The Fragrance of Adoration

There is something scandalous about the gospel. When Jesus shows up on the scene, forgiving sins, men and women began to ask questions. “Who is this man?” “Only God can forgive sins.” Etc. All this hysteria is due to the fact that God stepped down out of heaven to put on human flesh and dwell among us in the form of God the Son. In this act of humility, Jesus shows us the Father (John 14.9), that is, Jesus is showing us what God is like. However, a God as gracious as God the Father…that did not sit well with the audience of Jesus and does not sit well with some in our the Lord’s body today. And I think the key is the words of Jesus found in this passage of Scripture in Luke 7.36-50.

A Sinner’s Sorrow

It is easy to see the heavy burden of this wretched sinner who had lived a profligate life. Even those seated at the table knew “what kind of woman she was.” It obvious to everyone that this was a sinful woman. And Jesus does not gloss over the utter sinfulness of this woman. In verse 47, he says here sins are “many.” However, this woman demonstrates the kind of attitude every lost and saved person should have when they see their own sinfulness. We are utterly wicked, undeserving of the presence of God in our lives. And it is this kind of attitude that should breed what Paul calls “godly sorrow” which brings repentance that leads to salvation (2 Cor 7.10).

If only we could bathe the Lord’s feet with our tears over our sinfulness. How often have we broken the Lord’s heart by committing some evil deed? Unfortunately, too many live out their Christian life like the Pharisee, looking down their self-righteous noses at the “sinner” who adores the feet of the Savior. The fragrance of adoration was not the perfume in the alabaster jar; the fragrance of adoration was the salty smell of tears. It was the smell of dirty hair after wiping off the feet of the Master, deemed foul by our tears spilt on them. It is the smell of a thousand kisses pressed upon the feet of the incarnate God. And now the story becomes even more scandalous.

The Savior’s Story

Jesus relates a parable to Peter. Why Peter? I am not certain. Perhaps the Lord had seen the self-righteous attitude withi Peter and needed to squelch that. But Jesus might as well be speaking the parable to us. Are we asking him, as Peter, to speak? Or are we turning a deaf ear to it?

Jesus tells a parable about the two men who owe certain amounts to a creditor. One owes 500 days’ wages, the other 50. Both are forgiven their debts (see Matt 6.12). Who loves the creditor more? Peter answers correctly that is the one who is forgive of more.

The Savior’s Salute

Jesus then address the main issue. It is curious that Jesus speaks to Peter throughout this entire episode and not the man who had the problem in the first place, the Pharisee. But in reality, Jesus is addressing eveyr person in that house for their attitude within their hearts. Nevertheless, Jesus explains that the actions of this woman demonstrate something that perhaps these people could not grasp. Her sins were heaped up to the heavens; the crowds’ (Peter’s?), in their own eyes, not so. But Jesus is looking through the eyes of deity and sees all men separated from the Father because of sin. Be it one sin or many sins, all are in need of the forgiveness Jesus offers.

But what is proper response of a sinner who is forgiven? Too often many people demonstrate a love for God that is too little. It is often those who have been forgiven of many sins who appreciate and adore the Savior as they should. The fragrance of adoration hangs heavily around them and dispates into the air through their actions. Everyone around them can smell the fragrance of adoration. On the opposite end of this are those who may smell a little like adoration, but it is not as heavy. Maybe now and again the scent goes out from them, but overall there really is not the kind of scent that ought to come from a saved individual.

Another dangerous position to be in is a person wrapped up in legalistic tendencies which is where the Pharisee was perhaps coming from. There is no scent of adoration coming off of this person for there is nothing to adore God about. The salvation of the Lord has been replaced by self-effort and commandment keeping, which ultimately leads to to death.

A Sinner’s Salvation

When you are forgiven of any sin at all, love for God out to fill you and overflow into your life. That is what we are driving at. Everyone needs to acknowledge that they ave sin that is so great and so terrible that it has marred our divine iimage and disrupted our fellowship with God. Hence, when that great debt of sin is removed and forgiven, we can stand in the presence of God and adore him by bowing down and kissing his nail scarred feet. We put our trust and faith in God to do what he has said he will do and that is forgive us of all wrong and save us from sin. We, like this woman, can “go in peace.”

The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Every single person is in need of the salvation offered by God’s Son. We should be careful never to develop an attitude of self-righteousness by looking down our noses at the people who are “worse” than us. In God’s sight, your sin is just as bad as any drug addict, alcoholic, wife-beater, petty thief, liar, or gossip because all these sins break fellowship with God. They are sin! But also, let us be instruments for spreading the fragance of adoration to God for the forgiveness of our great debt we could never pay. Let others catch the scent we carry so that they can too can find forgiveness for their sin as well.

Greater than John

I can remember as a boy wanting a Robocop outfit. Complete with the Robocop gun and mask, it was every young boy needed in order to combat the bad guys. So that was what I asked Santa Clause for Christmas: a Robocop kit, with mask and gun. Christmas day finally rolled around and excitedly I ripped through the gifts until I got to one that was rather square and was just the right size that a Robocop kit would be. I tore it open and there it was. With great joy I remarked, “Wow, Santa Clause really did get it for me!”

Looking back, I can remember that it wasn’t really a genuine Robocop outfit; it was the generic kind but kids don’t really notice that. What mattered to me was that I got what I had for so long asked for (at least to a kid Christmas takes forever to finally arrive). That is kind of what we find in Luke 7.18-35. For so long, Israel has been asking for their Messiah. Indeed, John the Baptist, who is locked away in prison (see 3.20), has preached the good news that the time for the Messiah is upon the people.

However, when Christmas day arrives and when they open their package from heaven, they sort of stare at it with confusion. And perhaps the disciples of John if not John himself are asking whether or not they have received a ‘generic’ Messiah instead of the real deal. Therefore, it seems necessary for John to send some messangers to Jesus , the so called Messiah, to see if indeed he is the real deal.

The Request of John

We can only assume that John was an honest doubter. It is he who calls his two messangers together and gives them the message. But certainly his opinion could have been swayed by the reports he had been hearing and perhaps some commentary from those who brought the message. “He’s not doing what we think the Messiah should be doing, John.” “Are you sure this is the right guy, John?” Thus, he sends messanger to ask in what one commentator calls “a vague messianic expression” whether Jesus is the one who was to be sent. If not, are we to expect the “name brand” Messiah at some later time?

The Reply of Jesus

Jesus does not become angry, at least there is no appearance of anger in his reply or the text. What we are seeing, then, is a Lord who is gentle with those who doubt and ask questions. He doesn’t say, “Well, if he wasn’t sure, why did he even preach about me being the Messiah. He shouldn’t have done that if he wasn’t sure.” Instead, we find Jesus very gently giving John the proof he needed in order to come to his conclusion. And certainly, John being familiar with Old Testament prophecies, would readily recognize that Jesus is in essence quoting from the Old Testment in order to say one thing: I am the Christ. All the miraculous signs Jesus is performing are evidence that Jesus is who John said he is.

The praise for John. Once the messangers leave, Jesus breaks forth in praise for John. John was not a reed shaken in the wind; instead he was a pillar who stood for truth and a preacher committed to righteousness. He was not a man dressed in ‘soft clothes;’ he was a man who was rugged and did not indulge the sinful nature. John was a prophet in the truest sense of the word. He spoke the word of God by the power of God for the glory of God. He was the fulfillment of prophetic mandate. But even in this exalted position, “the greatest among men,” there is a position which is far greater and that is “least in the kingdom.” Certainly following John was good and important, but of even greater importance is living in the kingdom. Jesus is putting the kingdom in perspective: it is the most important thing man can ever attain to. Certainly John the Baptist did the same thing when he uttered the words, “He must increase, I must decrease.” Therefore, pursue entrance into the kingdom. John fulfilled his role and function in prepare the way for the King. But now that the king is here, he inaugrates something greater for man.

The People and John. John came preaching the kingdom. It was the best news Jews who have been waiting for the kingdom of God could ever hear. It is the still the greatest news ever to fall on sinful ears. Therefore, the purpose of God was fulfilled in some people. The “acknowledged God’s way was right” and were baptized with John’s baptism. However, there were a group of people who refused God’s purpose for their lives. Note that, God’s purpose for a person can be rejected. This utterly smashes to peices the idea of predestination. Certain men are not born simply to stoke the fires of hell. God has a purpose for them and that is salvation. “He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance and knowledge of the truth.” The Pharisees characterize people who refuse to be obedient to God and therefore reject God’s purpose for them and stand condemned, not because God made that way, but based on their freewill decision to not accept the free gift of life.

The Prejudice against John. Not only did they refuse God but they cast off His prophet, John. And not only did they refuse to join in the dance, but when weeping broke out they refused that as well (v.32b). Be it John coming in utter poverty and deprivation or Jesus coming and eating with tax collectors and ‘sinners,’ these self-righteous men will not join either. However, the wise man can the see the wisdom of God in both the actions of John and Jesus. God’s way is always right and those who are truly wise will pronounce it to men who will accept it.

We always want to avoid becoming like the Pharisees. I don’t think there are many more sadder statements than v.30. God’s had a purpose for his people, but because of their “stiff-necks” and their “sinful, unbelieving hearts,” they refused it. But also we should walk away knowing that we serve the true Messiah. Jesus was the one to come “once for all” and by acknowledging this truth, we are not only children of the King, but we are children of wisdom, proving right the judgments of God. Finally, we should also acknowledge our lofty position and “take heed, lest we fall.” There is always the danger of rejecting the purpose of God. We can fall away into apostacy and must always be cautious of our walk with God. We hold the greatst position men could ever hold for we stand in the kingdom of God. We are sitting at the banquet of the King, enjoying the riches of his blessings in the heavenly realms.

Note: The above outline was adapted from The Outline Bible.

The Grace of God in the Face of Death

25 miles. That is how far Nain is from Capernaum. And yet Jesus gladly walks that distance to bring comfort and grace to a widow. One commentator writes, “what consolation to thousands of the bereaved has this single verse [v.13] carried from age to age!” Indeed, I peronally have taken this very text to bring comfort to those hurting individuals during times of grief and pain at the loss of a loved one. It is beautiful is its simplicity and impacting in its emotion. The NIV says “When the Lord say her, his heart went out to her” (v.13). Another translation would say, “he had compassion on her” (RSV). The New Living Translation says, “his heart overflowed with compassion.” I don’t know about you, but when I read about the emotion of my Lord, it gives me comfort knowing that he cares for me in this way. When I hurt, he sympathizes. The Hebrew fittingly commented on this ver thing when he wrote, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” Jesus knows and understands the pain we feel when we hurt because he himself has felt the very same feelings. We do not have a Lord who is unapproachable and distant, but we have a Lord who comes up alongside us and weeps with us.

The Scene of Grief

Try to picture the scene which Jesus comes upon: The funeral procession was important. It would begin at the home of the deceased, proceed through the village, and end at the cemetary, which was always outside the city. If the family could afford it, they hired professional mourners who played dirges, shouted great laments, and wept loudly. They believed that a big commotion honored the dead, and was an apporiate expression of grief. Along the way, the procession would pick up steam. The weeping and wailing would get louder, as other villagers joined in the procession as it passed by (Ronald Harbaugh, The Grace of God in the Face of Death). This great band of emotion and shouting and weeping is what Jesus runs into as he enters Nain. His words to the mother are simply, “Do not weep.” But it is not enough for Jesus to say those few words; there must be something behind which gives the woman something to rejoice about.

The Author of Life

Jesus walks up to the casket and, like the stormy sea, he calms the crowd by touching it. When everything is calm and quiet, he speaks life to the young man: “Get up…arise.” The incarnate Resurrection and the Life with a word raises this dead back to life. The text very simply says, “and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” He gave him back to her. What current of emotion raced through the crowd as the dead man came back to life and spoke. We don’t know what he said, but surely he joined with the crowd (or maybe started them off) in praising God.

When Jesus shows up in your life, things happen. For a widow, she got her son back. If you and your loved ones are in Christ, you have the promise of getting them back. One day, this corruptable body which fails us and even now is dying will be exchanged with an incorruptable body. The people this life has taken from us and have gone to be with the Lord are restored to us. Only a Christian has this assurance and this comfort. Those outside of Christ only have the fearful expectation of judgment (Heb 10.27). Only Jesus offers you the help you need to save you from the raging fire which is the wrath of God. The good news of this help from God spread throughout Judea and the countryside. Christians, spread this good news to every lost person you know and love before it is everlasting too late. Tell them God has come in the form of His Son to help them. Share with them the good news of a resurrected and a resurrecting Savior. Explain that hellfire awaits those who refuse the help. Focus their attention to eternal matters concerning their life and the life of those around them whom they love also.

Faced with death, God, through Jesus, shows us his grace. He restored a dead son back to a widow. Indeed, the message of grace in the face of death still rings. We face death. It is inevitable and sure that one day we will die. But the grace of salvation and the grace of uniting for eternity with those we love, especially our Lord, still stands. Accept it and live it.

Jaw-Dropping Faith

From everything we gather in Scripture, Jesus was an emotional man. When his good friend Lazarus died, he wept. When people turned the temple into a “den of robber,” he got angry. When a Gentile Centurion makes a statement of faith such as that in Luke 7.8 (and that done through a messanger), his jaw drops. Or at least that is the way I interpret the word “amazed” in verse 9.

The story begins with the ending of the previous section; Jesus has just polished off the crowd with the sermon on the plain and is moving forward, anxious to get to the next town to help someone. But someone has already heard of Jesus. A Roman centurion who has a sick servant in his house has heard of Jesus and no doubt he has heard of the great thigs Jesus has been doing around the area. Apparently he has heard that Jesus can make sick people so he sends for him. However, he has sent the wrong group to visit Jesus.

The Arrogance of the Elders

The first group of men sent by the centurion have nothing but good to say about this Gentile. Why? Because of all the good things he has been doing. “Jesus,” they could have said, “haven’t you seen the wonderful synagogue this man built. Although, being a Gentile, he will spend eternity stoking the fires of hell, surely this man has  done some good for the Jewish people.” Notice, the text says that they say he deserves the healing Jesus can give. Note this – none of us, no human being on earth deserves anything but the fiery pit of hell from God. What arrogance these men must have in order to demand from the Great Physician healing. Fortunately Jesus is gentle with these men; he goes with them.

Folks, let us never become so arrogant so as to think for a moment that we deserve or through avenue of ourselves have merited the salvation and grace in which we now stand. It is nothing but the great love and mercy of the Father which keeps his wrathful away from us. It is the precious blood of Jesus which gives us the justification and rigth standing with God we so desperately need. Jaw dropping faith is not faith that makes demands of the divine but is one that acknowledges its place before the Almighty.

The Humility of the Centurion

And that is what we find in the centurion when he sends the right man to go talk to Jesus. This man brings a different message to Jesus, one is that is from the mouth of the centurion himself. Instead of saying he demands special privilege or deserves anything from Jesus, he says quite the opposite: he does not deserve any of this. Notice his faith-response: Jesus, just say the word. This man had so much faith in Jesus’ ability to heal his sick servant that Jesus need not even be present. Merely a word from the Master will heal the sick.

It is this response that drops the jaw of Jesus. There is no arrogance or pride in this man. He acknowledges Jesus is man with authority and power, much like himself but of a different nature altogether. Jesus carries the divine nature, something much great than a centurion. It is this faith which is unheard of in Israel. Faith which does not put demands on the divine but accepts its humble position before God. Therefore, the centurion’s faith stands as a rebuke to the Jew who should have had the same faith.

It is appropriate that Jesus heal this servant from afar because in it he is ministering to the Gentiles who are those “far off” who now have peace preached to them (Eph 2.17). And we, many centuries later, must follow the example of this Gentile and accept our position before the Lord. We are at peace with Christ and God and we can ask with boldness for anything we need. But ever present before us is the fact that we are asking for these from the all-powerful cosmic sovereign Lord. He is so much greater and mightier than we are and we must never lose sight of that.

Sermon on the Plain, part 13

For any preacher, the conclusion of the sermon is very important. You can wax eloquently and hammer the podium and really preach your heart out, but the conclusion is where you tie the whole thing together, wrapping it up and giving it to the audience in a nice, neat little bundle. I believe Jesus knew this; you must finish well when you preach. At the end of the sermon of the plain (and the Sermon on the Mount) Jesus wrapped his sermon up so well that his audience had to respond, either positively or negatively; either the crowd acknwoledged his lordship and gave their life over to him, or they continued in disbelief, refusing to bow the knee to the Lord.

Foundation

The Christian faith is based squarely on the Lordship of Jesus. Therefore, it is a dispicable thing for a disciple to proclaim that Jesus is Lord and yet to live their life in such a way that denies that very truth. Jesus clearly denounces this kind of lifestyle in Luke 6.46-47. This kind of man who does not put the words of Jesus into practice is a hypocrite and a liar; Jesus is very clearly not the “Lord” of his life because if he was this man would do what Jesus says.

Certainly, “what I say” catches everything Jesus ever said and did and certainly that interpretation of this passage is appropriate. As Christians, we must people who live the kind of life Jesus explicated while on earth. Summed up in a word, a Christian is obedient. We obey our Lord. Contextually, what Jesus said is what he has detailed in this sermon. He explained a proactive love, a non-judgmental disciple, a blessed life, etc. Thus, Jesus is summing up this sermon: this is how a disciple a disciple is to live. Based upon his Lordship, we live this way.

Foundations

Now, Jesus details the wisdom of the disciple who does what Jesus says. He has a good foundation. However, it must be noted that this kind of building takes time and effort. It is going to cost you something to build a well-gorunded faith; will you pay the toll? Jesus tells us that the time and effort put into a well-grounded building is well worth the effort. When the storms of life come upon this well-grounded man/woman, he has nothing to fear for he/she has an anchor which keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll.

Otherwise, without a good foundation, your destruction is imminent. You have not paid up and prepared for this great test and therefore, the work of your labor is evident. My wrestling coach used to smash the phrase “practice makes perfect.” He said that was wrong, but instead it is “perfect practice that makes perfect.” How very true! We can practice the words of Jesus very poorly and though we are “practicing” the words of Jesus, we are only building on weak foundations. Instead, we should make perfection our goal and really work at practicing perfection in our life, striving to be like Jesus in all we say and do. If we do not, Jesus clearly says that we will buckle under the pressure.

Summary

It has taken some time, but we have successfully concluded this marvelous passage of Scripture called the Sermon on the Plain. Jesus, the master teacher, has certainly taught us some very poignant lessons concerning discipleship. He has taught us not to look to the world for blessing, for the world only holds woe; instead we fix our eyes on what we do not see for true blessing in this life. He has once more shown us what love is. Perfect love, that is love like the Father, is proactive, jumping the gun on doing good to all men. This love spills over into life; we do not pass judgment on others, writing them off and consigning them to hell. Rather, we are merciful, demonstrating a quality our Father has for us. By doing these things, we bear the marks of a disciple, which Jesus called fruit. Over all this is the call of Jesus to meet him at a higher level, higher ground. We are not simply sitting with our hands folded, but we are disciples who act on the words of Jesus, establishing our faith in the solid rock of God’s truth as revealed to us by his Son.

Sermon on the Plain, part 12

The words of Jesus in the sermon on the plain seem at times disjoined and unrelated. They seem only somewhat connected with each other. However, I believe there is a common thread that ties them all together: discipleship. After  all, to whom is he speaking (v.20)? Hence, a disciple who is proactive in love and is does not act as judge or judgmental, will be a good tree bearing good fruit, even the fruit of the kingdom.

Good Tree, Bad Tree

When we look at the fruit of a tree, we can determine quite easily if it is a good fruit producing tree or a bad fruit producing tree. That is what Jesus is driving at; each tree bears its own fruit and cannot bear the fruit of another tree. The contrast Jesus makes is between the figs and grapes and the thornbushes and briers. Jesus’ argument is quite simple: you can’t find fruit on a tree that does not produce the kind of fruit you are looking for.

Good Disciple, Bad Disciple

Thus, based on Jesus’ argument, he concludes the same is true about disciples. A disciple who does not show love and/or is judgmental is not bearing good fruit. Instead, they are full of bad fruit. Jesus sums up the matter and says those disciples who only bring forth bad things is an “evil man.” This type of person has stored up evil (as opposed to good) in their heart. And Jesus gets at the heart of the problem (pun intended): there is something wrong with their heart. It is filled with only evil and not the good. Leon Morris states, “Our words reveal what is in our hearts.” An apt summary of the words of Jesus.

Therefore, what kind of people  ought we to be? The kind of people who are storing up the good things of kingdom in our hearts, namely love for all men and mercy to those who need it. Our deeds will show us for the kind of people we are and the kind of heart we have. Our words will do the same. We need to strive to avoid becoming an “evil man” whose mind and actions do not reflect the King and his kingdom.

Sermon on the Plain, part 11

When we read Luke 6.39-42, there appears to be just a random jumbling of teachings from the Master which are just loosely related to each other. However, I submit that there is far more continuity to this teaching that what is there at first glance. These teachings have a specific context to them, namely love for your enemy and judging others. The parables Jesus teaches with here have to do with these very things. But how are they related?

Make Disciples

It would appear that the statements made in Luke 6.39-42 have to with leadership, especially leading others toward Christ. However, if you are a blind guide, you do yourself no good as well those you are leading who themselves are blind. Hence, those who looked to the Pharisees as guides were in serious trouble, especially when you consider Jesus’ assessment of them (see Matt 23.16, 19, 24, 26). They were blind guides. Why? Because they did not exhibit kingdom qualities, namely (as is in this context) showing love to their enemies and also they were guilty of the critical attitude Jesus just denounced. They were blinded by their hatred for others and their judgmental attitude that lead them to their hatred and even condemnation of their enemies.

So Jesus evalutes the situation and says have love for your enemies and leave the judging to God, lest you become a blind guide like the Pharisees. Leon Morris writes: “The Christian cannot hope to act as guide to others unless he himself sees clearly where he is going. Lacking love, he does not.”

Be Disciples

Following this Jesus adds that a disciple is to know his place before the Master. “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” This is a clear reminder to never supercede the authority of the Master. For to view oneself as greater than the Master is to put oneself above divinity, a position we could never take. Hence, let God be God and retain your position as a disciple. Show love to your enemies and leave the judging to God. Be a disciple and make disciples who will also be the kind of disciple you are.

Correct Disciples

Jesus no launches into a breif discourse about the correction of brothers. We are not allowed to judge our brothers in the sense that we write them off as inferior. They are our brother. We do have divine command to correct our brothers when they fall into error (Matt 5.23-24; 18.15-18; 2 Timothy 4.2). However, correction of our brothers always begin with rigid self-examination. We test ourselves to see if we are of the faith before we approach our brother. That’s what Jesus is talking about here. Get rid of your plank, your sin, your error, before you go fault-finding in your brother. Again, make sure you yourself are not a blind guide, but instead you can see clearly.

We must always keep in mind the audience Jesus is talking to: his disciples (v.20). His words are ever clear today to us, his disciples. Are we truly being the kind of disciples he desires? Or have we allowed a plank to become lodged in our eye? Worse yet, have we gone around being “speck inspectors” all the while allowing our own plank to show before men? Let us be all the more diligent to keep the planks of life out of our sight so that we can be the guides to those who are blinded by the devil (2 Cor 4.4) and lead them to spiritual freedom in Christ.