Dispatch Two Hundred Nine

Posted: July 8, 2019 in Fifty-Eighth Bundle
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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 marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor 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.”

Scribes were the scholars of Jesus’ day, who preserved the sacred texts of Judaism by meticulously hand-copying the Torah, Prophets, and historical Writings to new parchments. Since Judaism was popularly known as “the religion of the Book,” these copyists were highly honored and respected in Jewish society. Their task was believed to be both holy and precarious, seeing as how there is a moment in the transmission of the Sacred Word when the legacy of revelation is vulnerable to the fatigue and fallibility of the scribe. Consequently, they were held in great esteem by the common folk – and apparently enjoyed the stage light of public admiration.

Jesus, however, saw right through all this pomp-and-costume display. He likely accepted the functional importance of scribes in preserving the textual tradition, but it was their arrogance in thinking of themselves superior in personal worth and privilege to the average Jew that most annoyed Jesus.

Imagine! Here is a class of folk who daily handle the writings of such revealers as Moses, Isaiah and Amos, and yet in their personal attitude and behavior they contradict the very message they are responsible for passing on. “They will receive the greater condemnation,” Jesus promised, which means that such charlatans will be held more highly accountable for perpetuating such hypocrisy as what undermines the integrity of a perfectly good religion.

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