Every good story-teller intentionally designs his story to lead the reader on his journey. When we read the Bible, we shouldn’t forget that these men would have been well practiced in the art of giving history orally through telling stories around the evening fire. Luke purposefully wrote Jesus’s life to convey the depths and lengths and heights that he went through to reach a world held captive in the chaos and consequences of generations of sinners.
The story line of Luke takes us from baby to the boy Jesus who said, “Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” Didn’t you know Jesus would be about the Father’s business. From Jesus’s beginnings he amazes us with God’s truths. From here, Luke introduces John the Baptist, who teaches much like Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. This is where the story gets good. Jesus goes to John to be baptized. What he does after is astonishing. He doesn’t proclaim a healing ministry and set himself up with a mansion. He doesn’t have a victory march into Jerusalem. Jesus walks into the wilderness led by the Holy Spirit to fast for forty days.
FORTY DAYS! I don’t know about you, but my husband bought me a t-shirt that says, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.” The last thing I would want to do when I’m hungry is walk into a time of testing, but because God loves you and me, that is exactly what Jesus did next. We will go into this in depth in a later post, but keep in mind all that Jesus walked through to get to the next point of Luke’s story.
Jesus returns to Galilee and begins his teaching ministry and from here goes back to Nazareth! Let down I know! Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit, he should be marching on Jerusalem. He’s the King of Kings, and he goes back to the conservative little town of no consequence, where farmers eked out an existence.
Nazareth! Nazareth is where Jesus stands up in the synagogue and proclaims his mission.
To the successful, the religious, well-connected, leaders, beautiful…. etc.
NOPE. Jesus demonstrates the love of God to the poor, prisoners, blind, oppressed, and brokenhearted.
If you are like me, this world has left you bruised, bloody, friendless, and brokenhearted. I don’t want to minimize the cross, but I hope you see all the other things that Jesus did to demonstrate God’s scandalous love for you.
Yes, scandalous love! The book of Luke documents how Jesus stood up to the religious people of his day. Religious authorities are often blinded by tradition. They gird themselves with education and knowledge without love, instead of crying out in their poverty. Even rich, well-connected, beautiful people can be oppressed and prisoners to the very way of life they live. Jesus came to free religious people from their man-made traditions. He came to free the rich from the pride of life. He came to free the well-connected from the lust of the flesh, and the beautiful from the lust of the eyes.
Jesus scandalously came to touch the untouchables and love the unlovable. His love hasn’t changed. Later, Luke tells the story of Jesus being anointed by a woman in town who everyone knew to be a sinner.
We can’t sanitize the Bible, demonize the Pharisees, and refuse to see ourselves in this story.
This story has 3 key characters: the sinner woman, the Pharisees, and Jesus. Let’s exchange Pharisee with “religious leader who upholds tradition.” They ask Jesus to come for a meal. During this meal the sinner woman began to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. The “religious leader who upholds tradition” questions Jesus’s authenticity as a prophet because surely he’d know that this woman touching him is a prostitute. The word for sinner that Luke uses has a connotation of a sinner in an immoral way, and the description of her unbound hair would alert the reader to her previous lifestyle as a prostitute.
In this story which one are you?
To receive the love of God through Jesus, we must first see the scandal of our sin. We in the church can so easily slip back into tradition. Paul warns us that if we slip back into the ways of law or today we’d call it legalism, we alienate ourselves from Christ and fall from grace (Gal. 5). There is a way to test ourselves.
1. How do we forgive? Don’t lie to yourself that forgiving is easy. Sometimes it’s not, especially, when we fall back on our good works. What I mean is that it’s easier to condemn others like the Pharisee in the story, when we hide ourselves behind our knowledge and good works. We say things like, “I went to that prayer meeting, but he didn’t.” “I’ve been at this church longer than you, so I should get what I want.” We slowly start keeping lists of others’ failings, missteps, and mistakes without love. We have no intention of restoring (with a gentle spirit) this person. We have no intention of winning our brother back. We can use our lists to bloody and bruise one another.
2. Are we willing to be uncomfortable so that the poor, prisoners, and oppressed can hear the gospel and be made into disciples?
3. Do we lack love for someone?
Have we stayed the prostitute? Sometimes we refuse the all consuming love of God because we continue to hide behind sins that God has already forgiven. “I’m just a sinner, God can never love me.”
I’ll never forget the feelings of being unloved, unwanted, and friendless because that’s where Jesus loved me.
God demonstrated his love to the poor, the prisoners, the brokenhearted, and the oppressed through Jesus Christ. Now, don’t miss it. God loves the “religious leader who upholds man-made tradition” the same. The point is that we must all see our poverty and allow Jesus to lift our heads as he says, “Therefore I tell you, your many sins have been forgiven; that’s why you loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Adapted from Luke 7: 47:50). Thank you Jesus!