Tuesday, October 1, 2013

as her great love has shown

“as her great love has shown”, this phrase is taken from Luke 7:47.  It is from the account of a sinful woman who came to the house of a Pharisee, Simon, where Jesus was a guest, and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, and perfumed the feet with an alabaster jar of perfume.

Luke 7:36-48 - 36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

A little postulation
I believe this sinful woman could have been Mary Magdalene who was Mary Bethany, the sister of Martha Bethany, and was the woman who was delivered of demon possession {Luke 8:1-3} (prior to this event at Simon’s house); in other words, set free by Jesus, earlier, and forgiven by God of her many sins, did this washing of Jesus’ feet; and who went on to support Jesus’ ministry, introduced Jesus to her sister, Martha (and Lazarus, too) of Bethany, and later followed Jesus down to Jerusalem on His last leg of His journey; and was at the crucifixion, at His burial, and was the first person, Jesus met up with, when He resurrected.  If you want to know how I come to my belief, you can read this: Were Mary Magdalene and Mary Bethany the same person?

If you want to just regard this woman as simply “a sinful woman”, it is fine, too, but you may have some difficulty in coming to how is it that this woman could come to love the Lord so much, if you do NOT think she was the same once decadent woman (Mary Magdalene) who was delivered of demonization, as given in Luke 8:1-3.  Of course, you can also believe there was no prior incident, and that the moment the woman was at the house (of Simon), she was touched by God; but my take is that it was NOT so, for she came prepared – the alabaster jar of perfume showed it.

The key lesson
What is the lesson to be drawn from the story?  What picture was it painting?  The key is in verse 47.  Jesus said, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.” What this verse was saying is that Jesus was saying the sinful woman’s many sins had been forgiven her, and we could come to that conclusion because her great love indicated so. In other words, chances are that a great love is an outflow from forgiveness.  The sinful woman had developed a great love for the Lord. 

Has great love, but NOT showing, possible?
How come she could have developed that great love for the Lord?  We will say a little more on this, in a while, but first, we want take a look at if Simon was also having that great love that the sinful woman was having, but only NOT showing.

We need to address: is it normal to have great love and it is NOT showing, or we say is it tenable to have such a scenario – you have a great love but it cannot be seen or felt or received? Simon had it, a great love for the Lord, although NOT seen, felt or received; possible? 

I am NOT the worm in his stomach!
My mother would say, “I am NOT the worm in his stomach, how would I know!”  That just a common idiom, we Chinese have, to say “How would I know; I am NOT him!” 

Between men, it is indeed difficult to know.  Only when you have lived with a person for a long time, like a couple married and living together for a long time, you may be able to guess, more or less, how great is his love for another or for God (as the case, maybe).  How do you know; or how have you come to know?  It was from prolonged interactions with the person, what you managed to see, feel, perceive or received over time.  In other words, between men, the love in that person needed to manifest, in order that you would know.  

The person himself, does he know for sure?
Now, let us talk a little about the person himself.  Does he or does he NOT know, if he has a great love for another or for God?  How does he know?! 

Firstly, when we talk about how great or how much, we necessarily have to have a point of reference to measure from.  Then we have to ask ourselves, vis-à-vis the yardstick, what are we prepared to do or sacrifice.  But then, that is only a claim - you claim to yourself that you would do such a thing or sacrifice, or you could be claiming it, in the form of holding out as a promise, to another, that, that would be what he/she could expect you to do or sacrifice.  Only when the occasion actually arises, and your action is called for, or we say when the rubber (or tyre) meets the road, that is the moment when we (also he, himself!) really know.  Scripture said of the heart of men this way: 

9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? 10 "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." (Jer 17:9-10)

So, is a man absolutely sure of his love for another or God?  I don’t know about you, I will only dare to say, “I BELIEVE (and it is I believe, NOT absolutely sure) I will do this or that, when the time comes or if the occasion arises.”

God knows?
How about when it is between God and men?  Does God know the heart of a man, and so, would know the extent of His love for another or for God, Himself?  We know God knows the hearts of men (Acts 1:24 {KJV} – God is the knower of heart), but does it therefore has no need of that love to manifest (by deeds or sacrifices, as the case may be), for God to know the extent? 

My belief is: from one angle, God has an advantage; He knows the extent of the love of the person at the time He (God) looks at the heart; whereas, for us, men, we still needed the interactions over time, that I talked about, earlier on.  In another angle, God is faced with the same “I BELIEVE…” that I referred to earlier; God, unless He intervenes against the volition of the person, also BELIEVE he will do this or that, when the time comes or if the occasion arises.  This is why I said it so:

God can look into the future, and does look into the future, but the future is NOT fixed, meaning if God looks at your future now, and then looks at it again 1 year from now, it (your future) may NOT, it probably does NOT, look the same!  The simple reasons are (1) you grow positively (that is what God wants) or negatively; and so, something God saw this morning of your future 2 years away, if He looks again, 1 year from now, that something may be different or completely absent; maybe it is a sin you will commit, but a year later after you have grown, you will NOT be committing that sin, a further one year later down the road. 

God exercises “faith” or trust, too!
I know some people would object to my using this term, faith, on God, but if you think about what has been said here, even as God expects faith from us (in Him), God also exercises faith in us (or if you don’t like the word, faith, on God, you can use “trust”).  The story of Job of the Bible is a case at hand; God had faith in Job, and so, accepted Satan’s challenge.  We can believe that God did NOT “play cheat”, and controlled the volition of Job; surely Satan knew that much about what God could do, and the challenge was on the ground of Job was free to exercise His volition.  If you like, you can read an article of mine on this, here – God also exercises faith

It is both – the heart then, & the love manifests (manifestations)
After saying all of the above, my point is that, even for God, to be sure, of the extent of the love of a man (with an eye on the future; God always have an eye on the future), He looks at, apart from his heart, that man’s love manifests. It is NOT God operates like a man, but this is one case of us operating like God, in that He (God) perceives and knows for sure (we perceives only, NOT knowing for sure) the heart and so, of the heart’s love, but He still (and we, too) has to look at actuals (deeds or sacrifices), to arrive at the strength of the expectation that, that love (its extent) would continue, unabated. 

Deeds and sacrifices are evidences of love at the moment, even as the state of the heart (which God does know) is, and they could point to more of the same extent of love, but nothing is a “MUST happen”, unless God over-rides men’s volition.  So, the question, whether or NOT, God looks at our deeds and sacrifices, when evaluating our love, the answer is yes.

Actually, it is NOT too difficult to understand; what you and I are NOT prepared to do or sacrifice, does tell God directly the extent of our love for Him or for another.  Many people want to claim absent-mindedness or forgetfulness, but we know God cannot be fooled, for the priority you accord to God, directly speaks of the extent of your love for God (when you give top priority, you are NOT likely to forget!).  Where your treasure is, there your heart is, said Scripture (Matt 6:21).

The woman had it, Simon, NOT
All of the above exposition is to come to the reasonableness of Jesus’ equating the deeds and sacrifices of the sinful woman, as indicative of the great love she had for God; and Jesus’ insinuation of Simon was NOT of the same – the great love for God.

Your deeds tell on you
Do NOT be fooled, what you do or NOT do, tells on you, the real you, even when it comes to love.  It is NOT directly spelt out this way, but the ways of God are along that same line. 

I am going to give us, the Scripture text that refers to righteousness, that deeds of (or living out) righteousness tells on you, whether or NOT, you are truly righteous; for the righteous necessarily does righteous, just as Jesus who was righteous, lived or practised righteousness; and so, His deeds while He lived on earth, were righteous.  When you substitute the word, righteousness, with love, for the Scripture text below, you will get the idea:

1 John 3:7 - Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right {practise righteousness} is righteous, just as {in the same manner} he {Jesus} is righteous.

Another text that prescribes for us, the general way of God as this “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”, is this:

1 Pet 1:6b – 7 - though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Whether it is righteousness or love or faith, God’s way or prescription is the same – does your deeds or life (your living) evidence it?  In this Peter’s text above, faith got to be manifested by you.  Faith without deed is NOT operative faith, it is dead or useless or NOT genuine.

God is NOT just looking at our words of love, He is looking for our deeds of love, and sacrifices we made in love, for Him, and so, too, for our neighbours (1 John 4:21).

How did it come about, the great love of the woman?
“as her great love has shown” or “as her great love has indicated or revealed”; what was the thing indicated or revealed?  That same v47 said it – that the sinful woman’s many sins were already forgiven her.

And so, we are coming back to our earlier question of how come the sinful woman could have developed the great love, evidenced by her deeds and sacrifices, which Simon, without the equivalent deeds or sacrifices evidencing, did NOT have.  The answer is that she was forgiven much; Jesus said her many sins were already forgiven of her.

If you are NOT convinced that the sinful woman was the same woman of Luke 8:1-3, the same Mary Magdalene who was once a decadent woman with demons, and who had been set free by the power of God through the Lord, Jesus, you will just have to believe at any earlier point, the sinful woman had met Jesus, and Jesus did something or preached something, and she responded, and God forgave her of many sins; and she received it.

We are to forgive by grace
Forgiveness is to be given.  Now this is revelation and is consistent with the Word – Forgiveness is given, NOT merited.   It is given, NOT bought or merited.  So remember, when you forgive, you give; you don’t demand “payment” of any sort or get people to merit it.  Col 3:13 is very clear – we are to forgive as (the same manner) the Lord forgave (which is by grace; give it).  Jesus indicated so, in the text above, in the parabolic mention of a creditor forgiving two debtors when both had no money; both the debtors were forgiven, without paying or meriting.

Forgiveness needs to be received in
At the same time, forgiveness need to be received in; if the targeted person did NOT receive it, the power in the forgiveness cannot do its wondrous work. 

Suppose Mr A caused you to fall into a big drain, and you became a crippled, and Mr A repeatedly wanted to visit and tell you how sorry he was, but you refused his visit every time; and then he stopped coming. Then after sometime, you forgave him, in your heart (and it is the right thing to do, and we are commanded to do that, to forgive from the heart and in our heart), but you did NOT release it to him, Mr A.  Mr A still lived without receiving in, of your forgiveness, despite you have forgiven him.  It could very well be that Mr A, because of that, be burdened of guilt, condemnation, and developed dysfunctional character traits, and be impaired of his capacity to love and be of compassion, especially, when deceptive voices of the evil ones, got to him.  If he receives in, your forgiveness for him (for that you have to release it to him), the forgiveness received in, can break yokes and bondages, and, with ministry help, he could be a lot more wholesome, including be repaired of his capacity to love.

Restoration of the capacity to love
The receipt in, of forgiveness, helps us to repair our capacity to love.  Or with forgiveness, we can love again.  Jesus turned to Simon and quizzed him concerning who would love the creditor more, the one forgiven of a little or the one for much?  It was a parable, yet, it is still part of the scene of the sinful woman’s coming to love the Lord.  What this parable was pointing, and was helping to explain the scene is this:  The one forgiven (we have already known above, that, forgiveness are to be given freely – for both the debtors had no money and not needed any more to pay), much, was turned more grateful and so, would love more greatly.  The sinful woman was such a case, Jesus was hinting, and did say – “many of her sins were forgiven.”  Many could NOT understand why Jesus quizzed Simon or targeted Simon.  It was because Simon did NOT love the Lord like the woman did, and did by deeds; Jesus contrasted it for Simon, what he, Simon, did NOT do, but the woman did, for her love.

Humility, gratefulness, & then the restoration comes
Although Jesus was pointing to the lack of love of Simon compared to the woman, the more critical understanding that Jesus was giving was that we need to be humble of heart, turned grateful, and so, restored of our capacity to love much.  Simon was NOT of that – humble of heart, turned grateful, and restored of the capacity to love much.  The receiving in of forgiveness is that which would turn us grateful, and be restored of the capacity to love much, and so, love much.  The quoting of the forgiveness of debts (as a parable) was to illustrate this to Simon, and to us – need of receipt of forgiveness, before we are restored of our capacity to love.

I am NOT like that sinful woman-what!
Some may argue, thinking, “But then, that woman, she was sinful-what; bad, bad woman, but Simon was NOT like that, a Pharisee, you know!”, as if a Pharisee necessarily has NOT much to be needing forgiveness from God. It can be untrue. 

I sometimes tell people that a sick person who does NOT think he/she is sick, and so, will NOT come to the doctor, he/she is impaired the most or very sick.  When that sickness is NOT physical, but referring to spiritual unwholesomeness, such an individual cannot love correctly or properly.  Such people rarely think that they are wrong, in terms of their claim of NOT being unwholesome, or in their love or lack of it, or the improper of it (their love); true humility is absent. 

Without true humility, there is no true gratefulness, and without gratefulness, the capacity to love cannot be healed or restored, and great love does NOT come from such a vessel.  Did Simon exhibit this (flaw)?  The answer is yes; we read it in v39. I reproduced vv38-39 here:  38 As she {the woman} stood behind him {Jesus} at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee {Simon} who had invited him {Jesus} saw this, he said to himself, “If this man {Jesus} were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”  Now, where is the true humility of Simon?  In fact, he thought he was above Jesus! He also said to the tune of “the woman was a sinner”, as if he, himself, was NOT!  Metaphorically speaking, do you think Simon think that he is sick, will he go to the doctor?

Please, I am NOT suggesting you go & commit sin, to be forgiven!
So, was it Simon’s fault?  Brother Anthony, are you trying to say we should allow ourselves to be sinning greatly, so that we can be forgiven much, so that we can be humbled, turned grateful, and be restored of our capacity to love, and so able to love greatly like the sinful woman?  No, that is NOT my drift; and so, please do NOT go sinning, in the hope of being able to love greatly. 

The Apostle Paul did address similar questioning; Gal 2:17 said this - "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! We don’t go round sinning so that we could magnify the grace of the Lord through His forgiveness for us, by grace.

God is sovereign, yet there is your volition
God is sovereign, and if He wants to force you to your knees, so to speak, He can, but a lot of the time, He is waiting for you to exercise your volition to come to kneel before Him, to come to the place of forgiveness.  He may help you along, to come, but generally, it is still you have to come. The drift was NOT Simon was NOT as sinful, but was that Jesus was pointing to the need to come to the place of forgiveness, and actually receive in, forgiveness. 

Well, can we argue that Simon loved little (or none; I don’t think it was none), because God forgave him little, again NOT his fault-what; God’s fault?!  The point is we need to come, and we need to receive.  Scripture has parables and stories, incorporating this way of God.  For example, in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, the banquet was made ready and the invitees were to come, but many would NOT come.  Is it NOT true, we even say, we still have to come to the Cross, despite Jesus already died on the Cross; everything necessary He has made ready, and before He gave up His breath, He said, “It is finished”.  We have to come into salvation; even as the Word said in 1 John 2:2, that Jesus is the propitiation for the world (all men).

Please encourage the coming to the place of forgiveness
As ministers, our role is to facilitate people coming to the place of forgiveness, and receive in, forgiveness.  As far as possible don’t stop short, don’t truncate, let the entire process goes right to the end, i.e. people receive in, the forgiveness.

From the Cross, (we gotten) the forgiveness, and the restoration of our capacity to love God back, is it NOT?  And when we love God, we love our neighbour (1 John 4:21).  This understanding is foundational, and when it is foundational, it is to be cascaded through and throughout our life.

So, while Jesus was NOT rebuking Simon in any harsh manner, the urge was for Simon to reflect, and in this regard, for us all, too, on his need for forgiveness for any sins in his life; to be humble, be turned to gratefulness, and be restored of capacity to love more and more, God, and so, too, men or neighbours.

The fault is NOT God’s, of course, that we are forgiven little.  God is waiting to forgive you and I, to come the place of forgiveness, and we do need to be practising 1 John 1:9.

Jesus was saying it, after His Father
There is still an interesting observation from this text of Luke 7; and it is this:  Jesus having said that the sinful woman was forgiven of many sins (v47), still said this, to the woman, in v48 - “Your sins are forgiven.”  

Why did Jesus still say that, that her sins were forgiven, when the woman was forgiven already, which led to her show of great love?  My understanding is this: In verse 48, Jesus just declared it that the woman’s sins were forgiven, for Jesus knew God the Father had done so.  Jesus was so led by the Spirit (or abiding in God), that He knew, and in fact (John 5:19), Jesus did say He would do only that which He saw His Father (God) doing.  It was NOT after all that which the sinful woman did, that Jesus forgave her sins; she was in no way meriting her forgiveness; her deeds and sacrifices of love came after her forgiveness and restoration.

Forgiveness empowers men to love
Forgiveness empowers men to love.  Now, did the occasion point to one needs to merit forgiveness, that the sinful woman did those things, washed Jesus’ feet, kissed them and anointed them with expensive perfume (and she was forgiven afterwards)?  No. Verse 47 is saying love is evidence of forgiveness received.  Or forgiveness received, empowers love.  And of course, I have taken the liberty to expound on, love got to show up in deeds and sacrifices, or that it cannot be, that you love, when you have nothing to show it, by deeds or sacrifices; only words!

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

PS: This account of Luke 7:36-50 is different from the account in John 12 and Mark 14; the later happened at Bethany, days from Jesus crucifixion; this Luke 7:36-50, happened early in Jesus’ ministry, back in the north, in Galilee.

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