17. The Pharisee & the Publican

Meditating on the Parables of Luke: 17. The Pharisee & the Publican

Luke 18:9-14:  To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Purpose & Context: We seem to be in a part of Luke where rather than consequential flow being the style he uses, he instead simply picks up on a variety of, dare we say, bits and pieces of the things he has been told. I say this because there seems no direct flow into this parable from the previous one about not giving up on prayer. The only link, and it is a good one, is that both parables involve prayer but in this one, prayer is the channel for revealing the heart and not the heart of the parable itself.   The point is made very obvious from the outset: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable.”   That’s it, it is about humility before God and how that is revealed through the way different people pray.

Content:

  • there are two men who go to the temple to pray.
  • one is a Pharisee who distanced himself from other people, exalting himself in declaring how righteous he was, fasting and giving tithes – certainly different from that tax-collector over there!
  • the other was the tax collector, who came in humility, not daring to look up to God, and just simply prayed for forgiveness and mercy, acknowledging he was a sinner.

The punchline that follows is clear: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.”  That is the conclusion from the parable, but what brings that about?

The principle behind it is obviously stated: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Application: Again, this is one of those parables that are so obvious that we wonder whether any comment is necessary. Yet it is worth dwelling on the nature of the two men in the parable. First, the Pharisee. This is a man who is clearly very religious. The Pharisees were known for their knowledge of the Law and their zeal for upholding it. This man at least expresses piety through the standard ways, fasting and giving tithes. However, it is his attitude that brings censure. Because of his piety he thinks he is better than other men, certainly better than obvious sinners, like the worldly and often corrupt tax-collectors. He comes before God displaying his pride openly.

Second, there is the tax-collector who, yes, is possibly worldly and corrupt – be he knows it and is not proud of it. He still has a desire to pray but he doubts his standing before God and all he can do is ask for mercy. In this he is being utterly real. This is not to condone his lifestyle but it is to acknowledge the humility with which he comes.

For us who are Christians of long-standing, this can be an uncomfortable parable if we are willing to be honest with ourselves, for after years of seeking to remain righteous before God, it is so easy to slip into an attitude of superiority when we look at other people who are not believers, those who are not bothered about righteousness.

Even more it is so easy to become complacent about prayer and, as I have commented elsewhere, especially public prayer. How easy we pray mechanically, just saying the right words, with little consideration to the thought that God – almighty, holy God – is there, is the one we are addressing. How rarely it is that people ‘out front’ pause before the Presence before they utter the words, how rare that they come with humility. I am sure that most of us would look at this very simple and straight forward parable and denounce the Pharisee without realizing that in many ways we are more like him than like the other man.

It is a difficult balance to hold, this realization on one hand that we are children of God, with a loving heavenly Father and all the familiarity of years of teaching and experience that has blessed us, while at the same time remembering that actually we ARE still sinners, redeemed yes, but still prone to sometimes getting it wrong (see 1 Jn 2:1) and we are what we are because of what Jesus has done and what the Holy Spirit is doing in us. As Paul said, we have no room to boast (Rom 3:27, Gal 6:4, Eph 2:9) just room for humility. May we remember that.

1. Nicodemus, the man

Short Meditations in John 3:  1. Nicodemus the man

Jn 3:1    Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.

Just a reminder as we go into the third chapter that these are short meditations that will go verse by verse – one verse at a time. As we enter the chapter so we enter a completely new incident and we are introduced to a man: ”There was a man.” I think Nicodemus often gets a hard press with preachers who show him up as a rather slow witted recipient of Jesus’ teaching, but I think that is unfair to him. Like you and me he’s just a man and sometimes spiritual realities are beyond mere human wisdom. Indeed again and again, as we have already seen in John, Jesus said things that were beyond human wisdom. So why does he say them? To test us and see what our reaction is, I guess is one answer. So go easy on Nicodemus; remember he is just a human being like you and me. But having said that, we will hold him accountable as we each must be!

But he’s not just any man, he is a Pharisee. Now I know we are sometimes hard with the Pharisees because they were one of the main groups opposing Jesus but it was because they were conservative believers and they struggled with the things Jesus said. But the truth is that they sought to be the guardians of the Law and whereas others were casual about it, they were not. So they had good intentions, even if they were a little misguided. But I can’t help feeling that any religious group who has strong beliefs can fall into the trap they fell into. Catholics are strong on upholding Catholicism’s traditions, evangelical Protestants are strong on upholding the Bible and salvation by grace alone and Pentecostals are strong on defending the work of the Holy Spirit. But have we become locked into our way of doing things and have we made idols of our beliefs so that we cannot see the bigger picture that Jesus seeks to convey?

Nicodemus is also a member of the ruling council and therein is yet another area of potential pitfall. I have met rulers, of councils and of companies, and they are more often than not people to be respected. They have been there, done it all and are men and women of experience and knowledge. They know things and often have a lofty viewpoint that many of us don’t have. But often they don’t have God’s viewpoint and there they can come adrift. Having to admit that you are wrong or haven’t got the whole picture can be hard when all your life is given over to knowing and getting it right. So don’t be too hard when we get to the point where Nicodemus is stumbling to understand. We’re like him!  We’re human, we may be conservative believers and we may be power people, and therefore we may be slow to catch Jesus’ teaching.

42. For the Sick

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 42. Come for the sick

Mk 2:17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

There is a sense where this verse very much applies to what was just happening and a sense where it applies very much more widely. The Pharisees have just complained that Jesus is mixing with sinners. “They,” says Jesus, “are just the people who need help.” I know we’ve said before but it bears repeating, but it is at this point when we gaze on ‘sinners’ that we reveal whether we have the heart of Jesus or the heart of a Pharisee.

The Pharisee is content to leave the sinner as they are; they will criticize them and condemn them, but they will not do anything meaningful to reach them. They may preach against them and in any personal encounter tell them to repent, but that isn’t reaching them; it is condemning them. The Pharisee wants it the easy way, a short, sharp burst of condemnatory preaching, but to actually reach these people in any meaningful way requires us, like Jesus, to sit down with them, listen to them, feel with them, and only then, when they open their hearts, can we share God’s love to the way that they need.

Yes, there is a time for preaching to the crowds but when that happens in the New Testament – Peter or Paul apply what they are saying to their audience, so if it was a Jewish audience it referred to the past, to the Old Testament; if it was to a Gentile audience they found a point of contact.

These ‘sinners’ that Jesus is mixing with are Jews but who have lost any link with their past. For them, all of their past history is irrelevant so there is no point in trying to approach them at that level; there is only one currency that they value (apart from a materialistic gathering of wealth) and that is love and acceptance – and that is what Jesus is giving them. That is what will open their hearts to God and that alone; everything else has become irrelevant in their godless and self-seeking lifestyle.

Yes, it is wrong but they know nothing else. Indeed, everything else has lost meaning. For the modern unbeliever, the Bible has lost its meaning and the church has lost its meaning – but they still desperately want to be loved and accepted, that is still the currency of value. Can we trade in that currency?

 

38. Saul

People who met Jesus : 38 :  Saul

Acts 9:3-7 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.

Of all of our encounters with Jesus so far, this has to be the strangest. Jesus has died, has risen and has ascended into heaven. Life on earth carries on. For a zealous young Pharisee going by the name of Saul of Tarsus, this meant cleansing Judaism of false cults, and particularly of the cult of the followers of the now-dead Jesus of Nazareth. He had recently witnessed the stoning of the heretic, Stephen (see Acts 7:58, 8:1), and had then gone on to persecute the Christians and “destroy the church” (Acts 8:3), putting Christians in prison. As part of his campaign to round up the Christians, Saul went to the high priest and obtained permission to go to Damascus and arrest and bring back any Christians he found there upsetting Judaism (Acts 9:1,2)

Thus we come to our verses today where Paul is on his journey to Damascus. He was later to testify that it was about noon (Acts 26:13). Suddenly it was as if a spotlight from heaven shone on him. Whether it was the sun breaking through the clouds on him or a supernatural light we aren’t told specifically, yet the latter is more likely for he fell to the ground. Something impacted him and all strength went from him. This is more likely than he simply knelt down for there was no reason for him to do that. Loss of physical strength is known to sometimes be a response when the powerful presence of the Lord comes.

As he lies there on the floor, he hears a voice speaking to him, asking why he was persecuting him. His response indicates that he realises that he is having some sort of heavenly encounter for he asks, “Who are you Lord?” It may sound a strange question to ask God but sometimes in the presence of the Lord you do find yourself asking questions that seem to have been inspired by Him. It enables the Lord to declare himself. He is Jesus! The one who is speaking to Saul is the risen Jesus. He has come to call this zealous but wrongly directed young man to a new calling, to become one of the greatest mouthpieces of the Church. For the moment Saul has not got a clue what the future holds. All he knows is that he is now blind (see v.9) and had to be led by the hand to reach Damascus where Jesus has made arrangements for him (see following verses).

Later on Paul, as he was to become known, spoke of his pedigree: “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Phil 3:5,6) yet all of this, he realised, counted for nothing. All this, he realised, did nothing for his standing before God, because he had been persecuting His Son, and now knowing the risen Lord Jesus was THE most important thing in life for Paul, indeed it was life itself.

The life that followed for this young Pharisee was indeed incredible. He wrote many letters to the local churches that he had helped establish and he travelled many miles in establishing them. He stands out in the New Testament as the most influential apostle. His writings, coming down the years of history, have transformed the church. He had insights about his lord and about his lord’s church like no other apostle. He was indeed a remarkable person and he was used by the Lord in a major way in establishing the Church.

This is all the more remarkable for the fact that he had opposed the church and seen it as a subversive force, undermining Judaism. He summed up his own experience in the light of what the early church knew of him, The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Gal 1:23)  Expanding on that he told them, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But … God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, (Gal 1:13-16)

Why doesn’t God turn all rebels around, someone might ask, and I think the answer is that He is only able to do that dependent on the heart of the individual. Paul was all out for God – but didn’t realise he was going the wrong way. Thus when he received the revelation on the Damascus road, he willingly received it – accompanied as it was by the supernatural voice and blinding experience – and went all out in the new direction. A question we might ask ourselves is, are we open to be redirected by God and will we be all out for Him as He guides?

31. Nicodemus

People who met Jesus : 31 :  Nicodemus

Jn 3:1,2 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Nicodemus only appears in John’s Gospel. Again this may be because the Synoptic Gospel writers’ might have wanted to have given him privacy but by the time John wrote he had passed away. We first see him as he comes to Jesus at night to question him. The fact of it being at night suggests that this is a private visit; he is not coming on behalf of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council, and he doesn’t want others to know that he has come. He comes and accepts that Jesus is a teacher for he starts out with the respectful address, “Rabbi.” Moreover he acknowledges that he is a teacher who has come from God for that is clear by the miracles that Jesus performs.

Now from the outset we can see that Nicodemus is a seeker of truth. He is a respected senior member of the Jewish community, being on the ruling council, he has heard about Jesus and so, while Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover, (Jn 2:23) he decides to go and question him. As a leader of the people he comes with a measure of authority and superiority. Many of us think we are someone.

Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus moves with the power of God but Jesus says you can’t see or enter into the place where God moves in sovereign power (his kingdom) unless God gives you a new life: In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (v.3) Nicodemus says he has been seeing the works of God but Jesus says you can only look in from the outside until you’ve been ‘born again’. This catches Nicodemus on the hop: “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (v.4) He is thinking in literal terms and suddenly he is not as confident in himself and shows he doesn’t understand what Jesus is saying.

Jesus focuses it back on the kingdom of God as if to say, don’t worry about the material technicalities; it’s all about spiritual issues: “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (v.5,6) i.e. you’re not going to experience the kingdom of God for yourself until God’s Holy Spirit does a work in you so it is like your own spirit is reborn and brought alive to a new life in a new dimension.

Nicodemus obviously looks perplexed for Jesus continues, “You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (v.7,8) It’s a mystery, says Jesus, the way the Spirit works. Just like the wind you sense His movement but you won’t know when or where He’ll move next.

Nicodemus is still confused: “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.” (v.9) Jesus isn’t going to give him neat, pat answers; he’s going to challenge him some more: “You are Israel‘s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. (v.10-13) In this manner Jesus brings himself right back before Nicodemus.

There’s something very challenging about this conversation. In our preaching we try to be very clear but that’s not the way Jesus did it. Very often he spoke enigmatically so that the listeners had to really think about what he had said. It was only those with seeking hearts who pressed through to understanding. (See what Jesus said about his use of parable in Mt 13:10-17). People who say they don’t understand Jesus reveal hearts that are not seeking.

We next see mention of Nicodemus when there is discussion about Jesus among the religious leaders and we find, Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” (Jn 7:50,51) He is subtly defending Jesus without being an out and out follower.

Our final reference to him comes after Jesus’ death: “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus…. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.” (Jn 19:38-40)

Community leader he may be – and the community has just killed Jesus – but his conscience makes him, with Joseph of Arimathea, go to give the body a proper burial. He is a follower of sorts. It is not clear how much of a follower but more and more he is standing out for Jesus. He looks like he’s on the way to being a citizen of the kingdom.

Interestingly, in the story of Nicodemus, Jesus never said to him, “Follow me.” That was only for people who were ready for it. Nicodemus has got a lot of thinking to do so Jesus gives him plenty to think about. The story about Nicodemus is seriously challenging because it asks us what sort of seekers WE are. Are we those who look in from the outside and just criticise because we don’t understand – and can’t be bothered to really seek? Or are we those who half hear the truth and complain that the preacher isn’t making it clear enough?  Jesus is looking for genuine seekers who will spend time seeking God for the truth. Will we be such people?

30. The Pharisee

People who met Jesus : 30 :  Simon, the Pharisee

Lk 7:36-39 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and 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. 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.”

We move on to a new group of people now, people who struggled with Jesus, people who showed resistance to him. Now two meditations ago we considered weeping Mary who appears in this story and we also noted that in Matthew’s Gospel this appears in the home of ‘Simon the Leper’ (Mt 26:6). Because of the similarities of the stories we concluded that this must be one and the same person. Now if he had been a leper at that moment they would not have been dining in his home for he would have been an outcast, which leads us to suppose that he had been a leper but had been healed – by Jesus? That may have been so but we can’t know for sure. What we do know is that he is a Pharisee, a member of that conservative group who saw themselves as guardians of the Law. They were also (or because of this) legalists and were more concerned with people’s sin that with their restoration. We thus find that Simon is a classic Pharisee!

He has invited Jesus into his home to have dinner with him. Mary enters the house with her perfume to anoint Jesus with it. Luke tells us in his account that Lazarus and Martha are at this meal and that adds credibility to the woman being their sister, Mary. Because they were there, she would feel easy about coming as well. As we considered previously she weeps with a mixture of gratefulness over having been forgiven and restored from her old life, and also, perhaps, from a sense of foreboding about the weeks ahead of Jesus.

Simon, the host, looks at this woman – who he knows – and wonders what sort of prophet Jesus is, if he can’t discern the sort of woman Mary is. The problem Simon has, though, is that he is locked into the past. Yes, that’s what she had been like but that’s not what she’s like now!  Simon, catch up! She is clearly a repentant sinner and God loves repentant sinners!!!!  I know we have covered this previously but it is so important for us in the Church today that it bears repeating. Previously our focus had been on Mary; now it is on Simon.

Jesus has a story to tell him: “Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.” (v.40-44)  Now what is interesting is that above we read of Simon, “he said to himself.” In other words he didn’t speak out loud what he was thinking but Jesus reads minds and Jesus knew exactly what he was thinking, which is why we now read, “Jesus answered him.” He is directly addressing what Simon is thinking. If you think it is virtuous not to speak out what you are thinking, beware, Jesus reads minds. It’s better not to think it in the first place!

The lesson is very obvious. The more you are forgiven, the more grateful you will be. But it doesn’t end there. Jesus now applies it to Simon: “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. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.” (v.44-46) Look Simon, he says, when I came into your home, as an apparent honoured guest, you did not have my feet washed or give me anything to put on my head to freshen up, as is customary, yet this women that you write off has done both things.

And then, to push home the point even further: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (v.47) i.e. her love for me is a clear sign of her repentance and so anything she may have done in the past is now forgiven.

Being judgmental is a dangerous hobby. We mostly don’t know the state of heart of the people we condemn. Simon went on what he knew of her past and didn’t realise that her heart had changed. How terrible it might have been if he, the moment he saw her entering his home, had sent her out again. And yet that is what we do sometimes with people whose hearts are changing as God draws them. Those of us who have been religiously righteous all our lives, because that is how we were brought up, have an even bigger difficulty in accepting that all-out sinners can repent and are loved by God. This is especially so when they are still struggling to bring changes to their lives – which often takes time. We want instant perfection, and yet don’t have it ourselves. If we do that, get ready for a rebuke from Jesus!

28. Weeping Mary

People who met Jesus : 28 :  Weeping Mary

Mt 26:6-13 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

I have often had to make comment about contradictions in the Bible – or rather the absence of true contradictions. If there is an account that might come in the line of fire of those who are looking for contradictions, this passage is one such.  There is a similar account in Luke 7:36-39 and another in John 12:1-8. The key point about contradictions is that they need to be specific opposites of information. Simply different information is different reporting styles. Let’s see what we have here.

In Matthew and Luke there is an unnamed woman who comes with a jar of perfume. In John she is named as Mary, presumably the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who were both there. Matthew and John both identify the location as Bethany. Matthew says it was the home of Simon the Leper, while Luke says it was the home of a Pharisee and John doesn’t say whose home it was. In Matthew she pours the perfume over Jesus’ head, in John she pours it on his feet and in Luke we aren’t told what she did with it.

In Matthew the disciples object to the waste, in John it is Judas who is identified as the objector (and Jesus does use some same words in both), and in Luke it is the Pharisee who questions Jesus’ ability to discern the state of this woman. In Matthew the woman isn’t described, in John she is simply described as Mary, but in Luke she is described as a woman who had lived a sinful life. My own view on these accounts is that there are such similarities that we must be talking about the same incident – in Bethany, at dinner, perfume, and a woman.

I may be wrong and I know some commentators think we have different incidents here, but I have no problem synthesising the information in the three accounts. So Simon, who had previously been a leper is now a Pharisee. Mary, sister of Martha, didn’t have a good history (often in the Lazarus; account in Jn 11 we just think of them as nice people, but that isn’t necessarily so). It is quite probable that the Synoptic writers don’t name to woman to protect her, whereas John was writing so much later it is probable that she (and Lazarus) were no longer alive when he wrote.  The rest of the points are simply different emphases being made by the different writers.

So let’s focus now on the woman. Let’s suppose she was the Mary we’ve already considered in the Luke account of Mary and Martha in an earlier meditation. She had previously sat at Jesus’ feet and if Luke 7 is the same incident, she bathes in the love of the Master who has accepted and forgiven her past (had Martha previously invited Jesus to their home to talk some sense into Mary?)

THE crucial thing about these accounts and about her is that she had expensive perfume and she poured it out on Jesus as she wept over him. Was she weeping for her own sins or because she sensed that something awful is about to happen to Jesus. Here we have a woman moved by emotion into an extravagant action that received censure from both some of the disciples and the host. From Jesus she only receives acceptance. He is simply blessed by her action.

For those of us who have nice controlled unemotional lives, we may struggle with this woman. In fact we may struggle with anyone who expresses emotion in their spiritual life. I remember the testimony of one of our (now) elderly members who, when he first came to us many years ago, was embarrassed by the emotion he found being expressed by the congregation in worship. Worship should be a volitional and emotional expression if it is real worship. The psalms are full of emotion and emotions must have been fully operational when Jesus was performing so many miracles on a daily basis. Thankfulness, praise and wonder must have been the order of the day.

There is an even lovelier reason for raw emotion to be expressed which Jesus highlighted when he chided his guest in Luke’s ongoing account: Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” (Lk 7:41-43) and then referring to her past Jesus declared, “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Lk 7:47) Wow! There’s the truth. Those who are conscious of their past sins are really grateful when they are forgiven and saved. Those who think they are all right, love little for, as John was to write, “We love because he first loved us.” (Jn 4:19)

This is an account of a woman who had an unsavoury past but who was loved and accepted by Jesus and so was thankful, so thankful that she literally poured out her love over Jesus, using perfume. Extravagant love is what God looks for. May He find it in us!