39 Some of the Torah-teachers answered, “Well spoken, Rabbi.” 40 For they no longer dared put to him a case. 41 But he said to them, “How is it that people say the Messiah is David’s son?” 42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms,
43 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
44 David thus calls him ‘Lord.’ So how can he be David’s son?”
45 Within the hearing of all the people, Yeshua said to his disciples, 46 “Watch out for the kind of Torah-teachers that like to walk around in robes and be greeted deferentially in the marketplaces, the kind that like to have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets, 47 the kind that swallow up widows’ houses while making a show of praying at great length. Their punishment will be all the worse!”
Then Yeshua looked up, and as he watched the rich placing their gifts into the Temple offering-boxes, 2 he also saw a poor widow put in two small coins. 3 He said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 For they, out of their wealth, have contributed money they could easily spare; but she, out of her poverty, has given all she had to live on.”
The chapter divisions were made by medieval editors not by the authors. In this case I think the story of the widow is the natural continuation of the previous teaching of Jesus.
Luke has been focusing on the opposition of the religious leaders, and their rejection of him as the Messiah-son -of-David. Luke follows Mark, his source, in accrediting Jesus with a smart bit of biblical interpretation in order to shed doubt on his opponents’ understanding of the Messiah. He quotes a messianic psalm, (psalm 110) traditionally written by David, and asks how the victorious King, whom David calls Lord, can rightly be called David’s son. We may guess that this text had already been argued by the Torah teachers. To call the Messiah David’s son is of course merely to make him a descendant of the David, who, given his sexual habits, must have had many descendants in the Israel of Jesus’ time.
But what precise point is Jesus making here? I think it’s similar to his refusal to name the authority for his own ministry: he’s pointing the One whose name cannot be spoken, who is the Only Good One, the father, who is present to those who love him while remaining beyond all worlds. Jesus is teaching that the Messiah is God’s son, but refuses to cheapen this origin by using it as a brand. Then psalm notes, however,that the Messiah has enemies, who will be defeated.
This translation makes clear that Jesus’ criticism of Torah teachers does not necessarily mean them all, but rather, those who behave as Jesus describes. Still, his picture of a hypocritical and smarmy clergy trading their spiritual goods for material wealth, is an accurate image of corrupt religious leaders in all times and faiths. It reminds us that Jesus and his disciples never provided for anyone what my national church calls, ” the ordinances of religion”. They went to synagogue and temple, and even when they had formed their own Assemblies after Jesus’ resurrection, they continued to so, until they were expelled by the Jewish leaders. The Greek word ekklesia usually translated “church” usually refers to assemblies of citizens called for a particular purpose. Assemblies of Jesus were for the communal announcement and practice of the Rule of God. This included the Supper of the Lord, but their main purpose was not “religious.”
In contrast to those who make a living out of God, Jesus points to the widow who gives her living to God. Large sums ostentatiously given by rich people are as nothing to the generosity of this poor woman. Jesus here does what is attributed to God in Mary’s song of praise, “putting down the mighty from their seats and lifting up the humble.” In Greek, the word translated “All she had to live on” is “bios”, that is literally, her life. She gives to God that which bears the image of God, namely herself.
In this section Luke has depicted the true Messiah-son-of -God, teaching in the holy place of his people, being attacked and tested by their religious leaders. He withstands the attacks and overcomes their tests while announcing the Rule of God, who desires the affectionate obedience of his people, and gets it from the poor.
In the following section, Jesus prophesies the end of the temple and its cult.