Sunday, February 3, 2013

An Infinite Debt. Forgiven!

Luke 7:36-50 (January 13, 2013)

Thoughts on Andover Baptist sermons.

A pastor asked his friend if he had heard of a particular theologian and what he thought of him.  The response was surprisingly strong: "Heard of him? I would throw myself in front of bus for him."  Why did this man have such a strong affinity for a theologian?  It turns out that this man had been very close to being denied a prestigious degree by a panel of biased judges and this particular theologian had stepped in and granted the degree. 

I think of Friday in the book Robinson Crusoe.  He'd been saved by Robinson from certain death and pledged himself as his lifelong servant in gratitude.  When we've been given much, and forgiven much, we love much.

- live in God's economy
- be forgiven much
- love in gratitude

1) The anointing of Jesus' feet by the sinful woman was a second anointing and this is not to be understood as Mary.  This woman was likely a former prostitute or notorious sinner.  To understand this incident properly there are a few points to note.  At the end of banquets of that day the poor people were allowed to come in and take left over scraps.  Also, people reclined at table with their feet facing away from the table (people wore sandals and their feet were dirty) while they ate.  When the poor people came behind the people eating at this table the sinful woman came to Jesus and began to wash his feet.

The sinful woman was living in God's economy - she valued what God values.  She realized her sin and was broken by it. Simon the Pharisee was living in line with the world's economy and was thus struggling against Jesus.  But she had realized the world's economy was empty and she understood the weight of her sin. 

We easily forget the severity of our sin.  We often think we're being more understanding and loving towards ourselves and our fellow man when we think little of sin.  But when we fail to recognize the filth of our sin, we miss the beauty of grace which forgives us of our sin.  When our sin seems small and insignificant so also does the death of The One who died to save us from it.  But when we rightly value sin, in God's economy, we rightly value the death of Jesus.  We anoint the feet of Christ with tears of joy and gratitude only when we agree with God about the wretchedness of our sin and have our burden of guilt removed.

2) Jesus poses a question to Simon - who is more thankful, a man forgiven a debt of fifty denarii or a man forgiven a debt of five-hundred denarii? With a denarii representing the wages of about a day, this would be like the difference between a debt of $7,000 and $70,000.  The point is that Simon misunderstand the size of his debt and therefore does not show proper gratitude to God.  Simon had Jesus over because He was a noted teacher not because he loved Him and longed to worship Him from a heart overflowing with gratitude for forgiven sin.  In fact, as a pharisee, Simon was likely struggling to admit that he had much sin at all.  His problem was with perception; he didn't rightly perceive that in God's economy (reality) he had created a debt of infinite value.

How does an infinite debt come into being?  Humans are not infinite.  But humans have been made in the image of God, with eternity in their hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and a capacity for, and indeed a necessity of, a relationship with God.  When humans reject an infinite God by breaking His commandments because they do not love Him, they create an infinite debt.  Sin is a heavy and serious thing.  It is not only an earthly and passing thing because there is a serious spiritual reality with eternal consequences.  The sinful woman was beginning to understand these things and was overjoyed to be forgiven her infinite debt.  While Simon the Pharisee who should have known much more of these spiritual realities was likely more concerned with keeping up appearances and not having something awkward or scandalous (though not sinful) occur at his banquet.  There are scandalous or socially problematic things that are not sinful.  Indeed, the incarnation teaches us this, for they called Jesus an illegitimate child.  And so Simon is concerned about earthly things and not the things of God.

3) The woman's faith led to gratitude which led to love.  Faith always comes with gratitude and love.  We will only love Jesus much if we think of sin as serious and think much of grace.  Our sin is so terrible, we rejected the God who made us, and Jesus is so great.

Sunday Evening
Revelation 15

Sophie Scholl is celebrated as one of the most important Germans of all time.  But during the Nazi regime she was executed by guillotine for distributing anti-war and anti-Nazi leaflets.  Such is the lot of God's people who live in a world that is still groaning in the pains of childbirth for the return of Jesus in power and judgement.  "The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is His name." Exodus 15:3  We suffer now for the great reward.  And our LORD will come and win the battle for us.

In the Revelation, John continues to communicate the same truths again and again in different ways - this is called recapitulation.  The people of God sing the song of Moses.  This could be Exodus 15 or Deuteronomy 32.  Psalm 86 is similar.

Those who sing this song are those who triumph in victory.  This victory often looks like defeat in the eyes of the world.  It may look like being killed in the basement of a prison.  It may be a beating from someone who thinks Christians are weak.  It may be a verbal lashing from the intellectual elite or a snide comment in the news.  It may be a bible study with no attendees, a mocking bumper sticker, or a comment at work. 

But it is the weak and ignoble sufferers who sing the song of victory in the end.  But it is given to the beast to make war on the saints for a time.  Hebrews 2:8c "At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him."   But the victory will come and it will not be won by us but by Christ.  Are we ready for the fight to be waged against us?

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