Holy Week wasn’t a part of my Southern Baptist tradition growing up. In fact, I’m not sure I ever heard the week between Palm Sunday and Easter described as such until I was an adult. But, just as the practices and solemnity of Advent and Lent have drawn me in, I’ve discovered such depth in understanding the specific activities of Christ, the different people he encountered, the direct words he spoke, each day of that final week.
Yesterday, as I was slowly reading through Mark’s account of Holy Week, I noticed something I don’t think I’d realized before. The women stood out to me. Not the ones we normally think of during Easter time — not Mary Magdalene, or Mary the mother of Jesus, or the women gathered at the cross or headed to the tomb. This time, it was the unnamed women, two of them actually, whose stories whispered deep into my heart and mind.
The Women of Holy Week—The Widow Who Gave All
If you grew up in the 70s and 80s, you may remember this story told with flannelgraphs. Jesus, observing at the Temple, sees people offering their gifts. I can remember one Sunday School teacher illustrating how most people carried a lot of coins and dropped them in slowly and individually so everyone could hear how much they were giving.
And, of course, the contrast is the widow who gave her two “mites.”
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” — Mark 12:41-44 ESV
I always picture her as a tiny, hunched over woman, shuffling toward the offering box, hoping no one will notice her.
Jesus noticed, though.
He saw what no one else could. He saw her heart. He saw the real gift she gave. It wasn’t that she dropped all her money into that box. It was that she gave everything. Her offering wasn’t just those little coins.
Her offering was herself.
Which leaves me sitting here, on the Tuesday before Easter, 2000 years later, wondering what my real gift is. What is it that Jesus sees me offering?
The past few months have been full of really hard days and really long nights.
We’ve had so many good things going on … but in the midst of all of it, we’ve also been dealing with some of the hardest parenting challenges we’ve ever faced. I’ve lost track of the nights I’ve spent praying instead of sleeping.
I’ve been angry and hurt. I’ve wondered if God can see me or if he even cares. I felt abandoned and unseen. And there have even been moments when I’ve doubted his love.
These aren’t the things I want you to know about me. I want you to believe my faith is rock solid and never falters. But the truth is, some days faith comes hard to me.
When I read the widow’s story, I know we don’t know it all. But from what the Scriptures tell us, we know enough to be sure her life wasn’t easy. She was a widow and she was poor. In our world, that would be hard enough — but then, it was just about as close to a death sentence as one could get.
And yet, here we see her … giving her offering.
I needed that today. I needed that reminder that the hard days don’t mean the Father doesn’t see us or know us. In fact, Jesus gave his full attention to this little widow. And he wanted the disciples to learn from her. He knew they too would have hard days coming. He’d told them about the persecution and trials ahead. I think he wanted them to have that image of the little widow in their minds. A reminder of what it means to give everything to him.
But even when we feel unseen, uncertain, and unknown, we can be sure he sees us. He knows us. And his plan is certainly for our good and for His glory.
Father, sometimes my abundance keeps me from seeing my poverty. I want quick answers, immediate results. But you don’t always work that way. Instead, you do whatever it takes to draw me closer. Help me remember the truth of your love and care for me. And in the hard seasons of life, Lord, give me strength and courage to keep shuffling toward you, giving you all I have. In Jesus’ name, amen.