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The Messiah, the Skeptic, and the Sinner

 The three main characters in the passage of Luke 7:36-50 are Jesus, Simon, and the unnamed “woman of the city”. Jesus has been invited to a party at the home of Simon, who is a Pharisee, but he’s also skeptical of Jesus’s claim of being the Messiah and having the ability to forgive sins. While they’re enjoying their meal, the sinful woman entered the party, found Jesus, and worshipped him. She did so by weeping at Jesus’s feet, washing them with her tears, drying them with her hair, kissing them, and anointing them with expensive ointment. Jesus, having the ability to know Simon’s thoughts, responded to him with a parable. Throughout this parable, it becomes clear that Simon’s skepticism is about to be crushed. Jesus demonstrates he has authority over sin by forgiving the woman of her sins and stating her faith has saved her.

Each of these individuals- Jesus, Simon, and the woman- have unique traits and responses to one another throughout this passage. Jesus has been invited by the type of person who is trying to have him arrested and killed. However, being invited to Simon’s house reveals that Jesus is approachable and flexible. He shows his willingness to interact with those who doubt him as Messiah in order to bring truth to the unbelievers. He is showing that he isn’t too busy to further the kingdom of God. Simon has invited Jesus over to his house to test him. Simon has the home-field advantage and likely plans to expose Jesus as a fraud. There are other Pharisees present at this meal, but Jesus isn’t afraid to face them or their difficult questions. He does what only the Messiah can do: delivers truth and forgives sins. Lastly, we have the woman who isn’t invited to the party as a guest but arrives to beg for scraps from the lavish meal. However, she disregards her role as a beggar of food to be a beggar of forgiveness. She seeks Jesus, and upon finding him, she humbles herself and worships. Jesus responded to her sins with grace and to her faith with salvation and peace.

What is your response to Jesus? Being a believer, you probably aren’t skeptical of who he is or what he does, but you may have a heart posture of skepticism about your role in evangelism. In the Pharisee, we see doubt and disregard for Jesus’s authority. In Jesus, we see approachability and warmth. In the woman, we see humility and faith. What do nonbelievers see in you?

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Consider the Cost

In his conversation in Luke 18, Jesus listed the commandments that gave the rich young ruler a sense of obedience that enabled him to believe he was a “good Christian”. However, these were external signs that demonstrated obedience to God, but Jesus knows the heart. He knew that the rich young ruler didn’t love God above all else, and he idolized his status of wealth and influence.

 

The rich young man grew sad at Jesus’s response because he knew Jesus was right. The man’s true dedication was to his personal kingdom rather than God’s Kingdom. In Luke 14, Jesus explained to a crowd that the cost of discipleship is to give up everything. He went on to challenge the crowd to genuinely consider the cost of being his disciple before they left everything to follow Jesus.

 

It appears that the young man sincerely wanted to follow Jesus, but the cost of being a disciple cost him too much, which is a false belief. The true issue for the rich young ruler is that he was entwined in Satan’s snare. He bought into the lie that accumulating stuff would be his greatest joy in life. The rich young ruler didn’t actually have wealth; wealth had him trapped in blindness and had hardened his heart to God.

 

God has called many wealthy people to love Him. For example, a beloved Old Testament character is Job, who was a well-liked, wealthy man. Despite losing all of his material riches and his treasured family, he remained faithful to God because he knew there was nothing worth more than knowing, loving, and obeying God. In the New Testament, we see Mary interacting with Jesus as she poured on his feet her most prized possession, described as a perfume or ointment, which was worth a year’s wages. Despite Judas criticizing the way she used the perfume, which he thought could have a better use as being sold for money to provide food for the poor, Jesus commends her generous gesture. The difference between Mary’s generosity, Job’s lost riches, and the rich young ruler’s response to Jesus is that in each situation God asked for faithfulness to him above all else, and the rich young ruler was unable to comply. We all cling to something, and Mary and Job demonstrate what it looks like to hold wealth with open hands so God can receive the greatest glory with the use of our resources.

 

Who are you like? Mary and Job, or the rich young ruler? Do you hold tighter to your stuff than you cling to Jesus Christ?

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