Jesus is critical of the behavior of some of the scribes, who were teachers of the law. He is highly critical of how they oppress the poor, even while they expect esteem.
1st Reading (Track 1): Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Ruth is a story about two valiant women, Naomi and her servant Ruth, who make a life for themselves after the death of all the males in the family. Widows were without social power in the ancient Near East, but their commitment to each other carries them through and Ruth eventually makes a good marriage to Boaz, and is celebrated in history as the great-grandmother of King David.
3:1 Naomi her mother-in-law said to Ruth, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. 2 Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” 5 She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.” 13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Naomi." They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Psalm 127 (Track 1)
Psalm 127 is one of the Songs of Ascent (psalms 120-134), most likely songs for pilgrims making their way to the Temple to celebrate one of the major feasts. Psalm 127 is a wisdom psalm; it reads much like a collection of proverbs.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house, *
their labor is in vain who build it.
2 Unless the Lord watches over the city, *
in vain the watchman keeps his vigil.
3 It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late; *
vain, too, to eat the bread of toil,
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
4 Children are a heritage from the Lord, *
and the fruit of the womb is a gift.
5 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior *
are the children of one’s youth.
6 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! *
he shall not be put to shame
when he contends with his enemies in the gate.
2nd Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28
Our passage from the Letter to the Hebrews today continues the use of the image of the high priest for Jesus. Here the Day of Atonement is again referenced (as it was in last week’s reading), the one day when the high priest enters the inner sanctuary to plead for the people. Jesus has done this once and for all, offering his own self. He will also come again at the time of judgment, not to condemn but to save.
9:24 Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Gospel Reading: Mark 12:38-44
The larger unit of Mark’s Gospel, 11:1—13:37, in which this passage is found, tells of Jesus’ time in Jerusalem, particularly in the Temple, where he does some teaching. Our reading today has two parts. First, Jesus is critical of the behavior of some of the scribes, who were teachers of the law and the equivalent of lawyers. He is highly critical of how they oppress the poor, even while they expect esteem. In the second part, Jesus seems to praise a widow whom he observes placing her offering in the Temple treasury. But is he? It is quite possible he is critiquing the Temple system itself, carrying on his denunciation of a religious system that exploits the weakest. Indeed, he goes on to predict the destruction of the Temple (13:1-2).
12:38 As Jesus taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study with this attribution. Bulletin inserts are available by subscription. Go to our website for more information.