What does the widow’s gift have to do with the sacrifice of Jesus?
Gospel Reading: Luke 21:5-19
For Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010: Year C – Ordinary 33
Why is it when I read lists of apocalyptic destruction my eyes glaze over like I am reading the book of Numbers? It’s not an endless list of obscure laws; it is drama, death, disaster, and the end of the world. You would think that would keep a fella’s interest.
Here’s Your Sign
I think they bore me because I dismiss them. Every Gospel has this list, and they don’t mean anything to me. It sounds to me like a list of what’s going on in the real world all the time, past, future and Haiti. These things certainly do not serve a sign of anything other than that humanity continues to live in a world where suffering is ever-present. The list in this context is a dramatic device. Jesus says the temple will be destroyed, he is asked for a sign, and he gives them the list.
Maybe I am less compelled by the list because I already know the answer to the question. It gets destroyed in 70 CE. Clearly Jesus did not mean to imply that after all that the wars and natural disasters would cease.
I am most interested in where this discussion starts and ends. At the beginning of this pericope, some speakers were admiring the beautiful stones and gifts to God that adorned the temple. The verse directly before that tells of the widow’s gift to the temple saying she gave out of her poverty, putting in everything she had to live on.
I can see why Jesus went into a bit of a rant about the destruction of the temple. Look at the widow, not the Temple! Jesus then brings the conversation around to the real topic: his death and the role these admirers are going to play in the aftermath. They will be arrested and brought before the synagogue and the governors, and they will have an opportunity to testify and that they should prepare nothing.
The Hardest Question
But wait — if Jesus is the temple that is going to be destroyed, isn’t all the talk about arrest and going before the Jewish and Roman rulers really about him? Here is my Hardest Question: What does the widow’s gift have to do with the sacrifice of Jesus?
Russell Rathbun is a preacher at House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the author of Midrash on the Juanitos (Cathedral Hill Press, 2010) and the curator of The Hardest Question.