Mark 12:35-40

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at my right hand,

until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Mark 12:35-40

Today we continue with this series of exchanges between Jesus and his opponents, the Sadducees and the scribes. Remembering David, Jesus fires another broadside at the Sadducees who don’t believe in the resurrection and teach that God’s Law has been cast in stone (except when they twist that law to their own advantage.) The crowd loves to see that one. Today Jesus teaches them, and us, a lesson about hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is a problem for all of us. The word itself comes from the Greek theater where the same actor would play several roles, each differentiated by the hand-held masks they would hold up for each role. This is where the phrase being “two-faced” comes from. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another. They play to the crowd. They shamelessly live with a radical disconnection between the values they espouse and the reality of their words, actions, and true beliefs.

The Sadducees and the scribes were easy targets for Jesus’ assertion of the depth of their hypocrisy. Both groups held significant societal power. What they said and did made a difference in the lives of everybody else. But they didn’t wield that power for the common good – they did so only to enrich themselves as they basked in the glow of their positions.

Jesus says, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Notice that Jesus said, “They devour widows’ houses…” If you have any understanding or appreciation for the Bible, then you know full well that there is a preferential place in God’s heart for widows, orphans, strangers, foreigners, the oppressed, the imprisoned, the poor, the sick, and the lost. Jesus has absolutely no interest in helping the rich get richer or the so-called “honored” among us getting more acclaim.

Both the Sadducees and the scribes had powerful positions of impact in the lives of others. Human community requires such roles. It is why football requires referees and baseball requires umpires. We need leaders and we need rules and we need leaders who follow the rules.

What are the rules which God sets in place for all of us to follow? To love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The hypocritical Sadducees and scribes among us – no matter how often they abuse the word by using it – wouldn’t recognize love if you spotted them three of the four letters.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, today we will be mindful, in ourselves and others, of how our words and actions align with the deeper values which you have placed in our hearts. Open our ears and open our hearts to the acid of hypocrisy lest it eat what is best in us and leach into the soil of our common life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

One Response to “Mark 12:35-40”

  1. Laura B Says:

    Thank you for this reminder to love and pray for those we see perpetuating evil in these divisive times. It’s the only way effective change can take place – by being open-hearted while standing firm, and not dragged into the mire of hate.

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