It was Tuesday of Holy Week. Soon Passover would be celebrated with the Seder Meal and the remembrance of God’s deliverance from bondage to freedom. This should have been a time for reflection and joy, but instead there was a hostile atmosphere brewing in Jerusalem. Christ’s authority was challenged by the religious leaders (Mark 11:28), who refused to acknowledge John’s baptism nor Jesus’ ministry. Christ’s parable of the tenants illustrated how those seemingly pious leaders were out to get rid of the rightful heir to the vineyard. Pharisees tested Jesus with a question over paying taxes to Caesar and giving offerings to God. Sadducees, who questioned the resurrection, likewise tested Jesus. A Scribe asked which was the greatest commandment of the Law (Mark 12:28), and Jesus correctly pointed out the love of God and of the neighbor as being the greatest. The Scribe probed deeper concerning God’s absolute oneness, and Jesus quoted David confessing Christ as being his son and also his Lord (Psalm 110:1), pointing to Christ’s genuineness as Messiah Himself.
But this “showdown” only infuriated the authorities further, who sought Jesus’ death. The religious leaders where despicable creatures. Their pride, greed, and hypocrisy was their way of life, seeking public acclimation, exploiting the poor, robbing widows, acting like pious souls while all the while being totally insincere and selfish. Jesus called them out for censure, warning us to beware their false piety. These people who rejected Messiah would receive severe judgment one day (Mark 12:40).
And then a curious event took place. While sitting opposite the treasury, Jesus observed many who contributed of their abundance. It appeared these were giving well but hardly sacrificing as they ought. And then a poor widow approaches to give her offering, and all she produces is what we would call a mite, a pittance, a negligible amount indeed. Jesus sees this act of faith and praises the widow’s offering as being significantly greater than all the other offerings. “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” (Mark 12:44). Her gift was truly a sacrifice, all she had, in faith that the Lord would give her all she needed. Her gift was a devotion of sincerity, given not from an abundance of material wealth but from the rich storehouse of faith. In God’s eyes, her pittance far surpassed the material wealth, the pride, greed, and hypocrisy of the others. Her gift of faith would propel Jesus onward toward His goal that Holy Week, knowing His righteous gift would be given on a cross at weeks’ end.
Jesus would also give what looked like a rejected offering to God, His very life. By His poverty He would grant us the riches of His grace, the forgiveness of our sins. His gift, though seemingly despised and despicable, was yet an offering of atonement for the sins of all and for all time. “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands . . . He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence . . . to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself . . . to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:24-28).
He gave Himself, totally, completely, despised and rejected. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). For our salvation, His atoning sacrifice was an enormous gift. Jesus died and rose again to deliver us all from bondage to sin and death and grant us freedom as heirs of His heavenly kingdom. His gift of life remains the greatest gift to all, a gift we should cherish each and every day.