Monday, June 27, 2016

Sermon on Luke 9:51-62, 6th Sunday after Pentecost, "He set His face"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Something new that I learned about the Gospel of Luke, in preparing for this sermon, was how much of Luke’s Gospel focuses on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. For 9 chapters Luke describes Jesus’ birth, childhood, baptism, and early Galilean ministry. The next major chunk of the Gospel of Luke focuses on Jesus’ movement toward Jerusalem—a shift toward His ultimate goal and mission. And then, like all the Gospels, the last major section focuses on Jesus’ Passion, in Jerusalem. But today’s reading introduces that major “travel section” or the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. And the things that Jesus encounters in this reading today, become recurring themes along this journey building up to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Themes of rejection, and instruction in the cost of discipleship. Warnings of the things that would hinder or prevent us from following Jesus or entering the kingdom of God. This focused period of Jesus’ ministry shows His eyes set on the goal, and He’s teaching His disciples to focus their eyes on the same, so that we avoid all things that would distract or hinder us, and join Jesus on His journey to the cross and resurrection.
Our first verse: When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem. There is a determination and single-minded focus of Jesus on what lay ahead of Him. Jesus’ death on the cross, His resurrection, and ascension to heaven are all in view here. Jesus is focused on the task that lays ahead, and will not be deterred from it. This is apparently part of the reason that the Samaritans reject Him—as it says in v. 53 They did not receive Him because His face was set toward Jerusalem. Samaritans, if you remember, were long-time bitter enemies of the Jews, and believed that Mt. Gerizim, not Jerusalem, was the proper place to worship God. They also were divided from the Jews, their partial-blood relatives, by their intermingling of pagan worship with worship of the true God. Jesus regularly crossed this divide of animosity, and willingly came and taught amongst Samaritans—most famously with the woman at the well—but He also did not stay long where He was not welcomed or received.
Again and again on His road to Jerusalem, Jesus would face rejection—His way to the cross was an uphill battle, with no one urging Him along. Rather rejection and obstacles faced Him all the way. But we begin to see here, and you can see all through the Gospel, how Jesus faces that rejection. It’s not by calling down destruction upon people, as James and John asked. Jesus rebukes them for that. His ministry on earth, and from now until His return, is a time of grace and favor, the day of salvation. Jesus allows no thoughts of vengeance or condemnation from His disciples, but simply moves on to another village, where there may be free course for the Gospel. The Good News of Jesus will face resistance and rejection—Jesus clearly tells us that—but the Gospel marches on wherever there is an open door and receptive ears.
Martin Luther once described the Good News of Jesus like a passing rain shower that moves from place to place, and that we should not despise God’s grace, or take it for granted, because, like rain, it may move on from us, and bless another place. Doubtless Jesus had hopes that even if the Samaritans did not receive Him now, they might still receive Him in the future. After His resurrection, Jesus said to His disciples, “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Samaria. The Gospel would return to these lands, and eventually find receptive hearts.
Do you face rejection today, if you are identified as a disciple of Jesus? Do people know that you are a Christian? Probably, if any of us face some form of rejection, it’s pretty mild—though I don’t know everyone’s personal circumstances. But even with the changing climate of our culture, Christians are still in the majority, and have influence in society, even if it’s decreasing. None of us, I’d wager, experience the fear of death or persecution in the way that our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world do. But there still are temptations to hide our faith, or to withdraw from sight when we hear Christianity insulted or ridiculed. How inconstant we can be, even under light pressure!
Do you ever find it hard to maintain your faith around unbelieving friends or family? Is it easier to just blend in and follow the ways of the world, than to represent Christ? Or, do we hold strong to our faith, regardless of what others think, but it’s our convictions that suffer—the things we believe start to get eroded around the edges, and worldliness creeps in. Jesus’ teaching here on discipleship reminds us that there will always be earthly things that will compete with and draw our focus away from Him. There will always be things to distract or hinder us, so that we are tempted to put those things first, instead of God first.
In the next part of the reading, verses 57-62, Jesus meets three would-be disciples. Jesus speaks to each of them in a way that seems harsh to us, almost as though He rejects their discipleship. He does not actually reject them from following Him, but presents to them the costs and challenges of discipleship, and their response is not given. It’s left open so as to invite us also to consider Jesus’ words. Count the cost of discipleship, and consider what it means to truly follow Him. Let’s briefly consider Jesus’ words to each.
To the first who will follow Jesus wherever He goes—Jesus answers, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Jesus warns any would-be disciple that following Him doesn’t bring any promise of earthly gain or material reward. Even Jesus traveled as one who was homeless, dependent on the hospitality of others. Being a disciple of Jesus was no protection against material hardship or poverty, and no promise of getting rich. Elsewhere Jesus reminds us not to store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal—but to store up treasures in heaven.
The second disciple hesitates when Jesus calls, and asks “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus replies, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” We would miss Jesus’ point if we thought that with this or the next disciple, that Jesus is teaching us to dishonor family or that one should ignore family obligations. Nor is the point about funerals per se. Rather, this man had been called by Jesus, and he gave excuses and delayed. Jesus makes a play on words, and His meaning is “let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead.” In other words, those who had no concern for the kingdom of Jesus could attend to the human affairs and customs of burial, but this disciple was to join Jesus in the spiritual duty of proclaiming God’s kingdom. We might have all our own excuses and delays, reasons why we’re too busy to think of God, or concern ourselves with following Jesus. Life is busy and full of obligations—things that may not even be bad in themselves—but will they take priority over our devotion to God? Will God have to wait, while we make our career, while we earn our degree, finish that project, watch that game, or whatever it might be? Or are we ready to heed and follow His call now? Are we putting Jesus on hold?
The third disciple, says he will follow Jesus, but first must return and say goodbye to his household. Again this sounds like a reasonable request to us. It’s even a request that Elijah grants his student Elisha in our Old Testament reading today. But Jesus says, “No one who lays his hand upon the plow and looks behind him is fit for the kingdom of God.” Now the meaning of the saying is fairly easy to figure out. If one is driving a plow across a field, and is constantly looking backward, instead of focusing ahead of themselves, they won’t be able to cut a straight furrow in the soil. Driving a car while looking backwards might give you the same idea. Jesus says elsewhere in the Gospels that no one can serve two masters, you will love the one and hate the other, you cannot love both. So here we cannot have divided loyalties, split between following Jesus and wherever else our heart might be. Our heart must be in one place—for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus’ demand for discipleship seems very high. No certainty about shelter or material things. No time to delay or finish earthly business when God’s kingdom calls. No splitting loyalties with Jesus. Jesus wants every disciple to count the cost. Know the sacrifices involved in discipleship, and that Jesus is above all other things—even family. When we see Jesus’ demand for discipleship, surely we also start to examine ourselves, and consider where we have fallen short. Our walk with Jesus has not always been one of unflinching constancy, or pure devotion. We have hesitated, doubted, or stumbled. Like James and John, we’ve been caught in a spirit of judgmentalism at times. Like Peter we’ve grown weak and failed, when courage was needed the most. And the question nags us: Am I fit for the kingdom of God?
The answer is to look to the One whose face was set towards Jerusalem. To the One whose hand was set to the plow with undivided focus, aiming straight ahead for His cross. The One who left behind house and home and family, and attended to the work of His kingdom. Jesus Christ, the only One who is truly fit for the kingdom of God. It is in His perfect life lived for us, in His perfect constancy and trust in the Father, and His sacrificial laying down of His life for us, that we are given the forgiveness of sins. It’s through Jesus that we are made disciples. Our “fitness” for the kingdom of God doesn’t come from within ourselves, but it comes through Jesus Christ. He is our sufficiency, through Him we are able. He wills and works in us according to His good pleasure, to make disciples who will follow Him with constant love and pure devotion. Love for all that He has done and continues to do for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Luke 9:51 marks a thematic turning point in the Gospel, when Jesus turns His face to Jerusalem, to fulfill His prophetic goal, of death and resurrection. In the Gospel of Luke, this sets up a “journey” theme that is marked by this passage, Luke 13:22; 17:11, and 19:28. How does the theme of “journey” relate to our Christian life? What is our destination?
  2. Jesus’ journey encounters frequent hindrances and obstacles, that also hinder His disciples. How does Jesus remove or proceed around them? What kind of rejection do you as a disciple of Jesus face today? Luke 10:16; John 12:48. Does rejection as a Christian make it hard for you to maintain your Christian faith around unbelieving friends or family? What about your convictions?
  3. The Samaritans maintained that the true place to worship God was on Mt. Gerizim, while Jews maintained that Jerusalem was the true site for for worshipping God. John 4:20-24. This is likely why Jesus was rejected in the Samaritan village in Luke 9:52-53. Where is the true place of worship, according to Jesus? Or is it better to ask, “how”? John 4:20-24.
  4. James and John think this rejection should be answered by destruction, and fire from heaven. Elijah had called down fire from heaven, but not to destroy God’s enemies, but to demonstrate who the true God is. Why does Jesus rebuke James and John’s attitude? What is Jesus’ purpose from now until He returns? John 12:47-48; 3:17-18. What is this present time for the world? 2 Corinthians 6:2
  5. Jesus addresses three would-be disciples in Luke 9:57-62, with statements that seem harsh to us. The responses of the individuals are not given, inviting us to examine how we would respond. What sort of comforts are we not promised, by following Jesus? Why is it necessary to stay focused and not have a divided attention? Luke 9:62
  6. Jesus “set His face” to Jerusalem, 9:51. This parallels the theme of putting your hand to the plow and not looking back. How was Jesus focused and undeterred from His goal? Why is that important for our salvation?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sermon on Luke 8:26-39, for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, "Tell how much Jesus has done for you"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today in our Gospel reading, we find the longest and most descriptive passage of Jesus casting out a demon. It’s a startling glimpse into the spiritual world, and the powers that afflict humans under the devil’s influence—but also an amazing proof of how powerless they are against Jesus, the Son of God.
The man who is suffering this demon affliction is the most tormented of any demon-possessed person described in the Bible. He is possessed by a multitude of demons, and he has been driven raving mad. Well known to the villagers of that region, he lives in complete isolation, away from human community, choosing instead to live among the graves of the dead. In their attempts to restrain him, they had chained him many times, but he possessed superhuman strength, and shackles could not hold him. It’s truly a despairing and frightening situation both for the man and the people who live in fear of him and are powerless to help.
            The man comes to Jesus, and the demon begins to speak through the man—calling Jesus the Son of the Most High God. The demons recognize who Jesus is, even though the people of the region do not—and the demons tremble at Jesus’ presence. They know He is the Son of God. Just having Jesus draw near to the man, causes the spiritual forces of evil to cower and beg before Jesus. The name “Legion”, that the unclean spirit gives, indicates the vast number of demons that were tormenting this poor man. A Roman legion was 4,000-6,000 soldiers. Ironic that they beg Jesus not to torment them, though they have been tormenting this poor man for a great while  They especially fear being cast down into the Abyss—or bottomless pit—another name for hell. They seem to be begging that Jesus is sending them to their fate too soon—and so plead for escape into the herd of pigs. It strikes us as unusual that Jesus granted this request, and though we are given no reason why—it certainly is the first of the confirmations that the demons had been completely driven out of the man.
            Many people in our modern, “scientific” world, scoff at the idea of demons, or evil spirits that have the power to indwell or control a person, influence them to evil, or keep them in spiritual darkness and bondage. And yet Jesus routinely faces people with just such afflictions, and He commands the spirits to be gone, and they are transparently healed, as everyone can see. We might think of mental illness, when we see the condition of the demon possessed man—but not everything can be reduced to that simple explanation. But if we take Jesus and the Scriptures at face value, we acknowledge that the world is more than what meets our eyes—that there is a very real spiritual world, and that there is spiritual good, and spiritual evil. Angels, the messengers of God, and guardians of His saints—and demons—the corrupt and fallen angels, who drive people to evil and despair, like the man in today’s reading.
            Many of you have heard me talk about the Lutherans I have met in Madagascar, and their intense belief in and awareness of the spiritual world. They believe that it’s not only in their country with witch doctors and people practicing dark forms of idolatry, where demon possession can be found and is common. But they also believe that there is demon possession and affliction in the U.S.—just that we have trained ourselves not to see or recognize it. The greatest single lesson that our brothers in Madagascar taught me about this spiritual warfare is this—that it is only the Word of God and the power of Jesus that conquers and has power over evil. It’s not by superstition or rituals, but by the authority of Jesus’ Word, that even demons must run and flee.
            But in our reading, it’s not just the demons who flee at the power of Jesus’ Word—it’s also the frightened herdsman, who run to their villages to tell what had happened to their pigs, and the man. Their fear of the miracle that Jesus had done, and the power it displayed—was apparently even greater than their fear of this demon possessed man who lived in their region. Him, they could live with—but this Jesus, who had healed the man—He had to go!
            It is a beautiful picture to see the man completely restored and healed by Jesus. He had been utterly isolated and living among the graves. Now he was restored to human community and fellowship, and stood among the living. He had been naked and raving mad, with terrible violence and strength. Now he was properly clothed, in his right mind, and self-controlled. And more than that, he was seated as a disciple, ready to learn, at Jesus’ feet. The transformation was so complete and so indisputable, that the villagers were terrified at the power of Jesus. Greater than just being restored to human fellowship, the man was restored to fellowship with God, and to stand in the favor and grace of Jesus Christ. Sadly, rather than being happy for the man, and rejoicing with him, they determine that Jesus is too much trouble for their region, and perhaps too costly, and they beg him to leave.
            There is no doubt that discipleship, to follow Jesus, can come at a cost. While Jesus’ salvation comes to us for free, and Jesus came to help us in time of need—when we follow Him, there may be losses to us. Some may wish to have nothing to do with Jesus, and we may even lost family or friends. Some lose much more for the sake of the gospel—yet Jesus promises that if we lose our life for His sake, we will find it. We experience the restoration of fellowship with God, the forgiveness of our sins, and the joy of knowing and following Jesus.
            As the scene with Jesus concludes, the man begs to stay with Jesus. After years of great affliction and isolation, and being tormented by demons, the joy and peace of freedom from that dark misery must have been astonishing. What a load to have been lifted? And what greater honor than to enjoy that new freedom with the One who had graciously set him free? But Jesus had a special plan and purpose for that man: “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you….and he went away, proclaiming through the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” First we notice that Jesus’ actions and God’s actions are one—what God has done for you—what Jesus had done for him. But second, Jesus sends him back into ordinary life—but with a new and greater purpose. To go home and share with everyone what God had done. Every person that he met, every friend he once knew, every gawker who remembered or knew of the raving man who once lived in the tombs, was brought face to face with a free man, in his right mind—plain and indisputable evidence of the healing and miraculous power of Jesus. What a missionary, a living witness, to his people!
            And what about you? While we may not have been individually possessed by demons, or released from the powers of darkness in the same way as that man—the Bible does teach that we were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord. Once we were rebels and sinners, turned away from God, but Jesus, in His great compassion, came to us and set us free by His Word, and by His almighty power. Jesus now calls us into the light, to walk as children of light. He redeems and sets us free from the power of sin and death. We gather each week to hear this good news of what Jesus has done for us, announced and proclaimed again and again. And each week He sends us home, sends us back to our daily lives, to declare how much God has done for us. We proclaim the excellencies of what Jesus has done for us. The message itself is a liberating one, because even as we speak it to others, Jesus is working to release them from their bondage—to hear His Word and be set free.
            We live in a world where spiritual warfare is very real, and a present danger. Whether we acknowledge it or not. The devil does not rest simply because people don’t believe he exists. Rather he proceeds all the more in his work, unhindered. But for those who are disciples of Jesus—who believe and know the power of the One who casts out demons with His almighty Word, and gives that same word and authority to His disciples—we don’t have to be afraid. There is no spiritual darkness that we need fear, because Jesus is the Mightier One who fights for us. It’s by His power and His Name that the powers of evil can be held at bay. It’s by speaking His true and authoritative Word, that demons tremble, and that disciples of Jesus win spiritual victory. It’s by prayer to the One True God, that we go on the offensive against the spiritual forces of the evil One.
            Jesus has sealed us as His own, and given us His Name and protection in Baptism. He has washed us clean of every sin. He has armed and equipped us with the spiritual weapons to engage in a battle, that is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual powers of darkness. Watch Jesus defeat them. Hear the story of His death and resurrection again and again. See the miracles where darkness is on the run, because Jesus is near. And confidently know, that this same Jesus, our Savior, is God with us. Who can stand against? None!  We praise Jesus, Amen.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sermon on Luke 7:36-50, for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, "If you had eyes like me..."

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Jesus came to the house of Simon the Pharisee for a feast. It appears that Simon and the other guests wanted to search out and listen to this important new teacher, Jesus, and decide for themselves whether or not He was a true prophet from God. Last week crowds declared Jesus was a great prophet, when they saw Him raise the young boy from the dead. Now the religious authorities are inspecting Jesus’ teaching over a meal. Along with the invited guests reclining at the table, there appears to have been other strangers and bystanders who came in, including one woman standing behind Jesus. She is described as a “woman of the city, who was a sinner.”
Quite unexpectedly, she begins to perform an extravagant act of hospitality and love toward Jesus, to the shock and dismay of Simon, the host of the banquet. With great splashes of her tears falling on Jesus’ feet, she bows before Him with a jar of ointment, and washes His feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, kisses His feet, and anoints them with ointment. Can you imagine either doing this for someone in front of a room full of guests; or receiving such an act? Our thoughts about it might not differ too much from those of the guests or host. Simon says to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” Simon makes a big, and very wrong assumption—that if Jesus saw things the way that Simon did, He would refuse this lavish act from the woman. “If you had eyes like me…” he seems to say, “you’d see what sort of sinner this is…” and then what? Jesus would scorn her like him? Jesus would rebuke her? Fortunately, Jesus doesn’t see her through Simon’s eyes.
Simon assumes he has better eyesight and understanding than Jesus—perhaps because he knows or recognizes the reputation of this woman. How often are we like Simon, thinking to ourselves, “If only you had eyes like me…”? Our eyes are cast in judgment on a person whom we think is unworthy of God’s grace. Or unworthy of our friendship, or sympathy or help. Forgetting that we are all unworthy of God’s grace. Forgetting the compassion that Jesus taught us. Our eyes are turned in anger or bitterness against someone for a real or perceived wrong. Forgetting our greater debt before God. We think, “I know how you should see this! The same way I do! With disapproval!” But fortunately, Jesus doesn’t see others through our eyes. His eyes are not tinted by rose colored glasses, nor are they tinted by resentment or selfishness. They see clearly, with infinite perception, and they are full of compassion.
Jesus graciously receives the unexpected hospitality of the woman, and defends her by telling a parable. Simon suspects Jesus can’t be a prophet because He can’t see this woman is a sinner. But what will Simon think when Jesus speaks directly to the private question on Simon’s heart? Simon is scornful of Jesus, that He doesn’t have eyes like him, to know better—but Jesus responds in His own way, as if to say to Simon, “Ah, but if you had eyes like me….!” Jesus has no trouble seeing the sinfulness of the woman, or of any person, for that matter. Jesus needed no special instruction about the nature of humankind, our jealousies, our secret and public sins, our pride or our hidden ambitions. He sees right into the heart—of Simon, of the woman, of you and I as well. It was not Jesus who needed a vision correction—it’s Simon and we who need one!
Jesus tells a simple parable, of two debts being cancelled and forgiven, one ten times greater than the first. In doing so, Jesus invites us to see through His eyes. To understand that the size and number of our sins (represented by the debt), is not the obstacle to God’s grace, but rather it’s our attitude towards God’s grace that presents the biggest obstacle. Simon was acting like one who had little (if anything) to be forgiven. Either we desire God’s grace and are receptive to it, or we scorn God’s grace and don’t see our need for it. Either we repent and receive His grace, or we are unrepentant and do not receive it. The one who is forgiven much loves the master more—the one who is forgiven little, loves little. Greater love and gratitude towards God, pour out from the ones who have had a greater debt of sin forgiven.
The woman wept profusely over Jesus’ feet, as she washed them. Did she cry in sorrow for her sins, or in gratitude to the Savior of sinners—or both? Do our eyes weep for our sin—or are we blind to how our sins grieve God and hurt one another? All of the Scripture readings today take sin seriously—but this one especially reminds us to take our own sin seriously—not just somebody else’s sin. We should weep that our sins grieve God and hurt our neighbor. We should regret that we have been thoughtless or uncaring, or that our love for God has been too small.  
But Jesus offers us His own eyes, to see and recognize that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness. This also moves us to show grace to others, as grace has been shown to us. Jesus leads us to call others to the grace of God, by repentance and the forgiveness of sins, not to keep them from it. None of us stand higher or above another, such that our own goodness puts us in better standing than the stranger whose sin might seem apparent to others. We are not judged or forgiven in the court of human opinion, but before God. Only Jesus can forgive us our sins and put us in right standing before God, as St. Paul teaches in Galatians. It’s only by faith—trust in Jesus—that we are justified or found innocent before God.
Doubtless the woman’s tears also flowed in great thankfulness, as she, more than all the others in that room, knew the cost of her own debt, and her unworthiness to receive grace from God. Freely receiving grace and Jesus’ forgiveness, she showed great love and gratitude by honoring Jesus as she was able, and giving Him the hospitality He had not received from Simon. How does our heart pour forth in thankfulness to Jesus? Have we been forgiven little, or forgiven much? Do we love little, or much? It helps to understand how undeserving we are, and the greatness of God’s forgiveness. Nothing required that God cancel our debt—but simply His great mercy and love. Growing deeper in this knowledge helps us, not only to praise God with greater thanks, but also to see others with the eyes of Jesus—having a heart that desires all sinners to come to repentance and the knowledge of the truth.
What of Jesus’ criticism of Simon’s hospitality? He praises the woman’s great love, but exposes Simon’s lack of hospitality toward Him. Jesus wasn’t demanding extraordinary treatment, but asking why the common courtesies normally extended to an honored guest, were ignored by Simon. Was this an act of great rudeness for Jesus to rebuke Simon, his host? Or had Simon been rude to Jesus? Was Jesus’ rebuke, the rebuke of an enemy, or of a faithful friend? The answer lies in whether Jesus was aiming at humiliating Simon or helping Simon to gain wisdom. Was Jesus trying to help or to hurt? The Proverbs give us some help. Proverbs 9:7–9 says, “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” A wise or righteous man welcomes a reproof, so that he may grow still wiser. Do we welcome the reproofs of God’s Word, or do we hate them?
Proverbs 27:5–6 says,  Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Jesus faced Simon as a friend, with an open rebuke. Though His words may have stung, they were faithful, to teach Simon wisdom and a Christ-like love. Far better than empty flattery, or hidden love, Jesus was helping Simon to address the poverty of his love and the blindness of his eyes to his own sin. Jesus wants Simon too, to find the way to true righteousness by faith in Him.
Jesus’ parting words to the woman are, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman must have known she stood on hostile ground that day, with the burning eyes of Simon and the others cutting into her. But her faith, her eyes, were locked on Jesus, her advocate, her Savior. She needed only His forgiveness, His approval. And she had it that day, when she came in humility and faith to Him, and showed Him selfless love. We have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ brings us the forgiveness of our sins. He stands before the Father to intercede for our great debt of sins, and by trusting in Jesus, we are saved. We can have His approval, His justification, when we believe in Him. We can go in the peace of the forgiveness of sins—being reconciled with God. The peace of God is to know that God’s judgment against our sin has been stayed by Jesus’ death on the cross. He has taken away our debt, and frees us to stand before Him as the forgiven, the redeemed, the justified. Knowing this great grace of our God, let us praise His Name and make His love known to all generations! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. A Pharisee named Simon hosts Jesus as a guest at a banquet in his home, in Luke 7:36-50. What seems to have been his intention, from the way he evaluates Jesus, and listens to Him?
  2. Simon quickly comes to the conclusion that Jesus must not be what? Why does he think so? Why are the actions of the woman shocking to the guests? Was Jesus blind to the fact that she was a sinner, as Simon seems to think?
  3. What is Jesus point in His parable, about the forgiveness of the two debts? When Simon judges the question correctly, in vs. 42-43, how has he also judged himself? (Cf. 2 Samuel 11:5-7).
  4. Is great love the response to having many sins forgiven, or are many sins forgiven because someone shows great love? Which is the cause, and which the effect?
  5. Jesus addresses the criticism of Simon’s heart by comparing his failure in hospitality to the lavish hospitality of the woman, who was not even host of the meal. What conventional courtesies to Jesus had Simon neglected?
  6. Jesus first speaks of the woman’s forgiveness to Simon, but then turns to her and addresses it personally to her as well. What burdens were released from her in that moment? Why is the word of forgiveness such a treasured gift?
  7. Was Jesus’ rebuke to Simon, in both his judgmentalism and his lack of hospitality, the words of a faithful friend, or of an enemy set to demean him before his guests? Proverbs 9:7-9; 17:10; 27:5-6; 28:23.
  8. How do we get the “eyes of Jesus”, to see others? How does it change the way we view and welcome others? Whose sin should we take most seriously and be concerned the most about? Where is the source of the great forgiveness that can produce a great love in us?