Mining Grace

…the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified

Which Gospel?

I’ve been studying Luke 7:36-50 all week.  I taught it at a high school FCA meeting on Wednesday morning.  I taught it at a youth group meeting on Wednesday night.  Tomorrow morning I’ll teach it at a men’s breakfast.  It is the story of two gospels — Simon the Pharisee’s gospel and the gospel of Jesus.

It is a story of contrast.  Jesus has a meal at Simon’s house.  This makes Simon one of the more friendly of Pharisees who interacted with Jesus.  But it is apparent as the story proceeds that Simon, though intrigued by Jesus, isn’t convinced that he should be paid any special honor.  An uninvited guest confirms his suspicion.

During the meal a woman walks in.  She is known recognized publicly as a sinner.  I don’t think times have changed much.  If a woman is known publicly as a sinner only a few specific sins come to mind.  But her sin is not the end of her “impropriety”.  She bows at Jesus’s feet and washes them with her tears and hair.  Now cleaned, she applies a costly ointment to the feet of this itinerant preacher.

It is at this point that the Luke interjects what Simon was thinking, “If Jesus only knew who and what sort of woman this was he certainly wouldn’t let her do this to him.”

Jesus goes on to challenge Simon’s view of God’s love with a parable.  Two men owe different amounts of money — one a little and one a great sum.  Both are forgiven their debts by their creditor.  Jesus’s pointedly asks Simon, “Who will love the creditor more?”  Simon answers correctly, “The one who was forgiven much.”

Here are two gospels in poignant contrast.

The gospel of Simon argues that God likes to be around religious people and shuns sinners.  It’s motto is, “I’m moving closer to God by working hard at religion.”  The gospel of Jesus is completely the opposite.  Jesus shows Simon through his parable that God loves sinners and is offended by religious people.  It’s motto is, “God is moving closer to me by his grace.”

In the end it is a question of how big of a sinner are you?  The cross of Christ — where the redemption of Christians was accomplished — is the only basis on which a sinner can passionately love God with a tear-soaked-hair, empty-alabaster-flask kind of devotion.

I see a good deal of Simon-ish thinking in me.  God has been challenging me this week to ask myself the question, “Just how much have you been forgiven?”  It is only in answering that question that I clearly see God’s love for me in the gospel of Jesus.


Written by Joe Holland

February 6, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Posted in haste

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  1. Awesome truth! Thanks!


    February 7, 2009 at 7:21 am

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