More Signs of the End, 30 May 2021

More Signs of the End
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 13:14-37

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Keep watch, for the end of the world is coming…soon!

Open your eyes! Look around! Be on guard! Be alert! Get ready! Keep watch! Watch!

This morning we continue and conclude Mark chapter thirteen, what is known as the Olivet Discourse, words spoken by Jesus on the Mount of Olives about the future. The chapter begins

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1)

The temple was the most sacred place, essentially the center of the world for the Jews. I can’t imagine something comparable in our culture…maybe the US Capital or, in Toledo, 5/3 Field…just kidding! But the temple was arguably the most important and majestic structure on the planet.   

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)   

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
(Mark 13:3-4)

They ask two questions: when and what will be the sign. He spends verses 5-13 describing what will happen first, including wars, natural disasters, persecution, and the preaching of the gospel—or good news—to all nations. Today we’ll see more details about when this—the destruction of the temple—will occur…though it also appears he is speaking about the end of all things and his return.

Today I’m going to do my best to give you a crash course in biblical prophecy. I can almost guarantee you it will frustrate you, if only because my sermon will last nine hours! Just kidding! But to understand today’s text, some background is necessary.

The prophet Daniel in the Old Testament used a peculiar phrase three times (9:27, 11:31, 12:11) in his short book: “abomination that causes desolation.” It speaks of the Gentiles polluting the Jewish temple with idolatry. It was defiled in 167 BC by Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) with pig’s blood poured on the altar in an offering to Zeus, an event predicted in Daniel 11:31. It led to three and a half years of intense persecution for the Jews.

“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. (Daniel 11:31)

The temple was defiled again in AD 70 by the Romans when they destroyed the city of Jerusalem.

Paul Carter notes, “The catastrophe of AD 69-70 is, in a sense, a foreshadowing of the catastrophe of satan’s little season or the Great Tribulation…just as Rome encircled Jerusalem, so shall the antichrist encircle the people of God in the last days.”

Jesus said in last week’s text there will be many signs of the beginning of the end, but they’re not the end. They’re like a woman with birth pains—having contractions. That doesn’t mean the baby has arrived. It’s just a signal that the process has started. In many ways, our world has been in the midst of tribulation since Jesus ascended into heaven. We have seen wars and famines and earthquakes—and pandemics! The past 2000 years have been a season of tribulation. It has hard for Jesus. It has been hard for his followers who have been persecuted, tortured, and even martyred.

Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Mark 13:13)

following Jesus is dangerous…but worth it. Saved people persevere.

Now we come to the most controversial part of the chapter. Is Jesus speaking of the events that would occur in AD 70 with the destruction of temple, or something further into the future…perhaps even things have not yet occurred in the past 2000 years? Or both?

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Mark 13:14)

This was a sign, a signal. “Let the reader understand” is a way of saying, “This is Bible code. There’s a message here. Don’t miss it!” The first part of the chapter said to stand firm, but now Jesus says when you see these things, go. Flee! Jewish Christians heeded this warning and they did leave Jerusalem before it was destroyed in AD 70, saving many lives.
In AD 69, there was a succession of four Roman emperors‑Nero, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian—filled with murder, violence, and civil war. Then in AD 70 during the destruction, people starved, practiced cannibalism, and fought for food scraps. Titus burnt the temple and crucified thousands of Jews. Yet more Jews were killed by other Jews than by the Roman invaders. It was a brutal time.

Matthew Henry notes, “The Jews had rejected Christ as an abomination, though he would have been their salvation, and now God brought on them an abomination that would be their desolation, an abomination that was spoken about in this way by Daniel the prophet (9:27), and that would bring about a cessation of the sacrifices offered under the Law of Moses.”

Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. (Mark 13:15-16)

Survival is more important than stuff.

How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! (Mark 13:17)

They will be the most vulnerable. They usually are!

Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. (Mark 13:18-19)   

Jesus doesn’t say when this will happen, but urges them to pray.

Again, Christians fled Jerusalem in AD 70 when it was invaded. Many took refuge at Pella in the Transjordanian mountains.

“If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. (Mark 13:20)

Praise the LORD! God is sovereign and in control. We may question why God allows certain things, but don’t think for a moment that He is out of control He has given us free will to make choices, but He always has the last world. He may have given us—and satan—freedom, but there are limits.

At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. (Mark 13:21-23)   

Jesus is warning them—and, perhaps, us. Watch out! Get ready! Don’t be deceived. Then he seems to shift to his second coming. He uses apocalyptic language and quotes Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4…

“But in those days, following that distress,

“ ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ (Mark 13:24-25)   

Can you imagine? And this wasn’t even the end of the world, though it would be the end of their world.

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. (Mark 13:26)   

The Son of Man is a reference to Daniel 7:13. Those are glory clouds, not rain clouds! This will be a great moment! Jesus’ complete vindication. John saw something similar in his revelation…

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Paul used similar language in his letter to the Thessalonian church…

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Encouraging words, indeed! Back to Jesus’ words in Mark…

And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. (Mark 13:27)   

A great harvest will occur which will include not only Jews, but Gentiles, too. We are called to make disciples “of all nations.” Now Jesus tells a parable.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. (Mark 13:28-29)

The disciples wanted signs. Jesus gives them one.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Mark 13:30-31)

This will last no longer than forty years, the typical length of a biblical generation. But wait, Jesus says “this generation?” Some believe that meant the events up to verse 23, excluding his second coming from verses 24-27. Others think it refers to “this race” as in the Jewish people, not Jesus’ contemporaries. If that’s the case, “all these things” includes both the temple’s destruction and the second coming. Jesus guarantees these things will occur. Jesus always keeps his promises.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32)

It’s ridiculous—and quite frankly a waste of time—to predict when this will happen since Jesus doesn’t even know! Anyone arrogant enough to give a date thinks they’re greater than the Messiah! What’s the point? It’s certainly not to make predictions!

Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (Mark 13:33)

Be on guard! Be alert!

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. (Mark 13:34)

Keep watch!
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. (Mark 13:35-36)   

Keep watch!

What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” (Mark 13:37)   


So What?

Be on guard! Be alert! Keep watch!

That’s it. That’s the message. It’s an old message that is extremely relevant today. As I said last week, we’re one day closer than yesterday!

Jesus doesn’t say worry about the antichrist. He doesn’t say be anxious about the mark of the beast. He doesn’t even say get stressed about satan. He simply says tribulation is coming, get ready, and what follows will be wonderful for those who remain faithful to God. Jesus is coming back soon. Are you ready?

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Signs of the End, 23 May 2021

Signs of the End
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 13:1-13

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Get ready, for the end of the world is coming…soon!

One of the most common questions I get as a pastor is, “When will Jesus return?” The broader culture describes it as “the end of the world.”

You may recall about a decade ago many were saying the end of the world would coincide with the Mayan calendar’s ending on December 21, 2012. 12-21-12.

Wikipedia is packed with past predictions of the end of the world, beginning with the Jewish Essene sect in 66-70, Some thought it would end on January 1, 1000.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the end in 1941 in the middle of four dates given by Herbert W. Armstrong. Then there was Jim Jones in 1967, Charles Manson in 1969, the Jehovah’s Witnesses again in 1975, Pat Robertson said 1982, Edgar C. Whisenant in 1988 (
88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988), Louis Farrakhan in 1991, Harold Camping in 1994 (and 1995!), and Nostradamus 1999.

Many of you were around at Y2K and experienced great commotion at the turn of the millennium. Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, and even Jonathan Edwards thought 1.1.2000 would be the big day.

Unfortunately, the predictions continue to this day. I only have two responses:

  1. 1. We’re one day closer than yesterday.
  2. 2. Get ready!

Today we’re back in the book of Mark, the shortest of the four gospels, “good news,” that tell about the life of Jesus. He’s why we’re here. He’s our guide, our leader, our Savior, our LORD, our Senior Pastor. When you focus on Jesus, you can forget all of the religious mumbo jumbo, conspiracy theories, cults, and heretics. Jesus is our authority. This is why we talk about him, sing to him, and love him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Today and next Sunday we’re in Mark chapter 13 in what is known as the Olivet Discourse, also found in Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21. It is sometimes called the Little Apocalypse because of its apocalyptic or literally “uncovering” language.
One of the challenges with apocalyptic language (besides pronouncing it!) is the questions raised, specifically whether it speaks of a past, present, or future event.
Biblical prophecy often has more than one meaning in view. It can be challenging to discern whether what we’re reading is something in the future or a past event that followed the prediction…or both!

If you w
ere drive west on the Ohio Turnpike and stay on I-80, eventually you’ll see what looks to be a large mountain ahead, maybe a hundred miles in the distance. As you get closer to the Rocky Mountains, however, you’ll discover what looked like one mountain is actually a series of mountains. What looks like rock 150 miles away may also include peaks 160, 170, perhaps 200 miles away. There is no definitive point of the Rocky Mountains (unless you count the gift shop at Rocky Mountain National Park!).

The same can be said about biblical predictions of the future. Many people think they know what exact day or event is being described, but it might be a reference to more than one. Broadly, many of the prophecies of Jesus were fulfilled about 2000 years ago during his first coming…while many will not occur until he returns…soon!

The context of Mark chapter 13 is Jesus’ rising popularity with the crowds and the growing hatred of him by the religious leaders. In chapter four, Jesus talked about “hearing.” In this discourse, the them is “watching,” watching out for the way evil will materialize. The images are not always pretty. Pastor Keith spoke of suffering last week, and persecution has been a way of life for so many followers of Jesus throughout the ages. But Jesus will have the last word! I’ve read the end of the book!

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1)   

The temple was incredible, one of the wonders of the Roman world. It covered one-sixth of the city! The Babylonians destroyed the original temple of Solomon. The book of Ezra describes the smaller replacement. Now centuries later in our text, Herod Antipas was still completing the edifice started by his father, Herod the Great.

Imagine this temple, twice the size of the Athens Acropolis. It covered thirty-five acres. Perhaps most impressive were the stones mentioned here, some 45 feet long, 11 feet high, and 12 feet thick!

If you go to Jerusalem today, you can see the remains at the Temple Mount.

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)   

That’s a jolting statement! What do you mean, Jesus? Will there be an earthquake? A tornado? How do you know?

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
(Mark 13:3-4)

Like so many today, they wanted to know about end times. Jesus had given them valuable real estate advice! Don’t buy those building! They won’t last!

They wanted to know when. Give us a date, Jesus! Maybe we’ll go on vacation that week and avoid the destruction. They also wanted a sign.

Jesus said to them:
“Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. (Mark 13:5-6)   

Jesus says watch for imposters who will deceive. Has this ever happened in history? Absolutely! False messiahs have formed cults and led many astray. Jesus is warning them of what is ahead, though he gives no dates.

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (Mark 13:7)   

He tells them to watch for calamities of human origin: wars and rumors of wars. Has this every happened in history? Of course! Tragically, there have been wars somewhere on the planet since…well almost since Adam and Eve! For the most part, USAmericans are unfamiliar with war, at least on our soil. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to live in Israel today in the midst of the conflict…or other places where war is ensuing.

Jesus says wars must happen. Why? He knows the human heart. He knows our lust for power, for money, for domination over another. He knows our enemy and the death and destruction he always leaves in his path. He says, “Do not be alarmed. Keep calm!”

Jesus says watch out for calamities of human origin.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
(Mark 13:8)   

This is actually the place to start to understand our text for today. Jesus says watch out for natural calamities like earthquakes, famines, …pandemics?! He doesn’t say these are signs of the end, though. They are just the beginning.

Now Jesus moves to the next sign: persecution.

“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. (Mark 13:9)   

The book of Acts is filled with the fulfilment of these prophecies. While they most certainly asked, “Why, LORD?” during their persecution, it prompted the spread of the gospel to other peoples. God had a plan. God always has a plan!

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (Mark 13:10)   

The parallel in the book of Matthew says,

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

One of the driving passions of our church and denomination’s founder, A.B. Simpson, was to see the Great Commission completed so that Jesus could return. He took this verse at face value.

Is it a statement of what will occur or a condition for Jesus’ return.

New York Journal reporter approached Dr. Simpson with the question, "Do you know when the Lord is coming?"

"Yes," he replied, "and I will tell you if you promise to print just what I say, references and all."

The reporter's poised notebook gave the ready promise.

"Then put this down: 'This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto the nations and then shall the end come.' Matthew 24:14. Have you written the reference?"

"Yes, what more?"

"Nothing more."

The reporter lowered his pencil and said, "Do you mean to say that you believe that when the Gospel is preached to all nations Jesus will return?"

“Just that.”

"I think I begin to see daylight," answered the reporter. "I see the motivation and the motive power in this movement."

"Then," said the Alliance leader, "You see more than some of the doctors of divinity."

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (Mark 13:10)   

It’s a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. Which comes first? Can we actually make the end come sooner by preaching the gospel to all nations? It seems like Jesus is stating what will occur rather than a precondition for his return, but I maybe wrong. Regardless, we are all called to make disciples, to love others well, to always be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have, to share good news.

Jesus continues…

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)   

I would imagine the disciples found this to be incredibly encouraging.

Today we desperately need the Holy Spirit. I need the Holy Spirit each time I stand before you, and I pray He speaks through me. My wisdom is not worth much, believe me!

The persecution would expand beyond the government.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. (Mark 13:12)   

Jesus is warning them of the cross they must pick up daily to follow him. The enemy will divide families. Two thousand years of history have born this out. It’s heartbreaking to hear of people rejected by their families when they begin to follow Jesus, but it should come as no surprise. Following Jesus is dangerous…but worth it.

Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
(Mark 13:13)   

That’s a troubling yet comforting sentence! I’ve never met anyone who wants to be hated, but entering the kingdom of heaven will be worth it. All believers will someday be vindicated. Jesus never breaks a promise!

So What?

I know some of you have been told this passage is about the second coming of Jesus. Others believe it’s about the end of the world. Where does this fit into the Millennial reign of Christ? Was all of this fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple? I actually believe the latter, but I could be wrong.

Again, biblical prophecy can be challenging to understand. We do know Jesus will return someday. We are told repeatedly to be ready…and to get others ready. For centuries, our brothers and sisters in the faith have faced tremendous suffering and even martyrdom, and that may be our fate someday, too.

In our text for today, Jesus says do not be alarmed. He says those who stand firm will be saved. If we seek God’s glory instead of our own, His Kingdom will come and His will will be done. I’ve always been amazed that the persecution we avoid is often the very thing that results in the spread of the gospel, the good news. What Jesus said here came to pass as recorded in the book of Acts and Philippians 1. Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

We need to get ready…for the return of Christ.
We need to get ready…for the possibility of suffering.

Tom Wright notes, “…those Christians who don’t face persecution often face the opposite temptation, to stagnate, to become cynical, to suppose that nothing much is happening, that the kingdom of God is just a pious dream.”

We also need to get others ready. Everyone deserves a chance to know Jesus.

Jesus never breaks a promise! He not only made predictions about the destruction of the most beautiful building in the world, he promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. He said in verse 11 that the Holy Spirit would come and give them words to speak when they were arrested and on trial.

Next week we’ll see Jesus address when the destruction of the temple will occur and more signs of the end, even if today’s passage merely described the events leading up to the end of the temple.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Temple Talk, 9 May 2021

Temple Talk
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 12:35-44

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Jesus has choice words about the heart of God and the heart of humans.

We’ve been exploring the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded by John Mark in his gospel or “good news” biography of Christ. Perhaps our greatest quest in this extensive sermon series is to more fully answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” Since our church, our Alliance family, all of Christianity is based upon Jesus, the more we can understand his life, teachings, example, death, and resurrection, the more vibrant and authentic our faith.

If you’ve been with us throughout this series, Jesus’ popularity is causing great envy among the religious leaders. They were so jealous, they were devising plans to have him killed. The crowds loved him, though, and so they devised questions to try to trap Jesus and discredit him among the general public. In our text for today, Jesus turns the tables, so to speak, and presents questions of his own.

King David wrote,

The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” (Psalm 110:1, NLT)

This is known as a prophetic song following a revelation from God. It is quoted in Acts 2:34-35 and Hebrews 11:13. It also appears in our text for today.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? (Mark 12:35)

Jesus is in Jerusalem and he challenges the religious leaders about the promised Messiah. He would be a son or descendent of David, yet Psalm 110 reveals something rather remarkable. Jesus explains.

David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:

“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ (Mark 12:36)
Now Jesus asks his question.   

David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” (Mark 12:37a)   

How can Jesus be David’s son and David’s LORD?

This is a mystery, yet it was announced hundreds of years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem (see Psalm 2, 89, 2 Samuel 7).

Jesus is fully human, the son of David.
Jesus is fully deity, the son of God.

Jesus poses a question nobody answers. He is unique. He is virgin-born. He is the fulfillment of centuries of prophecies. He is the Messiah! He is uniquely prophet, priest, and king. Here in the temple, he declares his authority over the Temple, over Israel, over the world.

Although Mark tells us nothing about the speechless religious leaders, he says,

The large crowd listened to him with delight. (
Mark 12:37b)   

I wonder,
do you listen to Jesus with delight? Do you read the Bible with delight? Do you delight in your life with God? He delights in you. He sings over you. He loves to hear your voice in prayer.

King David wrote,

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

I know it’s sometimes hard to have a relationship with Someone you cannot see or hear or touch, but we’re blessed with sixty-six books to enjoy, the Holy Spirit living inside of us, and a God who is active, listening, and present 24/7/365.

The large crowd listened to him with delight. (Mark 12:37b)   

Notice the common people loved him! Now Jesus finishes his public teaching.

As he taught, Jesus said,
“Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. (Mark 12:38-39)

Have you ever met an entitled person? They feel they deserve special privileges and treatment. They can be found in most any culture, including our own.

I did a little research and came across a few modern examples.

"My daughter worked at Sephora, and once — when the checkout line was really long — a woman cut in front of everyone saying, ‘I need to go first because I just know I’m spending more money today than the lot of you.'"

- "A woman called our dentist office and requested an appointment at a specific date and time. When I told her there was already someone scheduled at that time, she had the audacity to say, 'Well, can’t you just MOVE them?'”

- "I work at a restaurant, and one of our servers complimented a woman on her purse hanging over her chair. The woman responded, 'Oh, honey, you’ll never be able to afford this.'"

- "I work reception at a vet and we had a puppy rushed in who wasn't breathing. A guy who was waiting asked me how long he'd have to wait for his pet's appointment and I apologized and explained about the puppy. He huffed and said, 'It's taking a long time, isn't it?!' His appointment was for his guinea pig to have a nail trim."

Jesus calls out the teachers of the law…the scribes…the religious scholars. If they were here today, they would surely wear fancy clothes, drive fancy cars…or be driven in fancy cars! They were impressive and loved the attention of their power, their prestige, their position. Jesus is issuing a warning about them, no doubt further enraging them. He’s not done!

They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” (Mark 12:40)

The King James Version says they “shall receive greater damnation.” Ouch! Hypocrites will be given great condemnation, perhaps the greatest.

Widows were often destitute without a working husband. The Bible gives instructions on how to care for them, particularly in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. The teachers of the law clearly had no respect for them, perhaps because they were unable to make big donations to their cause.

The mention of lengthy prayers is explicit: it’s just a show for people rather than communication with God.

I can just hear the disciples: “Jesus, you might want to zip it! You’re going to get yourself killed!”

He did!

This marks the end of Jesus’ public ministry in Jerusalem. What follows involves only his disciples and is not found in the parallel account in Matthew chapter 23.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. (Mark 12:41)

How does Mark know the rich threw in large amounts? They did it publicly! They put on a show. They wanted everyone to know how rich they were. They wanted everyone to know how generous they were.

Have you ever heard about a multi-millionaire making a large donation to a charity? I love to hear about generous people, but often the amount is not as significant as it may appear. If a billionaire gives away a million dollars, it’s only 1/10 of 1% of their wealth! If you earn $50,000, it’s like giving away $50!

But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. (Mark 12:42)

I imagine those religious leaders paid no attention to this offering. Remember, Jesus had just talked about how they treated poor widows. But who were the better worshippers, the teachers of the law or this widow?

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. (Mark 12:43)

How could a few cents be more than the offerings of the rich?

They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:44)

Jesus saw what she kept for herself. Nothing!

How much do you keep for yourself? How much do you really love Jesus?

The ultimate giving is sacrificial. It costs something.

The rich gave what was extra. The woman gave everything. It reminds me of the story of the chicken and the pig. They are both asked to provide for a breakfast plate. The chicken offered an egg which was easily spared. The pig’s contribution required everything!

Last Sunday, Pastor Donald taught on the Great Commandment from the previous passage of Mark.

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

One of the ways we love God is with our generosity. We worship through giving. We declare our allegiance to the LORD through the stewardship of our wealth, our money, no matter how much we have.

I’ve had people over the years ask me if tithing is a command for us today. Tithe literally means ten percent and it was prescribed in Old Testament worship, not only of cash but crops.

“ ‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. (Leviticus 27:30)

I believe that was the starting point, the minimum…ten percent. In the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi recorded this:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Malachi 3:10)

The people weren’t even giving ten percent, yet God made a promise to them. I believe this is the only time God says, “Test me.”

This is not a subtle fundraising speech. We’re not desperate for money around here. But I want you to take Jesus’ words seriously.

Some of you have very little money…and yet some of you are very generous with what little you have. Others of you think nothing of buying expensive clothes, toys, cars, or even homes…yet you struggle to give more than a percent or two to God…if that!

I don’t know who gives what, but I’m told we have church members who didn’t give a dime last year! Again, it’s not that I’m begging for your money. I’m simply concerned that you’re missing out on the thrill of giving, of investing in God’s Kingdom, and the blessings God grants those who are obedient.

In today’s text, Jesus contrasts the impressive yet entitled religious leaders with the generosity of a poor widow. Who loved God more? Who was the most generous? Who was the better steward?

Once again, I’m reminded of God’s message to Samuel:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)

How is your heart? Where is your heart?

One More Thing

Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all. (Proverbs 22:2)

I love the mosaic God is creating that we call the First Alliance family. It’s easy to see black, brown, and white, but we have people who are homeless and people who have beautiful homes. We have doctors, lawyers, and those who make minimum wage. Some of us haven’t graduated from high school while others have their doctorate degree. But we’re family. We’re a Jesus-centered family. We do life together. We need one another. We love and serve and pray for one another. Where else can you find such a group of different types of people together? That’s the Kingdom of God! It’s beautiful!

Before we close, I want to remind you of our benevolence fund. It’s used to serve family members in need. You can give to it anytime…and if you find yourself in need, you can fill out a Benevolence Form which can be found in our lobby kiosk or at the bottom of the
FAC Focus e-newsletter each Sunday morning. Please take advantage of this opportunity to give and receive, to love one another, to be good stewards and share together in the blessings of God.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library