Great Forgiveness and Great Love

Christ at Simon the Pharisee

Christ at Simon the Pharisee (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 7:36–50 (ESV)

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said 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.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus went to a Pharisee’s home to eat with him. While there, a “woman of the city, a sinner” arrives and wept at Jesus’ feet, wiped them with her hair, and anointed them with oil. This was a great show of love and honor by the woman. The problem, as expressed by the Pharisee, is the woman was a known prostitute! Why would Jesus allow such a woman to touch him? If he were really a prophet he would not allow such a sinner to come near him, right?

No so! Jesus responds to the Pharisee with a parable about a moneylender. He loaned two people money and forgave both of their debts. One had borrowed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. Who would love the moneylender more? Who would be the most thankful?  Well, of course it would be the one whose debt had been greater.

Jesus used the parable to speak of the woman prostitute’s and the Pharisee’s attitude towards Jesus. The woman knew her sin was great and that the forgiveness she had been granted through Jesus was great. She loved Jesus greatly. On the other hand, the Pharisee did not believe he needed forgiveness because he was already righteous on his own. He did not need Jesus and did not feel deep gratitude towards him.

When we are able to see our sinfulness and honestly admit the deep debt we owe as a result, our love for Christ will grow. Such understanding helps us better understand the great love Christ has shown for us by going to the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Think of John 3:16 and what it means about God’s love:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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A Call to Respond

greyscale photography of woman wearing long sleeved top

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 7:18–35 (ESV)

18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ ” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,

“ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

“ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 11:2-19

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage begins with messengers sent by John the Baptist to Jesus. They went to Jesus to confirm whether he was indeed the Messiah. Jesus responds by sending them back to John to tell him that the blind can see, the lame are healed, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Why did Jesus respond in this way? Because this is exactly what the prophet Isaiah had said would happen when the Messiah came (cf. Isaiah 26:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:11)! Yes, Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah!

Jesus then turns to the crowd and speaks to them about John the Baptist. Jesus compares the crowds to those sitting in a marketplace and calling out to each other, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.” These may seem like strange words, but Jesus was making the point that no matter what was said or done, many of the people were not receptive. Whether it was a joyous song on the flute to celebrate in dance or a solemn dirge to mourn, the people did not respond. Instead, they remained skeptical, doubting, hostile, or uninterested in the teachings of both John the Baptist and Jesus himself.

Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection are not just events in history to be aware of. The life of Jesus forces us to make a decision about him. How are we going to respond to this one who came into the world, claimed to be the Son of God, taught with unparalleled authority, and rose from the grave? We must respond to Jesus. We must either repent of our sins and turn to him in faith or dismiss him. There really is no middle ground. What will you do with Jesus?

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God Has Visited His People

Widow's Son at Nain

The Resurrection of the Widow’s Son at Nain (Public Domain)

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. We are currently reading through the life of Christ and I invite you to subscribe to this page so you can follow along. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include the day’s suggested Scripture reading.

Reading the Word

Luke 7:11–17 (ESV)

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

Jesus and His Kingdom

The Sermon of the Beatitudes

The Sermon of the Beatitudes (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 4:23–5:2 (ESV)

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

Parallel Text: Luke 6:17-19

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage marks the beginning of what is often referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus’ fame had spread, he had been preaching, performing miracles, and calling disciples to himself. Now, in a long sermon, Jesus the Messiah tells the people what will define his kingdom. The people had been waiting all of these years for the Messiah to come. They were about to find out that the kingdom that Jesus was establishing was far different than what they were expecting.

Many people want Jesus if they can have him on their own terms. However, that is not how we enter the kingdom of God. We must come humbly, acknowledging our sins and need of forgiveness. We must cast ourselves at the Savior’s feet and trust in him to save us, as only he can. And we must turn our lives over to him. He is Lord and he intends to completely change our lives from the inside out. The kingdom is one of holiness and righteousness and love for God and our neighbor. Come hear the words of the Lord!

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Choosing Twelve

Ordaining of the Twelve Apostles

Ordaining of the Twelve Apostles (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 3:13–19 (ESV)

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Parallel Text: Luke 6:12-16

Understanding and Applying the Word

So far, throughout Jesus’ ministry in Israel, he has been rejected by the Jewish leadership. Now Jesus chooses twelve men that will go out to the people and proclaim the message of the kingdom to the people. The number twelve represents the number of tribes in Israel. The apostles are chosen as replacements by Jesus for the failed religious leaders that were already in place. Jesus’ rejection of the established Jewish leadership is a major theme in the Gospel accounts.

Jesus did not reject Israel. To the contrary, he staked his claim on Israel by selecting and empowering twelve apostles to go throughout the nation and preach his word. Jesus will later send the Apostle Paul to the Gentiles showing that he also came for non-Jews. Jesus may have been rejected by many, but his arms are open to all who will turn to him, no matter place of origin. And his authority is not subject to the leadership of this world, no matter how great the resistance.

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In the Face of Opposition

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:15–21 (ESV)

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Parallel Text: Mark 3:7-12

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus has been moving around, teaching, and performing miracles before the people, two things have happened. First, He has become more and more popular. And second, he has met greater and greater resistance from the Jewish religious establishment. We saw in yesterday’s reading that the Pharisees wanted to destroy Jesus (Matthew 12:14).

In today’s passage, we are told that Jesus was aware of the desire to kill him, so he left there and went somewhere else. Matthew tells us that this fulfilled the words of Isaiah, who prophesied that the servant of the Lord would have a ministry among the Gentiles (i.e. non-Jews). Mark’s account of these things tells us that Jesus’ crowds were not only coming from Israel, but the land beyond the Jordan, which was predominantly Gentile.

There is much we can learn from Jesus in these verses. The one thing I want us think about is how Jesus handled the opposition because we all have and will face opposition to the gospel message and to living according to God’s word. We are told that Jesus proclaimed the word, but he did not get involved in quarrels and loud arguments. He remained gentle while still speaking the truth. Matthew, quoting Isaiah, said, “He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.”

Jesus preached the word and refused to engage in fruitless arguments with those who did not accept him. Let us be known for our gentleness as we proclaim the word of God in a world that is often at odds with our message. May we guard our tongues, our attitudes, and our social media interactions for the glory of the Lord.

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Doing Good on the Sabbath

The Man with the Withered Hand

The Man with the Withered Hand (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:9–14 (ESV)

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Parallel Texts: Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again, the religious leaders are looking for a reason to accuse Jesus. In this passage, they are waiting for him to heal someone on the Sabbath. In response to their question, Jesus asks if they would rescue their sheep from a well on the Sabbath if it fell in. Of course they would! Well, if a person is of more value than an animal, why would it be wrong to heal someone on the Sabbath? Then Jesus healed the man with a withered hand. The religious leaders were not happy with Jesus and they sought how to destroy him.

Legalism is a dangerous mindset towards God’s word. Those who live this way may follow the letter of the word, but they often fail at the weightier matters that the law intends to address. What good is it to obey the letter of the law and fail to exercise love and compassion towards others? This is why Jesus said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” in verse 7. Such “obedience” does not please God and can often become an excuse for selfishness and pride. Let us hear the words of Jesus and seek to love our neighbors by doing what is good and right.

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The Lord of the Sabbath

The Disciples Eat Wheat on the Sabbath

The Disciples Eat Wheat on the Sabbath (Public Domain)

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental materials on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ in 2019.

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:1–8 (ESV)

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5

 

From Death to Life

John 524 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 5:1–47 (ESV)

1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again we read of Jesus’ confrontation with the religious leaders. This time, they were upset because Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. When they confronted Jesus, his words were, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was blasphemous to the religious leaders. Jesus was claiming equality with God. This deserved death and they sought to kill him.

Jesus went even further. He explained how he and the Father were not opposed to each other, but together. Jesus had the authority to grant life to whomever he chose (verse 21). And it was Jesus who had the authority to judge all people (verse 22). So, if one wanted life rather than judgment, he needed to hear Jesus and believe what he was teaching (verse 24). Jesus’ miracles served as signs that he truly had the authority he spoke of.

Unfortunately, we read that many refused to turn to Jesus that they might have life (verse 40).  Many refused to believe him then and many refuse to believe him now. Jesus came into the world to save sinners by teaching us about God’s great love and grace and then by going to the cross to pay the penalty we all deserve. He has done everything he can to save us, yet many refuse to turn to Christ. May we find renewed wonder at what Christ has done for us, but also may we find a renewed zeal to share the gospel with those who are lost and to pray that their hearts may be open to the word of God.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!

I Came Not To Call the Righteous

The Meal in the House of Matthew

The Meal in the House of Matthew (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 2:13–17 (ESV)

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this passage we read that Jesus called a tax collector named Levi (aka Matthew) to come and follow him. This means that Jesus was calling him to be his disciple. Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish people because they collected taxes for the Roman authorities and often collected a dishonest amount. Tax collectors were thought of as traitors and the worst kind of sinners. It would have amazed many and offended others that Jesus would call a tax collector as a disciple and even share a meal with such a scoundrel!

The scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of the time, were especially ready to condemn such behavior. Jesus’ response to these religious folks is that he had come to save the sick, not the healthy. He had come to call sinners to himself, not the righteous.

What did Jesus mean with his response to the scribes and Pharisees? The religious leaders were self-righteous and looked down on the sins of others, while ignoring or denying their own sin. The tax collectors and sinners were listening to Jesus preach about repentance and forgiveness of sin and they were responding to Jesus’ message. The religious leaders did not feel a need for such a response of their own. They were righteous already, in their own minds. So, Jesus’ response is one of condemnation towards the scribes and Pharisees. They too needed to understand their own sinfulness and respond to the message of repentance that Jesus was preaching.

Jesus’ message is still the same today. All of us are sinners and need forgiveness. When we repent of our sin and call on Christ to forgive us, he will. Take a moment and call out to him now.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!