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

Image

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.

Advertisements

The House That Jesus Built

I’d really recommend a book I’ve recently read by Dale Ralph Davis, ‘The house that Jesus built’. It is a cracker, and only 64 small pages!

House that Jesus built

Dale, who is both presbyterian and reformed (but informs us ‘that you don’t need to be both to be biblical, but it helps’) outlines a welcome booklet for those who have turned up at church, new to Christianity. I mention that he is a presbyterian minister because the book is written for churches under presbyterian government and he is reformed because, well, he believes and teaches the Bible.

This book has much use and something i found particularly useful is his view of ‘Sunday worship’. Let me give you his statement and talk you through it:

To say that you will grow as a Christian through the worship of God is a bit dangerous or misleading.

This is so true brothers and sisters. I was told this as a young believer and it leads to the mentality of ‘in order to grow, i need to worship God more..’ That is wrong. The reason anyone should worship God is because God is supposed to be worshipped. We worship God because God has commanded us to do so (Psalm 95 and 100) and because He is worthy of praise.

Dale is blunt here, so i want to be too. Contemporary Christianity can view God as a big, wonderful vending machine in the clouds and if we put the right things in, the good stuff comes out. If that is true then worship, in a corporate sunday sense, is about making us feel better when the biblical reality is that God is there to be praised whether we feel good or not.

I had the joy of interacting with a teacher in a local school recently who seemed to be the chief banner-raiser for the entire secular government agenda. In our conversation, which covered everything from food, the government, Edinburgh city council and ending in world religions, she informed me that she regularly attends worship services. Some weeks in a church, other times in a chapel (rc) other times in a synagogue and on occasion in a mosque. I asked her one simple question in response to such a well rounded and level headed and non biased exposition of herself; ‘why?’. The answer? It made her feel better.

I don’t want to criticise the temporal feelings of being ‘lifted’ up but sometimes i watch top gear, and it lifts me up or i walk up to the park at lunch, and it lifts me up. Church, although a place for us to be cared for, ministered to and comforted, is the gathering of God’s people to worship God selflessly, because He is worth it.

If you want to grow as a Christian there is a simple set of imperatives: pray, read the Bible more, live as it says and go to church. What is the indicative for doing that though? Do it all out of thanks and praise to the one who paid your debt. That is worship.

Buy the book here!

“It makes me feel…”

A youth ministry built on knowing Word of God, doesn’t sound sexy, or attractive but if our youth ministries are built on feelings – stories making you feel valuable, atmospheres making you feel close to God, songs making you feel loved, there will come a point when all that’s gone and our feelings betray reality.

Knowing Christ and making Him known – knowing from the Word of God, knowing you are valuable, knowing you are a sinner, knowing you are loved, knowing you are forgiven and God is faithful and close to you, then…then you have something to stand on, and in the face of the hurricane that is rejection, acceptance, failure, success, isolation, community, doubt, confidence, anxiety, security, betrayal, trust, embarrassment, celebration, guilt, forgiveness, torment, peace and many more experiences of growing up, you will have a life built on strong foundations that will endure.

I have so many conversations with young people who chase the wind in terms of experience of God. It’s a strange paradox of pain and blessing in drawing alongside them and pointing to a Life that pursues truth and righteousness not buzz and fuzz.

As was pointed out to me by good friends, feelings are important but they should be informed by truth. Iain Kennedy (Assoc. Pastor at Renfrew Baptist) said “Have the truth of the Gospel speak into every moment of life, even the feelings, be discerning: just don’t let your faith depend on the recreation of any particular feeling. The Gospel demands all of us, including our feelings.”

Kenny Rogan (Oak Hill College Student) was helpful with his suggestion to “lead to feel based on what they know is true”, or in Colin Ross'(Elder at Hillview Community Church) words “tempered and levelled out by our knowledge”.

I’m not superman, and so when I get bad news, I feel gutted, sad, angry etc… BUT when I come round to what I KNOW is good and true, then my feet are on solid ground. Thinking in the other direction, when I sing “my chains fell off my heart was free, I’m alive because of You…” And I know I’m forgiven, it should stir a greater feeling of joy and celebration than when your football team equalise in the 82min!

Truth regardless of feeling. Let’s lead our young people to feel yes, but feeling grounded in what they know.

Check out Alistair Begg nail the point exactly Knowing V Feeling from the 2009 West Coast Conference.