All In! Reflections on Mark 12:38-44
James and John (10:35-45) are willing to be all in if Jesus will promote them to the corner office. They're all in if their conditions are met.
Bartimaeus (10:46-52), like our poor widow, is all in. Had I been playing his role I would have draped my cloak over my arm and taken it with me as I felt my way toward Jesus through the crowd. Just in case . . . just in case Jesus couldn't heal me, I'd have a fall-back plan. I'd have my money, my shelter, my bed—all of which the first-century beggar's cloak represented.
If I'd been playing the role of the poor widow, I'd have put in one coin and kept the other. But that's not how she does things. In 12:38-40, Jesus denounces scribes who are all about their own prestige and wealth. Then, by contrast, he praises the widow who gives to the max. She is all in.
The scribe in the passage just before this one (12:28-34) is on the brink of being all in. Jesus tells him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (12:34). All it will take for him to enter is to love the Lord with all his heart, all his soul, all his mind, all his strength and to love his neighbor as himself (12:30-32). The word "all" appears an awful lot of times in that short text. Apparently, all it will take is all he's got!
Says Hugh Anderson in his commentary on the widow in Mark, "The poor widow who offers her whole living to God contrasts markedly with the hypocritical and avaricious leaders of Judaism, and affords a superb example of complete loyalty and devotion to God's call. The evangelist is addressing the disciples. Discipleship involves absolute surrender to and trust in the God to whose will and purpose Jesus is about to commit himself absolutely in his passion" (Anderson 286-7).
Clearly, I'm going to need to rethink my candy strategy next year. And my discipleship as well.
Hugh Anderson, The New Century Bible Commentary on Mark (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1987).
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.