As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
When I was young, I was greatly encouraged by a youth minister in my church and, with his good influence, I was growing up with a dream to be a minister of the Church like him. I often imagined myself wearing a nice long clerical robe and have been overwhelmed by a sense of calling from God and by the great passion to serve the Lord.
Now I do not wear the robe, but a clerical collar which reminds me of my identity in Christ, which is something that I prayed for since I was young. It has reminded me what my attitude should be like for my ministry: it was all about calling, identity, responsibility ‘with fear and trembling’ (Phil.2:12) before God and before people.
In addition, ‘prayer’ is supposed to be a significant practice in our personal relationship with God where we bring our concerns into God’s hands. Prayer for the world in this sense is special.
However, this passage has quite different meaning: ‘the long robes’ and ‘the long prayer’ of the scribes here actually hide what was in their inner hearts – a sense of privilege, pride, hierarchy with self-centred greed without compassion.
We know that the point in this passage is not about the long robe nor the long prayer. It is about our hearts, the true motivation of it, which could be hidden from other people, but not from God.
I think that, however, the real point might be about ‘the long robes’ and ‘the long prayer’ whose true meanings have been distorted, but to be renewed and restored. As Mark draws our attention into the destruction of the Temple in the next chapter (13), the point is about restoration, not abandonment, to rebuild the Temple with its true meaning of God’s dwelling place that is built not by stones but by the Spirit.
We hope to find the true meaning of our practice and our tradition with fear and trembling hearts.
Dear Lord, We thank you for the beauty of our tradition and the preciousness of our acts of worship. By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Let our hearts, traditions, and worship, be renewed and restored, Through which, we may find God much closer to us And that we may bring the true meaning of ‘good’ news to others. We love you Lord, with all our hearts, our minds and our strengths. Amen.