Supper at Simon’s House [Luke 7:36-8:3]

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Sermon Link [Why not have a listen to the sermon?]

Like many cultures around the world, though not Western culture, Jewish culture is built around the concept of honour and shame.  This means that the way someone feels inwardly is often linked to the way in which they are perceived and treated outwardly.  In our narrative, a Pharisee, named Simon, invites Jesus into his home to publicly shame Him.[1]  The commentator Hendriksen writes:

“The Master exposes before everybody the shabby treatment he had received from his host.  The latter had omitted all the customary evidences of hospitality, all the amenities to which, as everyone knew, an honoured and invited guest was entitled…The reception had been cold, patronising, and discourteous. ”[2]

 Nonetheless, it is as a result of this failed shaming that we are able to extrapolate some essential theological truths.  To do this we must look at the three main characters that are involved.

 

1. The Woman with the Alabaster Jar [v36-38, 8:1-3]

Firstly, we have an unnamed woman who is referred to as “a sinner” and while it is not explicitly stated the consensus of scholarly opinion would identify her as a prostitute.  This unnamed woman sees the public snub of Jesus by Simon the Pharisee and begins to wash his feet with her tears, dry them with her hair and anoints his feet with costly oil which we learn later comes from the gratitude she feels from having been forgiven. [3]

Application: According to the Jews, the feet were considered the filthiest part of the human body, a woman’s hair was not to be shown to anyone but her husband and the perfume in alabaster jars was expensive and could only be used once (they had narrow necks which had to be snapped).  From this, we are able to understand something of what was expended at this meal.  Luke goes on to show that costly worship is normative for the Christian [8:1-3].  This week examine the cost of your own worship. If it is not becoming progressively more costly, you must ask yourself why.  Maybe I could challenge you to give a one-off generous donation to the rebuilding of the Philippines, rid yourself of self-consciousness in public worship or challenge you to live missionally.

 

2. The Pharisee with a Bad Attitude [v39]

The second person at the meal is Simon the Pharisee.  He is scandalised by what is going on because he knew “who and what manner of woman” this was.

Application: We too can be like Simon, feeling good about ourselves by comparing ourselves to others.  However, the Bible says: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” Phil 2:3.  Therefore, I would like to challenge you to measure your goodness against Christ and not others.  If you do this, you will come to see that we are constantly indebted to His grace and constantly in need of His power; hopefully this will develop the gratitude to God and humility in front of men that was sadly lacking in Simon.

 

3. The Saviour who Forgives [v40-50]

Jesus goes on to tell Simon a parable in which “a certain creditor” forgives “two debtors,” one who owed fifty days wages and one who owed five hundred.   He uses the parable to show that one’s response is in direct proportion to one’s perceived need.  Is He teaching, then, that all men are actually or potentially saved?

Calvinists and Arminians often debate whether Christ purchased a limited atonement or an unlimited atonement.  As a “Cal-Minian” I would say that the atonement is unlimited and everyone in the history of mankind was actually forgiven at the cross [John 1:29, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, 4:10, 1 John 2:2].   Nevertheless, the atonement is also limited because it only becomes efficacious and salvific for the elect, that is those, by God’s grace, who have accepted it [Matthew 1:21, John 6:37-40, 10:15, Ephesians 1:4, Revelation 5:9].

Application: What have you done with the forgiveness of God?  If you have truly accepted it then there should be a growing personal relationship with God [Matthew 28:20], a hunger for doctrinal truth [John 16:13], an assurance of salvation [Romans 8:38-39] and lifestyle change [Titus 3:8].  This does not mean that there are not exceptions to this [Luke 23:39-43] and nor does it mean that we are saved by our own merit.  We are saved by grace through faith and for works [Ephesians 2:8-10].  Anything other than this is not the Gospel and hence I would like to challenge you, to wholeheartedly place your whole life into the hands of Christ.


[1] During a meal the well-off would leave the doors open so others could participate in the conversation or wait for leftovers.

[2] “New Testament Commentary: Luke” by William Hendriksen p. 408

[3] Many confuse this account with the one found in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:1-8 but a close examination shows that they took place in a different location, by a different woman and for a different reason.

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Law What is it Good For?

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Many people are often perplexed by the relation of the Old Testament Law and the New Testament believer. This is made more perplexing by the fact there are those who would say that the bible teaches that the Law is binding on the believer because Jesus Himself esteemed the Law when He said:

“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)

Others would quote Paul who says that “Christ is the end of the Law” (Romans 10:4a). So how are we to understand the use of the Law within the life of the believer?

Firstly, the believer must understand that the Law can be split into two main components, the cultural and ceremonial law which is the law that followed the call of Abraham and the Exodus; this includes circumcision, the dietary and purity laws and the Jewish festivals. Secondly there is the moral law which is summed up in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). This moral law precedes the cultural and ceremonial law but was codified on the tablets that were given to Moses. This is why even in the first three chapters of Genesis we are given explicit and/or incipient doctrines regarding the Sabbath, marriage and the dangers of coveting or lying.
The Early Church did away with the cultural and ceremonial law at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:19-20) and therefore it is no longer binding upon the New Testament believer. The moral Law, however, was fulfilled by Christ for He was the only man who was able to keep it in word, thought and deed (Matthew 19:16-17) thereby purchasing for us eternal life and granting to us His own righteousness (Romans 3:21-25a).

Nevertheless, the reader must also understand that whilst the Bible teaches that the moral Law has been fulfilled by Christ, it also teaches that it should be normative for those who have truly been born-again of the Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27). Christ therefore not only sets us free from the judgement and guilt of sin, but by His Holy Spirit progressively sets us free from the power of sin. Charles Wesley, the great hymn writer writes, “He breaks the power of cancelled sin and sets the prisoner free.”

So if you are ever asked the question, “Law what is it good for?” You can answer “absolutely something!”

“Here Comes the Men in Black” [a sermon in which Jesus infuriates the legalists]

Westminster Shorter Catechism [see Q41-82]