“Saved to Serve” (John MacDiarmid)

Notes on Sermon preached at PCF, 20 March 2011 “Saved to Serve” (Luke 7 v 36 – 8 v 3)

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As we continue the narrative of the Galilean ministry of Jesus, it is clear that the religious establishment are sharpening their knives. Conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus is becoming more and more prominent. Another flashpoint happens at the house of a leading Pharisee, Simon.

1. Two People

Luke’s treatment of the life of Jesus continues its portrayal of the multi-coloured characters who featured in the day to day ministry of Jesus. Notable is the prominence of women in Lukes’ narrative.

Here we have two people – a sanctimonious Pharisee, and a sinful prostitute. Simon, the Pharisee, is inviting Jesus to his house, not to offer him hospitality (his treatment of Jesus as a guest shows that) but to catch him out. He is happy to have Jesus around him – but only on his terms. He is a well to do educated member of the ruling classes. A greater contrast could not be imagined with the prostitute who came to his house that day. We may well wonder how the woman came to be there at all. We know that she heard that Jesus was there, but would a Pharisee willingly have invited her into his house. The most likely explanation is that Jesus was being “set-up” and that his reaction to the woman would be used against him – as indeed happened.

What a contrast between the two. How is Jesus going to deal with each of them? The players in the drama have been introduced.

2. Two Attitudes

Not only is there a contrast beween the two characters. There is a big contrast between their attitude to Jesus. Simon invited Jesus into his home, but on his own terms and certainly with no intention of Jesus being Lord. It is without a hint of humility or honour towards Jesus.

The prostitute, on the other hand, is overwhelmed in the presence of Jesus. Here tears are tears of remorse at the sinful life she has lived, tears of gratitude at his acceptance of her, and tears of joy at being in His presence. Note the comparison with the story of the tax-collector and the Pharisee.

3. Two Debts

It is dangerous to have private thoughts in the presence of Jesus! Note how Simon totally misunderstands the situation. As far s he is concerned, this woman is a sinner and is of no value. He assumes that Jesus doesn’t know who she is, and that if he did know he would have nothing to do with her. Wrong on both counts! Jesus know exactly who she is, and accepts her worship and repentance.  What a wonderful saviour, and what a calamitous misunderstanding of God’s mercy!

As he often does, Jesus exposes the heart by means of a parable. He likens our sin to a debt that has to be paid, and points out that only those who know how much they have been forgiven will show love to Jesus. Do we realise just how much Jesus has forgiven us?

4. Two outcomes

Your attitude to Jesus has consequences, both now and in the future. For the woman the consequences that she has reaped are the consequences of eternal salvation.

Jesus says: “Your sins are forgiven”. What will get us to heaven is not being without sin – such a thing is not possible for any of us. What will get us into God’s presence is having our sin, our debt forgiven. How is this possible? Jesus goes on to say: “Your faith has saved you”. It is not our good deeds, but the faith, the trust the confidence that we put in Jesus that enables us to be righteous before God.

What of Simon’s response. The fact is that there is no evidence of saving faith with him. It would probably not be his last chance, but the time would come when he would need to make a final decision about Jesus that would determine his eternal destiny.

5. True Service

When Jesus talks about faith, he is not telling about the vague trust in Jesus that has no impact on our lives. He is talking about faith that shows itself in action. Jesus knows that this woman’s faith is real because of her action. Specifically what did she do?

  1. She poured herself and everything she had out on Jesus
  2. She was with Jesus
  3. She – and others- became a part of Jesus mission to preach the good news of the kingdom
  4. She – and others – used her resources to serve Him.

This woman was wonderfully saved. She proved her salvation in her service to Jesus. She was saved to serve, and so are we.

John MacDiarmid

March 2011

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