One Saturday In Bethany

Six days before His crucifixion and burial, Jesus was prepared for His burial by the most unlikely of people. This story takes place in Bethany, where Jesus spends a lot of time during His earthly ministry. 

As was customary, the most influential men in the village would try to entice visiting guests to join them for dinner. Simon—a Pharisee and a former leper—was the one who extended the invitation to Jesus. Simon is a former leper because one who still had active leprosy wouldn’t have been allowed in his own home, let alone allowed to host guests. I think (as you will see in a moment) that Simon had been healed of his leprosy by Jesus.

Although it was customary for someone like Simon to host visiting guests, in this case, the religious leaders were scheming to arrest Jesus. In other words, there was an ulterior motive for Simon to have Jesus in his home.

Which is probably why Simon neglected his host’s duties: No welcoming kiss, no foot-washing, no anointing. All normal hospitality is ignored. Jesus appears to ignore the snub and simply recline at the table. But another guest takes Simon’s incredible rudeness personally. 

Mary was standing or sitting along the wall in Simon’s house, as many common villagers would in that day. Luke tells us that Mary had lived a sinful life. But while sitting at Jesus’ feet earlier she heard the good news that Jesus could forgive sins, she placed her faith in Him, and her lifestyle changed 180-degrees 

Mary is overcome by emotion at the inhospitable—rude!—way Jesus is being treated and tears began to well up in her eyes. Since Jesus is reclining at the table, His feet would have been pointed in her direction, and she began to use her tears to wash His feet. Then—horror of horrors—she uncovers and lets down her hair in public(!) and begins to dry His feet. 

Simon the Pharisee judges Mary by her past. Simon twice says, “Does Jesus even know what kind of woman she is? Does He know she is a sinner?” Mary is in big trouble: she is publicly pointing out the rudeness of the host, she is touching a man that is not her husband, and she has uncovered and let down her hair in public. 

Jesus responds not to Mary, but to Simon: “Simon, I have something to tell you,” He says and then shares a short but powerful parable of a creditor who had two debtors. One owed him the equivalent of a year-and-a-half’s wages, and the other owed about two months’ wages. Since neither could pay, the creditor forgave both of them. 

Jesus asked Simon, “Which of the two forgiven debtors do you think would be most grateful?” Simon correctly responds, “The one who was forgiven more.” 

Jesus points out that Mary’s acts didn’t bring her forgiveness, but that her acts were a loving response to the forgiveness she had already received. Jesus said things like, “You have been forgiven,” and “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you.” 

Jesus took the anger that was focused on Mary and redirected it to Himself, as Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would do (see 53:4-5).

At the same time He is also challenging Simon, “Don’t you have something to be grateful for? Weren’t you once a physical leper? Mary was a spiritual leper, but she has been forgiven and is now overwhelmingly grateful. What about you?” 

Mary was forgiven. She gave all she had in worship. Her anointing oil was lavishly poured out. It was worth a year’s wages, but she spent it all on Jesus. She anointed Him for His burial. The aroma of the oil remained on Jesus throughout His Passion Week and through His crucifixion. The aroma remained on Mary’s hands and hair. The aroma remained in Simon’s house. The memory was fixed in the memories of everyone in that room. 

What about Simon? Did he ever acknowledge his gratitude? Or was he more concerned with receiving praise from men? 

Have you received the forgiveness Jesus offers you? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to stand up for Him? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to give up everything for Him? 

I hope you can join me this Sunday as we continue of slow, deliberate walk alongside Jesus on His passionate journey to the Cross and the resurrection. 

Living Between The Advents

We live in an amazing time—the First Advent of Jesus has already happened in Bethlehem, and yet we are eagerly anticipating Christ’s Second Advent at any moment! 

The fourth stanza of Charles Wesley’s classic Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a wonderful between-the-Advents look at what happened at the First Advent, and what we have to look forward to in the Second Advent. The key thing to note in this stanza is the verbs: come, fix, rise, bruise, efface, stamp, and reinstate. 

COME, Desire of nations—What is the “desire of nations”? It’s the restoration of God’s glory on earth, so it’s not really a what but a Who. The prophet Haggai informs us that our Desire is realized in the Advent of Jesus (2:1-9).  

FIX in us Thy humble home—At His First Advent, Jesus came and humbly made His home among us, even dying to pay the penalty for our sins (Hebrews 2:14, 17; Philippians 2:7-8). 

RISE, the woman’s conquering seed—Although Jesus was obedient to death—even death on a Cross, He didn’t stay dead but was resurrected (Philippians 2:8-9; Revelation 1:18)! 

BRUISE in us the serpent’s head—With His death and resurrection, Jesus took away the sting of death from satan, fulfilling one of God’s first prophesies (Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 54-57).  

Adam’s likeness now EFFACE—That means to wipe out, do away with, expunge. That’s exactly what God does with our forgiven sins (Psalm 103:1-4, 10-12)! 

STAMP Thine image in its place—Although our sin has been effaced, God doesn’t leave us as blank slates, but instead He allows the image of His Son Jesus to be stamped onto our lives (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18). 

REINSTATE us in Thy love—The relationship we longed for is now reborn in us (1 Corinthians 15:49)! 

The Desire of Nations HAS come, and yet He WILL come again! We’re living between the Advents now, so a good question for Christians to ask is: “How are we to live?” I think there are three key things—

    1. In celebration that Jesus came at His First Advent to be our Savior 
    1. In anticipation of the Second Advent 
    1. In obedience to God’s Word (Revelation 22:7) 

19 Quotes From Other Authors In “Love Like That”

As Dr. Les Parrott presented the five ways Jesus showed His love to us, he supported his thoughts with some insightful quotes from other authors. Check out my full book review of Love Like That by clicking here.

“If you stop to be kind, you must swerve often from your path.” —Mary Webb 

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Pride is our greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” —John R.W. Stott 

“Jesus was the Man for others.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

“Jesus was able to love because He loved right through the layer of mud.” —Helmut Thielicke 

“They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud.” —John Flavel 

“Those who judge will never understand, and those who understand will never judge.” —Wilson Kanadi 

“Mercy gave the Prodigal Son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast.” —Max Lucado 

“Christ accepts us as we are, but when He accepts us, we cannot remain as we are.” —Walter Trobisch 

“Jesus did not identify the person that with his sin, but rather saw in this sin something alien, something that really did not belong to him, something…from which He would free him and bring him back to his real self.” —Helmut Thielicke 

“While every other religion offers a way to earn approval, only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.” —Philip Yancey 

“Judgmentalism finds its identity in what is not. … Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scale.” —Byron Langenfeld 

“To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be.” —Fyodor Dostoevsky 

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” —Anne Lamott 

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” —Flannery O’Connor 

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” —John F. Kennedy 

“We often err not because we find it hard to perceive the truth (it is often right there, at the surface), but because it is easier and more pleasant to be guided by our feelings, especially if self-centered.” —Alexander Solzhenitsyn 

“A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.” —Mahatma Gandhi 

“Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply.” —Henri Nouwen 

Check out some of Dr. Parrott’s quotes from Love Like That which I shared here. 

God’s Silence And God’s Singing

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

I’ve always loved this verse about God singing over me! I noticed something interesting in the Amplified Bible—not only God’s singing, but His silence. He is silent (making no mention) about my forgiven sins, but He sings His love about my future with Him. 

“The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 AMPC)

Kim Walker-Smith wrote, “It’s a love that never stops pursuing us. There are moments when I don’t hear His love and moments when I don’t feel His love, but that does not change the fact that He is always giving His love.” He is always singing His love❣️

The Value Of The Old Testament

“Jesus exalted the law of God, and made its importance more evident even than it had been before. In a word, ‘He magnified the law and made it honorable’ (Isaiah 42:21). …

“Let us beware of despising the Old Testament under any pretense whatever. Let us never listen to those who bid us throw it aside as an obsolete, antiquated, useless book. The religion of the Old Testament is the embryo of Christianity. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the bud. The New Testament is the Gospel in full flower. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the blade. The New Testament is the Gospel in full ear. …

“Let us, for another thing, beware of despising the law of the Ten Commandments. Let us not suppose for a moment that it is set aside by the Gospel, or that Christians have nothing to do with it. The coming of Christ did not alter the position of the Ten Commandments one hair’s breadth. If anything, it exalted and raised their authority (Romans 3:31). …

“In the last place, let us beware of supposing that the Gospel has lowered the standard of personal holiness, and that the Christian is not intended to be as strict and particular about his daily life as the Jew. … The more light we have, the more we ought to love God. The more clearly we see our own complete and full forgiveness in Christ, the more heartily we ought to work for His glory. …

“Jesus shows us that the law, as expounded by Him, was a far more spiritual and heart-searching rule than most of the Jews supposed.” —J.C. Ryle, in Expository Thoughts On The Gospels

What Is Sin?

“What is sin? It is not an accident, nor in impudence, nor a misfortune, nor a disease, nor a weakness. It may be all these, perhaps; but it is something beyond all these; something of a more fatal and terrible character. It is something with which law has to do, which righteousness abhors, which the judge condemns, which calls for the infliction of punishment from God. In other words, it is guilt—it is crime. Man’s tendency is either to deny it or extenuate it. He either pleads not guilty, or he smooths over the evil; giving it specious names. Or if he does not succeed in these, he casts the blame off himself; he shifts the responsibility to his nature, his birth, his circumstances, his education; nay, to God Himself. But human sin is not thus to be diluted or transformed into a shadow. It is infinitely real, true, deep—terrible in the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. It is the transgression of law; and as such must be dealt with by God, and felt by ourselves. Let us not trifle with sin, either in the conscience or the intellect. Let us learn its true nature from the terribleness of the wrath and condemnation threatened by God against every sin, great or small. … 

“But there is such a thing as forgetfulness with God. ‘Their sins will I remember no more.’ This is the true oblivion; divine oblivion of sin; perfect and eternal oblivion. And how is this? The prophet in the Old Testament, and the apostle in the New Testament, tell us that this is one of the provisions and results of the New Covenant; that covenant which has been sealed with the blood of the Son of God. It is the blood that enables God to forget sin; that blots out all sin of ours from His eternal memory; so that it becomes as if it had never been. But this oblivion is no accident; no mere result of time and intervening circumstances. It is righteous oblivion! … Sin is buried beyond the possibility of resurrection.

“But when does God cease to remember sin in my individual case? When I have accepted the covenant; when I have fixed my eyes upon the blood; when I have received the divine testimony to that great propitiation which has made it a righteous thing in God to remember my sins no more!” —Horatius Bonar, Light & Truth: The Old Testament

C.S. Lewis On Relationships

All of these quotes from C.S. Lewis appear in the book Yours, Jack.

“The modern tradition is that the proper reason for marrying is the state described as ‘being in love.’ … Doesn’t the modern emphasis on ‘love’ lead people either into divorce or into misery, because when that emotion dies down they conclude that their marriage is a ‘failure,’ though in fact they have just reached the point at which real marriage begins.” 

“There is a terrible comment on this in I Cor VI 16 ‘he that is joined to a harlot is one flesh.’ You see? Apparently, if Christianity is true, the mere fact of sexual intercourse set up between human beings a relation which has, so to speak, transcendent repercussions—some eternal relation is established whether they like it or not.” 

“Agape is best seen, I think, in the words ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ i.e., by an act of will, aim at your neighbor’s good in the same way as you aim at your own. Now you don’t ‘love’ yourself because of your own ‘lovable qualities.’ You may, in moments of vanity, attribute lovable qualities to yourself, but that is not the cause of your self-love but one of the results of it. At other moments, when you dislike yourself, you still wish for your own happiness. This attitude to one’s own self is dictated by nature: towards other selves it has to be acquired.” 

“The great thing in friendship as in all other forms of love is, as you know, to turn from the demand to be loved (or helped or answered) to the wish to love (or help or answer).” 

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” 

“I take it that in every marriage natural love sooner or later, in a high or low degree, comes up against difficulties (if only the difficulty that the original state of ‘being in love’ dies a natural death) which forces it either to turn into dislike or else to turn into Christian charity. For all of our natural feelings are, not resting places, but points d’appui, springboards. One has to go on from there, or fall back from there. The merely human pleasure in being loved must either go bad or become the divine joy of loving.” 

“It is right and inevitable that we should be much concerned about the salvation of those we love. But we must be careful not to expect or demand that their salvation should conform to some ready-made pattern of our own. … God has His own unique way with each soul.” 

“The real trouble about the duty of forgiveness is that you do it with all your might on Monday and then find on Wednesday that it hasn’t stayed put and all has to be done over again.”

You can read my review of Yours, Jack by clicking here. And you can check out some other quotes I shared from this collection of Lewis’ personal correspondence here and here.

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