Tuesday, October 16, 2012



Here in this last story of Luke 7 we come to a scene that simply begs to be read, because it takes little commentary to understand what is happening. Check it out:  
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-that she is a sinner." Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said.
"Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

I love this story. Through this openly recognized, sinful woman Jesus illustrates His message most clearly.

There in the home of one of the Pharisees Jesus is being treated to dinner. In the Pharisee's home, you just know that he is looking for the opportunity to impress Jesus with his religious purity and righteousness. Most likely, others knew of this special dinner meeting with Jesus and there was somewhat of an anticipation, if not a tenseness about the evening they were to spend together.
But at this most holy performance, a party crasher has just appeared in the house, definitely not on the official invitation list. But this wasn't a socialite barging into this party, this was a woman-of-the-night kind of woman-a sinner in most every respect.

NOTE the following observations: 1. The pure Pharisee is upstaged by the impure woman. The Pharisee was the host and expected to be seen as the prominent focus of attention. Yet this unrighteous, sinful woman took center stage and became the focus of attention for the evening.

2. Not only her presence at the dinner party was offensive, but her touching and washing the feet of Jesus with such extravagant perfume certainly posed a great offence. It was unlawful to be in the presence of such a woman, let alone have contact with her. Yet, Jesus allowed her to express herself.

3. The performing Pharisee was out performed by this sinful woman. The Pharisee embodied the performance mentality of keeping the Law and the traditions. But the sinful woman's performance was in the spirit of gratefulness and servanthood.

4. Jesus affirmed what was at the core of this woman's masterful performance. It was her faith that set her performance apart. She performed alright-even more than the Pharisee-and her performance was an overflow of her faith and devotion to Jesus.

This scene in the life of Jesus is about people who need forgiveness and know it. It's about people who receive forgiveness and are grateful for it. It's also about people who need forgiveness and don't know it. It's about religious people who absolutely, totally miss the point!

Jesus demonstrates that God wants a personal relationship with people, no matter what they have done or haven't done. Life isn't a checklist for following a religious system of do's and don'ts, even if it is a good religious system. It's all about a relationship of faith (personal trust) and forgiveness (personal acceptance of God's grace).

The woman is totally acceptable to Jesus and completely unacceptable to the Pharisee. Jesus more freely accepts the sinner, the broken one, and stands a distance away from the self-righteous Pharisee. So, which are you? The person who is in need of forgiveness and knows it and is grateful when it is received? Or, the person who needs forgiveness and doesn't know it, therefore missing the point of Jesus' message altogether?



Just after Jesus raises the dead boy to life, John hears about what is happening. It was confusing to John. On the one hand, the people were saying, "He is a prophet." But on the other hand, "Certainly God has come to help us." Typically a prophet had a word from God to challenge the people. He was filled with truth, but little grace. Yet Jesus was referred to as a messenger from God who came with grace. This was a strange twist to John's ears and understanding. Look what happens:  
John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' "

John had already baptized Jesus, believing there was something special about Jesus and now from jail is wanting further verification. In a sense, John was becoming more and more discouraged as he sat in jail and was hoping for more clarity and overt action from the Messiah. The way Jesus answers this question is to first demonstrate exactly what the Messiah was to do.
At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me."

After performing these Messianic acts, Jesus sends John's disciples back with a quote from the prophet, Isaiah, who is speaking about the Messiah who was to come. In other words, Jesus' answer to John was basically, "I am the One."
After John's messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: " 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."

Here's an interesting comparison. Jesus compliments John as being the greatest one born of woman ever. Then immediately Jesus says, "Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." What in the world is Jesus saying? Simply this. John played a major role in preparing the way for the Messiah, yet he was only the preparer. As the kingdom of God is ushered in, those who will enjoy the kingdom are at a whole different level, to the point that the least one in the kingdom of God will be greater than John.
(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) John indeed prepared the way for the Messiah.
Jesus went on to say, "To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: " 'We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.'
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved right by all her children."

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees and the experts in the law were acting like children who wouldn't play when invited. They were fickle. When John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, they accused him of being demonic. Then when Jesus came eating and drinking, they said He was a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. No matter who God sent to them, they weren't buying it due to their powerful positioning and pride.

Then Jesus makes a powerful statement. He says, "But wisdom is proved right by all her children." I think what Jesus is saying here is that God's wisdom and God's truth will be proved out by the followers of Jesus-by the followers of Jesus practicing this lifestyle. This is why practicing the principles and teachings of Jesus is so vital. The only way to prove that Jesus' way is the right way of God is to practice it. And, the only way to practice His teachings and principles is to have an experiential encounter with Jesus personally. God's way for living life most fully is not to know something, but to know someone. It is not a performance, but a person. Again, the kingdom of God doesn't need proof; it only needs practice.