A Sermon by The Rt Rev’d Chris McLeod

Mark 12.38-44

38 As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour 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.’

‘Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched…’

What did Jesus see that others didn’t see? What does he see now that we don’t see? What didn’t he miss, but others did; and what do we miss; what do I miss? Perhaps, more, specifically, who do we miss? Who walks past us, and we don’t notice? Who sits nearby, and yet we don’t notice them? Maybe, on the other hand, we feel nobody notices us? People just walk by, or ignore us, and we want say – what about me, can you see me?

Jesus had this remarkable ability to notice the unnoticeable. Today’s Gospel reading sharpens our focus on who is being noticed, and who isn’t.

  1. The Widow in contrast to the Pharisees.

In this Gospel reading this morning we have the Pharisees who like to be noticed: in fact, according Jesus they crave being noticed. Look at me! However, it was not due to some insecurity, which can be the case with seeking attention, but theirs was an expression of self-importance. They, in their opinion, deserve the very best: the best seats in the synagogue and places of honour at banquets. They use prayer as a means for attractive people to themselves. Jesus goes further. There is a sinister motive to their self-aggrandisement: they take money off widows.

In contrast to this is the widow; perhaps, one of the widows who has lost everything, because of their greed. She gives everything she had, which was so little. Jesus, however, is very impressed with someone who does not seem, on the surface at least, very impressive.

2. The power of observation.

How does Jesus see all this? He stops and looks! He sat opposite the treasury and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. He watched, not because he was interested in the money, as such, but on who did what. What impressed him was not those who gave from their abundance, but the widow who gave everything she had.

How often do I stop and look? How often do look at those around me with the eyes of Jesus? Do I see what he sees? Am I too busy with my own self-importance to take the time to stop and look. Just maybe if I did, I might see what Jesus sees. The power to slowdown, stop and look just might be one unintended gift of the Coronavirus pandemic.

3. Seeing the other.

Another observation of Jesus ability to ‘see’ is his capacity to see the other, and their worth. Jesus saw the poor widow who gave her all. Others would have probably just seen the poor widow. In all probability she was shabbily or poorly dressed, perhaps even homeless, and her appearance might have reflected that. However, Jesus saw her as a person of immense worth, but he also saw her as someone who had something to teach others. Jesus had the capacity to see the other, not as enemy, or threat, or unworthy, but as the other who conveys something of the grace of God, and our response in total abandonment to God’s love. The other who can teach us!


What do you see? What do I see? After we ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’, what has changed in us that we might see differently? Who does Jesus bring before us? Do we walk past them? Do we judge them? Do we even notice them? Do we see the angel, God’s messenger, before us? When I leave here today, do I just snap back to who I was when came in, or do I stop and take notice? ‘Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched…’