We were thinking last night about how Jesus is the example of an evangelistic lifestyle lived out. How he has a passion for people an understanding of sins seriousness and an expansive grasp on the grace and wonder of the gospel. Have Luke 7 open in front of you, because here we see two different ways of living, in fact we see two different lifestyles, and two different approaches to people, sin and God.
And there is a warning here for us, which of these two fits most closely with how we live. Not which would I nod along to and agree with, but which of these do I live out?
It’s not what you say you are you are it’s what you are you are! Sometimes we know something but we fail to live it out, sometimes we know the theory but fail to put it into practice. Here we see two approaches to living, one is evangelistic one is religious.
1. Our biggest danger - religious slavery
Look at this description – who do you think it is of?
“They have a very high view of scripture, they study it, memorise it, and seek to interpret and apply it to every day life. They want those around them to walk with God not just talk about him. They seek to live lives in such a way that it pleases God. Dissatisfied with the corruption and half heartedness of contemporary worship they designed a new way of worship focused around prayer, public reading and exposition of the scriptures. They pray often, fast, value fellowship, hate sin, pursue holiness, give generously and are active evangelists.”
It is actually of the Pharisees of Jesus day. Its why they are our greatest danger, why we must use this teaching like an MOT to test our hearts.
The scene is set for us in (36)Jesus is eating in the home of Simon, a Pharisee. When suddenly the conversation, which Luke tells us nothing of, stops and everyone turns, open-mouthed, to look at this infamous woman who has just walked into the room. There is some muttering and shuffling of feet as people press themselves up against the wall moving out of her way as she walks with her head bowed low and carrying a jar in her hands right up to where Jesus is reclining at the table.
Then the shock deepens as her tears begin to drop onto Jesus’ feet, she loosens her hair and begins wiping away her tears with it. Then she breaks the jar she was carrying so carefully and pours the perfume on his feet.
How does Simon react? He is horrified, not only at the woman but at Jesus welcome of her. What does he expect Jesus to do? Draw up his feet and have nothing to do with the woman, or condemn her and tell her to go away.
Why? Because that was the Pharisees approach to sin, they are rightly very concerned with pleasing God and with avoiding sin but they avoid any contact with those considered sinful. It is like quarantine, and Simon is amazed Jesus doesn’t share his point of view(39).
Simon is judgemental both of the woman and of Jesus – he concludes that he can’t be a prophet as a prophet would know this woman is a notorious sinner and would not allow such a woman to touch him.
There is a danger that we think the Pharisees weren’t interested in winning converts, they were Matthew 23:15 Jesus says “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and then you make that convert twice as much a child of hell as you are.” They are phenomenally sobering words – the Pharisees are passionate missionaries but their zeal is misdirected, they call people not to relationship with the God of grace but to religious slavery, to judgementalism, to separatism, to joyless drudgery.
And Simon, presentable, good, nice, religious, hospitable Simon is our greatest danger. Because we can be just like him.
Maybe you are saying I’m nothing like Simon – let me explain why Simon is our greatest danger to us and our gospel needing friends.
Separatism – Simon avoids sinners, so can we. We would never say it, we know we need to reach the lost. But our actions reveal reality – we can live in a Christian rabbit warren. Have you ever sat and watched rabbits in a field. At the first sign of a stranger what do they do – they dart for the rabbit hole, all the stranger ever sees is the whites of their tails bobbing up and down. There is a Christian rabbit warren and all others see of us is the whites of our tails as we dash from CU meeting, to prayer meeting, to hall Bible study, to lunch with our Christian friends...
Or our separatism is seen in our never going where the lost are comfortable, but always inviting them to where we are comfortable. We hold evangelistic meetings where we are comfortable but do not go where the unbelievers hang out, we saw from Luke 5 last night Jesus goes to the Synagogue, he will eat in a Pharisees home but he will also go to the Tax booth, and into Levi’s home, into Zacchaeus’ home.
We can be judgemental just as Simon was – he/she is too great a sinner, or they are too into whatever it. Or it can be seen in our judgementalism of other Christians who are going where unbelievers are. A few years ago I helped organise what we called the Oasis project – a group of our teens, myself and a few others went into Doncaster on a night and gave out water to clubbers and pubbers, looking to get into conversation and share the gospel with them. **Guess where the opposition came from? Inside the church – it is a waste of time, it is too dangerous, you will never win anyone there and so on...
We can have mixed motives in our evangelism – often we engage in evangelism not because we have grasp teh gospel and the seriousness of sin, not because we are passionate about people but because we are prompted by guilt or grudging obedience.
Do you see how the Pharisees are our greatest danger:
The problem is that the longer we go on as Christians the fewer non-church friends we have. There are a number of reasons for the decline in contact with non-believers. For some it’s seeing friends come to faith, for most of us it is that we can become too involved in CU or church things and therefore have no time for anyone else. For some it’s simply a lack of effort, they are neither serving in the church nor involved in the world. (Kind of makes you wonder how effective the church would be if TV had never been invented!!!) For others this decline is a result of poor teaching or understanding of the Bible which leads them to separate themselves and isolate themselves from the unbelieving world.
So if that’s danger what is the alternative?
2. Be just like Jesus
Luke again shows us Jesus passion for the loss and his expansive grasp and grip on the grace of God and the reach of the gospel. It’s worth noticing where Jesus is, in ch5 he was eating with whom? Tax collectors and sinners, but now who is he eating with – the religious, the good people. Why? Because everybody needs salvation and the gospel can reach anyone as Jesus makes clear to Simon.
Jesus has a reputation for welcoming sinners, this woman(37) notorious though she is knows she can go to Jesus for forgiveness. It would be great wouldn’t it if that could be said of us or of our CU’s or churches?
And Jesus doesn’t turn her away because he knows the depth of her sin in a way Simon didn’t, he also knew what it would cost him to forgive her in a way Simon didn’t and yet he knows the gospel is a call for all those who repent to come and find forgiveness.
(41-47)We see Jesus understanding of the gospel as he tells this story to Simon. What do you notice about the two men? They both owed money and neither of them could repay it – they are the facts both are debtors both are incapable of meeting the debt they owe. These are not insignificant sums of money a Denarii was about a days wage – so one man owes two months wages and another about a year and three quarters.
The shock in the story is in how the money lender reacts. Imagine phoning the Student Loans Company when you get back and you discover that have run up about £20,000 of debt. You tell them you can’t pay it and the voice on the other end of the line says ‘Ok then we’ll just write it off.’ I guess we wouldn’t believe it, we’d want to check it out, we’d want written proof, because things like that just don’t happen. It was the same in Jesus day, yet these two men are forgiven their un-payable debts.
We live in a society that loves to compare don’t we. We compare houses, we compare children’s achievements, there is even a website so you can compare salaries with other people, and we even do it with morality.
It’s a bit like a ladder (slide) we put people like Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King near the top, then at the bottom are people like terrorists, murderers…
Where would you put yourself? When we have to think about where we put ourselves, we go through a process like this; I’m better than so and so, but not as good as them.
That is exactly how Simon is operating here. He would be up here and she would be down there. But do you see what the biggest shock is here? Wherever you put yourself Jesus says the debt is un-payable – “neither could pay him back.” Simon’s little sin leaves him just as lost as the woman’s big sin, just as incapable of rebalancing the scales.
Jesus words were shocking then and they still shock now, it tells us we owe a debt we cannot ever repay, that being right with God is not comparative with one another. So what is the answer?
Well the answer is sat round the table with Simon, it is the one who welcomes sinners, it is the one who can say to this woman “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Do you noticed how Luke emphasises the forgiveness that Jesus gives? (47-50) twice Jesus says she is forgiven, the guests question his forgiveness but he sends her away saved by faith in him. Jesus cancels the un-payable debt, he forgives sin.
A great sinner needs a great saviour. We can never be too bad for God, but it also warns us we can never be good enough not to need saving either. That it is only by faith in Jesus that we will be saved.
Jesus welcomes sinners because he knows the power of the gospel to save everyone and he has a passion for people.
Do you see how Simon is our greatest danger? But do you see how Jesus is the one we are called to follow with his biblical view of sin, his expansive grasp on grace and his passion or people.
If we are just like Jesus we will:
• Take the initiative in seeking out sinners
• Go where they are comfortable
• Be authentically ourselves
• Value and care for people
• Be ever aware of God’s grace as our motivator