Page 43 began early as I headed into work to get some cleaning and building prep done before the start of our Sunday worship gathering. It also ended late as we headed to Lake Michigan for the afternoon/evening to take photos. So late, in fact, that I’m writing the page the next morning — but I’m getting ahead of myself in the page 43 story.
After cleaning and prepping the building, I spent some time in the office praying about the direction of the next prayer guide. I got caught up in that and missed Sunday School, but joined in with the congregation for a time of praise and worship around the Lord’s Table. David brought a message called, “Loving Much”, as he continued a series from the gospel of Luke. The Bible text centered around the story of a woman anointing the feet of Jesus in the home of Simon, a Pharisee. One of the primary lessons I believe God wants us to learn from the selected text is God’s desire for us to express much love to God and others just as He has shown much love to us.
The message for us came out of four surprises in the text. The first surprise is that Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to his house. The Pharisees were a part of the religious establishment in Judaism and as a group, their disdain for the person and message of Jesus was evident throughout His lifetime. Whatever their individual motives, most of the group rejected the idea that Jesus was God’s Son and the Messiah. Most. Some did believe and follow the teachings of Jesus. We don’t know the motives of Simon. They are never revealed in scripture. But we do know that on this occasion, he did the surprising thing of inviting Jesus to a place of conversation. Perhaps you know people that when their name comes to your mind, you automatically think that they would never seek to have a conversation with God, let alone a conversation about God. Maybe it is time that you and I open ourselves to the possibility of a surprise when it comes to who might invite Jesus into a conversation.
The second likely surprise in the text is that Jesus accepted the invitation. While the Pharisees made no secret of their disdain for Jesus and His teaching, Jesus was often quick to call them out for living a life that was not only hypocritical, but far from God. It would be easy for many to read the harsh words that Jesus had for the Pharisees, and other religious leaders, and conclude that Jesus hated them. He would often use words, descriptions, and comparisons that leave me saying, “Ouch!” At least to the casual listener, it was probably a great surprise that Jesus would accept an invitation to join Simon for a meal. I know people who have said that they have lived life in such a way that Jesus would not listen to them if they were to call out to Him. There are people who believe that if truth sounds harsh and condemning then it is hate. Yet here is Jesus accepting a dinner invitation from a person that was part of a group that He had condemned their way of life. When God says that He is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance, it really shouldn’t be that surprising that He would accept an invitation from “whosoever” would believe and invite Him to a conversation about life. Do we surprise people by the invitations we accept? Should we?
The third surprise is the visitor. Not only was the invitation and acceptance of it a surprise to many who understood the tension between the Pharisees and Jesus, the uninvited visitor had to be a surprise to everyone — everyone except Jesus, perhaps. In their culture, the idea of a visitor walking in to observe and meal at the home of a teacher or leader and learn from the conversation that would take place was not the surprise. The surprise was, according to Simon’s thoughts, “what kind of woman this was.” The visitor’s reputation seemed to be well known to Simon, so while her very presence in the home of a Pharisee would be surprising, her actions were even more surprising. As her tears fell on the feet of Jesus, she touched him and washed His feet with her tears. She even went on to let down her hair and dry His feet with her hair before breaking open a costly perfume and anointing His feet with it. While this visitor was a surprise to many by her presence and her actions, if you listen to and understand the teachings of Jesus it should not be a surprise that many who seek Jesus are not those that we expect.
The fourth surprise in the text is the reaction of Jesus to both Simon and the woman. One of the fun parts of the text is that Simon is like so many of us who think things that we would never say out loud . . . at least not when Jesus is sitting with us. Simon made at least two assumptions in his thoughts. One, about “what kind of woman this was.” And two, how a “good person” should respond to such a person. The fun part though, is that the text says Jesus answered Simon. But wait! Simon never asked anything! He never expressed his thoughts and feelings about the woman or how Jesus should act. But then again, it was Jesus. He knew the thoughts and could answer them — just as He knows our thoughts and can answer them. The answer was in the form of a story about two men who had been forgiven different size debts. When asked about who would love more, Simon’s response was that he supposed that the one who had more forgiven. Jesus went on to point out that the woman had shown more love to Him than what Simon had. He told her that because of her faith, her sins were forgiven. Are we surprised at the reaction of Jesus to forgive people? We shouldn’t be. How much love do we show toward God and others? What does that response say about our estimation of our own righteousness and how much we’ve been forgiven? When we understand and accept the fullness of God’s forgiveness of us, we ought to be eager to show much love.
After the church service, we had lunch and with strong winds in the forecast we headed to Lake Michigan to photograph some lighthouses in the mist of the waves. Today’s photo is from one of those stops along the Lake Michigan shoreline where I was surprised to see a few people out surfing in the icy water.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- I have a hard time briefly summarizing a sermon. 🙂
- It is easy to become so familiar with an event or story that we miss the original surprise, or “shock factor”.
- God’s desire is that everyone would invite Him into their life . . . we shouldn’t be surprised when people do.
- God’s love encompasses the entire collection of people in the world . . . we shouldn’t be surprised when He accepts anyone’s invitation to be in their life.
- Everyone needs Jesus . . . we shouldn’t be surprised at the “kinds of people” who seek Him.
- God’s desire is that everyone would be saved . . . we shouldn’t be surprised by His forgiveness and the love that results from that forgiveness.
- We often go to extremes to do the things we are passionate about, like surfing in the ice cold waters of Lake Michigan. What things are we doing for God that others would view as extreme?