Mark 12:41-13:2

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

What have you been impressed with in recent times? In these few verses, we see Jesus and the disciples impressed – but not with the same thing. The disciples were impressed by something impressive but humanly possible. Jesus was impressed by what was humanly impossible. The poor widow was a classic example of someone who would be unnoticed, unimportant and unimpressive in that day, yet as she dropped two coins of the least value they made a spiritual noise so loud that it’s still being heard 2000 years later. Jesus calls his disciples together to bring it to their attention – but it seems like their attention is still focussed on temple architecture…

An impressive building

For political reasons King Herod launched an ambitious temple rebuilding project sometime before Jesus’ birth. The temple that was originally rebuilt approx. 500 years previously has been in a state of disrepair and was fully refurbished before Jesus’ birth, but the project didn’t end there. The rebuilding involved many courts and expanding the temple site to approx. 35 acres! As the site was on a hill an enormous retaining wall had to be built with some stones used that were up to 40 feet long and weighing up to 100 tonnes. The work would have been ongoing throughout Jesus’ lifetime and was probably one of the most impressive buildings in the world at that time. You can understand the disciples interest in such a reconstruction project.

An impressive widow

Yet Jesus sees something more impressive through the widow’s gift. Clearly it wasn’t the actual monetary amount that was impressive but that she put in all she had. The rich contributed out of disposable income – so even if she’d have given one of her coins she’d have given far more than anyone else. Yet she gave everything and held nothing back – whole hearted. Willing heart: If she was whole hearted she must have also given everything willingly and joyfully. You can be willing and not whole hearted but not wholehearted without being willing. Treasure: She genuinely valued the Lord more than money. She was only able to give willingly because she knew that in the Lord she was rich.

Outwardly unimpressive yet inwardly astounding. Her heart was wholeheartedly for God, her heart wanted to please God, she really did value God more than money. He was her treasure and her portion.

Divine reconstruction

The divine work that had happened in the widow is called ‘Regeneration’ – what Jesus called being ‘born-again’ in John 3:1-8. We can describe it as the complete reconstruction of the inner spiritual person according to the design specifications of the great commandment (see Mk 12:30). This life doesn’t come through faith – rather it’s the God adoring life that the Holy Spirit births in us that leads us to put our faith in Jesus. It isn’t ‘sanctification’, that’s the working out and application of regeneration in how we live our lives. It is something that only God can do. This widow was alive. The divine regenerating- renovating-recreating hand of God had been at work in this widow (see Ezekiel 36:26-27), and the Lord Jesus saw it.

Are you impressed?

The temple complex completed by around AD65 was destroyed by AD70, but the record of what this widow did is still being seen 2000 years later and what was inside her is eternal. The temple, though outwardly impressive, was filled with hypocrisy that brought Jesus deep heartache, but this outwardly unimpressive widow was filled with life – and who knows what encouragement that brought Jesus at this stage of his ministry? Therefore be impressed and stirred by what the Lord has done in you. Be impressed and stirred by what the Lord has done in your brothers and sisters. Be impressed and hungry for the Lord to do this in those He hasn’t yet. Be impressed by Jesus!

  • Why do you have to be willing to be wholehearted, and is willingness evidence of regeneration?
  • Is it true that rich people value money more than those who ‘struggle to make ends meet’?
  • What difference does the doctrine of regeneration make to your life, your relationships in the church, and mission?
Martin Walker
August 2021



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