Sunday, June 17, 2007

It’s Always About Jesus

Third Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Luke 7:36—8:3

Today we have a story about a Pharisee. He seems nice enough, inviting Jesus to a meal at his home. But we see his true colors, don’t we? We learn from this story about the ugliness of self-righteousness. We need to be aware that we too fall into this trap of thinking we’re better than others when really what we appear to be on the outside is just a facade. This is an important lesson and good that the Holy Spirit placed it in the Word of God.

But as the story progresses we find that it’s a story about this woman who crashes the party. What we really need to be seeing here in this story is that we are like that woman who is referred to as a “sinner”. We need to see in her repentance and act of contrition an example for us so that we too may repent. We can be grateful to God the Holy Spirit that we have been given this story about this woman.

But as we go further we see Jesus Himself telling a story. It’s about a lender who forgives the debt of two borrowers, one who owes a lot and one who owes a whole lot. Jesus’ story is obviously about God’s forgiveness of us who are in debt to Him. Is this, then, what the story is about?

Well, yes. But this still isn’t specific enough. Sometimes the main thing is there plainly to be seen but we still miss it. We tend to look for things that we think are what we are to be focusing on. Meanwhile, we miss the main point.

Take the Old Testament reading, for example. David is the main character in this story, that’s plain to see. He commits a grievous sin and then tries to cover up his sin. He ends up only making things worse. So is this what this story is about, that David’s actions should warn us to not act in the same way?

Or is it really about the prophet Nathan? Should we learn from his action that we are to be faithful to the Word of God and clearly make it known even though it can be nerve-wracking (such as telling the king that he has sinned in a big way)?

We come to find that there’s a story told here also. It’s about a wealthy man who commits a shameful sin against a poor man. It’s obvious that Nathan’s story is about David’s sin against Uriah and his wife Bathsheba. Is this, then, what the Old Testament reading is about?

Well, yes. But as was the case in the Gospel reading, this isn’t quite specific enough. What the story of David and Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan confronting David with the Word of God is about is Jesus. But how can that be since this is the Old Testament and Jesus is not even mentioned? Because the Old Testament—the entire Word of God, in fact—is about Jesus. The Old Testament points to Christ. It brings Christ to us. David was forgiven in the same way you and I are: on account of Christ.

Even though Jesus is the main character in the Gospel reading, it can be hard to see that it’s really about Him. It’s not about the Pharisee. It’s not about the woman. It’s not about the lender or the borrowers. It’s about Christ. Jesus is the reason we need to understand what’s going on here. Jesus confronts both people, the Pharisee and the woman, with their sin. One denies it, the other acknowledges it.

Walk into a bank and borrow $100,000 dollars and then inform them you can’t pay it back. They will inform you that you’re in a heap of trouble. And the police will show you your way to the prison to make this point clear. A bank will not forgive your debt. But the story Jesus tells is not about falling in love with a bank because it so generously wants to give out its money to people who can’t pay it back.

His story is about Himself. His story is about Him forgiving people who owe a debt to Him. He pays the debt. His lavish love upon us has nothing to do with money. It has to do with sin. This the woman realized, the Pharisee did not. The Pharisee refused to acknowledge his sin. He was righteous, the woman was a sinner. He didn’t owe Jesus anything, she didn’t deserve to be in His sight.

The woman on the other hand believed exactly that about herself. She didn’t deserve anything from Him and yet Jesus lavished His grace upon her, forgiving her sins. She came to see, in fact, that it wasn’t about her. It was about Him. It was all about Christ and what He did for her. He forgave a woman the whole town knew was a sinner. Everyone knew what she had done, and now everyone saw how Jesus forgives the undeserving. She didn’t do anything as a requirement for her debt to be paid. That’s because it’s not about her. It’s about Christ—He paid her debt.

He did it for her. He did it for the Pharisee. He did it for David. He paid for the sins of the world. He forgives you and me freely. If we were to learn from this story of the Pharisee and the woman how we are to live we would be as messed up as they were. Okay, we are as messed up as they were. And that’s why we have their story here. Because it’s a story about Jesus. It’s about what Christ has done for the world. About what He has done for you and me.

We tend to take ourselves too seriously. We want to know how we should live. We want to know how the Bible applies to us. How the Word of God is relevant to our lives.

Well, what could me more relevant than Christ loving you the way He loved that woman? With perfect grace and forgiveness. With unconditional love. Why would we want to focus on ourselves and what we need to do or should do when Christ is before our eyes and always at the center? What else can we do but a grateful response like the woman gave?

For example, what do we learn from this for Father’s Day? Just this: Fathers, it’s not about you. It’s about Christ. Of course, fathers, you are to love your children. Your godly care and raising of your children is what you do in which your focus is on Christ. Loving your children, teaching them the Word of God, is your grateful response like that of the woman to Jesus. She wasn’t focusing on herself but on Christ. The Pharisee, on the other hand, was focusing on himself.

The Pharisee gave Jesus some food. The woman gave Him an act of gratitude and worship. What do we give Him? None of this is in the same universe as what Christ has given. He has given the ultimate Gift—Himself. His suffering on the cross was the suffering of sin and guilt of every person. He suffered this, paying the debt, so that we may go in peace.

You are forgiven. Go in peace. Amen.


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