Sunday, February 26, 2017


The remainder of chapter 8 concerns three miracles showing the authority of Jesus over nature, over demons and over death.

Authority Over the Storm

This is one of the most allegorically preached passages in the New Testament. The sermon titles usually say something like “Jesus Can Calm the Storms In Your Life”. However, if we look at this as an expositor, we will see that is not the main message.

After speaking to the large crowd, and explaining things to his disciples, he wanted to cross the lake. They all got in a boat and Jesus went to sleep. While he was sleeping, a storm came up and stirred up the waves. They began to take on water and worried the they would sink and drown. Since several of these guys (Peter, Andrew, James and John) were fishermen, at home on the water, the storm must have been fierce.

They woke Jesus up to tell him they were going to die. This seems to mean they thought he could help them. And crying out to Jesus when we are in danger is what he wants us to do.

Jesus “rebuked” the wind and waves and the storm immediately ceased. In doing this, Jesus showed his deity. The disciples knew that God had authority over the sea and controlled it. The Old Testament had many examples of this. The big event in the history of God’s deliverance of Israel was the exodus from Egypt, including God’s parting of the Red Sea so that they could pass. Exodus 14:21-22 says “…the LORD drove the sea back…and the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground…”

In Job 38, the Lord told Job he shut in the sea with doors, prescribed limits for it and said “thus far shall you come and no farther”.

Psalm 95:5 says “the sea is his, for he made it”.

Psalm 107:29 says “He made the storm be still and the waves of the sea were hushed.”

Thus, when Jesus controlled the sea, he exercised a power and authority possessed only by God. He was, therefore, declaring his deity by his actions. The disciples at least knew that only God could do this. You can tell this by their reaction. First of all, they were afraid. They were not afraid Jesus would hurt them. They were afraid, as men and women always are, when they see a great act of God’s power.  They were in awe. Second, they marveled that the waves and the wind obeyed him, saying “who then is this”. For, they knew no mortal man could do this. This is the main point of the story. Who is this Jesus? He is God.

By this time in Jesus’ ministry, his disciples had seen him do many miracles. He had healed the sick and raised the dead. So, they had to have some inkling that he was more than a mere man. Yet, this demonstration made it clear.

Not only did Jesus rebuke the storm, he rebuked his disciples. Despite the fact that the disciples went to Jesus for help, they only did it as a last resort, after their own efforts failed. Also, they did it believing that, if they did not wake him, he would let them all perish. And so Jesus rebuked them, saying “where is your faith?” .

In contrast to the disciples, Jesus slept through the storm. He was at peace, trusting in the care of his Father in heaven.

Notice also that Jesus took them into the storm. He is the one who said for them to go across the lake to the other side. Although there is some popular teaching that Jesus will prevent all bad things from happening to you, he in fact will test your faith and give you opportunities to trust him. That is one way we grow in spiritual maturity.

Authority Over demons

In this story, Jesus and the disciples sailed across the lake to the country of the Gerasenes. There Jesus met a man possessed by demons. He had so many demons they called themselves “Legion”. He was living among the tombs, running around naked and generally being a nuisance. The Holy Spirit builds up the believer. The evil spirits break down those they oppress.

When the man encountered Jesus, the demons spoke through him, begging Jesus not to torment them. The demons knew who Jesus was. They are fallen angels. They follow Satan. And they knew he had authority over them. That is why they begged him for mercy.

Notice that the demons begged Jesus not to send them back into the “abyss”. (31) This is a word for the place where Satan and his demons will be kept for eternity. (Revelation 20:1-3) This should tell you something. If even the demons do not want to go there, you certainly do not want to go there.

Jesus “gave them permission” to stay on earth and not return to the abyss, so they went into a herd of pigs. That caused the pigs to drown themselves in the lake. Jesus is Lord over both the natural and supernatural, or spiritual, world.

Note again the reaction to Jesus. The people in the area were seized with great fear. (37) They realized no ordinary man could do this. So, they wanted him to leave.

The man who was delivered reacted differently. He wanted to follow Jesus. He was grateful. He, like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet, loved much as he was delivered from much.

Jesus did not let the man follow him. Rather, he sent him home to be a missionary or evangelist. He instructed the man to tell people how much God had done for him. And he did. (39)

Do you think this was an accidental encounter? It does not seem so. Jesus would have no reason to go to Gesara. It was not a Jewish area and Jesus preached primarily to Jews. Rather, it seems apparent that Jesus went there for the purpose of meeting this man, delivering him from demons, and sending him to be a witness.

Authority Over Illness and Death

In this story, Jesus returned from Gesara. He was met by a crowd of people again. In this crowd was a man whose only daughter was dying. She was only 12 years old. Also in this crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years.

The man was no ordinary man. He was “a ruler of the synagogue” named Jairus. (41) As ruler of the synagogue, he would have been in charge of the services, determining what songs would be sung and what scriptures would be read, as well as who would be allowed to speak. He was, thus, important in religious affairs.

But this man was also desperate. He fell at Jesus’ feet and implored him to come to his house. (42) And Jesus went, thus granting the man’s request. (42) But he did it in an odd fashion. You would expect him to rush to the man’s house and heal the daughter before she died. But that is not what Jesus did.

Instead, as people pressed in around him, he stopped because he noticed that someone had touched him. The disciples thought that was silly, since there were people all around. But, in fact, a woman had touched the fringe of his garment and was immediately healed. (44) Jesus knew that power had gone out from him. (46)

The woman finally came forward and admitted what she had done. Jesus told her that her faith had made her well and told her to go in peace. Jesus always responded positively to those who believed in him.

In the world’s eyes, this woman was not important. In fact, she was an outcast due to her bleeding. But to Jesus, she was important.

Now, remember Jairus. While all of this was going on, Jairus is standing there wishing Jesus would hurry up and get to his house and heal his daughter before it was too late. Not only that, he was an important man waiting on Jesus to deal with an outcast. Then, his worst fear comes true. People came and said that the daughter had died.

Jesus’ response to that was not “too bad, we did not make it in time”. Instead, he told Jairus not to fear, but to believe and she would be well. (50) In other words, Jesus said do not let the outward circumstances cause you to doubt me, or my power, or my faithfulness. Evidently, Jairus did believe.

Indeed, Jesus went into the house and raised her. (54) The people there did not believe Jesus, showing it by laughing at him when he said she was not dead but sleeping. (53)

Another thing to notice here is that Jesus only took three of the disciples into the house with him. He had reduced the crowds to 12 disciples to be his closest followers. Now he reduced that to three, Peter John and James for this special event. He would do this again at his transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemene.

What do these three stories tell us? First, Jesus is divine and has authority over all of creation. This includes all forces of nature, of illness, of demons and even death itself. This will be important to the next event, his sending the apostles on a mission trip. Remember, the beginning of the Great Commission is Jesus’ statement that all authority in heaven and on earth was given to him. (Matthew 28:18)

Second, although our natural tendency is to be afraid when bad things are happening, Jesus does not want us to be afraid.

Third in place of fear, he wants faith. He wants us to trust him. He chastised the disciples for lack of faith. He praised the woman who touched him for her faith. He told Jairus to believe and not be afraid.

In the boat and in the death of the daughter, Jesus in effect told people to disregard the apparent problem, that thing that seemed hopeless to the physical eye and mind. They were to disregard the apparent physical reality and replace it with the spiritual reality that Jesus is Lord over all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

“The collapse in evangelical doctrinal consensus is intimately related to the collapse in the understanding of, and role assigned to, Scripture as God's Word spoken within the church."

― Carl R. Trueman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Sunday, February 19, 2017


A Second Parable - The Lamp

Since many Bible versions put a title for this paragraph, it is easy to think it is a new topic. But it is not. It is still speaking of those who listen to the teaching of Jesus. But it is a second illustration Jesus used to press his point.

Jesus said no one lights a lamp and covers it to hide the light. Rather, they set it up on a table to be seen. In other words, when you have something that is useful, you use it. The gospel, the message of Jesus, was meant to be used. It was not meant to be hidden.

Some people sit in church for decades. They hear the gospel repeatedly. But it has no impact on them. They do not change. They do not practice the Christian life.

Many people have heard the golden rule and the Sermon on the Mount, but they do not practice the principles of either. They are mean, selfish and complacent.

Hearing is not enough. Lip service is not enough. Jesus wants us to hear and obey his word. First we obey by receiving him as Savior and Lord. Second, we obey him by living according to his principles.

I once heard a preacher say, when we get to heaven we will be surprised at who is not there. We are accountable for hearing Jesus’ words. He said nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, everything  that is not known will come to light. (17) This is not a new concept from Jesus. Ecclesiates 12:13-14 says “Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Paul carried the thought along when he wrote “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus”, referring to the final judgment. (Romans 2:16)

Jesus went on to say “take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he things that he has will be taken away”. (8:18) The one who hears the words of Jesus and puts them into practice receives salvation and sanctification as he grows in maturity in Christ. When you are the good soil, when your hear and apply the Word to yourself, you will understand more and more of God’s truth. You bear fruit with patience. (15)

That is why you can read the Bible over and over and still see new things and understand things for the first time. Proverbs 9:9 says “Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning.”

The one who hears the words of Jesus but does not do anything with it, will lose what knowledge and understanding they have, and will lose everything in the end. Jesus said “what he things that he has will be taken away”. (18)

Jesus’ Family

The last vignette in this lesson on listening to Jesus’ words occurs as Jesus’ mother and brothers came to him. It serves for Jesus to make his last point on this subject.

We know that Jesus had an earthy family. He had a mother and he had brothers according to this passage. We can surmise that Joseph had died at his point, since he is not mentioned. Mark even gave us names. He said his brothers were James, Joses, Judas and Simon. (Mark 6:3) Mark also mentioned sisters, but not by name.

This tells us that, once Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph lived together as a normal husband and wife. They had sex. They had children.

We also know that families can be complicated. This is especially true if we seek to serve the Lord in ways our families are not comfortable with or do not understand. This very thing happened to Jesus.

We know that Mary believed the words of the angel to her about Jesus. But, she did not understand everything. We see this when she is worried because Jesus stayed in the temple to discuss scripture with the Rabbis and Mary could not find him.

The episode in our current passage seems to indicate this also. Luke did not tell us why Mary and the brothers came on this occasion. However, Mark wrote that they went out to seize Jesus because they thought he was out of his mind. (Mark 3:21) John wrote that his brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:5)

When his family came to get him, they could not get to him because of the crowd. But one of the disciples told him they were there. Jesus’ reply seems harsh at first. He said “my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it”. (21)

When we get Jesus’ point, we see it is not that harsh and is certainly true. His main point is that God’s family is composed of those of good soil, of the displayed lamp; those who hear the word of God and do it. He was driving home his message that his disciples must be receptive of his word and obedient to it.

Those of us who receive Christ and his message of salvation are given the blessing of becoming part of God’s family. We become his children. John 1:12-13 says “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Galatians 3:26 says “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith”.

Romans 8:16 says “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. 1 John 3:1 says “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are”.

Jesus even taught us to address God in prayer as “Father”. He said “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven…” . (Matthew 6:9)

This concept is “adoption”, or the doctrine of adoption. Because God adopts believers into his family as his children, we have special privileges. First, we get to relate to him as a loving Father, not as a remote taskmaster or even as a judge. We are no longer slaves, but sons. (Galatians 4:7)

As his children, we are also heirs. (Galatians 4:7) We have an inheritance the Father keeps for us in heaven. It is eternal life. (1 Peter 1:4)

We also have the privilege of being made like Christ. We are led by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:14) And we are disciplined in love. (Hebrews 12:5-7)

A note of caution is needed here. Although Jesus is the Son of God and we are adopted as God’s sons, or children, we do not have the same relationship with the Father as Jesus does.

The Father is the first person of the Trinity, the Son the second. God gives us this picture of Father and Son to help us understand them and their relationship. But they are both eternal. They are of the same divine substance. They are different persons of the same Godhead.

We are not and never will be God. But he adopts us as children in the sense of creating a new relationship with us based on his love and our faith.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


The Women Disciples

Luke made an effort in his gospel to show us the women involved in Jesus’ story. Elizabeth, the mother of John, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were important at the very beginning. There was Anna, who waited at the temple for the birth of the savior. Luke showed us Jesus healing Peter’s mother in law and raising the son of the widow in Nain.

As Jesus traveled and preached, he kept the 12 with him. But, Luke shows us that the disciples were not all men. There were women who followed him also. They were those who had been healed of diseases or demon possession.

Luke named a few. The first is Mary Magdalene, or Mary from Magdala. Jesus had cast seven demons from her and she became a devoted follower. She was there at the cross and at Jesus’ tomb. Her great deliverance created great devotion.

Luke also named Joanna, who was married to Herod’s household manager. She was likely a woman of some means and stature. Also named is Susanna, although nothing is told about her. Luke said there were many others. They not only followed Jesus, but some of them supported him and the disciples financially. This would have been unheard of in Jesus’ day.

Some of Jesus’ most devoted disciples were women. Luke never records a woman doing anything negative against Jesus. It was the women who bravely came to his grave to prepare  his body. It was to women that Jesus first revealed himself after his resurrection.

Even though Judaism was a male dominated culture, Jesus showed that women were important to him, that he cared for them and that he desired that they follow him as well as men.

Parable of the Soils

This is often called the parable of the sower, but the point of the parable is the nature of the soils.

On this occasion, another great crowed gathered to here Jesus. As they gathered, he told this parable. A parable is a story, with human characters, that makes a point. Our job is to understand what the parable means and put it into practice.

Here the story is about a sower when went out to sow his seed. In those days, a farmer, or sower, would have a bag of seed. He would walk through his field, grabbing handfuls of the seed and scattering them on the ground. Whether or not the seed grew into a plant depended somewhat on where it landed.

Here there are four different landing places, only one of which is good. The first is the path. The birds would eat the exposed seed before it had a chance to grow. The second is a rock, or rocky soil. The seed might grow a little, but then die because rocky soil does not hold water.

The third fell on the ground, but among thorn bushes. As the plant grew, the thorns also grew and choked it out.

The final soil was good soil. The plant grew and yielded a hundred times more wheat or whatever was planted. It reminds me of a garden I once had, where I worked hard for years to create good soil. One year I planted a zucchini plant. It grew very large and produced so many zucchinis my family could not eat them all and neither could my neighbors. My kids would not eat zucchini again for years.

Since Jesus told this story as a great crowd gathered, we can figure out he was talking about the people in the crowd and saying something about how they would receive his message.

The Purpose of Parables

Jesus did not explain the parable at the time. Evidently, no one understood what it meant. So the disciples later asked him what it meant. Before he told them the meaning, he told them the purpose.

Jesus said the disciples had been given the right to know the secrets of the kingdom of God. (10) In other words, God had granted the disciples, in his grace, the ability to understand the teaching of Jesus and respond to it in belief. For example, when Peter proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said this was not revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven”. (Matthew 16:17)

The Twelve were certainly the most privileged in this regard. They lived with Jesus all day and all night. They heard him teach and preach every day. Doubtless, when everyone else in the crowds had gone home, the Twelve ate dinner with Jesus and sat around the camp fire at night with him, listening and learning. For them, the parables were graphic stories that helped them understand and remember Jesus’ teaching. This would be true of all of the disciples to an extent, but the Twelve especially. You could say, Jesus gave them the gift of saving knowledge. They heard and they believed.

As for others, Jesus said he told parables “that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand”. (10) These words were first spoken by God to Isaiah when he commissioned him to be a prophet. This is recorded in Isaiah 6:9-10.  A prophet speaks for God.

God told Isaiah to go and tell Israel to keep hearing but not understanding, to keep seeing but not perceiving. It was a judgment on Israel, who would turn from God. Isaiah’s words, although coming directly from God, would not bring joy to the Israelites. Instead it would harden their hearts.

Jesus was saying that God’s word spoken by Jesus would have the same effect on the Jews as had God’s word spoken by Isaiah. Not all would receive Jesus’ message and his preaching would actually harden their hearts. The parables would conceal from them the message of the gospel.

So, Jesus speaking in parables was a further fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, or God’s word given to Isaiah.

It takes the work of the Holy Spirit on a person to understand spiritual things. 1 Corinthians 2:14 say “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Explanation of the Parable

Next, Jesus explained the parable. The seed in the parable is the word of God. We know something about the power of the word of God: 1 Corinthians 1:18 says “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.

In this parable, there are four different ways the word of God is received.

First, the soil on the path represents those who hear the gospel, but the devil comes and takes it from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved. This soil represents the person with the hard heart. He or she may hear the gospel, but it does not penetrate. Many have heard the gospel, but not believed. Despite all of the response to Billy Graham’s preaching in stadiums, many walked back to their cars and their lives without believing in Jesus.

When I was in college, I shared the gospel with a guy in his dorm room. He was willing and listened. But when I finished, he immediately went off on talking about his personal philosophy and never considered the message. The devil came and took it from him in a sense.

Sometimes the hard heart comes from bad experiences in life. Often it is an unwillingness to give up their sin. And some people just have no interest in spiritual things. These are all good tools for the devil to use.

The devil has not been able to prevent the preaching of the gospel in America, for example. It is everywhere: on television, radio, internet, and books. There are Bibles in many hotel rooms. The gospel is every where.

But the devil has been successful in attacking it. Atheists write books ridiculing it. Fallen pastors write books explaining it away. Media personalities redefine it.

The devil has also been successful at creating distractions. Many people have sat in churches while the gospel was preached,  but day dreamed about the football game on television, or things they needed to do or almost anything.

Second, the rock or rocky soil represents those who hear and receive it with joy. But they do not fully commit to Christ. When times get hard, they fall away. This represents people of shallow or superficial faith. It makes me think of a couple of popular singers who embraced Christianity, then moved on to other religions. It also reminds me of many people who have “walked the aisle” during a church invitation, but never devoted themselves to Jesus. This is also a picture of the child who made a profession of faith, but left home and Christ for other things.

Third, the soil that full of thorns are those who hear the gospel, but the cares of the world become more important to them than the gospel. So they do not bear fruit. They lose track of following Jesus because they are progressing in careers, raising families and accumulating money.

The fourth is good soil. These people hear and believe, the hold to the faith and the bear fruit. They become more and more like Christ. The fruit of the Spirit becomes more and more evident in their life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22)   This person stays in God’s word. He or she strives to live a holy life.

We do not know a person’s heart when we share the gospel with him or her. We do not know what kind of soil the seed will fall onto. The Lord knows, but we do not. And we should not assume. We share the gospel no matter what.

Monday, February 06, 2017

“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” - John Calvin

Sunday, February 05, 2017


Loving Jesus

Evidently still in the town of Nain, Jesus was invited to the house of a Pharisee for a meal and he went. (36) There is a nicely ironic transition between this story and the last. Luke recorded Jesus saying that the Son of Man came eating and drinking and the Pharisees called him a glutton and a drunkard. (34) Despite the criticism, this Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to eat and drink.

This meal would have occurred in an open setting, out in front of the house or in an open part of it. People in town would stop by and watch or even visit with the guests. Since Jesus was an intriguing figure, it is likely many people stopped by to see him and see what he would do.

We will see from Simon’s behavior, that he was not a believer. He was a typical Pharisee. Therefore, we may surmise that he invited Jesus to his house to check him out. He actually was quite rude. Jesus later pointed out that he did not give him water to wash his feet. It would have been customary to either have a servant wash the guests’ feet or to at least provide a basin of water for that purpose. Walking around in sandals on dirt streets gets your feet dirty. He also did not kiss Jesus. It is customary in that area and time to kiss the guest on both cheeks. This still happens in some Arab countries today. Lastly, Simon did not put oil on Jesus’ head. This was done in Eastern cultures as a sign of respect to guests. He probably did all these things for his Pharisee guests, so he made it obvious that Jesus was of lower stature in his eyes.

One of the people who stopped by the house was a woman of the city. (37) Luke says she was a sinner. It is said three times, once by Luke, once by Simon the Pharisee and once by Jesus. He does not say what her sin was, but many people assume she was either a prostitute or a promiscuous woman. The people of the time knew her and her reputation, so Simon could label her as a sinner. Nonetheless, she came into the area around the table and stood a Jesus’ feet.

People at that time and place did not sit at tables in chairs as we do today. The table would have been low to the ground. The guests leaned on their left elbow on cushions and took food with their right hands. Their feet would be extended out from the table.

Only Pharisees, and maybe their wives, would have been at the table eating, so the presence of the woman that close would itself have been unusual and even startling. Add the to the fact that she stood there weeping, and you can imagine how uncomfortable the guests were becoming. She wept enough that his feet got wet. (38) Seeing this, she took her hair down, got down on the floor and wiped his feet with her long hair.

This was a shocking incident. Women did not undo their hair in public. The Talmud even said a man could divorce a woman for showing her hair to another man. The Pharisees at the table were likely outraged and shocked. Certainly Simon, the host, was.

But the woman was not finished. After cleaning Jesus’ feet with her hair, she broke open an alabaster flask and anointed his feet with the perfumed ointment. (38) Alabaster was an expensive material and perfumed ointment was also expensive. We see, therefore, that the woman made an extravagant and expensive expression of her love for Jesus.

This act was also an expression of her humility. Such an expensive ointment would normally have been put on someone’s head, but she used it on Jesus’ feet. Normally, only slaves would wash feet. So she took the position of a servant, humbled herself, and gave Jesus tremendous honor in using something on this feet that was normally reserved for a person’s head.

Interestingly, Jesus did not stop the woman at any time. He accepted her expression of love for him, knowing he was entitled to it for one thing, but, I think, also enjoying it. Jesus loves for us to love him. He wants our hearts as well as our minds.

Simon reacted with criticism of Jesus. He said Jesus was not a prophet because, if he were a prophet, he would know the woman was a sinner and would not let her touch him. (39) He assumed that any prophet would adopt the rules of the Pharisees in this matter.

But Jesus was a prophet. He spoke the word of the Lord. And he proved he was a prophet by diagnosing Simon’s heart and explaining the woman’s heart. Simon may not have caught that. It was a little subtle. He answered Simon with a simple parable.

The parable involved two debtors. One owed ten times as much as the other. The money lender forgave both debts. Jesus asked, which one will love him more? (42) Simon answered cautiously, but gave the right answer: the one with the larger debt. Jesus acknowledged that Simon answered correctly. (43)

Then Jesus turned toward the woman. (44) That would cause everyone to look at her. She was standing there with a tear stained face, her hair loose, wet and dirty, and maybe still weeping. And while they looked at her, Jesus compared her to Simon.

Jesus pointed out Simon’ s failure to even show him the minimal courtesy. In contrast, the woman expressed extravagant love him.

Jesus said the reason for the difference in the behavior of the woman and the behavior of Simon was love. The woman had many sins and knew it. Jesus had forgiven them. Because she had been forgiven much, she loved much.

Simon, on the other hand, was a self-righteous Pharisee. He did not want forgiveness and did not think he needed it. Therefore, he had little or no love for Jesus.

Clearly Jesus approved of the woman and disapproved of Simon. That has to make us think, which one of them are we most like?

So, what do we think about loving Jesus? God has always demanded that his people love him. Deuteronomy 6:5 says “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” That is pretty clear is it not? God demanded that his people love him with everything they have.

Jesus said this is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22:37) That means it is the top priority item. Jesus said it even more explicitly in Matthew 10:37. He said “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” That is pretty strong stuff.

Many churches put great emphasis on the family. But the family is not our number one priority. Loving God is priority number one. Loving Jesus is priority number one.

So, how can we love Jesus like he wants us to? He gave us the key in the parable and in his description of the woman. She loved much because she was forgiven much. She knew she was a sinner and was overwhelmed by Jesus forgiving her sin.

I think that is why evangelists often come from terrible backgrounds. They were saved from a life of grievous sin and are overwhelmed by that, so much so that they want to tell everyone about it.

But many of us grew up in church. I did. I was there at six weeks old on the cradle roll. I went to Sunday School and heard stories from the Bible. I sat with my dad in church and listened to sermons while my mom sang in the choir. We went Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. We went every night of Spring and Fall revivals. I went to Vacation Bible School in the summer.

In fact, I was saved in VBS the summer of my 9th year. I had done the normal things a little boy did, but I had never been in jail, or killed anyone or committed adultery or even taken the Lord’s name in vain. But I got convicted that I was a sinner headed to hell and I received Jesus by faith and was saved to eternal life.

As time went by, though, I became somewhat self righteous. I did all the things I was supposed to do. I was a good person. But a couple of passages of scripture set me straight.

The first one was James 2:10. James wrote “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” in other words, if you break even one of God’s laws, you are a law breaker. You are a sinner.

I had lied. I had coveted. I had failed to honor my parents. I was a lawbreaker. When I applied Jesus’ standards from the Sermon on the Mount, I realized I was an even greater sinner, for he judged not just actions, but attitudes.

The second scripture was Isaiah 53:6, which says “…the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. I realized that every sin of mine was put onto Jesus on the cross and added to his suffering. It really pained me when I realized it was not just sins committed before I became a Christian, but those sins I committed afterward. I was personally responsible for Jesus’ suffering.

Realizing fully who I was and what Jesus had done for me was overwhelming. And my love for Jesus increased dramatically. 1 John 4:19 says “we love because he first loved us”. We will love Jesus more when we more fully recognize our sinfulness and his payment for it.

Jesus affirmed the woman directly at the end of the story. He reassured her that her sins were forgiven. He confirmed that she had been saved by faith. (50) And he sent her off in peace. She had peace with God because of Jesus’ work on her behalf.

Jesus and Simon saw this woman two different ways. Simon saw her as she had been, a notorious sinner. Jesus saw as she currently was, forgiven and full of love for him.

Sometimes people will just not get over what someone was. I am always amazed at people who express concern over a young man I have mentored. He was wild in high school. But he is a Godly man now. They need to see him as he is. Jesus does.

One final thought. How can we express love to Jesus today? He is not physically here for us to wash his feet. So, how can we do it?

We can participate in worship whole heartedly. We can sing like we mean it, listen attentively to the sermon and pray fervently. We can spend time with him in private prayer. We can speak of him to others. And we can treat sinners as he did, with compassion and love, seeking their salvation.

William Featherstone wrote a hymn that captures these thoughts:

"My Jesus I Love Thee (I Love You Jesus)"

My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus 'tis now

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus 'tis now.

Pour out your love for Jesus this week.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Prayer Based on Proverbs 9:13-18:

Heavenly Father, the voice of Folly is loud and insistent,

   surrounding us in our culture daily.

Give us the grace to listen to Your wisdom and never to Folly.

   Folly tells us we can steal and cheat and get away with it,

      that no one will ever know if we lie and scheme to get what we want.

But we are always living our lives befOre You.

   The voice of Folly leads only to death. 

Keep us in Your Son and His wisdom, our true life.

   In His name we pray, Amen.

From “What Was God’s Purpose for the Tabernacle and the Temple” by Jason Van Bemmel.