Christ the King Sunday
4th Sunday of End Time
Mark 12:41-44
Sermon #1201
November 20, 2022
Erich Jonathan Hoeft

41 Jesus sat down opposite the offering box and was watching how the crowd put money into it. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 One poor widow came and put in two small bronze coins, worth less than a penny. 43 He called his disciples together and said to them, “Amen I tell you: This poor widow put more into the offering box than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all that she had to live on.”

Dear Friends and Fellow Redeemed in Christ,

A 1970’s era Volkswagen van with faded paint is chugging along in the right lane of the freeway going 10 miles under the posted speed limit. A car full of college students returning to school take a glancing look as they zip by in the left lane. What they see is a rusting old vehicle that appears barely roadworthy and borderline hazardous. As they complete the pass, they look at each other and wince.

A second car passes by driven by a retiree and his wife. They also glance at the vintage vehicle, but they see something entirely different. For just a fleeting moment they’re transported back in time. In their minds they see the first officially designated family car they bought along with the silhouettes of three little heads in the two back seats as they’re going on a family vacation. As they complete the pass, they look at each other knowingly and smile.

An old VW mini bus. Or a discarded piece of art at a rummage sale that one person walks by and another quickly snatches up. How can the same thing create such a different response and elicit such a different reaction? Here’s how. As they say,

IT’S ALL IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
That’s a useful thought for us to hang on to on this Christ the King Sunday. Keep it in mind, because we’re going to see this playing out a couple of times as we consider this incident recorded in Mark chapter 12:

41 Jesus sat down opposite the offering box and was watching how the crowd put money into it. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 One poor widow came and put in two small bronze coins, worth less than a penny. 43 He called his disciples together and said to them, “Amen I tell you: This poor widow put more into the offering box than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all that she had to live on.”

The first thing we want to focus on from this lesson is the speaker, Jesus Christ. Our text took place on Tuesday of Holy Week. Let’s briefly review what went on that week.

On Palm Sunday Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. That was two days before our text. The day before, Monday, Jesus did something he also had done at the very beginning of his ministry. Filled with righteous indignation, he “cleansed” a portion of the temple area. He overturned tables and made very clear the religious leaders had turned into marketplace what God intended to be a sacred space. It was quite a scene and caused quite a stir.

On the day of our text, Jesus taught the people and confronted the religious leaders. The next day, Wednesday, was probably the day Judas arranged to deliver Jesus into the hands of the same religious leaders Jesus called out. On Thursday Jesus celebrated the Passover and Last Supper with his disciples, and on Friday the events we heard in our Gospel lesson for today took place. Let’s talk about that for a minute or two.

While hanging on the cross, people mocked and ridiculed Jesus. First it was the crowd, then the church leaders, then the soldiers, then Pontius Pilate, and finally one of the criminals. What did they see in Jesus? A revolutionary? A political and religious agitator? The latest cult-like figure who had developed a small following but then got a little too big for his britches? A failed idealist who had crossed the wrong people and was now paying the price?

Probably the easier question to answer is what they didn’t see in Jesus. And what they didn’t see in Jesus was anything remotely close to him being a king. But we do. Because, remember, its all in the eye of the beholder. And we view him through the eyes of a faith that has been created within us by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told us many times in Scripture that he is not the kind of king who will magically use his power to dismiss all earthly problems and trials. Rather, he is a spiritual king who has dismissed us from the eternally damning consequences of sin and reserved a place for us in heaven. We know what it took. It wasn’t a king’s ransom. It was Christ the King himself. Him for us. Him in place of us. It was not nails that held Jesus to the cross; it was the sheer force of his love for each of us that kept him there until he cried out: “It is finished.”

“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus explained to Pontius Pilate. His – and ours – is a spiritual kingdom. And, as we heard once again in our Gospel lesson, that kingdom which is ours now and will be ours forever is called “paradise.”

The practical benefit heaven has for us now is in simply knowing it’s coming. And it will come, a fact that we have repeatedly been hearing in our “end times” Scripture lessons these last few weeks. Having that to look forward to may not make the difficulties of this life any less difficult, but it does make them easier to bear. Because this world and what’s happening to us in it is not all there is. Paradise awaits us.

So, on this Christ the King Sunday we see Jesus for who he really is: Our Lord, our Redeemer, Our Savior. And our King. Which means everything he utters is a royal decree and worthy of our devout attention. He’s about to give us a lesson – which takes us back to the second focus of our text.

There on Tuesday in the temple area we are told: 41 Jesus sat down opposite the offering box and was watching how the crowd put money into it. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 One poor widow came and put in two small bronze coins, worth less than a penny.

Jesus was watching the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Although there was a required “temple tax” each year, the temple back then was generally funded by the same way the church is today – by the voluntary gifts and offerings of God’s people. What did Jesus see?

He saw people freely giving of their wealth. That doesn’t seem to be all that surprising. After all, Jesus himself once said: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). So, Jesus saw people who had been blessed with financial means honoring God through generous offerings.

But that’s not all he saw. He saw a woman simply described as “a poor widow.” That she is labeled poor reminds us that there were no social safety nets. The fact that she was a widow indicates she likely did not have much support and was probably reliant on the kindness of other family members, if she had any.

In other words, she didn’t have much. But what she had, she gave.

So, what the casual observer – including Jesus’ disciples and followers – would have seen was a single woman of very little means making a meager offering. They wouldn’t have known the amount she dropped into the treasury or her personal financial net worth or the impact her gift might have on her going forward.

What they would have known or easily surmised is if the Temple relied on people like her for its internal upkeep and service, it would have become insolvent long ago.

That’s what the casual observer would have seen. But remember, its all in the eyes of the beholder. And in this case, the beholder is Jesus Christ.

43 He called his disciples together and said to them, “Amen I tell you: This poor widow put more into the offering box than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all that she had to live on.”

I wish we knew more about this woman, this woman who is commended by Jesus Christ. What we can surmise in her actions and in Jesus response to her actions is that she was an unassuming but devout child of God. She portrays herself as someone who loved her Lord and without fanfare or desire for recognition lived a life of quiet, reverent faith.

But perhaps most importantly, she exemplifies for us someone who trusted that her Lord would do as he promised: watch over her and keep her. She trusted that she could give him “all she had to live on” not as a strategy to see if God would come through or a test to see if he really loved her, but with the quiet confidence that her Lord will never abandon her. Using the terminology of this Sunday, she showed herself to be a loyal subject of Christ, the King.

And what we learn from her and from Jesus response to her is this simple truth: It is not the amount of the gift that matters most, but the heart of the giver. And the heart of this giver beat with gratitude and trust.

Is not that the lesson Jesus specifically wanted his disciples – and us – to know?

We don’t have a designated temple tax here at Holton. We don’t have “church dues” that we arbitrarily set for our people and expect them to meet and then remind them if they don’t.

What we do have is Christ the King. Christ the crucified. Christ the risen. Christ the ascended. Christ the ever living and ever loving and ever watching. Christ the faithful promise keeper.

Like the widow, our hearts beat with gratitude for him and trust in him. And one small way in which we can tangibly express our gratitude and our trust is through our stewardship.

So, the great stewardship lesson that Jesus gives us today is to remember that he’s not interested in our money. He’s interested in our hearts. And through his life, death, and resurrection he has proven himself worthy to be the King of our hearts and every area of our lives.

Which means we consider our offerings of time, talents, and treasures – our life of Christian stewardship – not in terms of forced obligations or a grudging sense of duty necessary to keep this place running. Rather, we view Christian stewardship as an expression of gratitude for and trust in Jesus.

In other words, what Christian stewardship is and what it isn’t is all in the eyes of the beholder. And each and every day we as Christ’s disciples behold Christ the King. Amen.