Turning God's Head

by David Daniels on

Devotionals 6 min read
Mark 12:35–44

It’s a common sight at just about every major sports event: front row fans with crazy hats; painted faces; foam fingers; and posterboard signs taunting the opposing team, cheering their most valuable player, or flashing a favorite Bible verse. These ticketholders aren’t just radical spectators, but people wishing to be spectated. They’re hoping to be noticed by the network cameras or catch a coveted autograph. They want to be seen.

Everyone does.

We choose our fashion, our seat at the conference table, and our profile picture to make a statement to the watching world. We plaster stickers on our bumpers and put candidate signs in our yard. It’s almost impossible to spend a week at an exotic resort, meet a celebrity, buy a new car, or enjoy dinner at a classy restaurant without posting a photo to social media. Look at me!

But what catches attention on earth isn’t necessarily what catches attention in heaven. In two contrasting narratives, Jesus teaches about what turns the heads of crowds and what turns the head of God.

Taking advantage of the multitudes still drawn to His teaching, Jesus made one of the most definitive declarations of His identity. He asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?” but, “David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet”’” (Mark 12:35-36). In other words, how could the Messiah be both David’s “Lord” and his son? The answer—which delighted the crowd and disturbed the religious elite—was that Jesus the Messiah was both God over David and man descended from David, an assertion that challenged the expectations of many in Israel.

It was impossible for some to see Jesus as the Savior-King because they were too absorbed in their own appearances, trying hard to get others to see them. They were ones Jesus warned about who “like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets” (12:38-39). Their robes were likely similar to the ornate, official ones worn by temple priests. These religious teachers elevated themselves to prominence, announced their presence in the marketplace, assumed distinguished places at dinner parties, and droned on and on with their eloquent prayers. They might as well have had face paint, foam fingers, and a handmade sign reading “Look at me!”

But while such outward display turned the heads of crowds, God was unimpressed. Jesus knew that the hearts of the religious leaders were barren, impoverished, and dead. He even referred to them as “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). They had not yet learned that people are often wowed by outward appearances, but “the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Enter a frail woman slowly and deliberately making her way across the temple courtyard. She’s easy to ignore as there’s nothing outwardly distinctive about her. She waits her turn and then deposits her two copper coins into one of the 13 treasury boxes around the perimeter. Worth about 1/8 of a penny each, the woman could hardly have offered any less. Her tiny tithe barely made a sound in the coffer compared to the clanging of the impressive donations of the rich. Unnoticeable.

But Jesus heard. And Jesus saw.

How many times has this poor widow’s story been retold in the last 2000 years? It wasn’t because of her outward, flashy features, but because of her inward faith. God notices the person who lives in response to His greatness over the person who lives trying to prove their greatness. For example, Jesus saw the faith of several friends lowering their buddy through the roof (Mark 2:5). Jesus saw the faith of the woman who had been bleeding for many years as she secretly reached out to touch His robe (Mark 5:25-34). Jesus saw the faith of the persistent woman begging Jesus to heal her little girl (Mark 7:24-30). Jesus saw the faith of a blind man calling out to him on the road to Jericho (Mark 10:46-52). None of these people were remarkable to a great majority of people living nearby. But each of them caught Jesus’ attention.

Because of faith.

How much energy will you spend today, trying to be noticed? How many more hours will you put in? How much more stylish will you dress? How much knowledge will you share? How much more help will you offer? How many more pictures will you post? How many problems will you solve? How many goals will you accomplish? How much money will you accumulate? How many awards will you earn? How much authority will you prove?

Even as Christians, we may think God will be impressed with our seminary degree, mission immersion, Bible knowledge, ministry position, or financial generosity. Others, like the monastics of the 3rd and 4th centuries, may believe God is more impressed by their poverty, suffering, and abstinence from any earthly pleasure.

But it’s faith that gets God’s attention.

In the end, God isn’t impressed with all you can do, but with what you do when you can’t do anything else: you trust God. He isn’t amazed by everything you have gained for yourself but what you hold onto when you have nothing else: faith. He’s not looking for the work of your hands but the will of your heart to trust Him in everything.

Don’t ever forget Babel. Shortly into human history, people decided to build a tower to reach God. Their goal: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). The Scriptures are specific that they used bricks instead of stones—materials made by their own hands rather than God’s creative supply. Perhaps God would notice their magnificent steeple and be impressed.

But the Lord had to “come down” to see their little stack of bricks. From heaven, all the work of their hands added up to nothing. And, in the end, God scattered them for their arrogance.

Live today to be noticed by God and no one else. It won’t be by what everyone else can see on the outside. It will be by your abiding faith in God when everything else is unnoticeable. It’s faith that turns God’s head.

About the Author

Dr. David Daniels (D. Min. Dallas Theological Seminary, M. Div. Denver Seminary) is Lead Pastor of Central Bible Church and author of Next Step Church, Next Step Discipleship, Next Step JournalWonder, and An Unexpected King.