Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message: Luke 7; Date: 19 September 2010

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Second Thoughts

 

I read from the Bible – Luke 7:11-19: “Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’ Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God … This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. John’s [John the Baptist who was in prison at the time] disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

I do not understand this. I don’t want to understand this. How can this make sense? Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead. The news reached John in prison and instead of punching the air with joy – shouting: “I told you so. Jesus is the Messiah,” – John was having second thoughts. How can you not be impressed – in a positive sense – by the power over death? Previously, John had told everyone – John 1:32-34: “ … I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Jesus [original: him] … I testify that this is the Son of God.” Previously, John was so sure that Jesus was the Redeemer of the world but – then – Jesus actually proved his resurrection power and – instead of rejoicing over the evidence – John became confused: “Calling two of his disciples, he sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

For us this is interesting and timely because in some measure we are experiencing the same at Living Grace. How many years have we been pursuing a greater measure of God and a greater measure of the Bible reality which says – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “ … I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified … [and this] my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power … ” How many years have we been upholding these verses? How many years have we been pursuing that the Spirit would also demonstrate among us – with power – the truth of our message: It is all about Jesus and him crucified? [Expand.]

Now – finally – in our midst – we can touch it with our own hands – the demonstrations are coming. God is confirming his message. Gold dust is manifesting out of the glory presence of God every week. People come to faith. The first blind eye is healed. Shane is healed of schizophrenia. Hundreds are overcome by the Spirit of God in PNG (February) but – [as it happened with John the Baptist] – instead of everyone punching the air with joy – we are losing some church members. Yes – we are also gaining people but some that have been with us for years – good people [our friends] who have been sharing the vision of this church – have been lost. Why? What is going on?

Put yourself in the shoes of John the Baptist. Whatever was going on with him, is also now bringing confusion to some at Living Grace and – to make this very clear from the outset – it is not because anyone lacks faith or maturity. Even when John became confused about the look and feel of what was coming, Jesus still praised him with these words – Luke 7:28: “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John … ” According to Jesus – there had never been a better church member – a better church leader – than John the Baptist.

John did not lack maturity or dedication. He was not becoming stale but remained on the cutting edge of church life. In fact – he admonished everyone to keep having an open mind. This is what he preached – Luke 3:16: “ … I baptize you in water. But one more powerful than I will come … He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire … ” Therefore, John knew and expected and announced that there was a new season coming in God but when it – finally – came (through Jesus), it caught him off guard. Why?

Why may you be caught off guard? I think that John may have nursed the hope that the one coming after him would simply be a more powerful version of himself and continue what he had started. Jesus should have been in John’s mould – only better. Yet, Jesus was not only better. He was also different – very different – from birth.

Zechariah and Elizabeth – the parents of John – had been respectable – righteous – both descendants of priests – and they had enjoyed a good marriage for many years. Then, John became their miracle baby of joy because this is what they had wanted for so long but no longer expected because his mother had already gone through menopause. Thus, John became the man of God with a lot of pedigree behind him.

On the other hand – Joseph and Mary – the parents of Jesus – had been dirt poor – with no public standing – and they had been so young that they were not even married yet. Then, Jesus became their miracle baby of surprise and scandal. Jesus was born out of wedlock. What sort of family was this? It was the Holy Spirit that had caused Mary to fall pregnant with the Son of God but – at least in the early stages of the pregnancy – Joseph only knew that he was not the father of the child. Therefore, he had planned to walk out on Mary (Matthew 1:18-25).

Thus, John and Jesus were – in some sense – “chalk and cheesefrom the beginning. One from theright tracks” – the other from thewrong tracks” – of a good church family and respectable upbringing. Later – the differences would continue and become far more pronounced.

For instance, John wasnever to take wine or other fermented drink” (Luke 1:15) [His “clothes were made of camel’s hair” (Matthew 3:4) and “his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4).] and the understanding was that this would allow the Holy Spirit to abide in him (Luke 1:15) [Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine … Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”] but when Jesus performed his very first miracle, he turned hundreds of litres of water into wine and (according to more general Bible sources) he certainly tasted his share of the wine (Luke 7:34).

Then, John the Baptist – in contrast to Jesus – never performed a single miracle in his work of preaching repentance to God’s people (at least none is recorded) but Jesus not only performed many of them, he relied on them to confirm his preaching – John 10:25-26: “ ... The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe … ” (cf. John 10:32). John 10:38: “ … even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” [Cf. John 14:11: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” John 20:30-31: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (cf. John 2:11,23; 3:2; 4:39; 9; 10:21; 11:45; 12:18; 15:24; 16:30; see also John 13:35; 17:23).] In Jesus’ case – contrary to John’s own experience – God the Father used miracles to certify who he was – Acts 2:22: “ … Jesus … was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him … ”

Now put yourself in John’s shoes. He may have expected a more powerful version of himself: a serious (no nonsense) repentance preacher – someone not drinking wine – (maybe also clothed in camel’s hair and eating locusts and honey) – [it would have been okay for John had Jesus been as “eccentric”/unconventional as himself] – someone praying and fasting like he was – waiting for the crowd to come out to him for a baptism of repentance in the river Jordan. Yet Jesus preached the same message of repentance in a different season. [Luke 11:20: “ . if I drive out demons by the finger of God (this had also not been done by John), then the kingdom of God has come to you.” When John’s disciples asked him why the people around him were not fasting, Jesus answered – Matthew 9:14-15: “ … How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come (another season will be coming) when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”] John was not yet retired – his work was not finished yet – but Jesus was already becoming active and he was different from John. He baptized some in the Jordan like John (John 3:26) but otherwise he focused more on preaching and healing and driving out demons without any recorded baptisms. And he did not seem to have such a stern make-up as John.

Therefore, can you imagine how confusing this must have been? John was waiting for someone more powerful than himself so that the repentance of the people would be complete. Jesus would also never drink wine and would also be most serious about what needed to change in people. Yet, there he was – changing water into wine – and doing other crazy miracles. There is no gold dust on record but why would Jesus perform the unnecessaryparty trickof walking on water and then – for fun – allow Peter to do the same (Matthew 14:22-36). What has that to do with saving people from their sins?

John was confused and not even the Bible helped him. Jesus tried to make it easy for him. Everyone knew that the one coming after John would do what the prophecy in Isaiah 61:1-2 had announced centuries earlier. I read the verses to you – Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Many a time – in his preaching – Jesus had already been explaining that he had come to fulfill this prophecy (Luke 4:21) and – therefore – when John the Baptist queried him whether he was the expected one, he – again – made the connection as obvious as he could.

I read some more verses from our original Bible account – Luke 7:21-23: “John’s disciples told him about all these things [how Jesus even raised a dead widow’s son]. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ When the men came to Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor … ” John could not have missed the parallel between Jesus’ work and the old prophecy of Isaiah 61: “ … anointed . to preach good news to the poor … freedom for the prisoners . recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed … ”

However, would this be enough to overcome John’s confused suspicions? Would it be enough for John to accept that Jesus would not come in his mould – would not live up to his expectations – but do something new? Jesus himself knew how hard it could be for even the best church people to accept him. Therefore, he added this warning to his message for John the Baptist – John 7:23: “[Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard. Then also tell him:] Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” This was – and this remains – the challenge for John the Baptist and every good man and woman of God: Will you not fall away because of Jesus and what he is doing? (You may not think so but) Jesus is also speaking to you – and me: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

When we have abee in our bonnetabout something, then we often go from bad to worse. In fourteen years of ministry I have seen it now many times. People take offense at something that confronts them – for instance: speaking in tongues or falling to the ground under the power of the Spirit or the phrase “baptism in the Spirit” or the message on healing or maybe gold dust now (and who knows what’s next) – and then every new joy – for instance: new people coming to faith, freedom from addictions, healings and peace – no longer causes any joy but further consternation until – like in the case of John the Baptist – even something like the raising of a widow’s son from the dead only serves to deepen the suspicion. Instead of punching the air with joy – there is further conflict in the church and Jesus knows. Neither the Bible nor any other evidence may change the mind once a person has taken offense. John was a good man but Jesus warned even him: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

You may think now that I am labouring the point but I am not. Right now this is – again – what we are facing at Living Grace. Will we embrace miracles among us and, if so, what kind? Is Jesus allowed to break our mould and – in every new season – thrill us with new excitement according to the Bible – Ephesians 3:20-21: “ . to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church … ” Is God allowed to benew”?

Please – I am not labouring the point because Jesus himself – after he had dealt with John the Baptist – continued with further words of caution to the crowd – Luke 7:24-35: “After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd: ‘ … To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like spoiled children sitting in the marketplace and calling to each other: We played at weddings for you, but you wouldn’t dance, and we played at funerals for you, and you wouldn’t cry! For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, He has a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners …’”

This was Jesus’ complaint. However God worked through John and Jesus, the people were never satisfied. John was fasting and they criticized him for that. [And by the way – the criticism is always the same for every move of God (even Jesus): “He has a demon.”] Jesus was feasting and the same people criticized him for that. This is God’s experience with us. We can never be satisfied.

[Abbreviate and retell in your own words:]

 

Mahesh Chavda: The Hidden Power Of Prayers & Fasting, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 1998, p118-121: “I had an out-of-town ministry commitment and so did Derek Prince; yet, even though the two of us had to leave, the church was supposed to start the fast on the following Monday. On the first day of the fast, a total of five people out of a 600-member congregation showed up for the corporate gathering. On the next day, only two people showed up. One of the two people there that morning was a man with a strong prophetic gifting – he always traveled with me when I ministered in Africa. This man began to weep that morning when the Spirit of God came on him. He spoke to the church during the regular Wednesday night service the next day, and said, ‘The Lord told me, I am here, where are my people?

I flew back home that same night, but I didn’t find out until about midnight what had happened. After this man spoke to the people, the Spirit of the Lord began to fall upon the children first. Then he descended on a number of adults as well. I knew something unusual was afoot when my little 4-year-old daughter, Serah, came into my bedroom at about 4 o’clock in the morning and shook my shoulder. She said, ‘Daddy, wake up! It’s time to go to church.’ Now little Serah loved her sleep, but here she was at my bedside fully awake, and ready to go to church. We found out that many of the parents in the church congregation were being wakened by their children.

Bonnie told me that the day before I got home, she had been awakened by a loud knock on the door – at 4 am. When she got up and answered the door, nobody was there. She gathered up our children and went to the church building, and when she opened the door, the glory of the Lord was so strong that she fell on the floor right there! When God’s glory came down, all the children had simultaneous visions. Whenever the Lord walked in, we would all know he was there, and everyone could see the same thing. One hundred and fifty people turned up, then 200 people turned out. We were engulfed in a spirit of revival, and it was an awesome thing to behold. People started repenting of sins – men who were thought to be examples of holiness began to weep uncontrollably and repent of their compulsive involvement in pornography and addiction.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of this visitation was our sense of the literal presence of God hovering over us when the Lord walked into those meetings. All I could do was just weep in a kind of ‘holy terror’ because he was there in such breathtaking holiness and glory. I didn’t even want to lift up my head because I could so strongly sense the holiness of God in that place. God’s presence stayed with us week after week, and we were in true revival – even as early as 1986! Derek Prince shared that in his 40 years of ministry at that time, he had never experienced this level of God’s anointing or tangible presence. It was one of the most glorious experiences we had ever experienced corporately.

If this was so powerful, then why didn’t the church world hear about it, like it heard about God’s visitation in Toronto, Ontario, and Pensacola, Florida? The answer is that we did not know how to steward the presence of God. The Holy Spirit didn’t ask us ‘how to come’ to us. He sovereignly chose to reveal himself as the Spirit of repentance, and he called us as a people to repent. Unfortunately, we did not understand that repentance is a word of blessing. The only reason we are able to genuinely repent before God is because the Holy Spirit gives us the grace to repent.

Week after week, the Spirit of God would descend on us in his heavy, weighty glory and lead us to our knees in continual repentance. Meanwhile, some of the leaders began to feel uncomfortable about it all. They were (and are) good brothers who dearly love God, but they began to feel so uncomfortable with the way the Holy Spirit kept ‘hovering’ over us that they wanted to ‘move on’. The problem was that the Spirit of God didn’t want to ‘move’ anywhere. They said, ‘That’s enough repentance. Let’s go into joy,’ so in the end we left the Holy Spirit behind to party when God wanted to complete a deeper work of repentance in us and perhaps in the nation as a whole.

We often think God should be satisfied with our repentance or obedience in a particular area, when his focus isn’t on us at all! Sometimes he is satisfied with our repentance on ‘Day 1,’ and he wants to work repentance in our families, churches, cities, or nation in ‘Day 2 through 21.’ But then we get impatient. We want to have a celebration party before there’s anything to celebrate about! We left God’s place of grace so we could ‘move into joy,’ but as we left him behind, very slowly the hovering presence of the Spirit began to fade away too, along with his anointing.

All of us who witnessed that remarkable visitation were profoundly affected by it for years to come. I can still recall the wonderful presence of God that came down in those meetings, and I learned that we not only need to learn how to ‘bring down the glory,’ but we should also learn how to ‘steward the glory’ with honour, respect, and obedience so he will stay with us.

God gave John the Baptist one ‘yardstick’ to pick out the Messiah from the crowd of humanity. He said, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’ (John 1:33b). During the Charismatic movement, we learned how to honour God and see the Holy Spirit descend upon us in a concentrated way from time to time, but we didn’t know how to encourage his presence to remain among us … ”

 

God came with repentance and – before long – people said: “That’s enough now. Let’s move on and go into joy.” But when God comes with joy, the criticism still abides and abounds.

[Abbreviate and retell in your own words:]

 

“When renewal started happening in our church during the ministry time on January 20, 1994, almost 80 percent of the people were on the floor, laughing, rolling and having the greatest time. I thought, ‘Lord, this is great. I am glad we are getting a little happier and more joyful. We needed to lighten up, but let us get on with the job of getting people converted!’ Others would even say to me, ‘This is supposed to be a move of God? How many people are getting saved?’ ‘People are being saved. We had five saved last night.’ I responded. ‘That’s not revival. A revival is when hundreds of people get saved and the community is impacted!’

At first I agreed. I told the Lord that I wanted to see people come to Jesus, to see them healed. So I started preaching more on salvation, but after the sermons, I noticed that the ministry time was difficult.

I didn’t understand that. The Holy Spirit was not flowing, and the people were not receiving from the Lord the same as before. The number of people who came to Christ was not as great as it was when I had talked about the joy of the Lord or the love of God or phenomena in the Bible. I asked the Lord why and was surprised by his response: ‘It is because you are pushing me.’ I said: ‘Lord, I don’t want to push you. What do you mean?’ God’s reply floored me: “Is it all right with you if I just love on my church for a while?’ … ” (John Arnott: The Father’s Blessing, Orlando: Creation House 1996, p20-21).

 

Is it all right with us if God just did what was on his agenda – not ours? For me (and I hope for you also) – this morning – the message from the Bible is encouraging. If you are confused, you are in good company. Even John the Baptist became confused about something as great as Jesus raising the dead. Confusion is not evidence that we are on the wrong track. On the contrary – we can expect it and deal with it. The key is to humble ourselves and heed what Jesus said to John: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

There were people around Jesus that had already made the shift from John to Jesus and – at that time – they may have felt superior to John and others that struggled with the new season in God. However – and please take note of this – Jesus kept ushering in new seasons of God and therefore the challenge and difficulty remained for his followers to keep up with him. Some cheered Jesus over his miracles and healings and power encounters with demons but when he talked about dying on the cross in utter shame and rejection – announcing a new season of suffering – the very same people began to rebuke him – Matthew 16:22: “Never Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Jesus responded with exasperation – Luke 24:25-26: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe … Did not the Christ have to suffer these things … ”

In the same way – we may cheer the early church in Jerusalem when miracle after miracle turned the whole city upside down – Acts 5:15-16: “As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.” This is what we may want for ourselves – miracles drawing the crowds to Jesus – but are we ready to track with the early church when stones from an angry mob killed the first Christian in Jerusalem and all the Christians were forced to run for their lives – Acts 8:1: “ … On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all … were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” What happened to the church’s favour with all people? Did they make a mistake? No – this was just a new season of being scattered.

With the scattering came further surprises. All the early Christians were Jews but now they were also scattered into Gentile (non-Jews) territory and – against their expectation – God asked them to bring the good news of Jesus Christ even to them. Not everyone was ready for that. This was also new. When God prepared the apostle Peter for his first mission encounter with a Gentile, he made him fall into a trance and experience a vision. In the vision Gentile food – unclean food according to Jewish law – was lowered from heaven and God asked him to eat from this kind of food. Peter was not ready for this new season and resisted God – Acts 10:10-16: “ … he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ ‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times … ”

Thus, the mission to people beyond the Jews was born and Jewish Christians began to eat unclean food. Then – the greatest enemy of the early church – Paul – a Jewish pharisee that had never known Jesus in the flesh – claimed that the risen Jesus appeared to him in a vision on the road to Damascus and that Jesus by further revelation – there must have been further encounters with Jesus but the details are unclear – taught him the Gospel (Galatians 1:11-12) and – there is more – consider this challenge to any ordered church structure – commissioned him also to be an apostle. He wrote – Galatians 1:1: “Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father … ” Galatians 1:11-12: “I want you to know … that the gospel I preached … I did not receive it from any person, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

Would we be ready for that kind of person? Would we buy his story? Would we allow God to go against all of our checks and balances – our normal processes for selecting a person for service? In Paul’s time – many were not ready for him – especially when he became the key missionary to the Gentiles and taught them that they did not have to be circumcised even though circumcision had been part of God’s people from the beginning (before Moses, before the formal covenant between God and his people at Mount Sinai). God can be confusing and he keeps leading us into new things that are beyond all that we can ask or imagine. This morning – take the time – consider how ready you are for what God is doing in our midst. Relax. Let him take you into something new.

[Luke 7:29-30: “(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)” => Even though John’s forerunner ministry was so different from the later ministry of Jesus, we (like the people in the reading) need to go through the earlier ministry in order to be ready for the later ministry. We cannot skip any move of God. We cannot pick and choose what we want from God. => (Therefore, I choose to remain delighted and positive about what others view with suspicion. I choose to live in deliberate denial of other people’s offended reactions to some of the things that God is doing in our midst. I choose to keep praising God for everything without any inhibition.)]

Our Bible reading does not end here. Jesus summed up what we are struggling with when he told the crowd: “John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’ … ” We are not easily pleased. We are slow in coming on board with God.

However, the next episode in the Bible continues with the theme of our resistance to God and penetrates even deeper into our heart. I read – Luke 7:36-50:

 

“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.’ 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 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.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said. 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. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”

 

Sometimes it is not the miracles – not the spiritual gifts – not the raising of the dead – not the unexpected manifestations – that offend people. It is the passion of those that love Jesus. Are you beginning to feel uneasy when people are praising Jesus with a freedom and a joy that is not yet in your own life? The woman in the Bible story was not ashamed of her tears, kissed Jesus’ feet and wiped them clean with her own hair. She loved him much. Do you love Jesus in the same way? Do you want to love him in the same way? Are you ready for this journey into a deeper relationship with him who was crucified and then raised to eternal life – our Lord and Saviour?

Sometimes strong emotions scare people. You may think: “This is getting out of hand.” “Okay, I can put up with an occasional miracle but these people should not get so happy about them. Settle and focus.” Jesus defended the woman against the Pharisee and – this morning – we learn from him. You can let loose and love him much because he has also forgiven you much. Jesus died for you and gave his own body as a sacrifice for your sins. He loved you so much and now you belong to him. Love him back with the same passion and hear again his words: “Blessed is the man – blessed is the woman – who does not fall away on account of me.” Be ready for all of him here at Living Grace. He wants to bless you. Amen.