All In! - Reflections on Mark 12:38-44

by Dr. Alyce McKenzie on Tuesday, November 2, 2021

All In!  - Reflections on Mark 12:38-44

I know lots of adults who make sure they buy enough candy (that they like) so they have some left when the trick or treaters have stopped ringing the doorbell Halloween night. We all have our own ways of keeping a little something back for ourselves. We don't want to give it all away. We can't all be like this noble widow giving away her last bit of cash with nothing left in her ATM. She's all in. And if I'm honest with myself, I admit that, with regard to my discipleship, I'm almost all in.

I remember seeing the inspiring movie at the visitors' center at the Alamo in San Antonio. The noble young commander William Travis draws the line in the dirt with his boot and invites all who will stay and fight with him to cross it. I'm afraid I might have been one foot over, one foot back, getting out my iPhone to check my calendar, saying something like, "I'll see if I can stay. I think I may have a conflict and may need to leave for a while, but I might be able to come back tomorrow if you really need me."

Are We "All In," Like the Widow Who Gave Everything? 

Over the past several weeks, the texts from Mark have featured varying levels of commitment or lack thereof. In response to Jesus' ministry, some people were all in, some were all out, and others were almost all in.

The rich man in Mark 10:22 went away grieving for he had many possessions (10:22). He was all out.

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.

Sources Consulted

Hugh Anderson, The New Century Bible Commentary on Mark (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1987).




Add Comment:
Please login or register to add your comment or get notified when a comment is added.
1 person will be notified when a comment is added.