your opportunity. Concerning rich believers and what they should do with their money, the Bible says in First Timothy 6:17, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”    


By pointing out this widow woman and what she did in the giving of her money, Jesus makes it very clear that as far as God is concerned it’s not the amount that you give, but the percentage. If you want to honor someone for what they give, then do it based upon the percentage not the amount. In our day and age there are those who claim that ten percent is the amount that should be given: the tithe. The truth is that some people may only be able to give one percent or five percent because of some difficult financial situation that they are in. Others can easily give twenty or thirty percent and still live a good life. The principle for New Testament giving is found in Second Corinthians 9:7 that says, “Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” Whatever you purpose to give, remember that one day you will give an account for what you did with your material resources. And do not think that you deserve to be honored for what you have given without thinking of this widow who gave ten times ten percent.       




Copyright; 2003 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved