Earlier in our discussion about the Gospel of Mark, I mentioned that the passages about the feeding miracles had occasioned some of the best sermons I had ever heard. Conversely, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a satisfying sermon on giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and giving God what is God’s. And I have to admit I have never understood the verse. I assume that all things are God’s, so the duality Jesus speaks of here is lost on me. Likewise, I don’t grasp what Jesus is saying when he describes the afterlife in verse 25. I can understand that life in the Resurrection will be different than life on earth. But Jesus seems to be saying, at least here, that the relationships we formed in our lifetimes won’t matter in the Resurrection–that even a relationship as central as the one we had with our spouse will be as nothing. This seems to go against Trinitarian theology, which posits a three-person godhead in relationship with itself. I have always been vexed by it.
In the midst of this vexing chapter, however, comes verse 29, in which we find Jesus doing what people in my line of work try to do all the time: boil a message down to its essence: Love God, and your neighbor as yourself. This priority-setting passage is honored primarily in the breech. It is too simple for us to accept, and so we build intricate systems of rules that make it easier for us to judge our neighbors than to love them.
The chapter closes with Jesus’ observation about the window’s mites. This story always makes me uncomfortable because, unlike the widow, I give from my surplus much more frequently than I give from my substance.