Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Simon, Jesus and a Woman

Simon, Jesus and a Woman
Luke 7.36 – 50

Millions of Americans owe millions of dollars. Some of us owe this money because of student loans, medical bills, mortgages, back taxes, credit card debt, car loans etc. Some of us owe more than others but most of us owe someone some money. The only way to pay this debt is to budget wisely and make your payments on time. If you are not indebted because of money you may be indebted because of actions someone has taken on your behalf. Someone gives you a ride to work when your car is dead. Someone lends you his lawn mower when yours stops working. Your neighbor lends you some tools so you can finish repairing your toilet. If you can pay this debt back by returning the favor, you don’t owe anyone money or a favor in return. Then there is our sin debt. All of us have sin in our lives and there is no way we can pay that debt. Nothing you or I can do will take away our sins.
If you were called to stand before whom ever you were indebted to and it was discovered there was no way you could pay, it is highly unlikely that the creditor would simply say you are forgiven of your debt. Our appreciation for such an act of grace and mercy would be huge. It would be kind of like the appreciation of a woman Jesus met at a Pharisee named Simon’s house.
Simon invited Jesus to eat at his house. While Jesus was eating, a woman who had heard He was in town went to Him. She stood behind Jesus, crying as he ate. Her tears wet His feet and she then dried them with her hair. After that she poured perfume on His feet too.
Simon, reclining nearby, watched this and said to himself, “If this man were a prophet he would know what kind of woman she is.” Everyone in that town knew she was a sinful woman.
Jesus knowing what Simon said to himself answers him. (Now if you read carefully Simon hasn’t asked a question or spoken to anyone but himself but Jesus knows what is in Simon’s heart.) Jesus is not going to let her act of worship be put down and defends her actions. So he answers Simon’s judgment with a story about two men.
Both of these men owe the same moneylender money. The first man owes 500 days wages while the second only owes 50 days wages. Neither of them can pay so the moneylender forgives them of their debts. Jesus then asks Simon “Which of them will love the moneylender more?” Simon answers that the one who was forgiven more will. Jesus tells him he answered correctly.
Then he applies the story to what is going on. Basically, He tells Simon that this woman has a lot of sin and because she has been forgiven of these many sins she is showing her appreciation to the forgiver. He also points out that Simon didn’t even show the kind of appreciation or hospitality a guest should expect. She loved much because she has been forgiven of much but Simon only loved a little because he had been forgiven a little.
Simon and the woman owed a debt of sin. Her life was sinful so she had more sin to be forgiven. Simon on the other hand lived a good life and didn’t have as much sin to forgive.
I am a Simon. I grew up in the church. I live a good life. I don’t sin much. One of my temptations is take my forgiveness for granted because I am a pretty good person. Just like the woman humiliated herself to show her appreciation and worship to the LORD because of the forgiveness she received from him, I am also to give all my life, my worship and appreciation to the LORD because he forgave me of a debt that could never pay.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Lord of the Sabbath

Meals of Jesus
Lord of the Sabbath

One day Jesus and his disciples were traveling the grain fields. Now this wasn’t any ordinary day this was a Sabbath Day. The Sabbath is special day of rest that the LORD commanded His people to observe. In fact it is so important to the LORD that he made it part of the Ten Commandments. This was a day of rest and a day for sacred assemblies. This is the LORD’s Sabbath that He even took when He finished creating the universe. He even took a rest from providing manna to the people on the Sabbath Day. The importance and history of this day was not lost on the His people. The disciples grew hungry as they walked thru the grain fields. They reached out and grabbed some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands and eat. To us this may not seem like an act that would violate the Sabbath day but to those of that time it was.
Now some Pharisees where also walking with Jesus. Whether they were genuinely interested in Jesus or just out to make trouble at this point is up to you. “Look!” they said “why are you and your disciples doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12.2, Mark 2.24 & Luke 6.2)
In Matthew Jesus’ answer is long.
He answered, “Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread–which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘ I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ (Hosea 6.6) you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12.3 - .8)
What is he saying? I think he is saying that mercy is more important that sacrifice. Your inner religious life is more important than your outer religious life. How you are one the inside needs to reflect on your actions. The Pharisees thought they had figured out the Sabbath and were using it as a weapon to condemn people. They knew what God wanted and if people couldn’t see that, they were condemned. Jesus on the other hand says no to that concept. Instead he wants them to sacrifice their preconceived notions of what God wants and have mercy on those who don’t live exactly as them. He also wants them to know that he is God. When Jesus declares himself as Lord of the Sabbath he is basically saying I am GOD. God created the Sabbath as His final act of creation. God commanded that His people observe the Sabbath. God blessed the people with the gift of the Sabbath. No one is lord of the Sabbath but God alone.
Mark includes another quote for Jesus “The Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2.27) I love this verse because it applies to so much in our lives. The Sabbath is a gift but the Pharisees used it as a weapon to draw a line between those who were “holy” and those who weren’t. In our society there are many religious people who draw up lists of how Christians are supposed to live or are supposed to be like. Not to extend mercy but to condemn. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time they miss the point. Our righteous life, our holy life, our salvation is a gift of great mercy and sacrifice; it was made for us not us for it. Jesus tells us by quoting Hosea 6.6 that God wants us to have the same kind of grace and mercy He had rather than we get all the external trappings of religion right.
When we read about the Pharisees we need to remember two things. First, not all of these guys were bad. Many became believers and followers of Jesus. They were earnestly trying to live a life that pleased God. Second, we are the Pharisees of our day. They were the good church going people of their day. Now we are those people, so we need to be careful how we live. Do we show mercy like the Father wants? Do we just get the external trappings of religion right? Do we use our righteousness to condemn others or to help them in their walk with the LORD?