On Hearing

This week we are looking at the parable of the sower found in Mark 4, Luke 8 and Matthew 13. But before we get into the story let me take a minute to remind us of a fundamental truth which will guide us in this parable.
Paul says in Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We understand before we can exercise faith in Jesus Christ as our savior we have to hear the truth of the message of the gospel.
At the end of the parable of the sower found in Luke Jesus says these words:
18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
Luke 8:18
Remember that we enter into the kingdom of God through faith. Jesus told Nicodemus “you must be born again or you will not see the kingdom.” We are born again by faith in Jesus Christ and that comes by hearing.
So Jesus says, “Take care then how you hear.” That is what this parable is all about… it’s about how we hear.
Matthew 13:3-9
3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,
6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
How do we hear the gospel? When you sow the seeds of truth to others, how do they hear? Jesus says there are four soils: four ways in which people hear the truth. These are not four types of people, but these are four ways of dealing with the truth of the kingdom.
Why is this important? Because unlike all other kingdoms, the kingdom of God comes by hearing. And when the seed of truth is understood and believed the kingdom grows. Not by force, not by coercion or not even by the majority rule of the democratic process… but by hearing and believing. And when Jesus wants to covey this to us he does it with a parable.
Prayer: Open my eyes to the truth of this parable and allow me to apply it to my own understanding of how I hear the gospel.

Jesus Revealed

Luke 7:48-50
48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The final sequence of events has to do with the forgiveness of sins. The Pharisees ask a very important question: “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
Simon and his friends had a concept of forgiveness that did not involve a personal relationship with God. In their religious system God had set the standard of behavior in the Law of Moses and as long as the conditions were met they considered themselves Gods children. Years of manipulating the laws in a way that provided a series of convenient loopholes allowed them to believe they were actually keeping the law and gave them a false assurance of being right with God. And if they sinned openly there were sacrifices allowed by law to cover the sin.
So living a good life and making the appropriate sacrifice for sin when necessary was a way of life they could control. No need for personal relationships with God. And they looked down on people like this woman who did not live up to their standards.
But they were not living a life of love for God. The command to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself was completely ignored. And when they observed this woman’s act of love, worship and reverence for Jesus they couldn’t understand why anyone would do that. She loved Jesus because he had forgiven her sins and there had been lots of sins. But she came to Jesus broken and contrite and desperate for a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. They had no love for God or his son Jesus because they had no need for forgiveness.
So when they say, “Who is this, who even forgives sins” they are saying, “who do you think you are… God?”
Only God can forgive sin. The Pharisees knew this. Jesus was saying he was God, and they were all stunned. They called him on it and they waited to see if he would back down.
And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
No backing down. Jesus declares to the woman she has been saved by her faith and now has peace with God. This is the deep down desire of all of us. Peace with God. It was the desire of the Pharisees even though they could not admit it.
As Jesus leaves the dinner party I can’t help but wonder how many men were moved by what they had seen that day. How many came later, looking for Jesus maybe at night like Nicodemus, trying to understand what they saw that day. Can it really be that easy? Salvation through faith in Jesus? Forgiveness and peace and the assurance of hope from the lips of the savior?
Prayer: Thank you Lord for your peace and assurance of salvation that come through faith in Christ. And thank you for the love that wells up inside us as we remember how much we have been forgiven for.

Who Can Forgive Sin?

Luke 7:47-50
47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
One of the issues the Pharisees had with Jesus was his insistence that they were in need of forgiveness. “What do we need forgiveness for… we’re righteous because of our works?”
And because they had no need for forgiveness they had no love for Jesus or for the Father whom Jesus represented. But Jesus does not give them an opportunity to be content with that viewpoint. He challenges them directly and is not at all passive with Simon. He confronts not only his belief but the attitude and behaviors that are consistent with his thinking: Superiority, smugness, condescension, rude and discriminatory behavior – all a result of thinking they are above other people because of their insistence that they were keeping the Law of Moses.
How is it that we can squash a bug without regret? Isn’t it because we think ourselves to be superior to that form of life? Being a human gives us liberties that are not available to the animal world, reptiles, fish, birds, insects or even vegetation and those liberties come from God. One of the ways people are dehumanized today is by making them equal to all other forms of life. We see that in play in our current culture.
Another way to dehumanize people is to divide them into classes and races and even by using gender to limit people’s liberty. To make children less important forms of life than adults and to reduce the unborn child to a term like a fetus allows people to subjugate them with lower degrees of liberty and with fewer choices and fewer rights. Our current political system is ripe with this behavior.
Jesus says to Simon in no uncertain terms this is not the way things work in the kingdom of God. You can’t work your way to the top. The way up is down. See yourself as the worst sinner ever and then ask God for mercy and Jesus rescues us by his sacrifice for sin. We are incapable of loving God until we accept his forgiveness.
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much.”
Not her sins are forgiven BECAUSE she loved much. Because she loved much it is evident her sins are forgiven.
Simon and his friends had become expert at putting themselves into higher and higher classifications of superiority… looking down on the sinners of this world. Jesus says not so. The sinners are entering the kingdom ahead of you.
Prayer: Forgive me for my own arrogance and superior attitude as I look down on sinners. Remind me that I am the chief of sinners and were it not for the grace of God I would be lost and without hope. Allow my love to grow as I focus on how much I have been forgiven.

Daily Devotions 2020