Flashback Episode — Forgiven in an Instant: Luke 7:36-50

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Part way into Jesus’ ministry, Luke records an event that all three other gospels appear to include as well. The big difference is that Luke seems to place this event much earlier in Jesus’ ministry, which prompts me to think that something like this might have happened more than once. If we compare Luke’s version of this event with the other gospels, while there are several similarities, Luke seems to focus more on the teaching opportunity Jesus takes, while the other gospel writers focus on how their similar events foreshadow Jesus’ upcoming death.

Let’s read how Luke describes this event, and what he wants us to learn about Jesus from what happened. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 36, we read:

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 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.

39 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.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 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. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Part of me is fascinated by how this passage ends. Before hitting on a huge truth Jesus shares, we can see Jesus challenging these religious leaders regarding the nature of forgiveness.

Jesus tells the woman that her sins are forgiven, and this startles the group of people present. Forgiving of sins is something that only God does, and since they are the religious leaders, they likely believe they have the ability to determine for someone whether God has forgiven a sin or not.

When Jesus comes and pronounces this woman has been forgiven, and there was no sacrifice taken to the temple or offering given, the idea that forgiveness has been granted doesn’t make sense.

However, Jesus focuses us on a different truth from the Old Testament, and that the sin in our past doesn’t matter as much as our decisions in the present. Forgiveness is available for everyone who turns away from sin. This idea is challenging for those living in the first century and for those living today.

While it is great news that God saves sinners who turn away from their sin, this idea seems too simple. It must be more complicated. Perhaps it is, but I have yet to see it. Perhaps the only catch in the whole salvation process is that only through focusing on and having a relationship with Jesus can we truly move away from sin in our lives. While we can move away from some sins and towards better habits, the sin of living for self rather than for others is one that is so subtle and hidden in our lives that without Jesus shining the light on it, we are unlikely to realize its presence.

However, what big truth does Jesus share leading up to this. We find this truth in verse 47 where Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.

The twin ideas that being forgiven of a lot will prompt a lot of love, while being forgiven of a little will only prompt a little love, is fascinating in my mind. These ideas imply that if there is a group of people who have always lived pretty good lives and who only have one or two “socially acceptable sins”, then they are in greater danger than someone who has sinned more times than they can count. This also means that someone with a decent life and not many sins is more likely to grow callous and unloving over time, even when they have been forgiven, than someone who has been forgiven of a past consisting of more sin than not.

While this doesn’t mean that we should go out and sin in as many ways as we can think of so that we can be forgiven and love more, this does mean that we should never brush over anything that might be a “socially acceptable sin” because in God’s eyes, sin is sin, regardless of its severity.

We discover how to love more and how to live a life that shows we have been forgiven by focusing on Jesus first, intentionally making and spending time with Him each day, and by seeking to do His will in our lives. How we choose to love Jesus demonstrates how forgiven we really are.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Choose to place Jesus first in your life and intentionally love Him with our lives. We can do this by loving others and by focusing time each day on spending it with Him learning from His word.

While a devotional or podcast can help give you ideas or things to think about, be sure to study the Bible for yourself, because an author, pastor, or podcaster shouldn’t be your only connection to the Bible. Be sure to open and study the Bible for yourself to discover God’s truth for your exact situation.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 13: Discover several things we can learn about Jesus from Luke’s gospel when a woman pours oil on Jesus’ head, seemingly early in Jesus’ ministry. Learn what Luke teaches us about how Jesus responded.

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Faith to Forgive: Luke 5:17-26

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As we move forward in our year looking at Jesus’ miracles, we come to one of my favorite examples of Jesus healing while also challenging those present. This miracle is probably the single greatest example of persistence that we find included in the gospels about how far some men would go to get help for their disabled friend. Not only do we find an amazing example of persistence in this miracle, we also discover one amazing way that Jesus challenges the religious leaders regarding who He is.

Let’s read about what happened, and specifically about this incredible miracle that happened only because of the persistence of a group of friends. Our passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 5, and we will be reading this passage from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 17, Luke tells us that:

17 One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

God had given Jesus the power to heal the sick, 18 and some people came carrying a crippled man on a mat. They tried to take him inside the house and put him in front of Jesus. 19 But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they went up on the roof, where they removed some tiles and let the mat down in the middle of the room.

20 When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the experts began arguing, “Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, “Why are you thinking that? 23 Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? 24 But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” Jesus then said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk home.”

25 At once the man stood up in front of everyone. He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. 26 Everyone was amazed and praised God. What they saw surprised them, and they said, “We have seen a great miracle today!”

In this passage and event, we discover that Jesus took the faith of this man’s friends and He used it to challenge everyone present. Jesus knew that the friends had displayed enough faith in their creative and unusual way of getting Jesus’ attention to heal their friend. We have no idea what Jesus was talking about at that moment leading up to this miracle, but it is fascinating to pay attention to how this passage opens.

Luke begins the passage by saying that “One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

This marks the point in Jesus’ ministry when enough things have happened that people, specifically the religious leaders, have taken note of Jesus, but before enough has happened that the religious leadership as a whole had condemned Jesus.

While the faith of the men bringing their friend to Jesus is amazing, the phrase I want to point out in this episode is the one the Pharisees challenge Jesus with. In verse 21, the Pharisees and religious experts argued among each other saying, “Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.

This statement is logical on one hand, while causing challenges on another.

When we sin, the act we commit may affect another person, but the sin we committed is against God. Forgiveness only means something when the persons involved in a sin do the forgiving. It doesn’t mean much if I say that I forgive someone else for what they did to someone else. Unless I was affected in some way, giving third-party forgiveness doesn’t work. When we sin, it is against God, and because of this, only God can forgive sins.

However, in John’s gospel’s great commission to the disciples, Jesus gives His followers an unusual ability, and that is the ability to forgive sins. John chapter 20, verses 21 through 23 tells us that:

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

On the surface, these two passages and ideas conflict with one another, but when we look closer, we see something amazing. When Jesus claims to have the power to forgive sins in this passage, it is because He has the Holy Spirit, and when He gives the disciples the commission to forgive sins, it is only after they have accepted and received the Holy Spirit.

The proof Jesus gave for His claim of sin forgiveness is a miraculous healing. This wasn’t healing to prove a point, even if a point was proved through it; this healing was to validate the faith of this man’s friends, and perhaps the faith of this man who might have been injured while doing something sinful.

In this miracle and Jesus’ response, we also see that talk is cheap when compared with action. A miracle is significantly more difficult to do, and the challenging thing to think is that if Jesus came for Himself, and for His own glory, He could have made claim after claim and they all would have fallen flat. Without the Holy Spirit supporting His ministry, Jesus would have done nothing miraculous. It is because Jesus came to glorify God that we see the Holy Spirit so visibly present in His ministry.

At this early stage of Jesus’ ministry, I don’t think it was accidental that all these religious leaders were present, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that these men brought their friend on a stretcher with the faith that Jesus could heal their friend. Everyone present praised God and declared that they had seen a great miracle, but with this miracle is the challenge we all must grapple with: Will we believe that Jesus had God’s authority when He was here on earth – including the authority to forgive sins?

This question divided the religious leaders regarding Jesus, and it divides people living today. Will we accept Jesus’ difficult truths and claims because we see God moving in a strong way validating His ministry, or will we reject Him and all the claims He is recorded making?

And if we accept Jesus at His Word, will we realize and remember that only God can forgive sins, but when God, specifically the Holy Spirit, is living inside of us, we have the power to validate God’s forgiveness of sinners? Forgiving sins and validating God’s forgiveness may be one of our highest callings as followers of Jesus while the Holy Spirit lives in and works through our lives.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always continue seeking God first in your life. Choose each day to live within His will and to do things that will grow His Kingdom. Know that forgiveness is a big part of God’s character, and He has called us to live lives of forgiveness as well.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and move closer to Jesus. When we grow closer to Jesus, we can know Him better, and we can more fully receive the Holy Spirit in our lives. Always use your time spent in the Bible as a filter on your life and the world we live in. The Bible is the best guide we have to navigate the crazy lives we live.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 13: When four men bring their friend to Jesus for healing, Jesus attributes this miracle not just to the faith of these men, but to His own ability to forgive sins. Discover what we can learn about Jesus and our own responsibility as Christians regarding forgiveness and forgiving sins.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Great Faith from a Roman: Luke 7:1-10

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While Jesus performed countless miracles during His three-and-a-half years of ministry leading up to the cross, one of these miracles stands apart from the rest. This miracle stands out because Jesus isn’t directly present for the healing, though He may have planned to be, and because Jesus praises the faith of the man requesting help.

This miracle stands out in my mind because of some details Luke includes that the other gospel writers didn’t. Let’s read about what happened, from Luke’s gospel, chapter 7, using the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 1, Luke tells us that:

When Jesus had finished saying all these things to the people, he went to Capernaum. A Roman officer there had a servant who was very dear to him; the man was sick and about to die. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and begged him earnestly, “This man really deserves your help. He loves our people and he himself built a synagogue for us.”

Let’s pause reading hear for a moment because Luke just shared some details that I don’t believe Matthew included. In Luke’s version of this event, the Roman officer asks some respected Jewish leaders to ask Jesus for help. Whether this Roman didn’t think Jesus would be interested in helping him directly, or whether he believed that these Jewish leaders would make a stronger case for help, I cannot escape noticing that Jewish leaders came to ask for Jesus’ help.

It is also interesting that this miracle happens in Capernaum, which is one of the locations Jesus lived while He was in ministry. Several of the disciples may have even lived here as well. While it seemed as though Jesus had alienated Himself from most every other religious leader in Israel, these leaders in Capernaum had not written Jesus off – or this event happened early enough in Jesus’ ministry that not every religious leader had turned against Him.

I am also fascinated by the way these Jewish leaders ask Jesus for help. They open by saying that this Roman deserved Jesus’ help, and they support this statement by saying that the officer loved the Jewish people and that he built (probably financed) the synagogue where they worshiped. A subtle implication on both the part of the Roman officer and these leaders is that this officer knew he was outside of the circle Jesus was in, and these religious leaders were inside the circle with Jesus. This distinction is present in both the act of Jewish leaders making the request, and in the request itself when these leaders describe this officer’s love for “our people”.

This Roman officer might not have realized it, but Jesus came to bless both Jew and gentile, and He is happy to help this officer, but I doubt for the reasons that the Jewish leaders present.

Continuing in verse 6, we read:

So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the officer sent friends to tell him, “Sir, don’t trouble yourself. I do not deserve to have you come into my house, neither do I consider myself worthy to come to you in person. Just give the order, and my servant will get well. I, too, am a man placed under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; I order that one, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and I order my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Let’s pause reading again because I want to point out a very interesting contrast. When the religious leaders make their case for Jesus’ help, they tell Jesus that this officer “deserves” Jesus’ help. In contrast, when Jesus is on His way, the officer’s friends bring Jesus the message that the officer does not “deserve” Jesus’ presence, and that this officer believes he is “unworthy” to come in person. While the religious leaders make a case that is founded on pride, the officer counters this case on the foundation of humility and his unworthiness.

Whether the officer believed he was too sinful, or whether he was simply self-conscious about Jesus seeing something he was not proud of in his home, this Roman understood that Jesus was not the one directly performing the miracles. Instead, Jesus was the “commander” so to speak, and God gave the healing. I don’t know if there had been any prior miracles where Jesus hadn’t been directly present before this point, but I don’t think this was the case. The parable of Jesus turning the water into wine comes close though, and this miracle also happened in the city of Capernaum.

How does Jesus respond? Let’s continue reading in verse 9 to find out:

Jesus was surprised when he heard this; he turned around and said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, I have never found faith like this, not even in Israel!”

10 The messengers went back to the officer’s house and found his servant well.

I am always amazed at this miracle because Jesus ultimately gives this Roman official a higher compliment than He had given to anyone else in Israel. In what was likely one of the more secular parts of the region of Israel, Jesus recognizes the unconventional faith that this gentile officer had. This Roman knew Jesus could help, he asks Jesus for help, and he lets Jesus know that His presence is not required.

From the moment this officer learned that Jesus would help, he knew that his servant would live because of Jesus. The proof of this was not getting Jesus to touch this servant directly, but simply the servant getting well. I believe if the servant had gotten well weeks later, rather than minutes, this officer still would have attributed this healing to Jesus, and he might have simply written off the time difference as something potentially necessary when dealing with long-distant miracles.

But this passage concludes that the servant was well, we might even say fully healed, by the time the messengers arrive back at the officer’s home. Jesus was not going to let this opportunity slip by with a slow miracle. Even though this officer didn’t believe he deserved Jesus’ help, or even Jesus’ presence, Jesus honored both.

We can learn from this Roman officer because when we think honestly about our own lives, we don’t deserve Jesus’ help. We have sinned, and we are to blame. Any help we request could fall on deaf ears – except that they don’t because of who God is and what He is like.

Also, we can learn from this Roman officer because he trusted Jesus’ word without Jesus’ presence. Jesus is in heaven right now and it is unlikely that He will personally come and answer your request. However, He is willing to help from a distance, and when we are willing to accept Jesus’ long-distance help and believe He wants the ultimate best for everyone in our situation, then with whatever happens, we can know that He has reasons for what happened – even if we don’t know His reasons.

God’s goal for each of us is not an easy life here in a sin-filled earth.

God’s goal for each of us is that we will live forever with Him starting in heaven before ultimately moving to a new heaven and new earth.

As we conclude another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always be sure to seek God first in your life. Trust and believe in your heart that He wants the best for you from eternity’s perspective, and sometimes that means we won’t get the answers we want in this life. God loves us and He wants us to be with Him forever in the new heaven and the new earth.

But don’t take my word for it. Be sure to study the Bible for yourself and learn this directly from God’s word. God has protected the Bible for thousands of years, and if we trust God to keep us safe for eternity, we can trust that He is able and willing to keep His words safe over a few thousand years.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or reject where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 12: Discover how Jesus responds when asked for help from a Roman. While this event happened thousands of years ago, learn how and why it is still amazingly relevant to our lives today.

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The Spiritual Chain of Command: Matthew 8:5-13

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Continuing through the gospels and the miracles that Jesus performed, we come to a miracle that Jesus did, not for a Jew, but for a Roman officer. While this detail in itself is significant for us to pay attention to, there are plenty of details in this event that should prompt us to pay attention. Most Jews were hostile towards the thought of Rome being present in their territory, and the thought of Jesus actually helping a Roman would upset many of the most devout Jews. However, it is also worth noting that a Roman asking a Jew for help is also just as shocking.

Let’s read Matthew’s gospel and discover what happened. Our passage is found in chapter 8, and we will be reading from the Good News Translation of the Bible. Starting in verse 5, Matthew tells us that:

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a Roman officer met him and begged for help: “Sir, my servant is sick in bed at home, unable to move and suffering terribly.”

“I will go and make him well,” Jesus said.

“Oh no, sir,” answered the officer. “I do not deserve to have you come into my house. Just give the order, and my servant will get well. I, too, am a man under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and I order that one, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and I order my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Let’s pause reading for a moment to focus on what Matthew has just told us, because while reading this just now, a phrase jumped off the page at me, and it is something that reveals something this Roman understood about Jesus that most everyone else missed seeing.

While Jesus knows that the Roman officer is simply asking for help and healing, Jesus wants to go a step further and come personally to help. However, the Roman officer is surprised by this and he is content knowing that any promise Jesus makes will happen. The officer doesn’t need Jesus’ presence to confirm Jesus’ command.

This is the first amazing level of faith this Roman officer displays. But there’s another idea present in this passage, and it is this phrase that jumped out at me while reading this.

In verse 9, the Roman officer tells Jesus, “I, too, am a man under the authority of superior officers”. This Roman understood that Jesus was not present just for Himself. Instead, this Roman understood Jesus had been sent with a mission to this world and to the Jewish people. In this phrase, the Roman officer captured an aspect of Jesus’ ministry that we don’t often think about. In Jesus’ ministry, He both came willingly and He was sent with a mission. We often focus on Jesus’ willingness to come, which is true, but we should also realize that there is a very clear theme running through the gospels that Jesus was sent.

This Roman understood the hierarchy involved in a chain of command, and He recognized Jesus was fulfilling His mission in a similar, but also spiritual, structure.

Let’s continue reading to discover how Jesus responded to this man’s statement. Picking back up in verse 10, Matthew tells us that:

10 When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him, “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this. 11 I assure you that many will come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven. 12 But those who should be in the Kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the officer, “Go home, and what you believe will be done for you.”

And the officer’s servant was healed that very moment.

In this passage and this event, we discover something amazing, both in the faith of this Roman officer, and in the promise within Jesus’ response. In verse 11, Jesus told everyone present a wonderful promise: “I assure you that many will come from the east and the west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven.

But this promise is followed up with a sobering warning. Verse 12 continues by saying, “But those who should be in the Kingdom will be thrown out into the darkness”. While we might be tempted to think this warning refers exclusively to the Jewish nation living during this time period, the sad truth is that this represents many of God’s professed people living in many different generations.

This also means that Christians today are just as liable to be kicked out of God’s feast as the first century Jews were. Christian’s today should be present at the wedding feast in the kingdom of heaven, but if they assume they are saved while not letting Jesus transform their lives or hearts, then they ultimately will be thrown out. A transformed life is the evidence that Jesus has entered one’s heart and that an individual has placed their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus. An invisible faith is a worthless faith.

In this passage and in this miracle, we discover that as followers of Jesus, we should model this Roman officer’s belief in Jesus. This Roman understood that Jesus was part of a powerful, spiritual chain of command, and this chain of command could instantly heal his favorite servant. The Roman’s faith is solid enough that he does not need Jesus to physically come and help his servant because in the spiritual realm, things can happen quicker than if we need to see in order to believe.

Also, in this passage and miracle, we discover that we should take Jesus at His word and let Him change our hearts and lives. Let’s not be kicked out of this wedding feast because we didn’t let God’s Spirit transform our lives. Let’s choose to place our faith in God in visible, tangible, and relevant ways, and let God transform us into the people He created us to be.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him and what He has done for you and me. Accept God’s promises as truth and live each day claiming His promises for our lives. Let’s be like the Roman officer who had stronger faith than the Jews present in that region and understand that Jesus is part of a much bigger picture. Jesus is the key Person in our story of redemption.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, keep praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and let God transform your heart and your life. The closer we grow towards God, the better we will be able to see through His eyes, and love others as He loves each of us. Use the Bible as a filter for your life and as a guide for your spiritual walk.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 12: When Jesus offers to physically heal the servant of a Roman officer, we discover an amazing level of faith that Jesus commends, and a faith that is worth us modeling in our own lives.

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