There are many passages in the gospels that leave me marveling at the ability of the Evangelists, and indeed of the Holy Spirit, to pack so much content and depth into so little space. One such a passage is the story of the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. It contains only three characters: Jesus, Simon the Pharisee, and an unnamed woman. Really, only the woman does anything. She weeps and washes Jesus’ feet with her perfume and her tears.
Jesus does nothing. He sits there and allows her to do it. Outwardly, Simon does nothing. Inwardly, though, He is seething. He had invited Jesus into his home because he believed He was a prophet. However, no holy man of God would allow a woman like that to touch him!
Simon knew—or thought he knew—what kind of a woman she was. We don’t know specifics, though Simon did. All we know about her is that she was a sinner, and her sin was such that a Pharisee—even a more thoughtful Pharisee like Simon, a Pharisee who was willing to give Jesus a chance—would never consent to having her touch him.
Jesus, though, looked at her and saw a different kind of woman altogether. Simon was wrong about Him—He did know about her past sins, in much greater detail than Simon did. However, Jesus didn’t focus on those things.
Instead, He focused on the tears she shed, the tears that showed her sorrow for her sin. He focused on her humility, her willingness to kiss His feet, filthy with the mire of the streets, and wipe them with her hair. He focused on her willingness to sacrifice for His sake by anointing His feet with perfume. We don’t know how much her perfume was worth, but the perfume that Mary used to anoint Jesus for burial was worth 300 denarii, and it’s likely that the value in this case was similar. He focused on her choice to come to a place where she knew she would not be welcome, a place where she would be sneered at and hated, in order to be near Him.
In short, He focused on her faith, the faith that would save her from her sins. To Jesus, that was the kind of woman she was—someone who trusted in Him to forgive her, someone whom He would gladly forgive. Indeed, she received her salvation before she left the room.
However, her spiritual transformation is probably not the only one in the story. Scholars believe that when Luke identifies a minor character in his gospel by name, it’s because he talked to that person and is using them as a source. If that’s the case here, Luke got the story not from the woman, but from Simon, a disciple of Jesus decades after the events in the story took place.
In that case, the story does not only reveal the woman’s repentance. It reveals Simon’s too: his remorse at judging her so harshly, his shame at not seeing what Jesus sees, and his willingness to humble himself and exalt Jesus by recounting these events to Luke. Ultimately, then, this is not only the woman’s salvation narrative, but Simon’s too, as he realized what kind of a man he was and the depth of his need for Jesus.
What kind of people are we? Are we humbled by Jesus in the midst of sins that lead the “good people” of the world to regard us with contempt? Or, instead, are we humbled by Him in the midst of our religious pride, as He gently reminds us that we need His grace as desperately as the worst sinner out there?
“Forgiven sinner” is the only kind of people that we can dare to be. There is no hope in being anything else.
My heart rejoices in the Lord,
Who lifts my horn on high;
I boast before my enemies
Because You heard my cry.
Not one is holy like the Lord;
Beside You, there is none,
And there can be no other rock
But God, the Holy One.
Boast not before Him in your pride,
Nor try Him with your speech;
He is a God who understands
And weighs the deeds of each.
He breaks the bows of mighty men
But makes the feeble strong.
He starves the rich but grants the poor
The food for which they long.
He gives the barren seven sons
While fruitful women pine;
He brings forth death and offers life,
Each one, by His design.
He sends both poverty and wealth;
They come from Him alone:
He lifts the needy from the dust
And seats them on a throne.
The pillars of the earth are His;
His will sustains it all;
He guards the footsteps of His own
But makes the wicked fall.
Their strength cannot defy His will;
“Repent!” His thunders warn;
With judgment, He exalts His king
And glorifies his horn.
In all the pages of Scripture, there is no more important event than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It establishes that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, it confirms that His death on the cross was effective in purchasing our forgiveness, and it gives us the hope of eternal life. Without the resurrection, we have no reason to believe, and the church has no reason to exist.
Most of us are aware of these things, but there’s something else that the resurrection does that is just as important. It provides a pattern. In the churches of Christ, patterns are very significant to us. We want to do all things according to the pattern that has been shown us.
We think of the pattern as being important in comparatively small things: the way we worship God, for instance, or the way we spend the Lord’s money. However, we are governed by a pattern in the essentials of our faith, too, and it is a pattern that goes back to that Sunday morning 2000 years ago when the disciples came to the tomb and found it empty. This morning, then, let’s turn to Romans 6 to see what we can learn about the pattern of resurrection.
First, the resurrection of Jesus establishes a pattern for OUR SALVATION. Here, look at what Paul has to say in Romans 6:1-7. For many of us, this is an extremely familiar text. I’ve heard teaching all my life on baptism from this passage, particularly focusing on the image of baptism as a burial with Christ.
I can recall preachers pointing out that this shows us that the proper mode of baptism is immersion. After all, nobody buries a corpse by sprinkling a handful of dirt on it! Likewise, it shows that salvation does not precede baptism. If somebody is saved before baptism, baptism is burying them alive.
I think those arguments are valid, but we also must recognize that Paul did not write this passage to prove those things. Baptism is the beginning of Paul’s argument, not the end. He takes something that the Romans already believe is important—baptism—and goes on to explain why baptism is important.
What he reveals is that the baptismal process—going down into the water, being submerged, and coming up out of the water—unites us with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. When we are baptized, we have done what Jesus did. We have followed His example, so we will receive His grace.
This, I think, is the single strongest critique of the other things that people claim save us from our sins. They don’t look like the resurrection. Where is Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in the sinner’s prayer? That’s not following the pattern. Neither is being sprinkled as an infant. Speaking in tongues doesn’t look like the pattern of resurrection either. There is only one way that we can rise with Jesus to walk in newness of life with Jesus. That happens to us if and only if we have been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins.
Second, Christ’s resurrection establishes the pattern for OUR RESURRECTION. Consider Romans 6:8-10. Notice first of all that this passage is about those who already have died with Christ. This is about Christians. It says, though, that we believe that we will live with Him. Having been united with His death, having been united figuratively with His resurrection, we will be united literally with His resurrection. As Jesus will live forever, never to die again, we will live forever too.
Because the resurrection of Jesus is the pattern for our resurrection, His experience tells us something vital about the way we will be raised. His resurrection was a resurrection of the body, and our resurrection will be too. I think a lot of brethren haven’t thought this through. They think of resurrection as what happens when our bodies die and our spirits float off to paradise or torment.
Biblically speaking, that is not resurrection. Instead, resurrection is what happens when our spirits return to our bodies, as Jesus’ spirit returned to His body, when what is dead comes to life once again. Our bodies will take on a form that is very different from anything we have ever seen, but it is our bodies that will be raised.
This has especial relevance when it comes to our evaluation of the doctrine of hyper-preterism, otherwise known as the 70 AD doctrine. This doctrine, which many brethren believe, holds that every prophecy of judgment in the New Testament was fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. As a result, they do not believe that there will be a general resurrection or a final judgment. Instead, when we die, our spirits go off to heaven or hell individually.
I respect the brethren who believe this, but I’ve got serious problems with it, and the most serious is that it breaks the pattern. Just like the sinner’s prayer doesn’t conform to the resurrection of Jesus, the 70 AD doctrine doesn’t conform to the resurrection of Jesus. His bodily resurrection prefigures our resurrection, and if we conclude that we actually will not rise like He did, our study has missed something vital.
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus establishes the pattern for OUR LIVES. Let’s read Paul’s conclusion in Romans 6:11-14. Here, we see what he’s been driving at this whole time. Our old selves were crucified with Christ. Our old selves died so that we could be freed from sin. Because we are freed from sin, sin and death no longer have any power over us. Put together, all of that means that we can live the God-centered life that He always wanted us to live. We have been resurrected to be righteous.
This gives us the answer to the rhetorical question that Paul asked at the beginning of the chapter. If the grace of Christ glorifies God, shouldn’t we sin all the time, generating more grace and more glory? Paul’s answer is an emphatic no. Grace is the means, not the end. The end is for God to have a righteous people belonging to Him, a people that obeys Him in everything.
Just as it is possible to depart from the resurrection pattern when it comes to salvation and beliefs about our resurrection, it’s possible to depart from that pattern here. A Christian who practices sin betrays everything for which Christ died. We have been freed from the law, yes. Sin no longer rules over us, yes. However, grace does not put us under our own authority. It puts us under the authority of King Jesus.
Throughout this coming week, then, let’s resolve to live like resurrected people. That means that we don’t offer any part of ourselves to sin. Instead, it means that we give ourselves entirely to God, weapons in His hands, serving His purposes alone. If we don’t do that, it shows that we fundamentally do not understand what Jesus’ resurrection should mean to us.
There are many pointed questions in Scripture, but perhaps the most pointed of them all appears in Luke 6:46. Here, Jesus exposes the great contradiction of (self-described) Christianity—the millions upon millions of people who call Jesus Lord but don’t do what He says to do. It is as though they see Jesus as the spiritual equivalent of Queen Elizabeth II—a beloved ceremonial figure who makes speeches from time to time but doesn’t have any real power.
This clearly is not the way that the Son of Man wants to be perceived. Indeed, in the next several verses, He warns that the difference between the obedient and the disobedient is stark. The former will triumph despite disaster; the latter will be destroyed by it. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’,” then, is another way of saying, “Why are you rejecting my word even though it is your only hope?”
There are many ways in which (again, self-described) believers do this. Most conspicuously, they take the things that He and His apostles said not to do and do them. They practice every form of wickedness and, like the corrupt temple-goers of Jeremiah 7:10, they show up at church on Sunday morning and cry out, “We are rescued!”, only to return to evildoing. Sometimes, their bad behavior is endorsed by the hierarchy of their denomination (many of which have been doing a lot of Bible-rewriting over the past few decades); at others, it is the result of their own stubborn commitment to sin.
Of a similar stripe are those who take what Jesus said to do and do something else instead. They say He’s Lord, but they act like their ideas are better than His. This spirit is evident in every departure from the simple pattern of the first century.
Yes, we know that congregations in the first century were autonomous, but we think that banding together in a denomination will help us serve Him more effectively. Yes, early churches spent their modest financial resources on only a few things, but think of all the good we can do if we go beyond that! Yes, early Christians worshiped in song without instrumental accompaniment, but instrumental music is so beautiful and uplifting!
There are lots of people who think they’re smarter than Jesus. I’m still waiting to find somebody who actually is. If we don’t think that we are, what excuse do we have for exceeding His Lordship?
If we wish to avoid these errors, we must do so by magnifying rather than minimizing Christ as Lord in our hearts. We must seek to increase rather than diminish the sphere of His authority. In addition to following all of His commandments, we must honor Him in our judgments.
If we are of a mind to do so, we can justify watching any kind of filth on TV, and if confronted over our preferences, we can indignantly demand book, chapter, and verse showing that we’re wrong: “I know this isn’t the cleanest, but watching it isn’t sin, is it?” Wrong question. If Jesus is Lord, we won’t seek to expand the boundaries of moral gray areas. Instead, we will seek what glorifies Him.
The Lordship of Christ is no small thing. It should transform us in every area of our lives. However, we do not yield this service to Him out of fear, but out of love, out of a desire to acknowledge, if not repay, all that He has done for us.
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The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 15 – April 13-17:
Monday – Luke 6:43-45 (Matt. 7:15-20; 12:34-37): Continuing with His Sermon on the Plain, Jesus begins this warning with a horticultural axiom: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, not again does a bad tree bear good fruit” (v. 43). In other words, the tree determines the fruit (v. 44). This being the case, the human axiom is easily understood, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil” (v. 45a). Significantly, Jesus emphasizes here that the mouth is what provides the primary evidence of the state of one’s heart, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (v. 45b). In other words, the heart determines the words one speaks. A person can attempt an external veneer of goodness, but the truth will become known through their words.
Make a list of your most used words, topics of discussion, and the comments you often make throughout the day. If your list was all the evidence someone had to decide if you were a Christian or not, what would they say? How would they come to their conclusion? In what ways will you turn your heart toward Jesus so that the words you speak will reflect Him?
Tuesday – Luke 6:46-49 (Matt. 7:21, 24-27): Luke concludes Jesus’ sermon to the disciples, as does Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount (7:24-27), with the parable of the Two Builders. As a lead up to His sermon, great crowds clamored to seek Jesus’ healing touch (ref. Luke 6:17-19). Now He provides an illustration of the importance of adding obedience to an eagerness to hear His message. The parable is introduced with the disciples giving lip service to Jesus, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I tell you?” (vv. 46). So what is the antidote to false faith and discipleship? The answer is given in the three present tense verbs: coming, hearing, and doing (v. 47). These three qualities lay the foundation for genuine discipleship. The parable that follows illustrates the importance of acting on what one knows and hears from Jesus. Matthew’s version of the parable is about where one builds – on rock vs. sand. Luke’s version is about how one builds – with or without a foundation. Whoever builds their house (or life) on Jesus Christ and His words will not be shaken. Think about people you’ve known throughout the years.
Write about someone you know who built their life on the foundation of doing the Lord’s will. How did that firm foundation sustain them through life’s trials? Conversely, write about someone you know who didn’t build on the foundation of Jesus’ words they had heard taught. How did their world fall apart?
Wednesday – Matt. 8:5-13 (Luke 7:1-10): “When [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, appealing to Him, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home suffering terribly’” (v. 5-6). In this time period, the Jewish lands of Israel were occupied by the hated Roman legion. While it was not unusual for someone to request a healing, this request came from a most unusual source. The centurion would have been a Gentile, the commander of a division of the occupying imperial force. Yet, with such authority backing him, the centurion approaches Jesus with remarkable respect. He submissively calls Him, “Lord.” He demonstrates a deep concern for the great suffering of one who was merely a “servant.” Jesus affirms His willingness to help, “I will come and heal him” (v. 7). But recognizing his own unworthiness for the Lord to come to his home, he amazingly believes in the Savior’s ability to cure his servant from a distance, merely by a word of command, “Only say the word and my servant will be healed” (v. 8). The centurion bases his belief not on Old Testament scripture or witnessing such a healing, but on his own experience with the military (v. 9). God has such authority, He can give the order for illness to be cured instantaneously and it will be done. “When Jesus heard this, He was amazed” (v. 10) at the depth of the man’s faith. “Truly, I tell you with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Sadly, those closest to the truth faithlessly take it for granted whereas those who have had the least exposure to it more often readily recognize its power.
It wasn’t often that Jesus was “amazed” (cf. v. 10; Mark 6:6; Luke 7:9), or complimented someone’s faith (v. 10; Matthew 15:28). Looking at your spiritual life, would Jesus compliment your faith? Would He be amazed at your lack of faith or your faithfulness? Explain.
Thursday – Luke 7:11-17: The death of a child is certainly one of the greatest agonies possible in this life – a burying of a part of oneself. It’s a burden that all parents dread to consider. Such untimely pain was the emotional context of Jesus’ next healing. Of the all gospel writers, Luke alone captures this intensely poignant scene of a mother burying her only child. He clearly narrates this miracle as a sequel to the healing of the Centurion’s servant. At a distance of twenty-five miles, Nain lay a full day’s journey from Capernaum. As Jesus and His retinue approach the gate of the city, they meet a funeral procession coming out of the town. At this decisive point in community life, a grief-stricken widow and Jesus meet. “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep” (v. 13). All of our Lord’s actions center on the plight of the mother rather than the son, much as in the preceding story where Jesus focused on the Centurion rather than the servant. With a touch and a word, Jesus gives life back to the young man and gave the young man “to his mother” (v. 15). The two crowds, first mentioned at the beginning of the scene, are present to witness, to interpret (v. 16) and to report this great miracle of resurrection (v. 17). And what a great miracle it was!
There is no request for help, no outward sign of faith from the widow. (Quite different from the centurion.) What do you learn about Jesus from how He responds to the widow’s plight?
Friday – Luke 7:18-35 (Matt. 11:2-19): As Jesus’ ministry expanded, that of John the Baptist suffered literal confinement (cf. Matthew 11:2). As John languished in prison, he became increasingly perplexed by the reports he heard of Jesus’ ministry. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (v. 19, 20). Exactly why John questioned Jesus’ Messiahship is not revealed to us. Nevertheless, Jesus was not put off by John’s doubts. He responded with an eye-popping display of spiritual power (vv. 21). The Lord informed the messengers that His actions were fulfilling Messianic prophecies given to Isaiah (cf. 26:19; 29:18ff; 35:5ff; 61:1). The only hint of encouragement comes with the beatitude, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (v. 23). The sense is, don’t be disappointed in the way I choose to work, just believe I am He who is to come. More than ever, we need to live out this beatitude. Then, lest anyone wrongly begins to depreciate John’s ministry, a situation the Savior would not let go unchecked, He issues this praise, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (v. 28a). Even the greatest, most faithful man ever, could doubt.
Reflect on Jesus’ response to John’s doubt. How does it reveal His sympathy for John’s spiritual crisis? Have you ever experienced a spiritual crisis? If so, when? How did Jesus help you through that experience?