Who Is Really In God’s Family?

We all claim to be God’s child, but are we really?

My family rarely does family reunions but my wife’s family has one every year. I’m not a fan. Not because I don’t like the people, but because there are always many there I don’t know. So I become self conscious. 

Sometimes when we have family reunions we have to ask, “who is that? I didn’t know they were in our family?” Or, we have to get the rundown on how so and so married in, had kids, been living so and so place, and this is how they came to be. And sometimes we have that annoying, or different family member that no one understands or wants to be seen with right?

In today’s Words from Jesus, He has been teaching, as we are stilling looking at Matthew 12, where He’s been responding to the Pharisees and religious leaders about His power to heal, and their hard hearts.

As He is nearing the end of His teaching, word comes to Him that His mother and brothers want to see Him and talk to Him but they can’t get to Him. And He poses an astonishing question, and comments about His family that we’re going to dive into.

Matthew 12:46–50 ESV

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

In Mark 3, prior to this Scripture, we see where it is possible that His mother and brothers were concerned for His well being.

Mark 3:20-21 ESV

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

Do you think this idea played a role in His family trying to get to Him?

It does sounds as if His family was just concerned for Him. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would think that if my mother and brothers couldn’t get to me because of people I don’t know listening to me, I’d probably make a way for them to get closer, or at least send a proper message to them. But Jesus doesn’t.

Jesus responds as if they aren’t even His family, saying, “Who is my mother and brothers?”

Did Jesus just disown His mother? I mean I can see maybe disowning His brothers as they never did really seem to see what the fuss was all about surrounding Him. They hadn’t believed He was the Messiah to come at this point. But His mom? Remember it was her who nudged Him to miraculously fix the wine at the wedding situation, where He turned 6 stone barrels of water to 300 gallons of the best wine the party had ever tasted.

I don’t believe believe Jesus disowned His mother of course. But He did use the opportunity to speak about the family of God. And I believe He was making a point that being bound by our faith in Him was more important than any human relationship…even including the parental relationship.

The Important Concern

Look, we can all understand Mary’s concern for Jesus. Even though she knew who He was, as she was the one it was revealed to at her conception by the Angel, she was still concerned for His well being. A mother’s love knows no bounds right? 

Was it her concern for Him not eating? How many mothers and wives out there worry that their spouse or son isn’t eating or drinking enough when the demands of work continue to pile on them? I joked with my mother-in-law Tuesday night because of the many times I’ve seen her continue to remind her husband to eat or drink while he’s out working in the garage on whatever project has been keeping him busy.

As for the brothers? I think they were just supporting mom! But maybe their brotherly love was their concern as well.

It was a messenger that told Jesus His family was outside wanting Him. So, He didn’t tell His family face to face to leave Him alone. But He took the opportunity to teach the messenger and those in His hearing, that what He was teaching in the moment was more important than His family’s concern for Him.

Interruption

In this moment, the family’s concern was an interruption for Jesus. He was busy teaching God’s principles, and God’s truths, and instead of His family listening to His Words, they were more concerned about their own earthly concerns.

I’m reminded of His Words to His mother and father when they lost Him in Jerusalem when He was twelve and His family had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. They lost Him for three days! And when they finally found Him, I’m sure His mother was beside herself asking where He’d been. His response then was just as astounding as it is here.

Luke 2:49 

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

I can only imagine what my mom would have said, or done to me, if I disappeared for three days and responded like this when she finally found me. But for Jesus, He mission one was doing the Father’s will!

And here again, it’s almost as if His family had forgotten the importance of Jesus’s mission here on earth. He came to seek and save the lost. He brought God’s Kingdom to earth, the grace of God in this moment to people most in need of His grace and truth.

No one will thwart the mission of God, including Jesus’s mother or brothers.

The Family

After His questioning about who is His family, He turns…

Matthew 12:49-50

And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Woah, wait a minute! Here are His mother and brothers?

He points to the crowd and says, “You are my family…” But we can insert an IF in that sentence. Because it is an “IF” you do the will of His Father, then you are His family.

Remember the context of His teaching here. He was being denied by the Pharisees and religious leaders. They weren’t going to accept Him as the Messiah, much less the Son of God, though He’d been clear in showing and teaching this was the case. 

But, they thought presumptuously that because they were Jews, they were already God’s family. They were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, (later renamed Israel). They were God’s family through blood right? 

How many people today walk around saying they are God’s child, yet they never obey a Word He has said. Much less their acceptance of Jesus as His Son, they don’t even believe the Bible, God’s Word. We’re all God’s children right? Well, I got news for you.

We’re Not

We’re not all God’s children. 

Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus is very clear when He tells the religious leaders:

John 8:42,47

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

This was the claim of the Pharisees, “Abraham is our father.” This is their great ancestor whom God made a covenant with to bless him and make from him a great nation of peoples.

Notice Jesus says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.” Abraham was obedient to God. These Pharisees are not. They are all about themselves, about looking good on the outside while inside they were evil. Jesus had pointed this out many times.

Their actions prove who their father is, and Jesus lays it out clear for them:

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

Created But Not His

I know some wrestle with this idea, because we are “created in His likeness” right? That’s what the bible teaches. But being created in His image does not mean that we are His children. I can hear you gasp at that comment. Let me explain.

Look at your life. Are you obeying God as your Father, or is He simply that “big man in the sky” that is there to make you have a good life? Is He the Father loves you, or is He the one you say, “sends people to hell”,” so you want nothing to do with Him.

You see, He created you and gave you a choice. And when sin has taken hold of our lives, we choose to deny Him as our Father. It isn’t He that divorces us, it is we that divorce Him. It is we that choose this life over an eternal life with Him because we’d rather live our best life now.

Listen to these words for the letter of 1 John.

1 John 3:8-10

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

We’ve talked a lot about the fruit of our heart, that is our words and our deeds. Here Scripture says that if our fruit is the practice, the continued sin, then we are of the devil. We act just like him. If we are God’s children then God’s seed, His Holy Spirit abides in us, and we cannot keep sinning because we have been born of God. 

Go all the way back to when we talked about the Pharisee Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night and Jesus telling Him, “You must be born again, you must be born from above.” That is we must be born again of God, regenerated you might hear it said. This is done by us trusting in and believing Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God, and asking Him to be the Lord of our lives. And when He is the Lord of our life, we will seek to obey Him and the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. 

But you have to hear these words! That’s the problem the Pharisees and religious leaders had in Matthew 12, they didn’t want to hear it. They didn’t want to receive it. So Jesus says this:

John 8:47

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

If you are of God, you will hear and heed His Words. But if not, then you prove you are not a child of God.

Faith and Blood

So Jesus waves His hand over the crowd in front of Him and says, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

He’s saying, “look my mom and my brothers are family by blood here on the earth, but you have the choice to be my mother and brothers if you will obey my Father as I have.”

You want to know God’s will for you?

Believe on the One He has sent.

How do we obey God? By placing our faith in Jesus His Son.

What made Abraham so great to God that He made a covenant with Him? Abraham believed God. He heard His Word, He trusted His Word, and He obeyed God because He believed.

We’re not part of God’s family by our fleshly blood. We are part of His family because we choose to be, by placing our faith in Jesus. Faith over blood you might say.

Romans 8:9 says, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” 

Romans 8:11 says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Who Is Your Father

The question we have to ask ourselves is “who is my Father?” Look at your life and see the fruit of your own heart. Are you hearing God, listening to Him, obeying Him? Have you placed all your faith and hope in Christ?

If you’ve heard and believed then praise God because He has adopted you into His family.

Romans 8:15b

but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Your Extended Family

So here’s the other great lesson in this Scripture. One day we’re going to have that great reunion in eternity. And in this reunion you’re going to get to see many who are in your family that you had no clue about.

My hope is that you already know many who are in your spiritual family. And that you treat them as brothers and sisters, and mothers and fathers. With love, dignity, and respect. 

If you are in Christ, then you are one of a large family of believers. You’ve got brothers and sisters you don’t even know yet. But I tell you, we welcome you as family. We want you as family. You belong in God’s family with us. Your faith in Christ, makes you my brother, my sister, my mother, my father, by faith, by Jesus’s blood.

I taught this message Sunday August 7, 2022. You can find the video here on YouTube.

3 Ways to Stay Full

Sermon notes based on Mathew 12:43-45.

Idea: It takes more than a prayer to keep the house cared for.

Intro

I don’t like to go on vacation much. It is stressful for me, and I find myself looking forward to being back home, in familiar surroundings…specifically my own bed.

I believe one of the common things to do before going away on vacation is to clean the house. Because who wants to come back to a dirty house right? When we return we’ve then already gotta unpack and put away all the dirty clothes, which just makes for more work for us.

And when we leave, we usually lock the doors, turn on the alarm, have the mail picked up or stopped, and many of us will leave a light on. 

That light is left on so that someone thinks you are home right? Because a robber won’t typically break into an occupied home. And that gives us a little comfort.

When a home is occupied, no one else can move in either.

A Strong Man’s House

A few weeks back, when we first began looking at this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus said:

Matthew 12:29 ESV

Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Today He tells a story about a demon returning to an empty house. 

Jesus is telling this parable to teach about the condition of the Pharisees and religious leaders, and those that did not follow His teaching.

This Scripture has caused concern and fear for many of us because it is difficult to discern the meaning of. So we’re going to try and give some insight to this and make an application of it in our own lives.

Scripture

Matthew 12:43–45 ESV

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Jesus tells this parable in light of the fact He had just banished a demon from a young man’s life. At that healing the Pharisees made the claim that He did so by the power of Satan. To which Jesus gives the response of entering the strong man’s house to plunder.

What He is saying there is that He, in God’s power, while here on earth, Satan, the strong man, was bound. And He had plundered, stolen from Satan this young man He’d healed, cast the demon out of.

But it wasn’t limited to just this one instance with this one man. Jesus was here, on the earth, rescuing many from Satan’s hold. And he is still doing so today.

So in essence, Satan was at that time, “cast out.” The Kingdom of God was at hand in Jesus’s presence, giving rest to the people that accepted Him as the Messiah.

When He was gone, those who remained in unbelief, would face a worse state. And this truly happened.

Between the ascension to Heaven after his resurrection and the fall of Jerusalem to Romans, the Jews had truly fallen into a worse state than prior to Jesus’s coming the first time. And for many, their rejection remains, hence their “unforgivable sin” of remaining opposed to Christ as their Lord and Savior as we discussed a few weeks back with that other fear producing Scripture.

Application

So that’s a brief explanation of the text, as we broke it down even further Tuesday night, but what about now? What can we learn?

I want to give you three applications of this text today.

The Prayer

Many of us became Christians by saying what is known as the sinner’s prayer. Classically it goes like this: Confess I’m a sinner, I agree to repent from my life of sin, and I trust in Jesus’s death on the cross, and ask Jesus to live inside my heart. 

If you pray this then we say you are saved.

The truth is, this prayer isn’t actually in the bible. There are some Scriptures that point to such a prayer such as…

Romans 10:9 ESV

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The idea being the same, confess, and believe. And you can find many other Scriptures about confessing our sins, believing the death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit living within us afterward.

Yet, many of us know someone that has told us they prayed the prayer, and for a while they lived a better life, only to at some point fall away from belief altogether. 

What about them? What happened?

I believe this is such a case as Jesus speaks of here in this parable.

The person lives for themselves, then at some point comes to Christ praying a prayer, they clean up their life, but then later on find themselves in a worse state of affairs.

Seed Planting

What I believe often happens is similar to Jesus’s parable of the farmer planting seed. One part of the parable speaks of seed that fail on rocky ground, it sprang up quickly but the soil was shallow and had no root, and withered away.

Sometimes we pastors make it too easy on our listeners. We want you saved. And that is why this little rote prayer came about.

Unbelief

So we have convinced people to say a prayer and they walk away believing they are saved in that moment. But so much can go wrong with this.

Was the confessing and believing truly from the heart of the person? Was their heart true? Was their believing true and lasting?

We don’t know the heart of a person. We can only see and know the fruit. And for many, they say the prayer and then try and clean up their lives on their own and fail. Because their faith wasn’t truly real, they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit. So they try to become something they aren’t, a regenerated soul.

Jesus said, the house was emptied and cleaned up. Maybe they had a reprieve from sin for a while, but they still had an empty house. It didn’t have the Holy Spirit’s presence in it to keep it filled.

This is why the truly saved, the truly born again, do not need to fear this verse. Your house, the temple, is full of the presence of God.

A Return to the Old

The other example is of that person that said the prayer, but when they went home they didn’t truly leave their old life.

It’s like being an alcoholic, and God giving you relief from that addiction, yet you’ve never cleaned out the cupboards of the house of all the alcohol you’ve stored up. So for a time, you thought the house was empty, but then you open that cabinet of temptation and fall right back into an even worse state than before.

Again, you wanted to be saved, but you just weren’t quite ready to give up all that you were…the old life. So you return to who you were before, and man is it harder to come back into the light after returning to the dark.

This is one way our prayer system fails.

Jesus never taught His followers to say a prayer. He told them, “follow me.” He told them to pick up their cross and follow Him. He told them to leave their riches behind, even when it came to mother and father, He is to be the most important to us.

But many of us say the prayer, but don’t give Him our lives. Our hearts are still far from Him.

When we truly want to be saved, and our hearts are truly ready, we will give Him all of us. We will leave all behind to follow Him. We will obey, glorify, live for Him daily. We will lose this life to gain His.

Filling the House

This third application goes along with the second. When you leave the old life, when you empty yourself of those old desires, what do you fill your house with? We already mentioned the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit needs to be fed. It too needs to be kept full. It needs to abide in the source of life, Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, and…”

John 15:4–6 ESV

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

To abide, we must keep building on that relationship with Christ, and God the Father. We do this by remaining in His Word. His Word helps us to get to know Him better. It keeps that connection up between the Holy Spirit in us and the Father. It feeds the soul, it fills the house.

When we aren’t in His Word, when we aren’t spending time soaking up the Father, we can grow cold. Our house may have the Holy Spirit in it, but we’ve cut it off from the source of life…the Vine. We become weaker, unable to resist the temptation to go back to the old ways of life. I’m not saying we lose our salvation, but I am saying we can find ourselves in a position we don’t want to be in for sure. We can still face dire consequences for our wrong actions in this life even if we gain eternity in Heaven afterward.

God’s Word builds up the soil and nourishment for the seed that is planted within us to grow and produce fruit.

Along with keeping in God’s word, our lives need to be filled with prayers between us and the Father. Communication is foundational to any relationship. The Father wants us to communicate with Him, and He will with us. This too is abiding in the Christ, because Christ Himself spent much time with the Father in prayer.

That Fruit

That fruit He mentions is a life filled with Godliness. It is the result of our abiding in Him. It is the fruit of a truly changed life, redeemed, regenerated, born again by the Holy Spirit.

We don’t act all holy because we fear hell once we’ve been truly saved, we obey God and his Law because we are saved. Because He says for us to obey His Word. If we love Him, we will do what He commands.

John 14:15 ESV

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Protecting the Home

I want to leave you with one more idea…that is protecting the home.

Just like when you leave your house for vacation, you arm the alarm. For some us, we keep ourselves armed in the home just in case.

We have to treat our lives the same way. Scripture tells us here, the demon came back. In the story, he came back with a vengeance (7 is complete). Scripture tells us that Satan prowls like a lion seeking our ruin. So he will attack, he will try to find an open door or open window. so we must arm ourselves against him.

How do we arm ourselves?

Ephesians 6:10–18 ESV

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Closing

Trust in the Lord, place all your faith in Him and abide in Him the rest of the days of your life.

Look, if you’re going to confess Christ as your Savior, then you’d better mean it. You’d better take into account all that is required to do so. It is more than a prayer, it is your word, and it is your heart. Don’t come to him half hearted, Scripture says He’ll spit you out. He wants all of you. The question is, do you want all of Him and will you give Him all of you.

If you’re going to have an empty house, you’ll need to fill it with the right thing. Feel it with Jesus. Fill it with the Holy Spirit of God the Father. And then abide in Him every single day.

John 14:23 ESV

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Find Belonging in a Digital Church

For many of us, our fondest memories of the church experience, at least here in the states, are filled with being together physically in a space, usually in a building called, “the church.” When I first began to envision starting a new church in my own community, that is exactly what I pictured we would become as well.

Bring on Covid in early 2020, and everything changed. Most churches went digital. I at first resisted, until Easter 2020 when I began doing recorded messages. We didn’t really have a “congregation” at the time, but this was a way for us to minister to folks at home. Fast forward two years later, and while most churches have decided to no longer focus on digital but instead put most of their effort on those physically present, we have remained, and even expanded, our digital only focus. God opened my eyes to a need for those that cannot or do not choose to attend physically.

The truth is, there is a prevailing attitude among many Christians that if you aren’t physically in the building then you are not part of the Church (Big C). I’d never personally thought that, but my eyes were awakened to it for sure especially since all the arguing around Covid and “closing the doors” to now receiving messages about us not being a church because we are digital only. My wife has severe anxiety issues, and with Covid, a heightened sensitivity and fear of contracting the virus. She’s not the only one, there are many others out there still not comfortable, or due to health reasons, can’t gather physically. And that is okay. You still need a church community, a family, a place to belong to, to encourage you, to help build you up in the faith, to pray for you, to include you in the life of the Church.

So to you that cannot, or maybe choose not to, attend a physical gathering for a church community. We want to say, you still have a place of belonging with many digital churches out there. You are still part of the body of Christ! We, Innovate Christian Community Church, apologize for those that have demeaned you for not attending. We recognize there are many physical and mental barriers for some that keep them from physically gathering. And we’re here to tell you, “that’s okay.” Our hope is that you would find a community, digitally, to belong to even if it isn’t ours.

The truth is that most of us enjoy gathering together, as those are our fondest of memories of the church experience. Maybe you can’t right now. Maybe not ever with a large group. You can still gather digitally and make new memories of belonging, family, and be included.

I still get questioned, “when are you going to open your doors,” i.e. gather physically, become a physical church, etc. The truth is, we aren’t! I am thankful to God that He has opened my eyes to this need and thankful for every person He has brought our way to minister to…and with! The “with” is the other part of this. You have gifts, talents, abilities, and a calling (purpose) God has given you. We want to encourage, empower, and equip you to make use of these gifts for the Lord’s glory.

I don’t want this to be a sales pitch for us, but an encouragement to you if you’ve been made to feel there is no place to belong in the Church for you, there is. There are many churches, digitally focused on including you, and welcoming you into their family. We are just one of them! It is important to me to let you know, you have a place of belonging and are not to be left behind just because you don’t gather in a church building.

Innovate Church includes the homebound, the anxious, the depressed, the lonely, and the forgotten, in a caring community for the purpose of building God’s Kingdom together with Him.

Canceled Debt

Sermon Notes/Deeper Study

Contained below are the notes and some of the research found for my recent sermon on Luke 7:36-50. This Scripture contains Jesus’s interaction with a Pharisee named Simon that invited him to his home for a meal. While there a woman of ill repute comes in and washes Jesus’s feet with her own tears and then dries them with her hair and anoints them with perfume. This was her display of faith and love for Him. Simon protests that Jesus shouldn’t have let “such a woman” to touch Him. To this Jesus responds with a parable about two men that owed a debt each to a certain moneylender they could not repay. Still, this moneylender forgives their debt.

Luke 7:36-50

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he canceled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Intro

This section of Scripture follows Jesus’s speaking of how the commoners and tax collectors accepted John’s words and baptism, but the Pharisees did not.

Today’s story illustrates just that fact.

Invited 

We begin today’s study looking at an invitation for Jesus to come and dine with a Pharisee.

It was the custom when inviting a guest, especially a special guest, you would have made ready a wash basin for the guest’s feet before entering the home. The person would likely be greeted with a kiss as many still do today, and due to the dry dusty, windy air, oil would be offered for one to fix their hair.

Though invited, the Pharisee did none of this for Jesus.

We have a woman that shows up to the meal…uninvited.

There were others there that were not invited guests but had only come to likely listen in on the conversation. It was customary to leave the front door open for others to come in and take seats by the wall.

What is it that makes this woman special?

The Sinner

Luke calls her a “woman of the city, who was a sinner.” Most believe her to have likely been a prostitute, or at the least a woman of no good reputation.

But what Luke tells us about her is her actions towards Jesus when she hears that He is there at Simon’s.

She stands behind Jesus’s feet weeping, and she begins to cleanse his feet with her tears and her hair.

Ancient Seating and Eating

For most of us here in the west we picture eating being done at a table with everyone sitting upright and knees/feet pointing inward under the table.

Think about the picture of the Last Supper. That is a completely western view of the event.

But this is not how the ancient Jew or Greek would have done so at this time.

As we note the text says Jesus was reclining and His feet were behind Him.

Here we can see how they would have been seated and how she would have accessed His feet.

Her Humility

After weeping and cleansing His feet, she lets down her hair to dry them.

It was considered a disgrace for a woman to let her hair down in public.

She then proceeds to kiss His feet.

Kissing the feet is said to have been a sign of utter humiliation and servitude before the feet of a rabbi.

While kissing His feet, she anoints them with the perfume she brought in with her. (In later stories of Jesus being anointed, it is said the cost of the perfume was possibly 300 denarii).

It was customary to anoint the head of the guest. But she, being so humble, could only anoint His feet.

Nothing mattered to her in that moment but Christ.

All the Pharisee could see and think was how sinful a woman she was and his unbelief that Jesus, a supposed prophet, would let her touch Him.

The Debtors

Instead of seeing the good and humbleness of the woman, Simon, the religious Pharisee, only sees her past misdeeds. And he questions how Jesus could let such a woman touch Him.

Simon’s heart was hard towards this sinner…and probably all sinners.

How often we might find ourselves hardheartedly judging someone whom we know there history.

How often we might play the same comparison game Simon has in his own head that we see Jesus draw out using the parable of the debtors.

Jesus knew Simon’s question, and He goes right to the cause of the question…Simon’s thinking he is better than she is.

The debts mentioned are 50 and 500 denarii. Basically two month’s wages versus two years of wages.

No matter the debt, both debtors were in the same situation, they couldn’t pay. 

By the grace of the moneylender though, they are both forgiven.

How would you respond? If you only owed 2 month’s worth of your salary or two years worth? How much would your debt affect your gratitude towards having it wiped off the books?

Debt Forgiven

Simon was comparing himself to her and thinking he was better than her because he wasn’t as bad as her. Jesus asks him the question, which person in the parable loved the moneylender more?

Through pursed lips you might imagine, Simon recognizes it is the one with more debt.

Just like the two debtors in the parable, you cannot repay God for the debt you owe Him. You must be forgiven.

The point wasn’t about which one loved Jesus more as much as it was about how you may compare yourself to another thinking, “at least I’m not as bad as that guy.” Neither could pay their debt. Both are sinners in need of forgiveness.

Faith in Love

Jesus then points to the sinner woman, and says to Simon, “look at her…”

“You judged her a sinner, and that is true, but she has recognized her sin and the debt she owed. Here’s how I know…”

Through her actions, she proved her faith in Jesus.

Through her actions, she showed her love for Jesus.

James is famous for pointing out that faith without actions is dead. Well here you have the opposite that is also true.

As Paul says in Gal 5.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 ESV

Jesus doesn’t question that she is a sinner. However, He recognizes her sins are forgiven because of how she displays her love to Him. To which He then says to Simon…

“Her sins are many, but they are forgiven, and she has shown this through her love for me.”

And He flips the tables on Simon telling Him, in my words here:

“You don’t love me as she loves me because you don’t think you need forgiveness. You believe you’ve sinned only a little.”

Jesus Forgives

Jesus then tells her those words that we should all desire to hear: “Your sins are forgiven.”

And this blows the mind of all the others that were in that room watching this interaction play out between Jesus, Simon, and the woman.

It was just one of many things, many sayings that Jesus did that showed who He was. For He was God in the flesh, and His claim to forgive sins proved this, and angered the Jews. They knew that only God could forgive sin, and as Luke reports of their questioning of Jesus’s forgiving sin elsewhere in his gospel, it was blasphemy for a man to claim to forgive sin, or do anything else only God could do.

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Luke 5:21 ESV

Nonetheless, the woman recognized her need for forgiveness and sought out Jesus, but the Pharisee did not believe himself to be such a sinner in need as she.

Saved by Faith

Notice, Jesus tells her in verse 50, it is her faith that has saved her.

It wasn’t her cleansing of His feet. It wasn’t even her love for Him…though I dare say you can’t love Christ and not be forgiven. But it is her faith that saved her.

By faith alone are we saved, and our reaction, or fruit, of being saved is the same love and devotion as she has displayed here. Jesus shall be our everything, our master, our husband, and Lord. And if He is then we are indebted to show Him our love and devotion.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 ESV

Salvation is Free

Like the men in the parable, Simon, and this woman, you owe a debt to God. We all do. But it is a debt you and I cannot pay. In truth, some of us may owe more or a little less than others, but it isn’t the amount that matters.

The truth is, we are all in debt.

But God’s forgiveness is offered. He gave Jesus Christ to cancel that debt. The debt wasn’t forgiven, it was paid for by His only Son on the Cross.

Our payment was written in red on the check that is Christ’s body on the Cross. And we know the check was cashed when God raised Him from the grave three days later.

But you have to accept the gift, by faith. But you can reject it and it will be of no good to you.

Listen to this parable…because God’s forgiveness is free, but it isn’t automatic.

we can reject His grace if we will. In 1830, a man named George Wilson was arrested for mail theft, the penalty for which was hanging. After a time, President Andrew Jackson gave Wilson a pardon but he refused to accept it! The authorities were puzzled: should Wilson be freed or hanged? They consulted Chief Justice John Marshall, who handed down this decision: “A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.”

 The Bible Exposition Commentary (Chapter Six: Compassion in Action (Luke 7))

Discussion Question

Can you love Jesus and not have faith in Him?

Extra Notes

The posture at meals was a reclined one with the feet out behind.

Her sins were ten times those of Simon…at least in Simon’s mind.

The woman didn’t come to dine. She came to show her love to Jesus.

She anointed his feet with perfume, not just oil. Possibly 300 denarii worth…a year’s wages. Mark 14:5 

Two years’ wages for one and two months for the other…neither could repay. Denarius was one day’s pay.

There was contempt in Simon’s “this man” comment.

Jesus knows the sinful condition of both the woman and Simon.

Jewish rabbis did not speak to nor eat with women in public.

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 1:47 PM July 3, 2022.

Waiting

Most of us really despise waiting. In today’s society we don’t have to wait for many things we want. I mean, who doesn’t love Amazon Prime and same day receiving when you can get it? Waiting stinks! I want it now!

Gardening

If you’ve been a gardener or even just planted a flower bulb then you know what it’s like to wait. To wait for the fruit of the plant to show. How much more of a wait it is to enjoy the fruit of the garden. A good ripe tomato, the first of the growing season, oh yeah! But it takes about 90 days for that tomato to show itself. And some flowers? They take a year after planting the bulb. For the right fruit, we have to wait.

Pentecost

Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday. The Christian Church recognizes this day as the day the apostles, (the twelve disciples), received the Holy Spirit. But it has Old Testament roots found in what is also known as, “The Feast of Weeks.”

The Feast of Weeks was to occur for the Israelites, the Jewish people, in the Old Testament, seven Sundays after the Passover. (If you don’t know what Passover is, read this article). The following day, if you’re good at math you know is the fiftieth day…Pentecost Sunday. The Israelites were to collect grain from their harvest and make various offerings to God of their “first fruits” to consecrate or dedicate the harvest to the Lord in thanksgiving to Him.

“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord." - Leviticus 23:15–16 ESV

For the apostles, they too had to wait for Pentecost. But on this day, instead of making an offering to the Lord, they received the Holy Spirit from the Lord! It wasn’t about giving to Him as it was receiving from Him. But, they didn’t know it was going to happen this day. All they knew was:

He (Jesus) presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” - Acts 1:3–5 ESV

Again for the math nerds, Jesus taught them for 40 days after His Resurrection, and then He ascended into Heaven telling them He’d send them the Holy Spirit “days from now.” It just so happened, the “many days” ended up being, ten days…

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. - Acts 2:1-4 ESV

Praying

For ten days after Jesus ascended to Heaven, the disciples had no clue what to do other than wait. During that time all we know from Scripture is that they remained in the “Upper Room”, were altogether with the women, (including Mary), in one accord and were devoting themselves to prayer. They waited on the Holy Spirit in prayer. Other than selecting a replacement apostle, they prayed. They didn’t take it upon themselves to go out and begin preaching, trying to perform miracles of healing or anything. They waited.

How about you? Do you find that you tend to move in your own time and speed to get things done instead of waiting on the Holy Spirit’s guidance? I know I do often. I am impatient on one hand. On the other hand I fear “not doing anything” is lazy and disobedient to God. Yet the truth is, many times, we need to wait. I know there are many cases where if I’d waited before making a decision I would have saved myself some trouble. If I’d have prayed, and waited, I would have definitely been better off.

Fruit

Whose fruit do you want to enjoy? Your own, from your own garden, or that of God and what He has planned for you? We all grow restless when waiting. I’m sure it was difficult for those first disciples to wait after they’d spent 3 years with the Master seeing all the works He’d done and then now He was gone from them. He said to wait. But…why? Because He was planning a huge harvest this Pentecost Sunday that they had no idea was coming.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. - Acts 2:41 ESV

Once the Spirit came upon Peter he was empowered and emboldened to get up and preach one of the most convicting sermons ever taught…to the very ones that had weeks before cried “Crucify Him” to Pontius Pilate. These were the people responsible for the death of Jesus on a Cross. Yet, Peter tells them face to face with the power of the Holy Spirit speaking through him…

this Jesus... you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. - Acts 2:23-24

Peter preached the Gospel of Jesus before the very ones that had Him crucified. I can imagine him pointing the finger and saying, “YOU DID THIS!” Bold! But in being so bold, the power of the Holy Spirit also brought about the salvation of some three thousand that day. The birth of the Christian Church had begun on the day of Pentecost.

It takes time for fruit to be produced. Our prayers are the seeds of future desired fruit.

Sometimes we’ll see fruit in an instant, but more commonly it means waiting. Waiting on the fruit of our prayers, our hopes, our dreams, our healing, the Lord’s will to come about. To that I encourage you, keep waiting, and in time you will receive the fruit the Lord has planned for you. Be at peace knowing that He has said…

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. - John 15:8

What Are You Waiting For?

You cannot produce fruit on your own. You need the Holy Spirit to produce fruit. So what are you waiting for?

the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:4-5 ESV

Jesus is the vine spoken of in these verses. Without Him, you cannot bear fruit. This fruit is only produced by the work of the Holy Spirit within us. So, you have to know for yourself; have you repented from unbelief and sin, and do you trust that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty you deserve for your unbelief and sinfulness? If you can say “yes,” then Scripture says you are saved. You are made new and have received the Holy Spirit. And the proof of the Holy Spirit, or the fruit, is found in this…

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

Thanks for reading! I did a 10 minute teaching on Pentecost if you’d like to learn a little more.

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