Introduction: Welcome to Expound our verse by verse study of God's Word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Luke, chapter 7. The most important thing about you, I believe, is what you think of Jesus. The most important thing about anyone is what they think about the identity of Christ. You remember Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 16, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" And they answered several different answers. "Some say you're John the Baptist. Some say you're Elijah. Some say you're Jeremiah. Some say you're just one of the prophets." Second question: "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." The identity of Jesus Christ is the most important issue to be settled and it is the most important thing about you. Now this whole issue of who Jesus really was is surfacing in this section of the gospel of Luke. That's why I opened with that.
We're at a place in Jesus' ministry and life where people are asking that question: "Who is this guy?" For example, and we'll see it, but in chapter 7, verse 49, where Jesus is guest at a meal eating supper, "Those who sat at the table him began to say to themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?' "In chapter 8, verse 25, as the Lord calms the seas: "And they were afraid and marveled, saying to one another, 'Who can this be?' "Well, those aren't the only two examples. There is one that we left off with last week and we enter into this week; and that is, John the Baptist who's now being imprisoned east of the Dead Sea in Machaerus rotting in jail for all intents and purposes. After Jesus preached that great sermon in Luke, chapter 4, that he has come to set those who are bound and those who are captives free.
And he, the forerunner of the Messiah, is rotting in jail and he begins to doubt. He begins to wonder: "Is this really the Messiah? Is this one the Promised One?" And so he sends a couple to find out. Verse 19 of chapter 7, "John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, 'Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?' When the men had come to him, they said, 'John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, "Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?" 'And that very hour he cured many infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind he gave sight." You remember last week. we didn't read this week that passage, but if we had been reading just before this, Jesus rose a young boy up, a young man up from the dead at the city of Nain.
So, there's resurrections and now there are healings. So, " 'Go tell John the things that you have seen,' " verse 22, " 'and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of me.' "I hope that you don't think that John is less of a great man of God or a prophet because he asks this question. I think some read this and go, "Oh, I'm sort of disappointed in John, because it seems like he's disappointed in Jesus. So I just held John in such esteem, but now I don't know what I think about John." I just hope you love and respect him all the more.
It is not uncommon for great men of God with great faith to come to places in their lives where they kind of bounce back and forth, not knowing who they are in terms of who the Lord is. Moses has his own doubts. Jeremiah said, "I quit the ministry. I won't speak anymore in your name." Elijah said, "Lord, you can kill me now. I just want to drop off the face of the earth." This is not uncommon. Now, John the Baptist was a fiery preacher and he did introduce Jesus as "the Lamb of God," the Messiah. "Behold, look, check it out, this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." He knew that to be true. He knows that to be true. However, where's the action? Where's the kingdom? How come it's not being set up? How come this Jesus isn't speaking more of judgment?
So, go find out---"Are you really the coming one, the Messiah that I've been thinking you are and I've been introducing you as, and we've always believed to be, or is there yet someone else?" And so Jesus answers very interestingly. In effect, after Jesus raises a young man from the dead and does all of these healings, then he says, "Go back and tell him what you've heard and what you've seen." You know, by the way, that is witness. A witness is simply someone who tells someone what you've heard and what you've seen. If you haven't seen anything or heard anything, you have no witness. You have nothing to say. But if you have seen lives changed, if you have heard truth, and it's unlocked your heart, you're a witness. Just say that. Just tell them what you've seen and heard.
Now, I'm going read something to you and I'm going to share with you why the answer that Jesus gave would be satisfying to John. He would have said in hearing it, "Great, that's all I need." It comes from the prophet Isaiah. And if you know anything about John the Baptist, he loved the prophet Isaiah. That was the prophet---that was the go to prophet for many of the things he said in his ministry. So, what Jesus tells those two ambassadors to tell John comes right out of Isaiah, chapter 35. I'm just going to read a couple verses. It says, "Strengthen the weak hands, and make the firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful hearted, 'Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; he will come and save you.'
"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. The lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. And waters will burst forth in the wilderness." Now we believe that to be a reference primarily to the coming kingdom age that will be inaugurated on this earth by the Messiah after he comes the second time, all of the rest of the vengeance and the blessing of the earth being changed topographically. But in healing and in raising from the dead---"Go tell John that." Because in the way Jesus phrased it, he is in effect quoting Isaiah 35, saying, "Go tell John that, because John will know if I can do this, I will also be able to do that." So he gave him the Word of God, a word, a passage that he knew that John knew, John had studied, was familiar with.
"Just tell him what you have seen and heard. You have witnessed miracles happen according to the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 35." And then Jesus says this: "And blessed is he who is not offended because of me." "Blessed is he who doesn't stumble because of me." Now, I've been thinking about this. As you grow in your Christian walk, the longer you are a believer, there is a tendency for you to become offended at Jesus. I have met people who over time have become disappointed with him. They were so excited when they were a Christian---"This is brand new and I'm going tell people, and look what's happened in my life. And Jesus will come back by the end of this week, I know it." They are just so geek, they're so psyched. It's great, but then the week turns into a month.
And I remember when I was three years old as a believer and I'm going, "Goodness, what's happening? I thought the Lord would be back by now. I'm getting old. [laughter] I'm getting to be in my mid to upper twenties. Wow." As time goes on and routines take over, I wonder how many are disappointed with Jesus. It's not what you thought it would be following Christ. You were sure that this disease would be healed; it didn't get healed. You were sure that your daughter would turn out differently, but this is how she is. You were sure that prosperity would come and certain things would happen, but it's not what you expected or somebody told you. So over time you have the tendency, the temptation to become offended at him, disappointed at him.
Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are not offended because of me." I remember the first time I met a young man who was disappointed, offended at Jesus. He knocked on my door. I was going to college. He had two boxes of books in his trunk. They were Christian commentaries. I was a poor, young student who couldn't afford books. I was so happy, he said, "I'm giving you my commentaries." I thought, "Really? Awesome, thank you. But why?" He goes, "I don't believe anymore." I said, "What do you mean you don't believe? You've been in seminary." He goes, "That's the reason I don't believe." I have been taught in the institute of higher learning where I go that the Bible is not to be trusted. So I have all these books on the Bible, but my professors keep dismantling with these arguments that it's not trustworthy.
"So, I don't know where I stand with Jesus, but it's not what I expected, and I'm done. You can have these books." It was a wake up call to me. I was a young believer. I knew a worship leader once who started reading books that questioned the validity of Christ, the validity of the Scriptures, and he was engaging in a lifestyle himself, or wanting to, that was not right. And to watch somebody that you knew and thought loved the Lord, and then they just sort of go, "I'm offended because of Jesus. I'm disappointed in him. It's a wake up call. So, "Go tell John what you've seen, what you've heard, what you have personally experienced, and he'll know where that comes from. And, "Blessed [or oh, how happy or satisfied] is the one who doesn't stumble on account of me."
Now, again, please, I just want to frame this for you: this is not that unusual. So, if you're feeling a little bit iffy or if you know somebody that is, please don't clobber them with the gospel gun: "You wretched unbeliever!" Just be patient with them, please. If they're struggling, good, struggle with them. Find out what they're struggling with. Help them find good answers. If it's an intellectual struggle, welcome that, welcome those questions. Seek good, solid answers for those questions. After Jesus died, and the disciples didn't know that he rose yet, a couple of them were walking toward Emmaus when Jesus appeared in Luke 24. We'll get to it. And they were sad. They were disappointed in Jesus. And Jesus comes up and he asks them, "What are you guying talking about, and why are you so sad?"
And they go, "Are you, like, a stranger? Don't you know what has happen lately in Jerusalem about all of these things that have happened." He goes, "Like what things?" He said, "About Jesus of Nazareth who is a mighty prophet in word and in deed. And we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel. But it's been three days." "We were hoping," not "we have hope. We're so excited because Jesus promised a resurrection. I can't wait for him to show up." They didn't expect him to show up. He showed up. They didn't expect him. They were disappointed. And Jesus comforted them the exact same way that he comforts John the Baptist---with Scripture. He gave John the Baptist Isaiah 35. He gave to them, those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, a lot more.
It says, "Beginning at Moses and all of the Prophets, he expounded to them all things in the Scripture concerning himself." I'd love to have been in on that Bible study, to hear from the words of Jesus the fulfillment of prophecy. Because afterward it said, "They came and they looked at each other and said, 'Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us?' "You want heartburn? [laughter] The good kind? Let the Lord give you his promise and receive the promise that can unlock even the most difficult situation. So he uses that as now the ability to speak to the crowd about John the Baptist. Because maybe in hearing that John was having second thoughts, people were thinking, "Well, John the Baptist, he's not all that cool then, is he?"
So look what he says, "When the messengers of John had departed, he began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: 'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?' "You know what a reed is, a flimsy little plant that is blown back and forth by the wind. It has really no strength. It has real no stability. It's swayed by what whatever winds are going on. "What did you expect to see?" A politician out in the wilderness, somebody who kind of sways back and forth according to the winds of what everybody's thinking? Not John. He's spoke his mind, he spoke his heart, and he never really cared if you liked or not. James said, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."
So he's talking John up to the crowd and he continues his analogy: "'But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings' courts.' "You remember what John wore, right? Desert couture, desert chic, right? He dressed like Elijah the prophet. You remember Elijah the prophet how he was described when he---when people came to him? They said, "What did that prophet look like?" And this is Second Kings 1. They said, "He was a hairy man dressed in, like, animal skins." That was his description. So was John the Baptist like Elijah the prophet---desert chic couture, just this gnarly, hippie, leather, bug eating prophet. "'But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.
"This is he of whom it is written: "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you." '" This is the very Scripture, Malachi 3, that the angel Gabriel quoted to John the Baptist's parents. "Your boy is going to fulfill that prophecy." So he's a prophet, but he's more than a prophet. He's a prophet who has fulfilled prophecy. " 'For I say to you,' " verse 28, " 'among those born of woman there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.' "Now you can think of lots of great people that you have read about or heard about or seen on the television, people that you, or the world for that matter, might consider to be great people.
By virtue of what? Well, they're well known, they're great singers, or they're great athletes. Or they're great entrepreneurs, they have made a name for themselves in investments and in the business world. So these are standards by which typically we consider people to be great. But by those standards John the Baptist certainly would not be great; for that matter, Jesus would not have been called great. Because he doesn't fit any of those molds. John the Baptist never wrote a book, started a company, had financial success, independence. Jesus lived in poverty. But Jesus, God's Son, points to John the Baptist and said there's nobody greater. But a wholly different standard. Why is he considered great? For a few reasons: number one, he was filled with the Holy Spirit from---when?---birth, from birth, from the womb.
It says very uniquely of John the Baptist that he was "filled with the Holy Spirit." A second thing that made him great: He was a faithful representative of God. He faithfully preached the truth no matter if this Pharisees liked it, the scribes liked it, people from Herod's palace liked it or disliked it. He was a faithful preacher. A third reason, if I want to keep this all alliterated: He funneled people to Jesus Christ. As people came to him, he pointed to God's Son: "I must decrease," said John, "he must increase." Another reason he's great: He was the final Old Testament prophet. Did you know that? I know we're reading the New Testament, so you're kind of thrown off a bit, you're going, "What do you mean, Old Testament prophet?" Jesus said, you'll get to it in Luke chapter 16 verse 16, "For the law and the prophets were until John."
So he was the last Old Testament prophet, he was a prophet who fulfilled prophecy, and he pointed toward Jesus Christ. So, he was the final Old Testament prophet. The fifth reason he was great: He was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Quoting Malachi 3, he was the one who would "prepare the way," announce the kingdom. But then Jesus, though he makes this enormously, I guess, gratifying statement, if John would have heard it. I don't know that he did hear it, because the guys who were speaking for Jesus and John were gone. But it would have been great to hear, would it not? "Oh, P.S. you're the greatest guy who has ever lived," because he's suffering in doubt. But all Jesus gives him is not flattery, but Scripture. I think that's enough. But to the crowd he says, "None is greater."
That's quite a statement. But an even more amazing statement is what he ends with in that little paragraph. He says, "'But he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.' "Now I hope you're going, "What!? How could I [you] be greater than John the Baptist?" How could I be greater than John the Baptist? Well, certainly not by character I'm not, but I am by position and so are you. John the Baptist was the announcer and the preparer of the Messiah, the one who announced the coming kingdom of God. "Behold the kingdom of God is at hand," he said. And then the King appeared, Jesus. The kingdom is always greater than the announcement of the kingdom. He announced the new covenant. He announced the kingdom. He said it's here, but he never himself really enjoyed or entered into that.
He was down by the Jordan, he was locked up in prison, and then his head was severed from his body by Herod. "And when all the people heard him, even the tax collectors justified God." This is something the other gospel writers don't tell you, Luke does. "When all the people heard him, even the tax collectors justified God," and that means they acknowledged that God was right. That's what that means. "We acknowledge that God was right in sending John the Baptist with the message of repentance and confession." "[Having seen or] having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him." Some loved him and agreed with him and agreed with God in sending him; others rejected the will of God for their lives and they wouldn't be baptized by John.
They doubted John's message. They doubted John's calling as a prophet. And they're mentioned in both of these verses, two different groups of people. Here's what's interesting: it's as though at that time John the Baptist was the dividing line, the Continental Divide between people before the coming of Jesus Christ. Because John required confession and required repentance, and some people in hearing that, they go, "I'm not going to confess my sins. I don't need to repent of anything. I don't need to, like, turn to somebody else. I'm not perfect, but I'm improving." But John said, "You need to repent of your sins." And so that was the dividing line. And so, two different groups of people are mentioned because of it.
Here is the problem with the second group that are mentioned in verse 30. Problem number one---and see if anybody here can relate to this. If you can, then you need to deal with it now---self righteousness. They were self righteous. They saw themselves: "I'm a Pharisee. I'm a lawyer. I'm schooled in Old Testament law. I'm a religious person. I'm good enough before God. I'm the one who represents God to the nation; I don't need this backwater prophet's spiel about confessing and going into that muddy river and getting wet. I'm not going to do that. That's embarrassing. I'm not going to be humiliated. Self-righteousness keeps a lot of people from coming to truth. Number two: shallowness, very, very shallow. Oh, yeah, there were religious, but they were shallow.
And they had a very shallow view of how bad their sin was in needing to change. This keeps people coming to Christ. They don't see how bad their sin is. They're shallow in their thinking. John Owen was a Puritan writer who said: "He who has a slight view of sin has never had a great view or great thoughts of God." If you don't think your sin is all that bad, you'll never think that God is not all that great, and Jesus is not all that awesome a Savior, because, after all, you don't need him. You've gotten by fine without him. You don't need saving from your sin. Just proves that you are shallow and you are in your self righteousness. And it might serve you well today, but it won't. So, John becomes that dividing line. "And the Lord said"---h'm---"the Lord said, 'To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, what are they like?
"They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: "We played the flute for you, and you didn't dance; we mourned to you, and you didn't weep." For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, "He has a demon." The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, "Look, a glutton, a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" But wisdom is justified by all her children.' "What our Lord is referring to are children's games that were pretty common back then. Children would mimic their parents. They do that today. They played "wedding" and they played "funeral." So if it's wedding time, they'd go, "Come on, dance." And when they played funeral, it's "Ooh," they have to pretend like they're really sad. Kids still do that.
My grandkids are amazing. We have this closet in the hallway with like a little toy kitchen for my granddaughter to play with. And it's where we also have a couple of our suitcases for when we travel. And so not too long ago they both came out and they call it the "Hummy Game." They're playing "hummy." Now they mean honey, like, "Honey, let's---let's have dinner, honey," but they call it "hummy." That's how---their pronunciation. So, little Seth comes out, goes, "Now, hummy, we're going to go on a trip." And he's pulling out a little suitcase and they look like they're going to go to the door. And they're playing, you know, that they're married. Another time they might play like they're sad.
So Jesus said, "You know, if I have to liken this generation to something, they're like a bunch of spoiled little brats. They don't like the messenger. They don't like the message. But the problem really isn't the message nor the messenger, it's the mess of the spoiled little brats. That's what I liken this generation," Jesus said, "unto." "'You used the say about John the Baptist, "Oh, He's so austere. He's so stern. He's so hard, so legalistic." You didn't like him. Then I come along and I'm more of an open, you know, jovial fella. I eat in Matthew's house and eat with the tax collectors and sinners, and you say, "Oh, he has too much liberty, too much grace, too much freedom." No one can please you guys. And the problem isn't the message, it's not the messenger, the problem is the mess that you as little, spoiled, spiritual brats make."
"I don't like that preacher." [laughter] "Spoiled brat!" "John's too hard. I don't like his sermons, you know, 'You vipers!' I just don't like being called 'snakes.' ""Okay, you brat." [laughter] That's what Jesus is saying. You get the rift, right? But he says, "'But wisdom is justified of her children.' "In other words, "The proof is in the pudding, and look at the fruit of John's life and look at the fruit of my life." "Then one of the Pharisees"---huh huh---"one of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him. And he went to the Pharisee's house and he sat down to eat." Now here is a story not found in Matthew nor Mark nor John, only in Luke. So I want to slow down when we have very specific "Luke things," other things we can brush over more quickly.
I have a question: Why would a Pharisee invite Jesus to his home? Well, let me answer that, and I don't know, but I'm only going to offer a couple possibilities. Number one, it was a Pharisee, a local Pharisee at Capernaum where Jesus went to church, went to synagogue. And so it was a custom to invite visiting rabbis or rabbis who were teachers and didn't have a place to go on the Sabbath for a Sabbath meal. That could be one reason, for sheer hospitality. If that's the reason, this guy chose a poor job of showing hospitality. Second reason: Jesus had become a very controversial celebrity, and perhaps just having him over for dinner, you know---"Might just be kind of cool to have a feather in my cap that I've had this celebrity at my house for dinner."
So Jesus comes, but notice this, notice the same verse, verse 36: "He went to the Pharisee's house, and he sat down to eat." Now we're seeing the problem. This never happened typically. You didn't just go and sit down and eat. Once you went to a house, there was a protocol. The first thing, you were greeted by the host with a kiss on both cheeks, a welcome kiss, "a holy kiss" it's called later in Scripture. Then oil was put on the head, olive oil, to refresh you from the harsh sun of the daylight. Then your sandals were removed because you had walked from somewhere, so you have dirty feet, and a servant would wash your feet. But Jesus just came and he sat down. "And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner"---doesn't tell us what the sin was, but we can just guess, it was a pretty notorious gal."
"When she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil." Alabaster, have you ever seen it? It's magnificent. It's a kind of a marble that is---at that time was mined, was milled, was extracted from Egypt and it was very, very expensive. And usually you would hold certain contents, like very, very expensive oils or perfumes in them. If you go today to Jerusalem and you go to the church at the foot of the Mount of Olives called The Church of All Nations, the windows in the church are made out of pure alabaster carved very thin, and light comes through it and filters through that chapel. Amazing, this stone. "
And stood at his feet behind him," verse 38, "weeping; and she began to wash his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed his feet and anointed them with fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying"---now he's just---he's thinking these thoughts. He's saying this internally. He's not saying out loud, but notice what he is saying internally: "'This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.' "Now I have another question. First question was: How did Jesus get sited to this house? But here's the second question: How did she get in? Okay, he's a Pharisee. He has a high reputation. He's a religious cat. What's she doing at his meal? Well, I'm glad you asked? [laughter]
The houses back in those days were built around a courtyard, not unlike some of the homes, the traditional homes here, where you have one level and a courtyard in the middle. And part of this courtyard, three sides are surrounded by the home, and the one that isn't has a wall with a little gate that opens out into the street. So, typically, when you invite people over and it's a formal meal, you have a meal out in the courtyard. And often the gate would be open, so that people walking by would be able to see what famous person is in your house eating dinner, or who are you serving in this place. So here's a woman, like the rest of the crowd, going by, and because there's probably quite a crowd, she slips into that courtyard outside during the meal.
Something else---how is it that she's behind Jesus washing his feet? Well, they didn't sit up like this. You know, you've seen the pictures of the Last Supper. Leonardo is a great guy, but he did us a disservice, because he had Jesus looking like they were all Europeans sitting at a table posing for the camera. You know, kind of like this, and they're all kind of on each side of him. [laughter] That's not how they ate. They ate at a low table called a triclinium. So they would lay on their left arm and their feet were to the side and behind them, and they would have their right hand free to grab the food and etcetera. That's how they ate leisurely on their side. So Jesus' feet and everybody else's in a round were behind them.
So she starts coming in and she's weeping and she undoes her hair, which according to the Talmud, in some cases, was a reason for a husband to divorce his wife. If she undoes her hair from the bun (it should be in in public), and lets her hair down, it's grounds for divorce. Now she probably didn't care, because she wasn't married. She could have been a lady of the night, a streetwalker. She has nothing to lose here. But she comes in and she weeps, and Simon sees this lady and has these thoughts. Okay, now just before we move on, get this picture. Could you have two people more different in the same setting than this religious man of high reputation and this street woman of ill-repute together, but both of them are in the presence of Jesus? So, cool things are going to happen. Fireworks are about to happen.
You have a host, the invited guest, and the uninvited intruder all in the same house. I have a theory. It's just my belief: if you were to take a chronology of the Gospels---Matthew, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John---shortly before this, if you were to map it all out, shortly before this Jesus gave a sermon at which he said, "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. You will find rest to your souls." That famous passage, that utterance was given chronologically right before this. It could be that this woman, so broken because of her sin, not knowing where to go, heard such inviting, loving words of Jesus and she thought, "Oh, my goodness, I need to find him. I hear he's having a meal at this guy's house. I'm going to go." And she risked it all. So this guy has these bad thoughts, and then verse 40.
Here it comes. "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' So he said, 'Teacher, say it.' "I figure he said it sort of like, "Okay, go ahead say it." I don't think it was confident like, "Yes, go ahead and say it." Because by this time she had drawn quite attention and there were a lot of people in that courtyard. All eyes were on Jesus and this woman. So he announces, "'Simon, I have something to say to you.' 'Teacher, say it.' "And he goes, "'There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii." That's twenty months' worth of a wage. Twenty months, take your wage, almost two years' worth, that's what you owe. "'And another one owed fifty.' "That's two months of a working man's wage.
"'And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him more?' Simon answered and said, 'I supposed to one whom he forgave more.' And he said to him, 'You've rightly judged.' And then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman?' "That's a funny question: "Do you see this woman?" That's the one he's been obsessing over the whole night. It's like that's the only he sees. But this is more like a rhetorical question: "You see this woman, don't you?" "'I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss, but this woman has not seized to kiss my feet since the time I came in."
"'You did not anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.' And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' "Two people who owe money, both of them are debtors. And you have two people at that dinner, a Pharisee and a woman, both debtors, both in the presence of the One who can forgive them both. Okay, one owes 500 in the story; one owes 50. So one is ten times worse a sinner than the other, but they're both sinners. They're both debtors. Right? They both owe. So he's applying that to this situation. "Simon, she's a much better sinner than you are. She's a 500 point sinner; you're only a 50 point sinner. But you're still a sinner, Simon.
"Her sin is so visible, maybe it's prostitution. Your sin, it's really all invisible and private. Yours is pride. Okay, she might be ten times worse a sinner than you are, Simon the Pharisee, but you're both sinners." And that's, by the way, what sin means, "to miss the mark." If I gave you ten arrows and I gave you a target, and if nine times out of ten you hit a bull's eye and the last one you missed it---you missed the mark. You have sinned. And if you gave me a bow and arrow and I missed all nine of them and maybe got one five feet away, or even bull's eye, I'm still a sinner. I may be a better sinner than you are, 'cause I missed more. She missed more, but they're both sinners. He says to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Now, here, there's a couple of things here. We---we, like Simon, tend to rely on a relative righteousness. Right?
You know what I mean by that? "Okay, I'm not perfect, but I'm not as bad as that person." We do that all the time. That's exactly what Simon is doing. "Okay, I'm not saying I'm perfect or anything, but I'm not like her." You're right. You're a 500 pointer, she---you're a 50 pointer, she's a 500 hundred pointer. But we often try to approach God with a relative righteousness. The Bible says, "None are righteous, no, not one." "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." The second thing to notice is that this woman who was a great sinner has just become a great saint, and that's the greatness of the story. He says to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Our greatest need is forgiveness and God's greatest accomplishment is forgiveness.
This woman came as a repentant sinner, and she left as a changed woman. The Pharisee came to his own meal as a religious sinner, and he stayed unchanged, unchanged. She's changed. This is good news. "And those who sat at the table with him began to say to themselves, 'Who is this who can even forgive sins?' And he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.' "Now, we do have enough time for the first few verses of chapter 8. And I know it's very nice if we could sort of compartmentalize and just do one chapter a week. I want to say two things about that. Number one, it's hard to do that given that we only have an hour. If we had two hours, I could do it. But we don't, and don't worry, I won't. [laughter]
And, number two, the chapters and verses were not in the original. They were added, you know, many, many years afterwards by somebody who helped us, but not always. Sometimes he's misplaced where chapters and verses should, in my opinion. So, those aren't inspired. The stories just continue in the original. But we have a few more minutes left. So look at the first few verses, because these two are also very unique to Luke. None of the other gospel writers share this. "Now it came to pass, afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him," those are the disciples whom he picked to be apostles.
"And certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities---Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for him from their substance." In other words, it means they gave Jesus what he needed financially for his ministry in the Galilee, these women did. Out of their substance they helped provide for Jesus and his disciples. Here's what's cool: Luke as an author seems to highlight women and their importance and their role more than any of the other gospel writers. And he does it again here telling us about these women.
And he tells that not only did he have disciples, not only did he have apostles, but there were women from the highest strata of society (from Herod's palace) to the lowest strata of society (a demonized woman. She had seven demons in her) who were touched by what Jesus said and by what he did, and they followed him, and they loved him, and they supported him. So, Luke does us a service in highlighting them throughout his book. Mary Magdalene comes from a town called Magdala, we believe, which is on the west---southwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. There are ruins there today and the archeological digs have laid dormant for years. They just, the last couple of years, started redoing them. So it is now become a site that many people will stop and see.
It's just a town that she was from. The other two gals that are mentioned: Joanna, the wife of Chuza, she's only mentioned here; as is Susanna also mentioned here. When people heard Jesus, they were drawn to him, I imagine that many women especially. Because, yeah, Jesus, he was a man's man, and he puts things straight, but he had such a message of compassion. He had authority, and people notice that. But his compassion and his love and his willingness to forgive was so different from the rabbis they had heard, or the religious system they were involved in, so they were drawn to him. But because they were drawn to him, there was always controversy surrounding Jesus. Why? Because women were ill regarded two thousand years ago. They were not respected. They were not placed in the same level as men were.
And because of that, there have come down to us erroneous sources called Gnostic gospel. Some of you have heard of Gnostic gospels. If you haven't, you have at least heard of or read or seen the Da Vinci Code, which is sort of based on that whole crazy notion that Jesus isn't who Christians think he is, and there's real truth elsewhere. So in the fourth cen---second century AD, there was a group of Gnostics, or there were several groups, but they had a special interest in Mary Magdalene. They said that Mary Magdalene was given a very unique, special knowledge, a secret knowledge given to her by Jesus. And one of the sources called the Gospel According to Philip---which is not an inspired book. It's not in the Bible. It's an erroneous source---said that Jesus loved Mary Magdalene more than he loved all of his other apostles.
So because of that, there had been speculation as to what kind of relationship Mary Magdalene may have had with Jesus. Some believe they were married---the Gnostic belief. Not long ago a fragment, a papyrus fragment was found dated to be around the fourth century AD. And they were supposed word of Jesus where he talks about---say, he says, "my wife." And first of all, the person who found this, who was not a believer, says that doesn't mean anything. This could just be an erroneous papyrus that dates from that time. But it does show the tradition among the Gnostics and their weird belief system concerning Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and the controversy that was stirred up because he included women in his group. And that was sort of based on all of their tradition.
But there were women whom Jesus just had a special heart for---the woman caught in adultery in John, chapter 8. And they were ready to stone her and Jesus said, "Okay, go ahead. You, any of you who have never sinned before, you're first. Make it a good one, aim well. If you're without sin, you throw the first stone." And they started dropping their stones and they went off. Then he said, Jesus said, "Woman, where are your accusers?" "Sir, I have none." "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." So he had that special heart and that special sort of protection for those women who are exploited by that kind of a culture. Then we look in the book of Acts and we find that there are deaconesses and prophetesses and husband and wife teams like Aquila and Priscilla who ministered.
And we see the role of women from the culture around was elevated by Jesus and the early church. Don't listen to any of the bunk that people say---"Oh, you know, Christianity's just all male dominant and, you know, it's a put down on women." They don't know their history. They don't know the cultural context from which it has arisen. So it is arisen freeing women to the extent that in Galatians 3 Paul says concerning Christ and the gospel: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; we are all one in Christ." Jesus, not Gloria Steinem, liberated women 2,000 years ago. And the early church is a testimony to that liberation. [applause]
A far cry from many religions, like in the Middle East now, where women are completely subjugated by Islamic Sharia Law in any of the countries where it exists---just a fact, and it still exists. So these women are mentioned and then it says, "When a great multitude had gathered, they came to him from every city, and he spoke by a parable." Because the parables are coming up, we're going to wait till next time to get into it. We'll get into chapter 8. And next time we're together---oh, I won't guarantee you---I was going to say I can almost guarantee you we're just going to do all of chapter 8. But you know how that goes. So I don't want to be made a liar. Let's pray.
Our Father, there's just so many great truths. And I have become more and more excited as I was able to just read and reread and study and consider and see how Luke writes and what he considers to be vital of what your Holy Spirit inspired him to place in this text for us, for our learning. So, Father, I want to thank you for the testimony of our Savior and his love and special notice of women who had been ill-treated by the culture around them, even the religious culture. Thank you for the liberation that is in Christ, that it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, doesn't matter if you're a Jew or a Gentile, it doesn't matter if you're a slave or free, if you're an employer or an employee, if you own the company or you go pay check to pay check---we're all one in Christ.
We're all brothers and sisters and we're all your children. Thank you for that. I pray especially for any of my brothers and sisters who have felt disappointed by you over the years. I pray you would rekindle and reignite their faith. I pray you would strengthen the very fiber of their faith. And thank you, Lord, that our faith has been increased tonight, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, in Jesus' name, amen.
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