I have a problem with my imagination. It is almost always bigger than the reality of something supports. For example, we went on an extended trip out west about 12 years ago, visiting some of the most well-known sites. We went through the Dakotas and into the Colorado Rockies, seeing such places as Yellowstone.
Along the way, we also visited Mount Rushmore. While looking at it from the visitor’s center, I was really disappointed. “That’s it?” I thought to myself. “It isn’t any bigger than that?” In my imagination, I expected it to be about three times the size that it really is. And most of the Rockies disappointed me, as did the size of Old Faithful. Hey, it’s all beautiful stuff, I just thought it was going to be even larger than it was.
The religious leaders had some problems with calibration. In our text today, we’ll see that they underestimated the nature of the Messiah, and they overestimated their own position, importance and generosity.
After being the subject of probing questions by the religious leaders, Jesus takes the offensive with a rhetorical question of his own. It was rightly and clearly understood that the Christ would be a descendant of David. So Jesus asks how it could be that David in Psalm 110 called his Messianic son by the name of “his Lord?” The inference is that the Messiah had to be more than they imagined, he would have to be divine to fulfill this description. And the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans essentially answers this by clarifying the nature of the person of Christ (1:3,4) … “the gospel … regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The expectation of the Jewish leaders at the time was not very accurate, not nearly as expansive as needed, and not near the top of their minds or close to the passions of their hearts. And why would it be? They were filled with themselves … as the next paragraph goes on to record Jesus speaking to the disciples in warning about the grandiose views the teachers of the law had of themselves.
They liked being seen in high places and in a prominent light, both personally and in public service. Think of it as a first century Jewish priest with a grandiose attitude like the little guy in North Korea.
Putting them into clearer perspective was Jesus’ observation of the widow who put her two “mites” (coins representing a small fraction of a day’s wages) into the temple offering. Though small, it represented all she had, whereas the large and announced gifts of the leaders were but a portion of their wealth. The widow was expressing her total dependence upon God, whereas the leaders were expressing their dependence upon themselves by managing their public reputation.
Our role is to be faithful and responsible with what we have been given. We should see ourselves in humble ways, recognizing any gifts or accolades that accrue to us are only because the Lord has first given us those abilities and resources. And we should never underestimate the person of Christ and the immensity of his love and grace.
Luke 20:41 – Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 43 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ [Psalm 110:1]
44 David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
Luke 21:1 – As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”