Jesus The Healer

Luke 8:40-56

Who has a mother?  We all have a mother.  Why?  Because something happened a long time ago in a beautiful garden called Eden.  Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.  Yes, we came from a mother.  Even Jesus came from a mother.  Look in Psalm 113, verse 14, where it says:

"I  praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

This verse is written in thanks to the Lord for His work in each of us in our coming into being.  Our mothers, my mother, had a big part in what happened.  They played a pretty big role in God's creative process. The official Mother's Day arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of a lady named  Anna Jarvis. Following her mother's 1905 death, Anna conceived of Mother's Day as a way of  honoring the sacrifices mothers make for their children.   Anna was Christian, and seemed to understand  what it means to  pass on the love of Christ.  Just be blessed that you, too, can say "thank you" because the Lord's blessing of you, fearfully and wonderfully made, came into being because of God and your mother and father.

What do mothers have to do with our sermon today.  Besides the fact that Jesus had a mother, Jesus was a healer.  Our stories of healing are miracle stories.  In one case, Jesus healed by the mere touch of His garment.  In the other, by someone coming to Jesus to ask; soometimes, we only need to ask.  Have you ever heard the expression, "A mother's touch"?  Do you believe that a mother can touch in the same simple way Jesus does, and healing can occur?  Do you think that mommies have that healing touch that God created mommies to be.  

John 14:11-14 tells us:

"Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me: or at least believe in the evidence of the miracles themselves.  I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

There is truth in Jesus' words that I see as untapped power in Jesus that is available to us here today.  Truth that helps us understand what happens in our story line.  Truth that we can know, that we can ask for anything in Jesus' name, and He will hear us.

I hope that, when we come together in community, we come with expectation of a special time with our Lord Jesus, for we know that, when two or more gather, He is here in our midst.  So, who was in that crowd that day?  Verse 41 tells us.

"Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of twelve, was dying.  As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her."

This woman was considered unclean.   To touch such a person would make the other person unclean.  She was someone with no place in the community, no voice whatsoever, not even the ability to go into the worship center.  My guess is that she considered herself totally undeserving of love from anyone for twelve long years.  She was poor, she was sick, she was an outcast.  She must have heard about the miracle-working power of Jesus. 

In one household (Jairus'), joy and happiness was born;  in another, sorrow, sickness, loneliness, and despair.  And here they are, in the same crowd, on the same day, both with great needs.  Jairus had probably witnessed the casting out of evil spirits and the healing of Simon's mother-in-law.  Did Jairus really know who this man Jesus really was?  Or was it that he had a mustard seed of faith, just enough to chance everything to see if Jesus could save the life of his daughter.  Maybe you and I don't know who Jesus really is when we first really look to Him, yet something happens when we realize that we can't get done what needs to be done without Him,  when we believe enough to take that simple step of faith.  What is clear in our story is that Jairus went to Jesus to plead for his daughter.  What is also clear is that the woman felt she had no other option in life but to try Jesus.  The story of two lives interwoven into one witness account for us to consider.   Both are helpless to find a cure.  Both have a degree of faith, albeit imperfect.  Both came to Christ in belief and desperation. 

Now take a look at what Jesus did out of His love and compassion.  The woman must have been thinking, "There is no way that Jesus would come to me.  He can't touch me.  I have this terrible disease.  I am an outcast.  If I secretly touch Him, without anyone knowing, maybe, just  maybe, I will be healed, and He won't be contaminated."  Is that backwards thinking?    Thinking that somehow we can contaminate Jesus with our diseases, or dare I say, our sins?  Not possible.  But she did not know that.  Verse 44 tells us,

"She came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped."

She didn't touch His head or His arm, but simply the hem of His robe.  Jesus' power completely overwhelmed the disease, and by her faith, she was made whole again.  Her plan had worked, except for one thing.  Her act of faith did not go unnoticed, as she had hoped it would.  In verses  46:

"'Who touched me?' Jesus asked.  When they all denied it, Peter said 'Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.' But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'"

Even our smallest acts of faith do not go unnoticed by our Lord.  Isn't that a wonderful thought?  In her case, she touched His garment.  In our case, His living spirit, the Holy Spirit, lives within, and we only need to whisper our concern with a mere mustard seed of faith.   In the woman's case, Jesus didn't want her faith step to go unnoticed, for Jesus knew  the impact of it on her  is maybe even true for us today.  For, if He had not called to her to come forward, we would not have the faith witness of her story. 

In verse 48, the woman came forward, yet another step of faith; maybe she even thought she was breaking a rule, which is why she was trembling.  She feared Him; maybe she feared the crowd more than she feared Jesus.  Jesus wanted all to know that she was now clean.  We see that Jesus comforts her by calling her "daughter," and explaining that it was her faith, her desperate faith in Jesus, that has healed her.  She is pronounced whole in front of the whole crowd.  This tells everyone what has happened - physical healing, how it happened through her faith, and what it meant to her.  His healing has restored her to the community.  Do you agree with me that to be whole or completely healed, we must be saved and welcomed into the community of believers, the body of Christ?  She became a daughter of the King, just as you and I are daughters and sons of the King, the most high God.  In verse 48, Jesus says to the woman:

"Then He said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.'"

Then, Jesus is interrupted when news is brought to Him, news that sounds disastrous, that sounds like Jesus is too late.  But we know that Jesus is never too late.  In verse 49;

"While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler.  'Your daughter is dead.' he said.  'Don't bother the teacher any more.'

What Jairus had feared had become a reality.  His daughter was dead.  Yet what he was about to learn is that with God, all things are possible (Matt 19:26).  Jesus assured Jairus not to be afraid, to just believe, and his daughter would be healed.  The same lesson that had just been demonstrated as Jesus healed the woman, believe, that it is through your faith, Jairus, that your daughter will be healed.  God will do the healing, but the human part is faith.  God always does the work of salvation, and we do the believing.  Coming to Jesus was the right thing for Jairus to do.  Even though things seemed to be beyond hope, she would be well.  Wholeness, saved, healed, delivered.  Bring it to Jesus as Jairus did.  So they went to Jairus' home. In verses 32-36:

"Meanwhile all the people were wailing and mourning for her.  'Stop wailing,' Jesus said.  'She is not dead but asleep.'  They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.  But he took her by the hand and said, 'My child, get up!'  Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.  Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.  Her parents were astonished, but He ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened."

What an amazing story!  Now let's pay attention to a couple important points beyond what might be called "The Great Awakening.".  First, the crowd here is like most crowds.  They don't believe Jesus.  They laugh at Him.  Second, Jesus narrows those witnessing miracles to the child's parents and three disciples, an inner circle.  Why?  Maybe they were the only ones ready to accept  the true meaning of what they were about to witness.  It seems that Jesus had not yet wanted to share the reality of the resurrection. He does so later with Lazarus and then Himself.  The divine healing is the reality in what we see here.  For the woman, it was the healing of her physical and spiritual life.  I would suggest that Jairus' entire family was brought to new spiritual life as a result of the divine physical healing of their daughter.  Third,  it seems clear that the child's spirit had left her body, and Jesus had commanded it to return.  I wonder if this is a precursor to when Jesus returns and all the believers who have gone on before us will return with their new bodies.  Some do interpret this passage as a precursor of what is to come. 

This passage concludes when Jesus tells them not to tell anyone.  Those who were wailing and mourning about the death of a 12-year-old who was now up and about and needing something to eat.  What a true story of faith!  What a story about the power of our Lord Jesus!  What a story of healing wholeness in our Lord Jesus.!  Most of all, what a story about faith!

What about you, and what about me?  When we face trials in our lives, do we act in faith like the woman in our story?  Or like Jairus?  Remember, it does not matter who you are.  We really saw that in this story.  What the condition of your heart is, or your position in life.  I think it would be correct to say that the words Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid.  Just believe, and she will be well." (verse 50), is what we should remember.  Faith in our Lord Jesus is always the answer.  It says in Psalm 50, verse 15, 

"Call upon me in the day of trouble;  I will deliver you, and you will honor me."

It is through the trials and the days of trouble that we get to know just a little bit better, how much Jesus loves us, wants us whole, and willingly delivers us from all evil.  Maybe the  Lord does know where all the parts go, and maybe He wants us to be physically well, and maybe ultimately, it's that new body that He's got planned for us.  He wants us spiritually, and He wants us in relationship with Him.  He willingly delivers us from all evil.  He loves us, and desires our love in return.  He desires relationship with Him, and with each other to be whole.

Not just this way, but clearly this way, we are a  community of believers.  We are to love one another.  Why?  Because God loved us first.  Today I say, on Mother's Day, love one another.  Believe that Jesus is the great healer.  Believe that Jesus is the great comforter.  Believe that Jesus can make you whole.  Believe that Jesus will deliver our loved ones.  Believe that Jesus will heal our relationships.  We are His family.  Let us be family to one another.  Believe that, in making it so, we will glorify Him.  Believe that mom's kisses do work, for they are kisses that come from Jesus through the mommy.

Peace, Harmony, And Love For God

Phillippians 2:14-16

Wy is it so easy to complain?  There are alot of things it is so easy to complain about.  The world doesn't revolve around me.  It revolves around Christ.  It revolves around our Lord God.  So when we think about being faithful and complaining, complaining requires no effort.  Arguing is much the same.  It can be in our churches, or in our homes, our families, our jobs.  There is a tendency when we disagree to get an attitude about it, and that is anger, frustration.  Before you know it, two people who are close together become separated.  Let's look at God's Word and find out how it could help us with arguing.   It's not easy.  It's a challenge.  But, with God all things are possible. 

Let's see what we can do in our daily lives, just touching the hem of the garment, to start to have more peaceful families, to have a church that is seeking God's Word, not one that follows the  commandments of man or traditions of man, but a church with living, breathing people who are seeking God.  We can't think that we have it all.  We are constantly seeking Him.   We see that we need slow, selfless anger. Let's look at James 1;19-20:

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness  that God desires."

When is it ok to be angry?  In John 2: 13-17

"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts. He found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple courts,...."Get these out of here!  Stop turning my Father's house into a market!  His disciples remembered that it is written 'Zeal for your house will consume me."

Jesus was showing power.  He was angry!   They had taken something holy, and made it unholy.  Our holy God is being mocked on a daily basis.  Jesus wasn't angry about what they were saying to Him.  He was angry about what they were doing to His Father.  One key element of righteous anger is that we're not angry because someone has done something to me, but we're angry because something has been done to God.

But you also see the idea of patience in this.  Think about what you are doing.  Be slow to anger.  Take yourself out of the equation.  When we are disagreeing with each other, it's not about me and you.  It's about trying to find out what the truth is.  It's about us and God.  So we should get angry when someone says something that hurts God. 

How can we be slow to anger?  When was the last time you were fuming mad and made a great decision?   That hole in the wall needed to be there. That's a nice decoration.  We just don't make good decisions when we are fuming mad.  So in a disagreement with each other, what does that tell you if you start feeling the bubble in your blood, if you feel that wrath coming on, if you cannot subdue it and control it?   Have at least the godliness to say,  "You know what, I can't continue this discussion in a godly manner, let's go away and we'll come back and discuss this later.  That is slow to anger. 

We need to be quick to listen.  Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.   I want to read proverbs 9:7-9.

"Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.  Do not rebuke mocers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.  Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;  teach the righteous and they will add to their learning."

If we really desire God's wisdom, we have to be teachable people, not scoffers.  We have to be willing to be openminded.  We need to be people who are willing to listen to what God says especially, and listen to one another.   We need to understand.  What does understanding have to do with anger?  We should let God work in our lives the way He should.  Not flawlessly.  My wife helps me with things and I help her.  That's what a marriage can be; that's what a church can be with God.  It can work harmoniously, but we have to be quick to listen.   

We need to listen to each other, but most importantly, we need to listen to God.  We need to be subject to God's Word in every single way, even if it's not what we normally do, not what our traditions say, and not what we're comfortable doing.  Serving God is not about being comfortable.

There are two aspects of listening that are important.  If we're disagreeing with each other, and I'm not listening to you, how can I possibly answer your argument?  Also, there's an emotional side to that too.  Why are we talking if we don't use our mouths to communicate?  We don't want to use our mouths as a weapon.  We want to listen to one another.  Why is it that a lack of understanding leads to anger?  Look at 1Peter 3:15.  Here's another solution God gives to being able to disagree without getting angry. 

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentlemess and respect." 

...Brethren, if we can't say, "This is why I am doing this,"  if I can't point to something in the New Testament  and say, "This is why I'm doing this," what am I doing?  Meekness is not weakness, as Peter says  to be meek.  The idea of meekness is power that is brought under control, being tame.  A tame lion is not meek.  He just has allowed the master to tame him.  Our power becomes greater when we are tamed by God, but we need to bring that power under control.

Be slow to speak.  Think about the extremes of power and control.  Let's say you have a car with a gargantuan amount of power, but absolutely no control.  Without control, you get destroyed.  When we know we have power, we know that we have to have more control.  A person with lots of power and less control  is reeking destruction on the people around him.  That wasn't our Lord, that wasn't the way Jesus was, and He was the most powerful person who ever lived.  Jesus lifted the burden of sin; He lifted the entire world.  There is no one with that kind of strength.  There were so many things Jesus could have done but He didn't, because He was meek and gentle.  That's the way we need to be.  

A fool wants to prove that he is right.  A wise person seeks to prove what IS right.  We don't want to be argument winners.  We want to be soul winners for Christ, not argument winners.  We want to speak in a godly way to keep from responding in an ungodly one.  Proverbs 29:9 says that, when a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there's no rest. So, if Jesus had complained or argued about coming to save us, how would that have been?   

So what do we have to complain about?  Nothing.  We have done nothing but have been offered everything.  There's nothing to complain about.  Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker, and that's what we want to be.  We want to be people who are helping others to be at peace with God, and at peace with one another.

Being Close To God

Luke 8:1-15

When I say "The oldest profession," what comes to mind?  The world has one answer.....tending to plants, gardening and farming.  Adam was a gardener,  Consider that every blessed relationship and every genuinely beneficial profession and skill points to God in some way.  If you have a heart for the Lord, you can find God is every activity that is not sinful.

The one who makes things grow is God.  We plant a seed, we water a seed, we fertilize the gound, but we can't make something grow without using the innate potential of something God created.  The first profession, the first task given to man, apart from naming the animals, takes on a prominent role throughout Scripture.  So much so, that there are numerous Old Testament laws concerning the practices of farmers.

Our parable is often called the"Parable of the Sower.  Yet Jesus mentions nothing at all of the sower in His explanation of the parable!  The focus in His parable is on dirt.   It could be called "The Parable Of The Four Soils."   In all seriousness, this parable is some of the most practical writing I have ever seen.  This parable has convicted me.  It has broken my heart.  It has set me free from habitual sin or simply from unbelief.  It is a constant aid in my struggle to grow in the likeness of Jesus. 

"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on and the birds of the air ate it up."   (verse 5)

The first question I think of when I read this verse is, "Who is the sower?"  My first impulse is to say God is the sower, but what is the sower doing?  According to Jesus in verse 11,  "the seed is the Word of God."  Anyone who sows the Word of God is the sower.  That's one of the chief duties of all of us Christians.  We sow God's Word through evangelism, or through our witness simply living the Christian life.  Sometimes we just point people to the Scripture.  God is the Seed here, and He is also the One making the seed grow.  We also know that God sends the sowers out to do the sowing.

What do you also notice about the seed here?  Throughout this whole passage, the Word of God, the seed, is never at fault!   There are three soils that do not bear fruit, but the Good Seed is never the problem.  God's efforts to reach the lost aren't what is lacking.  God's Word is powerful.  God's Word is effective.  Why do you think the devil has to snatch up the seed?  Because road or not, the seed is going to grow.  It's always the right seed.  It's just not always the right dirt.

With that background in mind, let's ask a question:  What does the path represent then?  We read that the seed "was trampled underfoot" before the "birds of the air ate it up" (vs.5).  When they trample on the Word of God, they aren't letting it take root in their hearts.  They are spurning the gift that is God's Word.  This soil represents those people who disagree with good sense before they've even heard it.  

Now, I call this the "Parable Of The Four Soils" because the soils are the main focus.  But they're not all literally soil.    The important part is that man is trampling the seed under foot, and the devil is snatching it up.  (verse 6):


"Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture."

Jesus tells us that this seed represents those who have no root.  Well, God tests everyone once, and if they fall away, then they had no root.  All day, every day in this life, is a time of testing!  Our peace does not come because our battle is over, but because we know our Lord is with us.  So then, in a time of testing, these professors of the faith fall away and wither because they have no root.  This makes it a bit more pressing to pay attention to Jesus' words. 

What are these roots?  Why do these seeds have to moisture?  So then, how do we stay connected to the nourishment of God?  Study His Word.  Pray.  Listen to Godly music.  Sing Godly music.  Go to Church on Sundays.  Serve the Lord by spreading the Good News.  The idea here is fellowship with God!  If we are in intimate relationship with Him, then we will be drawing nourishment from Him.  However you draw close to God, genuinely draw close to Him.  I'm not here to tell you how to draw close to God.  It's not a formula, but some constants in every fruitful Christian walk abound.

For those who have fallen from grace, there was a single theme that ran through each of these fallen lives.  Every one of them had gradually drifted away from their one-on-one time with God.  All of them stopped singing hymns in the car, or reading Scripture daily.  They weren't spending time in prayer.  They stopped nurturing their roots.

We are not saved by a single one-time profession of faith in Jesus, but we're saved DAILY by an active and intimate relationship with the One True God.  God is our Father, and desires to love us as only a Father can.  He delights to hold us close, in his lap, and walk us through our lives.   It's not that He punishes us for not seeking Him first, but instead that without seeking Him first, we have no hope in overcoming sin!   The devil is more powerful than you are.  None of us are a match for him on our own.  In one-on-one combat, Satan wins 100% of the time.  That's why we must put on the WHOLE armor of God.

The next verse can be tricky (verse 7).


"Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants."

Jesus says these thorns are cares and riches, and pleasures of life, that choke the plants and keep the fruit from maturing.  In John 15:2 Jesus says:

"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

One of the requirements for us to be considered Christians is that we bear fruit.  So if this immature fruit is still fruit, then this person might be saved through the skin of their teeth.  The immature fruit signifies a lack of sincere faith.  These are those who do not know the Lord. The roots aren't the problem.  They have strong roots.  The nourishment is there, and the plants are growing.  In this example, the Christian is spending time and effort feeding the roots of the weeds.  It's not that they're not putting God high on their priorities.  But the weeds are first.  Let me tell you something about God.  If He's not alone on your throne, if He's sharing first place with something else, then He's not first.  Our God is a jealous God.  He doesn't do second place.  Jesus specifically says in verse 14:

"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasure, and they do not mature."

Am I good soil?  How many of you worry from time to time?  Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  If we're not living in peace, the heart peace that comes from our relationship with God, Shalom, then how are we going to represent Jesus to a dying world?

What about riches?  Do you feel that you make enough money?  Now it's not a bad thing to want more money.  But is your focus in increasing wealth choking the fruit of God in your life?  Does it take away your kindness?  Your patience?

Finally, let's touch on the "pleasures of life."  A wise man told me that the eyes are the last things to die.  The first glance is free, but the second glance is very costly.  You have heard of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  It is by our fruit that we are known.  How do you know if someone is earnestly seeking God?  If these fruits are reflected in their character, they are children of God.  Sometimes you can't tell up front.  You have to spend some time with them to know.  When it comes to false teachers, Jesus says that "by their fruit you will know them:"  The fruit of wolves is also listed in Scripture; among them are "idolatry, enmity, rivalries, dissensions," to name a few.

Let's consideer the three soils we've touched on.  Having the seed isn't enough.  It needs to take root.  And these roots have to go deep, to draw nourishment from God  The seeds need to be the only type of seed in the soil:  This brings us to the final soil.  The last dirt. (verse 8)

"Still other seed fell on good soil.  It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.  When He said this, He called out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Let me read what Jesus says about this final soil in verse 15:

"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by persevering product a crop."

None of these soils represent a one-time thing.  The soil is our life.  It's not the way we were made, but the way we actively live.  One is not a Christian because of the way he was created, but because of the life he lives, and the choices he makes.  If you're the path, you are actively choosing to trample the Word of God.  If you are the rocky soil, you aren't spending your efforts building your roots.  If you are the thorny soil, you are spending your life on things that do not matter.  Developing a "noble and good heart" is one of the aspects of God's work in us......called sanctification.  This parable is about a persevering life.  Which soil do you want to be? 

We're a work in progress.  God loves us just as we are, but He loves us far too much to leave us that way!  I can promise each and every one of you, sometimes God will command you to pluck out those thorny weeds, so His Word can grow unmolested in your heart.

God is good.  God is love.  God will never leave us, nor forsake us.  He is here for the long haul.   Jesus Christ endured the Cross so that we can have every tool we need to persevere to the end.  It's the fertile soil, free from weeds and with strong roots, that perseveres.  And we don't persevere so that we can survive by the skin of our teeth.  "It came up and yielded a crop a hundred times more than was sown."  Get to planting, you sowers.  And get to weeding, or pulling out rocks.......Because we are all the dirt, and we might as well be good dirt!  

 

 


 

Faith and Forgiveness

Luke 7:36-50

Today's reading is a story that describes Jesus as one who is willing to dine with us, about forgiveness and transformation. Most of all, it is a story of Jesus' love for each and every one of us - no matter the sin.  It will call us to check the condition of our own hearts.  Let's start with the setting....A setting which demonstrates Jesus as a friend to sinners.  

"When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, we went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table." - verse 36

We see Jesus here at the home of a Pharisee named Simon.  Simon wanted to honor this famous rabbi.  We can assume that Simon is well-to-do.  Most of the pharisees seemed to be.   Hospitality was a very strong value in the Middle East with much fuss made over guests, especially a famous rabbi.  The text indicates that Jesus "reclined" at the table (Greek kataklino-reclined).  This is a characteristically Eastern style of dining, with guests arranged around a low table, reclining on one arm and supported cushions, leaving their hands free to feed themselves.  Their feet would be stretched out behind them, with room for those who were serving the meal to bring various dishes to the table.  This is also the likely arrangement at the Lord's Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.   A woman comes to the party uninvited. 

It is important to understand that the pharisees were distinguished by strict observation of the written and traditional law, and were believed to have held pretentions to superior sanctity.  In modern language - self-righteous.

Then something extraordinary happens in verse 37:

When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume."

So in comes this woman.  I am quite certain it was not proper for a sinful woman to approach the honored guest, especially not this type of woman, a woman who lived a "sinful" life.  She comes with an alabaster jar of perfume..  She is viewed as someone who conveys uncleanness by her very touch.  Her actions indicate that she must have heard Jesus speak of His Father's Kingdom in words so plain and compelling that she desperately desires what Jesus is promising.  Forgiveness and restoration.  She somehow knew Jesus would be receptive to her coming.  verse 38 says;

"As she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped then with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them."

The woman is standing behind Jesus, and  weeps. We read that  her tears fall upon Jesus' feet. How long this goes on we are not told. Each tear must have made a brown wet mark in the dust of his feet, until his feet were wet with her tears.                                                                                                                                                         

Now she unfastens her hair, removing whatever kerchief she may have worn over it, lets it fall free. She kneels down and begins to wipe his feet with her hair. A women's glory is her appearance, and  her hair especially in the New Testament times! She allows herself to be dishevelled & uses her hair to wipe the feet (the job of a servant) of Jesus!

Her weeping "klaiousa" (Greek) κλαίουσα is especially deep weeping of great remorse and great sorrow that is only used three times in the whole of the New Testament!

a)Here in this verse and in

b)Matthew 2:18 Rachel is "weeping" for the children after Herod had ordered the killing of boys under the age of 2,

c)And John 20:11 where we see Mary of Magdala (Magdalene) "weeping" at the tomb on Easter morning before conversing with the two angels.

In the case of Mary Magdalene and Rachel the great sorrow is easily understood.  In the scene here we see a pouring out of deep remorse – for this woman came to Jesus with a humble and sorrowful heart, seeking forgiveness. True humility, remorse, & repentance are demonstrated by her actions.

You might jump to the conclusion that this woman had a lot to be sorry for – after all her sin was “especially wicked”.  The question we need to answer for ourselves is how big does the sin need to be for our hearts to be deeply sorry?  Do we sometimes think that the “little” things we do don’t matter so much?  Before answering that question….let’s take a look at  what happens next in verses 39:

'"When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, He said to himself, 'If this man were are propnet, He would know who is touching Him, and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner.'"

Did Simon know, really know who he had at his dinner table.  We see him questioning, doubting --- looking for ways to disprove what he had been told to be true about Jesus. himself.  What was it about Simon that caused him to doubt Jesus.  One might suggest that just as much as we see Jesus being Jesus, we see the Pharisee being the Pharisee – hoping to uncover a gotcha moment.  This is something that we all need to be careful of.  It is easy to sit here today in judgement of the pharisee but how often do we find ourselves looking for the bad in another person rather than the good.  I often wonder how we define the call to “love" our neighbor and our enemy if we spend time seeking the gotcha moments … the I must be right and you must be wrong.  Verse 40 says:.

"Jesus answered him, 'Simon, I something to tell you.'   'Tell me, teacher, he said."

 

We can surmise that Jesus knew what the pharisee was thinking.  Jesus does not confront or judge Simon - why not?  After all, Jesus is God.  Who better to pass judgment?

Let’s keep in mind that Jesus is speaking to Simon who is concerned about this woman who just came in and touched Jesus – something that a prophet – at least in the mind of a pharisee – would never let happen.  Jesus the friend of sinners…now becomes Jesus the teacher who answers Simon as follows in verses 41-42:

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denari, and the other fifty. 42 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?"


How would you answer this question if it were you?  Both were forgiven – does the amount of forgiveness we receive increase our love – especially as it relates to our Lord?  Maybe a reverse question might be – is it ok to continue in sin in the “small” areas of our life because we only need forgiveness for the big things?  Let’s see how Simon replies and how Jesus applies it to the woman in the story (verse 43): 

"Simon replied.  'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.'  'You have judged correctly,' Jesus said."

Simon's words were more than an answer.  They were a judgment as well.  Jesus had concealed Simon's conduct under the cover of a parable, and had thus led him to unwittingly pronounce sentence against himself.  Simon, the little debtor, had no acts of gratitude to plead in evidence of his acquittal. (verses 44-45)

"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."

See this woman? - Jesus is comparing Simon’s actions to the woman known as a wicked sinner – YIKES!!  Simon -- see what this woman has done for me, compared with what you have done. She has shown me expressions of regard which you, in your own house, have not shown.  Jesus was expressing the fact that he had come into Simon’s house expecting the usual hospitality.

"You did not give me water for my feet." - Among Eastern people it was customary, before eating, to wash the feet; and to do this, or to bring water for it, was one of the measures of hospitality. The reasons for this were, that they wore “sandals,” which covered only the bottom of the feet, and as we see here, they were reclining on couches. It was therefore necessary that the feet should be often washed.  The neglect of washing, kissing and anointing is not well taken by Jesus (verse 47):. 

"Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - as her great love has shown.  But whoever has forgiven little loves little.". 

In Matthew 7 Jesus is pretty direct when He says:

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eyes?  You hypocrite.  First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Simon the little debtor had a huge gargantuan-sized plank in his eye that was not only blocking his vision to see this man named Jesus was the Messiah, but another one that kept him from recognizing his own sin and therefore how little he was capable of loving.

Does it matter how big or small the forgiveness Jesus showers upon those who repent?  Or does it matter how much we love, truly love, Jesus?  We love Jesus because He loved us first.  We love Jesus because we know who He is!  We love Jesus because we all know that we have sinned and fallen short.  And yet, still Jesus forgives and we are saved by our faith!!  Jesus the TEACHER is also Jesus our Savior. 

Dp we recognize all the "little debts or "little sins" in our lives that need forgiveness?  Are we too focuced on the magnitude of the sin of another, to even recognize our own?  (verses 48-50):

"Then Jesus said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'  Others present saw what was happening and wondered who this man was who could forgive sins."

It is  the light of our own faith that will draw others that are in the darkness of this world into the light of Christ.  

What about the condition of our own hearts?  Are we able to see beyond ourselves to see Jesus in the midst of all that goes on in our world?  Jesius says, "Your faith has saved you; now follow me.  Don't compare yourself to another-follow me.  I know what is best."  We need to be humble, servant, forgiver, and forgiven!

Do you think that this woman who Jesus loved and forgave became a channel of God's peace to those she came into contact with?  We are forgiven and, whether we are forgiven "small" or "big" we are to love our Jesus and one  another a whole lot!

So where are you today?  How is your heart?  Rest your eyes on Jesus, for He is your friend, your teacher, your Savior.  If there is anything at all you need to confess, tarry no longer.  Make things right with the Lord, so you, like our woman in the story, can go in peace and become that channel of God's peace that our world so desperately needs.

Psalm 91

Everyone who walks with Jesus has a verse or two that either got them started or keeps them going.  When I was going through the conversion process, one of the passages that convicted me and caused me to go to great length was found in the words of Jesus in Matt 6:33:

"But seek first the kingdom of God in His righteousness and all these things will be added to you."

You might also remember from the Ten Commandments, God telling the Israelites           (Exodus 20:2-3)

"I am the Lord your God...  You shall have no other gods before me."

In both of these passages, God commands us to put Him first.  Psalm 91 is a promise to those who seek to walk with the Lord.  This psalm is telling us what it means to God when we put Him first and foremost in our lives.  We serve an awesome God.  Yet there is one thing that God cannot do.  It is impossible for God to lie.  The Bible says this.  God makes promises to us in order to give us peace.   It can be easy when things are absolutely horrifying to start wondering if this promise given us in this psalm was written for us or not.  Sometimes it may seem like we have no hope left when a loved one dies or we get a bad diagnosis.  When we suffer a great tragedy, it might be easiest to simple believe this promise is not written with us in mind.

Today we are going o discuss God's love for His chosen.  First, what does it mean to put God first, to make the Lord our dwelling place.  Second, what does it mean that God blesses all those who walk with Him, protecting them specifically - verse 1:

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

This is the theme of this psalm.  Live your life in intimacy with God, and He will guard you.  God will protect those who consistently serve Him.  This psalm starts by telling us that God protects His own.  So, what does it mean to dwell with the Most High?  In the Book of James we read that faith without works is dead.  Every time one of Scripture's heroes stood up for God, they were choosing to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.   Obedience and faith go hand in hand.  We cannot dwell in the shelter of the Most High and refuse to do the Will of God.  So what does it mean to dwell with God?  For  each of those Old Testament saints it meant something different.  God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, even onto forever.  We, however, are very different from each other.    Going to Church by itself, that's not what it means to dwell in the shadow of the Most High, though it does accompany it.  Praying every day and reading Scripture are both excellent practices, but they aren't always it either.  Service to God necessarily includes those things, but reading Scripture and praying can certainly substitute for a relationship with Him.  Consider Islam.  They pray five times a day.  Do you think they're dwelling with the Most High God?  Many Bible scholars read the Bible every day, but some of them have totally missed the God who wrote the Bible, and whose Son the Scriptures embody.  There's a whole market for clever ideas that do violence to Scripture.  If you are clever enough, it doesn't matter if you don't believe in Jesus, you can indeed earn a living by studying the Bible.  In the 1800s it became popular to shatter fundamental Christian beliefs with what is often called "higher criticism."  Unfortunately, it is still in style today.  What's missing from these Bible critics who look at Scripture as a target for clever arguments?  Verse 14 says:


"Because he has loved Me, therefore, I will deliver him."

If we hold fast to God intellectually, that's not enough.  What about holding fast to God out of fear of punishment?  No, that's not it either.  You have to hold fast to God in love.  God is love.  That is what it means to dwell with the Most High, to be in a love relationship with God.  The turning point in every struggle in my life came when I gave up trying to do it on my own and brought it before the Lord.  I had never believed that God desired my good.  When I chose to live, it was with the faintest hope that God would be real, and would eventually get me through.  God accepted it.  Romans says that God works for the good of those who love Him.  The true biblical interpretation of this principle is alien to most non-Christians.  Those unbelievers who believe things will work out, they are not basing it on the promises of God but on wishful thinking.  This psalm isn't meant to challenge you in any harsh or bad way.  In fact, this is the psalm you read when things have gone hardly awry.  Anyone whose life is God is already under His mighty protection.  That is the message of this psalm.   

I know it in my head that God has my back.  How do I know it in my heard?  Well for starters, it's written in God's Word.  I can agree in my brain that the Bible is true.  The Word of God is infallible.  Apply the scientific method.  Test, record, and apply the results.  If you give God His due portion, then God will bless you.  That's a promise of Scripture.  Now you have to  work that out for yourself what is His due portion.  There are ways to test God that don't involve doing bad things.  Test Him by doing good things, not by doing evil.

I also know in my head that God has me under His protection by making a simple comparison.  What my was life like then, and what my life  is like now.  How many of you can see a marked difference in your lives?   God has shown me recently that, the very moment I started praying to Him with a sincere heart, He began to move heaven and earth.  Read in our Psalm, verse 15:

"He will call upon me and I will answer Him.  I will be with Him in trouble; I will rescue Him and honor Him."

What does it mean that God blesses him who walks with him?  What does it mean that we are under His protection?  Verses 4 says:

"He will cover you with His pinions.  And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark."

This is not a psalm teaching us what to do.  It is a psalm that teaches us what God will do.  It's a promise to those who desire to serve God.  The best way to get ahead in this world is to serve God.  it's not the quickest way, or the easiest way.  It is the only way to be sure that you will truly be better off in the end than you were at the beginning.  You will increase in all the ways that matter.  It's not about having more than the next guy, but about being at peace with God, and truly being blessed by those things you have, because they are gifts right from the hands of God.  Our psalm says a few things about our blessings and protection  Our psalm says in verses 5-8:

"You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day:  Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.  A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not approach you.  You will only look on with your eyes; and see the recompense of the wicked."

Those who are delivered from destruction in this life are delivered by the hand of God.  Even the wicked when they are delivered, look back and say, "You know, God was with me all along."  Prophecy usually has an immediate fulfillment.  For instance, Isaiah gave a prophesy for that day that the men all saw and said, "Yes, that describes our situation."   But it also sees fulfillment ultimately in the future.  Isaiah 53 details the death of Jesus on the cross very well 500 years before He was born.  It has lead many Bible-believing Jews to Christ.

Every single promise of God is a prophecy.  If you read over our psalm, you will see many things that are true to the earthly life of all believers throughout history.  Many Christians died of pestilence during the Black Plague.  Does this mean God is a liar because He didn't protect His own from immediate death?  No.  What did Jesus say about the poor in spirit? (Matt 5:3)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

If you are not poor in spirit, then the kingdom of heaven does not belong to you.  Our pain and hardship is pain and hardship for God.  Scripture says explicitly that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.  If God does not take delight in the the death of those who are our enemies, then how much less would He take delight in our suffering.  God wants to see each of us prospering and filled with joy.  That is why He redeemed us on the cross.  Jesus bought us so that we could spend eternity with Him in heaven, in perfect joy and in perfect peace.   Our blood is precious to God, our pain and our hardship.  But He allows these things to enter into our lives to fulfill His greater purposes.  Romans 8:28 says:

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

The promises from our psalm will be fulfilled for each of us on judgment day.  God uses all the hardship and pain that He abhors to bring about a good result in the end.  The problem of pain is a big thing in atheistic circles.  If God is good and created all things, why is sin in the world?  Many atheists firmly believe that this is a mark against a loving God.  When someone accuses God of evil because children are good and people suffer, if atheism is true, then God is evil.  In atheism, there is no God, no justice, no punishment for the wicked, or mercy for the righteous.  We simply cease to exist.  If temporal suffering is the only suffering, and temporal joy the only joy, then this life is truly unjust and horrific.  Yet, there is a God.  I don't believe there is no God.  If you are serving God, you don't believe that either.  God preserves us ultimate through the cross.  Through the cross was every promise of God fulfilled.  When Christ shields us from judgment, we will know the promises of God in their fullest context. 

How are the promises of God relevant to me today?  Remember David and Goliath.  Goliath made a huge mistake.  Goliath called out God's holy people.  Goliath challenged God to one-on-one combat.  He was no better than a wild animal.  The shepherd David was victorious because he was fighting for the name of the Most High God.  God does not let His people fight alone.  Be sure that if God calls you onto the battlefield, you will persevere long enough to fulfill His purposes.  Living by biblical principles produces prosperity.  His desire is to see us grow.  If you want to be absolutely sure you are not wasting your life, then serve God.  Embrace Him.

 

 

 

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