The Perfect Servant in Mark’s Gospel: His Destiny

We have spent some time considering one day of the Lord’s Passion Week. Most of this day was spent in Arguments with Jewish religious leaders in the Temple precincts (11:27-12:40) and Answers to His disciples on the Mount of Olives (13:1-37). However, Mark and Luke both record an incident which occurred before the Lord left the temple (13:1) and sat upon the Mount of Olives (13:3).

The interaction between the Lord and the religious leadership in Jerusalem had ended with the Lord’s severe rebuke of the scribes. He pointed out that, among other things, they “devour widows’ houses” (12:40).[1] These charlatans used their religious authority to defraud the most vulnerable members of society.

Turning from the religious hypocrisy of the nation (exemplified in their leaders), the Lord focused the disciples’ attention on an individual who showed true personal piety. This was a widow who was not being defrauded but was willingly and sacrificially giving “all that she had, even all her living” to God (12:44).

The Lord Was Watching (12:41-42)

He “sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury” (v41). In the court of the women were thirteen trumpet-shaped boxes for the reception of the offerings made by worshippers. The Lord Jesus sat opposite these and could see all those who put coins into the boxes. He was a silent observer to each offering.

Many who were wealthy threw large amounts of money into the treasury. For such the Lord had no rebuke. However, as He continued to watch, “there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing” (v42). The word used for “poor” refers to someone in abject poverty. It comes from a word meaning to crouch or cringe as a beggar. Thus, this widow was completely destitute, a pauper.

The Lord, watching, saw what all could see: the wealthy gave much, while the widow gave about two percent of a labourer’s daily wage, a very small amount indeed.

The Lord Was Weighing (12:43-44)

At this point the Lord called His disciples to Himself to give them a lesson. He said, “Verily I say unto you … this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury” (v43).

The divine assessment contrasted with what could be seen, for the perfect Servant would not “judge after the sight of his eyes” (Isa 11:3). While the widow had evidently thrown fewer coins into the treasury than the wealthy, she had actually “cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury.” In the Lord’s estimation her gift was worth more than all their gifts combined.

Having revealed His evaluation of her gift (v43), the Lord gave an explanation of how that evaluation was reached. “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” (v44).

The wealthy gave out of their abundance. They were never in need; they had abundant resources and, from those resources, they poured great amounts of money into the treasury. She was in desperate need. What little she had was essential to her survival. But she had come to worship and, in her devotion, she did not give a mere percentage of what she had – she gave it all. In giving two mites to the Lord, she gave what she had to keep body and soul together. Her action expressed both her love for God and her trust in Him. She was certainly a “widow indeed, and desolate” who “trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day” (1Ti 5:5). She had given all.

Mark is the Gospel in which true service is assessed by the spirit of the cross. Service and sacrifice go hand in hand. This unnamed widow wonderfully exhibited the character of the One whose heart would be most clearly revealed at Calvary. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2Co 8:9). To the Lord Jesus, her wholehearted devotion meant much more than the monetary value of her gift. As someone has said, her two copper coins were “entirely of gold in the eyes of the Lord.”

There is, clearly, in the mind of the Lord Jesus, a world of difference between widows being cruelly extorted by religious charlatans (Mar 12:40) and the voluntary, self-sacrificial, devoted offering of this widow who, moved by some deep heartfelt appreciation, gave all that she had to God (v44).

It is always good to remind ourselves that the Lord’s assessment rarely aligns with the world’s thinking. He is far more interested in our motive for giving than the amount we give. Paul would later write that “each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2Co 9:7 ESV). To Him, there is nothing more important than that our sacrifices spring from wholehearted devotion to Him. If He has our heart, we will be eager to place all that we are and have into His hand. He is truly “worthy … to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev 5:12).

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow with ceaseless praise.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store:
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.[2]

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Francis R. Havergal (1836–1879)