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Mark 12:35-40

35 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? 36 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.”’

37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

The large crowd listened to him with delight.

38 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, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
(Mark 12:35-40 NIV)

Jesus cleansed the Temple, which ignited a series of questions from various religious groups, all trying to find grounds to arrest Jesus and discredit His ministry.  Mark records this round of questions from Mark 11:27 through 12:34.  All the questioners went away unsuccessful and amazed.  No one dared ask Jesus any more questions.

In today’s passage, Jesus is the one asking questions.  Teaching in the Temple, Jesus presents a pair of baffling questions that the scribes could not even figure out.

The two questions are as follows:

  • How can the Messiah be King David’s son?
  • and how can Messiah also be King David’s Lord?

Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1, where King David readily admits that Messiah will be his master (Lord).  The scribes (the self-proclaimed experts in God’s Law) readily taught the first part of the Messiah being King David’s son (in King David’s family line), but the second part about the Messiah being King David’s Lord was a mystery to them.

Mark records that the crowds delighted in hearing Jesus preach and teach.  This likely further infuriated the scribes, Pharisees, and every other part of the Jewish religious leadership and power structure.

So what was Jesus’ point?  What was saying?

To understand Jesus’ teaching here, we need to go back to the predominant Jewish thought about the Messiah.  Remember that all the Jews thought that Messiah would be a political or military figure who would kick out the Romans, establish a theocracy and exclusive self-governing land with God in charge, and Messiah as king and ruler.  In a phrase, Messiah was expected to come back and re-establish King David’s kingdom and rule.

Jesus was challenging the notion of what Messiah was and how He would show up and engage the world.  Messiah would not re-establish King David’s rule.  Instead, He would show up and build a completely new kingdom.  The Messiah would not establish this new kingdom in power and in wrath; rather, Messiah would establish this new kingdom in service and in love.

Jesus’ teaching on the Messiah was thinly veiled; He was, of course, speaking about Himself.  But His point was not so much to point to Himself as it was to replace wrong thinking about the Messiah with a new truth about the Messiah and what to look for.

Jesus then issues a warning about the scribes and teachers of the Law.  Jesus’ point is that they say they are the experts in God’s Law, but yet they are all self-serving.  They dress to be noticed, they love the attention in public marketplace, in the synagogue, and at banquets.  They are self-absorbed in their quest for power and control and have no room for giving honor and glory to God.  They want the honor and glory for themselves.

Jesus goes on to say that these religious leaders will abuse their power to get what they want.   They will devour widows’ houses (prey on the very ones they are to protect) and offer long prayers that are for show but never make it past the ceiling of the room they are in.

Instead of receiving honor and glory, they will receive judgment and condemnation because they know better (from God’s Law) but choose to sin and seek their own glory anyway.  They are to be the protectors of the widow, orphan, and fatherless; instead, these are the very ones they see as easy marks and go after for control.

Does our desire to be noticed, to be honored, and to seek glory drive us to do selfish things, even abuse the power or authority others have entrusted to us?

May we be faithful in whatever roles God has given to us, giving the glory to Him for whatever takes place.

May we not use our role at home, at work, at church, in our neighborhoods, or anywhere else to demand others do things for us.  Rather, may we use our role to serve others and lead them to Christ in love and humility.

May we also pray for those in authority over us – at home, at work, in our churches, communities, and in our cities, states, and countries.  May we lift them up and ask the Lord to guide them to wise decisions that serve their constituents and make for a better family, workplace, church, community, nation, and world.


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