Raspberries and Copper Coins
By Tracy Jessup
“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. 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.’” (Mark 12:43-44)
The New England Holocaust Memorial was built to pay tribute to the six million killed and to honor the survivors. Located on Boston’s historic Freedom Trail, the memorial “is designed around six luminous glass towers, each reaching 54 feet high, and each lit internally from top to bottom. The number six has many meanings here: the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust; the names of the six main death camps; a row of memorial candles; and the six years, 1939-1945, during which the infamous ‘Final Solution,’ the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, took place. In addition, millions of numbers are etched in the glass, representing the infamous tattoos inflicted on many of the victims’ arms.”
In each tower, superimposed on the troubling lists of numbers, are brief personal statements made by selected death camp survivors. One was from Gerda Weissman Klein who was deported from Germany as a teenager and later married the U.S. Army soldier who led the troops that rescued her. “Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend.”
The context of today’s passage is that of a warning Jesus gives to “beware of the scribes” (v. 38a). Why this warning? Because of their desire to be noticed and held in high esteem (they “like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!… and for the sake of appearance say long prayers”). The scribes also made it a practice to exploit others, particularly widows (“They devour widows’ houses…).
Many commentators have noted that the widow, who in her poverty gave her all, may represent the many widows whose houses have been devoured. With this in mind, Jesus simply is continuing his condemnation of the scribes, who instead of caring for widows as the law directed them to do are taking advantage of them. While this most likely is an accurate observation, it must not be overlooked that Jesus does in fact commend the sacrificial action of the widow. “For all of them [many rich people] have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had…”
John Ortberg writes, “The Lord of the Gift is very wise. He knew exactly what he was doing when he created you. He is well-pleased that you exist. He has entrusted to you everything you need to fulfill the purpose for which you were created. At the end of the day, God will not ask…What did you do with what you didn’t have? Though, he will ask, What did you do with what you had? (If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, p. 43).
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the generosity seen in raspberries and copper coins, and for the example of “Jesus, who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Dr. Tracy Jessup serves as vice president for Christian Life and Service and senior minister to the University. He is a graduate of Gardner-Webb with a B.A. in Music and earned his M. Div. degree at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also teaches in the undergraduate department of religious studies and enjoys the opportunity to serve the local church through interim pastorates, pulpit supply, and preaching revival services. he and his wife, Teresa, have two children, Christian and Anna.
Read more Good Christian News from Dr. Jessup HERE.