Nepaug Bible Church - - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes -

Part XLIX: Discerning Which Parties Are To Be Avoided And Which Are Edifying
(Mark 12:38-44 with 12:28-37)
  1. Introduction
    1. Down through history, religious leaders have generally been viewed as trustworthy since they hold the office of being conservators of the truth. With that trust, however, comes a dangerous vulnerability where people can be burned if the minister is false or abusive.
    2. There exist tell-tale signs which anyone can use to discern between all destructive and trustworthy people, whether they be religious leaders or not. Jesus detailed them for us in Mark 12:38-44 as follows:
  2. Discerning Which Parties Are Destructive And Which Are Edifying, Mark 12:38-44.
    1. When Jesus answered the Pharisee legal expert in Mark 12:28-34, He faced a very subtle, serious entrapment by seemingly pious religious leaders:
      1. Matthew's Gospel comments on the Pharisees sending the religious law expert to Jesus in Mark 12:28 as a means of entrapment, Mtt. 22:34-35.
      2. We can tell this entrapment was very subtle but dangerous as follows:
        1. The lawyer asked Jesus what was the most important command of all, Mk. 12:28b.
        2. This was designed to get Jesus to address the famous Jewish Shewa of Deut. 6:4 that claims God is "One" to see if He would still claim equal deity with the Father.
        3. If He sanctioned the Shewa, the Pharisees felt they could charge Jesus with error in claiming deity; if He circumvented it, they could charge him with denying the teaching of Deut. 6:4 that God was one.
    2. Jesus both sanctioned the Shewa teaching of Deut. 6:4 in Mark 12:29 and pointed out from Psalm 110:1 that God was more than one in Persons, and that in accord with Pharisee interpretation, Mk. 12:35-37! He was able to side-step the entrapment of this shrewd Pharisee ploy!
    3. However, the common people who heard probably did not understand the issues at stake, Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, p. 165. Accordingly, Jesus gave some teaching on discerning between wicked religious leaders and transparently trustworthy persons in Mark 12:38-40, 41-44:
      1. Jesus critiqued the dangerous Pharisees so the common man could discern them in Mark 12:38-40:
        1. The dangerous leaders loved to be viewed as the teachers or leaders of groups: they loved to go about in long robes worn by the priests, Law teachers and Levites, Ibid., Mk. 12:38a.
        2. The dangerous Pharisees loved formal titles or degrees in our culture: they appreciated being greeted in the marketplaces by these titles, Ibid., Mk. 12:38b.
        3. These dangerous leaders loved positions in their religious establishment: they liked having the most important seats on the stage in the synagogue, Mk. 12:39a.
        4. These dangerous leaders loved peer respect where they were given honored seats at banquets, 39b.
        5. These dangerous religious leaders loved to be thought of as "spiritual" by showy prayers, 12:40b.
        6. Yet, they were abusive, using their powers in court to acquire widows' houses or get them to sign over their possessions to them, Mark 12:40a.
      2. In contrast to these men (Ibid.), Jesus gave the opposite approval to a widow who gave God 2 mites:
        1. Jesus sat opposite the treasury, beholding the people putting in their offerings, Mk. 12:41-42.
        2. Generally, the wealthy liked to transfer their money into the smallest denominations possible so that when they poured out their coins, they would make an impressive noise while entering the coffers.
        3. Yet, a poor widow with the smallest of all copper coins, something that would barely buy a single meal, put in those coins as her last earthly possession, Mk. 12:43.
        4. This widow, with no claim to being a teacher, or having a degree or religious position or peer respect was said by Jesus to have given more than all of the others, Mk. 12:44. Her self-sacrifice and humility made her offering more valu able to God than the other offerings by the rest.
Lesson: We can distinguish harmful from trustworthy parties as follows: (a) harmful parties feed their self-centered lusts at the cost of thinking of others' welfare (b) where the godly serve God from the heart at even personal cost. (c) Thus, if we wonder about a given party's credibility, use this "self-centered and thoughtless" versus "selfless and thoughtful" measure to decide if we should trust a given party!