GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 44
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2011|
|The aim of this message is simple: to show you the danger of following a person, a ministry, or a religious system that takes advantage of the weak and the vulnerable.|
The title of the message this morning is Zero Tolerance. This morning, my aim is simple. I want to show you the danger of following a person, a ministry, or a religious system that takes advantage of the weak and the vulnerable. Now, in order for us to arrive at this—let me say that again—I’m going to show you and point out to you that whenever we follow a system that takes advantage of the weak and disadvantaged in a person, in a system, in a religious organization, we need to be aware of that and we need to steer clear of that, okay?
Now, you and I are going to have to go into some investigative work this morning. In fact, the only way you and I will arrive at this point is if we come to the text afresh. You’ve heard sermons preached on this text. You may have even read this text hundreds of times. I’m going to ask you this morning with the same precision of an investigative detective to come to this text and see the truth embedded beneath it.
If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 12:38: “And in his teaching [that’s Jesus] he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses [Underline that. That’s the key phrase.], and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’”
Let me give you the two overarching themes. You have them in your notes. Write the first one down: False teachers are identified by their prideful appearances before others. False teachers are identified by their prideful appearances before others. Right off in the text, the first thing we see is that they desire attention. They long for people to see them. Look at what Jesus says. Beware. Circle that if you circle in your Bibles. That word means, in the language of the New Testament, to be cautious, understand the danger of what’s happening here.
See the scribes were, for the most part, Pharisees. They were the gatekeepers of the law. In fact, if you had a problem, a legal issue in the first century and you needed counsel, who did you go to? You went to the scribes. They were the lawyers of the day. They were the legal consultants. And you can imagine the respect that these men had in the first century.
But Jesus said—don’t miss this—These so called holy men are not who they seem to be. These men who are acting godly are not who they really portray to be. How do we know that? Jesus says by their appearance. They wear these long robes. Look at the text. They walk around in these long robes. Now, every Jew was supposed to attach tassels to the bottom of his robe and that was for two reasons. The first was to obey the commands of God, to remind them to obey the commands of God; and then, secondly, it was required of them to set themselves apart as a Jew, according to Numbers 15.
Now Jesus would have had a robe and He would have had tassels. So Robby, what’s the point? What’s the problem? Over the years of times, the Pharisees or the scribes had these long robes with these long tassels. I want you to imagine for a moment how long these tassels could have been, as big as they are or as long as they are so that everyone knows when they walk through town, these guys are special, right? Matthew 23:5, Jesus said they do all these deeds to be seen by others for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.
So the first thing is we see by their appearance they wear long robes. Secondly, they crave formal greetings. They crave formal greetings. They want a fancy title. They want people to respect them. They want people to know that they’re not like the ordinary, average citizen of the day. Oh, here comes Rabbi So-and-So. Here comes the Teacher So-and-So. Watch out. You know, if we’re not careful today, we can fall into the same trap, right? It’s the idea to want to be called the Honorable One, the Great One, the Most Revered One. There are pastors today in this world who will strut sitting down, right? We know them. And if we’re not careful, we can fall into the same trap. Oh here’s Dr. So-and-So. Here’s the Reverend So-and-So. Or here’s Bishop. Friends, if we’re not careful, we can fall into this trap.
Now, what’s interesting about Jesus is that by Jesus uncovering these people’s desire for attention, it is showing us that God doesn’t recognize them. Did you catch that? By Jesus saying these guys are seeking attention from the world, it is showing us that God doesn’t recognize or respect them. Why? Because God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. It’s him who draws near to God in humility, having a clean hand and a pure heart unto the Lord. It’s one thing to be respected by men. It’s another thing to have the respect of God and these men were far from God.
They wear long robes. Write down, secondly, they crave formal greetings. The third thing is they seek attention. Verse 40: “for a pretense make long prayers.” They used to pray on the street corner praying these long, elaborate prayers. Go to Matthew 6:1. Let me show you an instance of this. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before [men] …to be seen by them, [because if you do] you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. [Verse 5.] And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. [That word there is the idea of wearing a mask.] For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
Okay, Robby, we understand. These guys desire attention. But it gets worse. Secondly, they desire entitlement. These guys had an entitlement attitude. They expected to have the best of the best and the first thing we see in the text is the best seats. Now, when you would go into a synagogue in the first century, there were seats in front of the platform and they were there for honored guests. It would allow you to sit and then get up to read the scriptures of the day or to give the speech for the day. And it was two-fold; one, it allowed you to sit in the front; but secondly, more importantly for the scribes and Pharisees, everyone in the church had to look at you. But Jesus warned against this arrogance, right?
Go to Luke 14. Let me show you what Jesus says about this kind of entitlement attitude for His followers. Verse 7: “Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, “Give your place to this person,” and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher.” Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
They desire attention. They desire entitlement. Notice thirdly, they devastate the helpless. They devastate the helpless. Now, this is the key to the passage which we’re about to go into. Notice the line there: They devour widows houses. They fatten themselves by taking advantage of lonely women. Now, that word devour is an interesting word. It’s used in two different contexts. The first one is Luke 8:5. It’s in the parable—write it down—of the sower and the seed. It’s the parable of how the sower plants the seed. And in verse 5 it says that the birds come and—get this—devour the seed. What they do is they eat it up. They consume it. And the word picture Jesus is bringing out is this: the scribes destructively consume the widows.
The same word is used in Luke 15:30 in the story of the prodigal son. Remember the father giving the son his inheritance and then the text says he devoured it. It means he consumed the estate. Whoever’s on the receiving end of this kind of devouring is going to be completely destroyed. This is utter bankruptcy, leaving the person penniless. This is what the scribes are doing.
Now, the natural question for us is, how did this happen? I mean, follow me here. How did the religious leaders in turn take from the people who were helpless and not give to the people who were helpless? There are a number of scenarios. The first is this. They found in the first century that the scribes would go to these widows who were lonely and isolated, by themselves, and offer legal counsel with a high fee. And they would say you can pay me these exorbitant fees. Better yet, how about you let me have access to your bank account, and what they would do is draw money at will. If that’s not despicable, it gets worse. They would stay or move into the widows’ houses, at times unwanted on some occasion, and live there and make these strict demands upon the widow. Even though they weren’t supposed to on some cases, the scribes actually told them to give them money. You need to personally support me.
I found one instance where actually a scribe went into the house of a widow, charged her money for legal advice but she couldn’t pay. So he convinced her to give her estate and her home over to him so that when she died—get this—her children didn’t receive the property and estate. Guess who received it. The scribe did. Despicable. It’s deplorable. I mean, I could understand this from someone who is outside of the nation of Israel. I could understand this from a despicable religious outcast. But I cannot understand this from the leadership of Israel. Can you? Is anybody bothered by this? I mean, is anybody moved by this to say this shouldn’t happen? Are you distraught with this? Jesus was too.
In fact, Jesus says they’ll not get away with it because they will receive greater judgment. Write the last one down. They receive judgment. Jesus has seen enough. Now, up to this point, if you remember, leading up to this point Jesus enters Jerusalem and every religious leader attacks Him: the high priests and the Pharisees, the elders, the Herodians, the Sadducees, the scribes. All of them are against Him.
Jesus now turns the tables on them, asks them a question about who’s the Son of David, and then, now Jesus see this and He says from top to bottom the system is corrupt. The jury has deliberated, the gavel has come down, and the sentence is about to be read. And guess what it is—guilty. Jesus has seen enough. He pronounces upon these religious leaders the greater judgment.
John MacArthur says, They will receive the far greater suffering, far greater damnation because of that false religion and because they reject the true gospel, the true Christ, because they have apostatized from the true religion and come to a self-righteous works-based system. And because they have rejected Jesus and the gospel [get this] hell will be hotter for them than for anyone else. They prey on the weak. They take advantage of the sick and the lonely and the vulnerable. They look good on the outside but, Jesus said, when you peel back the surface of reality, there’s nothing there. That’s what these guys were doing. They were talking about the love of God and the devotion of God and the things of God. They played the part. But Jesus revealed their true identity. Jesus said these guys are imposters.
Now, this is important for us to understand because in order to understand the next section we’re about to get into, you have to understand this. Systematic, expositional preaching is the only way you’ll be able to arrive at where I’m going to land in just a moment.
Let’s go to the next section. Let’s look at it. The first section we see is false teachers are identified by their prideful appearance before others. Notice secondly, false teachers are identified in their predatory action toward others, their predatory action toward others.
Verse 41: “[Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny [lepta in the Greek]. 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. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her [underline it] poverty has put in [underline it] everything she had [underline this], all she had to live on[underline it].”
My friends, this passage is about corruption. This passage is not about giving, it’s about taking. And the reason I believe that the thrust of this passage is not a model for giving is because if you and I were to do anything less than this widow, which was to give it all, we would almost be disobedient to the Lord. Wouldn’t you agree? Another reason I don’t believe this passage—the main thrust of the passage—is about giving is because if it was about giving this way, don’t you think Jesus would have ended it the way He normally does? You guys go and do likewise. You would think that if Jesus wanted the disciples to follow suit, He would have said you guys do this and live but He doesn’t.
See, the statements in the text in the language of the New Testament are all indicative statements. In the English that means they’re factual. Jesus is just telling a story to prove a point. They are never commands. Let me show you what Mark is trying to show the reader here. Jesus just got finished speaking to the crowds. In the book of Mark—get this—these words that Jesus just spoke before this passage are the last words spoken to the crowd by Jesus in the book of Mark. Now, that’s important. Why? Because what are the last words spoken by Jesus to the crowd in the book of Mark? A full blown denunciation of the scribes for their hypocritical entitlement attitude and the destruction of the lives of widows.
This is what Jesus is saying. These guys are only concerned with appearances of being godly. But they’re not. Their lips are close to me but what? Their hearts are far from me. You have to admit the insertion of a story about giving in the midst of Jesus denouncing the scribes is pretty odd, right? I mean, why would Jesus insert this instance into this story at this particular time? It’s pretty critical of the scribes and Pharisees and then He gives this passage about giving.
Now, Jesus was an expository teacher and preacher. Did you guys know that? He was, and I’ll prove it to you. Jesus, through the book of Mark as we’ve seen through this journey, Jesus teaches a truth and then He gives a real world illustration to prove His point. He did it all through Mark. Let me give you only two incidences but I can give you a bunch of them.
Mark 2:1-12, He teaches a truth and then He lives it out. He teaches a truth; He lives it out. There’s a question about Jesus’ ability to forgive sins, something only God can do. And then the very next thing Jesus does in verse 13 is He finds a sinner, forgives his sins and calls him to follow Him. Pretty amazing. He teaches a truth. He gives an example. Go to verse 23, just a section down. Jesus is questioned about performing work on the Sabbath and then what does He do in 3:1? He finds a man with a withered hand and then He heals him on the what? On the Sabbath.
Now, back to Mark 12. Is it a coincidence that Jesus Christ just speaks on the corruption of the scribes and Pharisees and then all of a sudden this woman appears under a system of corruption of the scribes and Pharisees? Is it luck or is it the providence of God to prove a point? That’s what Jesus is saying.
Now, it’s important to understand what’s happening here. In the first century, there was a bunch of taxes to be taken. Jesus is seated, we learn from Mark 12:41, opposite the treasury. The treasury would have been in the court of the women, which was a place everyone could go into. And in the treasury, there were 13—picture it—ram horns, shofars, those big horns they blow. They were turned upside down and people were allowed to put the money into the horn. There were different offerings that could be taken. There was an offering for new dues. There were offerings for old dues. There were offerings for the priests that you could give. There were offerings for the temple. There were offerings to buy gold for the temple. There was even an offering to buy wood to hold the incense in. It was a lot of offerings, if you can imagine.
And the way you did it was this. You would walk up to the priest who would question your offering. He would question you about what you were about to give. The priest would examine the currency for genuineness to make sure it’s real, to make sure it’s right. Then he would question you on the purpose of your gift and out loud in front of all the people he would say, Ma’am, why don’t you go over to that receptacle and put in the offering for the priest.
Imagine the scene: through the hustling and bustling of people coming, many rich coming giving out of their abundance, Jesus notices an inconspicuous woman. She comes and gives a penny. Let me translate that for you. A penny in our time or in Jesus’ day was 1/64 of a denarius, which is the equivalent of 1/64 of a day’s wage. Insignificant, right? Let’s get back to the scene. We don’t know what kind of offering she was giving, but she gave. She was aware of her condition. She’s no ordinary woman. This is not an ordinary woman here. This is a widow. The text says she’s poverty-stricken. She is penniless. She is dead broke and she gave everything she had. If the woman’s appearance did not prove her poverty, her offering did. Can you hear it? Those two pennies just clanging. Those two leptas just clanging as they go down. Not very impressive, right?
Jesus says this woman gave out of everything she had. Now, the woman believes—I’m not taking anything away from her—that she is giving to God out of faith and she is. She is faithfully, sacrificially giving unto the Lord. And many people have preached, if not most, that route, and that route’s good in the sense of the woman is faithfully giving unto God. And it’s good to see that.
Now, just a side note. Kandi and I—and I’m not discouraging you from giving sacrificially—have given sacrificially at times in our life. Sometimes you have given sacrificially in your life, amen? That’s not the thrust of this passage, I don’t think.
I think what Jesus is saying in the thrust of this passage is this. This woman is here to prove a point. She’s a casualty of a corrupt system of greed and exploitation. Did you notice the striking contrast in the text between the corrupt system of the Pharisees and the scribes and the devotion of the woman? The scribes and Pharisees were bent on taking money. The woman was bent on giving money. The scribes and Pharisees were bent on deception. The woman was bent on devotion. Do you see the contrast in the text? This woman is going to give her last two pennies and go home and die. Did you catch that? She gave everything she had. She’s going to give the money, go home and die. Who is she going to call for help? Can she call her husband? No. Can she call the Pharisees? No. Can she call the scribes? Can she call the religious leaders? No.
But this should not be so. See, God in His infinite wisdom in the Old Testament put parameters to help the helpless and to aid the hopeless. This woman should have never given out of her poverty. She should have been taken care of out of her poverty.
Let me take you on an instance in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, and I could take you to 30 different scriptures that will prove that God’s heart is to take care of the wide. Let me give you a couple. Write them down. Exodus 22:22. In Exodus 22, God forbade the mistreatment of widows even so much so to say if you mistreat widows, you could be put to death. Deuteronomy 10:18. He executes justice for the fatherless and justice for the widow. Psalm 68:5, He’s father of the fatherless and protector of the widows is God in His holy habitation. Psalm 146:9, the Lord watches over the sojourner. He upholds the widow. Proverbs 15:25, I love this one. For those who come against the widow—this is what the Word of the Lord says—the Lord tears down the house of the proud but maintains the widows boundaries.
My friends, don’t miss this. Come in real close. This is the final nail in the coffin for the nation of Israel. When the leadership disregards the disadvantaged, there is only left to do one thing. Look at 13:1. Is it interesting—don’t miss this—that Jesus Christ bookends, through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the passage about the giving of the widow between a full denunciation of the scribes and the destruction of the temple? I mean, is it any accident?
Look at 13:1: “[And then] one of his disciples said… ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’” Wow! As they walked out of the temple, Jesus I don’t think I’ve ever seen this place so elaborate before, so magnificent before. This place is beautiful. The temple was covered that day in gold lining. In fact, it was so bright, if you were to walk outside in the day of Jesus when the sun was coming up, it would have blinded you. It was so beautiful. This disciple is caught off guard. He says it’s a magnificent sight.
But once again, guess what he’s doing. He’s looking at the outward appearance and not the inside, another point by Jesus. He’s looking at only the show on the outside and Jesus is saying the foundation is corrupt. My Father’s house, which should have been a house of prayer, has been turned into a den of robbers. Everything in this place from top to bottom has to be destroyed because it is corrupt. The entire system is contaminated. And Jesus, look what He says, “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.’”
Now, I’ve seen houses demolished before, like you, but I’ve never seen a house demolished where they just leave nothing upon nothing else, right? I mean, you can knock a wall out or you can knock the side of a room out. Jesus said not one stone will be left. This place is going to be decimated.
You know, that’s what false religion does to people. It sucks the life out of them, right? The system of taking, it’s never of giving. You see it all the time. It’s the system of putting yokes of bondage on people. It’s a system of stealing and depleting. You don’t have to turn very far on the television to see the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, right, to see the system where they’re always wanting. If you give enough to Jesus through me in the form of a check, you’ll be blessed. The reason you don’t have all that God has for you is because you haven’t enough. But I have given enough. Well you haven’t enough and had enough faith to give.
This movement disguises itself as the health, wealth and prosperity gospel, the name-it/ claim-it group, the blab-it/ grab it-group, the believe and achieve it group. They operate under the faith movement. John MacArthur says about these guys, The Word of Faith teachers have corrupted the heart of New Testament Christianity. They have moved believers’ focus off of sound doctrine and worship and service and sacrifice and ministry unto the Lord and they have shifted it instead to the promise of physical, financial and material blessing.
Some of the articles written by these guys are under the titles of How to Write Your Own Ticket with God, God’s Creative Power Will Work in Your Life, It’s All About You.
And that’s the problem with false religion. It’s all about them. It’s a system of taking and not giving. Woe to the false teachers who take advantage of weak widows. That’s what Jesus would say. Woe to the false teachers who manipulate those who are mentally challenged. Woe to the false teachers who take advantage of widows who are ill. Woe to the false teachers who steal from immature or disadvantaged believers. Woe to you.
So Robby, what’s our walking point? What do we do now? There are two. Write the first one down. There will be condemnation for these men. There’s a special place for them. There’s a greater condemnation. But secondly, more importantly for us, there’s a caution. You and I need to be aware of the false teachers in our lives. They come in many different forms. They disguise themselves in many different religions, many different preachers, many different systems, many different ministries. The passage we studied today is really a contrast in the life and ministry of Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees, the system of old, was a system of doing and taking and burdening people.
But don’t you know, Jesus’ life and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is a system that relieves burdens. It’s a system that lightens the load. It’s a system that is not doing work because the work of Christ is already done on the cross. You and I need to do nothing to earn a blessing from God. What a great challenge for us as believers. Paul told Timothy 30 years after this that this would come. Paul said to Timothy in his last letter, 2 Timothy 4, For a time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching or doctrine. But having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves a number of teachers to suit their own passions. They will turn aside from listening to truth and they will wander into what? Myths, all kinds of teaching.
So, Robby, how do we guard against false teachers? Don’t miss this. You and I need to be men and women of the Word. We need to know the Word so well we can tell a counterfeit. We need to live the Word. We need to love the Word. We need to get the Word into us until the Word gets into us. If you back up in 2 Timothy to chapter 3, Paul warns Timothy but he gives him the challenge. He said evil men and imposters will go on from bad to worse deceiving and being deceived. But Timothy, as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you have learned it from and how from your childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings or the scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. For all scripture is what? Breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so the man or woman of God may be competent, fully equipped for every good work.
Shouldn’t that be us? Men and women of Brainerd Baptist Church, competent, fully equipped for every good work.