Truly I say to you,
this poor widow put in more than all of them;
for they all out of their surplus put into the offering;
but she out of her poverty
put in all that she had to live on.
All She Had
I still remember the first time I saw this one they call Jesus. Who could forget that day? It’s been just about three years. My husband Ari was still alive then, but he was not well. We barely collected enough money to buy a pair of turtledoves this year, let alone a lamb like we did when the kids were young.
Passover was always my favorite time of year. All the children were part of it and Ari always made sure we did everything, every game and story for the children, every glass of wine for the adults, every song for all of us.
Passover wasn’t simply a remembrance of days gone by to Ari and me. We often dreamed of a day when Israel would be free again. It’s true, Rome lets us sacrifice in the temple and have our meetings. But we prayed that the Lord would come and restore the true worship, as in the days of King David. In those days worship toward the Lord God would be offered twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Ari used to tell me the prophets spoke of a real son of David sitting on the throne again. We longed for those days.
That was before Ari got sick. But three years ago, when we came to the temple to offer our sacrifice, it was to be just two turtledoves. Our family was scattered and would not come home for Passover.
Just as we were getting ready to purchase our offering, that young man, Jesus, started dumping tables. Ari pulled me back as we looked on in shock as table after table went tumbling, coins rolling this way and that.
At first, I was angry. Why was this young rebel disrupting our worship? We had come, as we have been coming for forty years together, to worship the Lord.
From where we were standing I could see His face as He drove sheep and cattle out of the gate, and let the doves and pigeons out of their cages. His actions were angry and violent, but in His eyes—well—his eyes were wet with tears.
His voice echoed around the courtyard.
"Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business."
It almost seemed His heart was broken over what He found in the temple.
As I said, that was almost three years ago now. My Ari died the next fall.
Initially, when he passed on, I thought I would be all right, I thought I could make what he left for me last. I sold the little shop where he and I sold butter and cheese. The young man who bought it from me lets me stay in one of the back rooms. But he can’t afford to feed me, so I’ve been living on the few eggs my sweet hens lay.
This last winter was so cold and long—you remember, don’t you—I had to trade my few chickens for firewood to keep the stove going in my little room. Now I have nothing left.
I’ve decided to give myself to serve in the temple. They take in widows and let them keep the courtyards clean. This way I can make my whole life about worshipping the Lord God. Maybe I’ll never see the son of David on the throne or public worship day and night, but at least I can worship Him with the rest of my life. He has kept me through these hard times and cares for my every need. My few remaining years are the least I can give back.
My landlord and his family received news of my decision to leave with mixed feelings. His wife was expecting, so they really needed my room for their growing family.
I really had nothing in the room that I wanted except one small box. Enclosed within were a few letters Ari had written to me decades earlier. We were betrothed, and he was serving in the army when he wrote them. I think I read every one of them one hundred times before he came home to me. Since his passing, I’ve taken to reading them often. Now when I read them, I think about him waiting for me to come home.
The box also contained two tiny copper coins. These were a remembrance of that
day in the temple when the young prophet Jesus dumped the tables. As we stood out of the way, in the midst of all that chaos, these two mites rolled up and stopped at our feet.
We looked up to see who they belonged to, but in the tumult, there seemed nothing we could do.
As I looked at the two stars pressed into the copper, I knew just what to do with them. They were intended for worship that day in the court. I’ll put them in the treasury as an offering to the Lord.
I headed out the door for the last time, just this morning. We said our goodbyes with hugs and tears. They wished me the Lord’s best, and I touched their unborn child and spoke a blessing over it.
As I approached the temple I noticed that the booths and vendors were outside the temple gates, selling doves and sheep for the offerings. Even the money changers were outside the gates exchanging Roman currency for the temple coins.
I stopped and spoke to a boy selling doves at the side of the road.
“Why are you outside the temple court today, boy?” I asked.
“That Jesus person is in the temple again today,” he replied with annoyance. “He drove us out on the first day of the week after His little procession.”
I wasn’t sure what procession he was talking about, but it sounded like that young prophet was back in Jerusalem for the holy days again this year. My heart pounded a bit as I wondered whether I would see Him again today.
I wanted to take care of these coins before I talked to the temple administrators about keeping me on as a caretaker in the temple. Once I put them in the offering, I could honestly offer myself to the service of the Almighty without any ties to this world.
As I entered the women’s court of the temple I found crowds of spectators at the treasury. During the holy days, the rich come to fulfill their pledges while the crowds are in town for the festivities. People love to stand and watch as the rich come and make their donations. I wondered if I would be shunned from this group of givers.
Each of these wealthy men before me had their servants surrounding them. As they gave, they would have a crier announce the amount they were giving. Some gave more in one offering than our whole village could earn in a year.
Part of me wanted to go back to my village. I didn’t belong here among all the rich and powerful people. But I knew I had to give the Lord my tiny offering. After one large entourage stepped away from the treasury with great fanfare, I quietly approached.
My nerves were on high alert. I could feel the eyes of many watching as I fumbled with my two tiny copper coins. I knew the money would never make any difference to the temple, but my heart hoped that the Lord would be pleased with my offering. I had to keep reminding myself that I was not meeting a need, but honoring my Lord.
I heard some people laugh as my coins dropped into the box, and wondered if they were mocking me. I didn’t care. I would go my way and give myself to the service of my Lord.
As I walked away from the treasury and headed toward a priest I had seen near the East Gate, I felt a deep peace. A peace that started in my belly and rose, lifting my spirits and filling me with joy.
It was as though giving my last possessions to the Lord set me free somewhere deep inside.
To read the original story, see Mark 12:41-44,
Luke 21:1-4 and John 2:13-21
Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2016
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