O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Outward Appearance or Inner Meaning?
Outward Appearance or Inner Meaning?
Based on Mark 12:38-44
Preached on November 11, 2018
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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You would’ve missed it! I would’ve missed it! But it doesn’t get by the Lord. No. He never misses faith, because that’s what He’s looking for.
He’s sitting there in the temple watching people put their offering into the plate – and you’re there with Him. You notice the rich people putting in large sums. You notice their clothing. You notice their confident approach. You notice the attention they get. But you don’t even look at the poor widow – what could she have to offer? A penny? She’s like a street person in our terms. No job. No savings. No prospects. Not much to contribute. More of a burden really.
No. We all miss the widow, because of what we see with our eyes. She looks like the bottom, the worthless, useless, meaningless bottom - the outer edge of the fringe. That what she looks like on the outside, and so we miss what’s going on in the center.
“I tell you the truth. This poor widow has put in more than all the others,” Jesus declares. We see her offer next to nothing. The Lord sees her put in everything. She looks like the fringe to us, yet she is right on target to the Lord. Nobody notices the widow. But the Lord praises her in front of everybody.
Our fringe is not His fringe – He comes for all. Our edge is not His edge – for He is the eternal One, who spreads His arms open to unite all things in Himself – and we’re about to get a firm lesson in just how big He is and how much more He has come to do than we think.
Beware the scribe – Jesus says - who likes to be noticed, pampered, honoured. Beware of that part of you, He says – and you know what He’s talking about - the scribe is in each of us – the scribe tries to look good on the outside, but is rotten on the inside – the scribe wants to be seen, but is see-through, the scribe seeks to be praised, but will be condemned – and so you must be careful. You gotta watch out for him. He is nothing like the widow, who goes unnoticed, yet is praised, who cares nothing for appearances, but depends on the Lord.
Beloved, the Lord isn’t interested in appearances. He is looking for meaning – looking into the very center of you. Only the Lord sees intentions, sees heart – sees the honest truth within you – this is between you and Him – but it is real. More real than all the appearances we have with one another. This is the real work He needs to do in you – less and less scribe – more and more widow.
But it shocks us, doesn’t it? That’s why He chose her. Why He chose to point her out? Because it puts us off balance. We’re not ready for it. It’s too much of a contrast. The very bottom being praised like it’s the very top? And all of this happening in the temple! The heart and center of life with God.
Who feels like they’re on the fringe now? My thinking! All my judgments totally off the mark! But there is Christ – standing in the center for me – pointing at her penny with praise.
So no more fringe. Let’s head inside. Let’s turn to the center and understand the meaning – the beating heart of this story. And that’s the widow. The crystal clear faith of a woman who has nothing and everything. She isn’t looking at her penny. She is looking at her Provider. She isn’t looking at who’s noticing. She is looking at who’s Giving. She isn’t looking at appearances. She’s looking at the meaning.
This widow is a beautiful picture of faith, because she’s not contributing out of her abundance. This is not one of many for her. This is it. She’s all in. The Lord is not one of the things in her life. He is her center. The meaning of her being. She isn’t hedging. She isn’t playing it half way – you know, half trust the Lord, and half depend on myself. She is all in. She’s allllll Christ. She isn’t holding anything back.
Because her faith gets it. Christ is all you have to live on. There isn’t anything else. You will not live on without Christ. Whatever you think you have will be gone. Appearances end, but meaning endures forever. Christ is your meaning.
You know, it’s a really beautiful thing – how the moment you are able to see the widow – like I mean truly able to see her – you realize who you’re looking at. The widow becomes a picture of Christ. By faith she is becomes a pattern of Him.
Christ – who didn’t count His riches, but left them in heaven to put Himself in a life of poverty. Christ – who didn’t see your salvation as one of the things He might do, but as the center and meaning of His very person. Christ – who didn’t hedge, didn’t play it safe, didn’t half it – but went all in for you. Gave it all. Every last drop of blood.
You think you have risks? You think you’ve got a lot to lose? Jesus has your back. He has backed you with His whole life. His divine life. He has made Himself your insurance – your bailout – your eternal backup. It doesn’t matter what details you might lose on the fringe – when the center has your back – when the Lord, the King, the One who made you – has your back. It doesn’t matter what you give up when you have the source – because you’ll get it all back and more – eternal life, eternal glory, eternal riches, eternal honour – Christ has it all – and He gives it all to you so that with that widow you can give your all to Him.
What about you? What are you holding back? Whatever you’re holding back – whatever you seem unable to trust Him with fully – it’s time to let go. It’s time to put it all in. It’s time to give it over to Him. Open up. Let Him in, so that meaning can take the center of who you are again.
The rich inner meaning that the Lord seeks to give you makes you rise above outward appearances. It turns you towards a different target – the one in the center – the one at the top – the one you have been made to look at, worship and enjoy. This rich inner meaning, who is Christ, frees you from everything fake. He promises you only the true, pure impulses of the heart will be worthy of pointing out – only those things that come from faith – only those beautiful buds of faith… like the widow. Who cares about her penny. What matters is her faith. And that is true for you dear ones. What matters is your faith. So treat it like it matters.
Do everything you can that it may grow – attend Bible class, read your Bible, use it – caring and sharing and connecting with your fellow believer, with your neighbour, with your co-worker – seek meaning – and encourage others to do the same – no more going along with the fake – no more driving the ruts of the old false way – you’ve been made for more – you’ve been made for meaning in Christ. You have Him, so keep Him in the center in every part of your day. Hold Him before your eyes so that what you do is meaningful, worthwhile, eternal. Ask Him - No – beg Him to make you part of the pattern that holds Him forth to the world.
In the end…the only thing the Lord is looking for is trust. There will be glory for those who have depended on Him, and condemnation for those who sought recognition. Glory for those who hold Him as their meaning, their center, and condemnation for those distracted with many things. So hold nothing back, for you can be certain – He has held nothing back from you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr