We continue our series Upside Down Kingdom as we look at the parables of Jesus. The values of the kingdom of God are completely different than those of the world: The last shall be first, the greatest is the least, the weak shall be strong. Religion tells us that we have to get it together before we go before God, but Jesus said He came for the sick, not the well (Mark 2:17). There’s beauty in recognizing our brokenness.
In a past job, the executives were often given gifts at Christmas time. One year, I was unexpectedly given a gold watch, and the man who gave it to me suggested that I get it insured. For the next month or two, I wore it everywhere – to work, while mowing the lawn. When he reminded me again about getting the watch insured, I took it into the store and had it appraised. When I walked out of the store with my newly cleaned watch and opened the appraisal report, I was shocked at the value and immediately put the watch back in the box and put it in a safe place at home. When I did not understand the value of the watch, it had less meaning and I treated it like a common object. Once I understood the value, my relationship with the watch changed, and my relationship with the man who gave it to me also changed.
It is the same with salvation. When you understand the cost of your salvation and the debt that was paid on your behalf, it will change your relationship with Jesus. When we forget the cost, we treat salvation casually. If you had to rate your level of sin before you were saved on a scale from 1-10, where would be? Does the level change if you start to compare yourself to other people you know, and their sin?
It’s not about relativity because God’s standard is perfection and holiness, and we’ve all missed the mark. The Apostle Paul rated himself as the worst of all sinners. He was moved by God’s love because he recognized his own depravity and need for Jesus.
Today’s parable addresses the fact that where we rank ourselves on the sin ladder affects the way we love Jesus. In our broken nature, we want to think of ourselves as not that bad, and in doing so, we limit our love for God. When we recognize the depth of our depravity, we can fully receive His love and love Him in return.
Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Luke 7:36-38
At the time of Christ, Pharisees were not seen as the enemy of the Messiah. They were well respected religious leaders who knew the scriptures and taught the people. As the religious elite, they wanted the Messiah to come in power and to give them power. The Pharisees didn’t understand Jesus, and so they pushed back against Him because He rocked the core of their beliefs and values.
One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to his home for a meal and they were reclined at the table. The woman learned that Jesus was in the city, and she came to the Pharisee’s house. We can surmise that she had met Jesus at some time before. She was an outcast who sold her body to live, and would be considered unclean, an outsider, a non-entity, not worthy of time or attention, let alone forgiveness. But maybe she had met Jesus before, because something compelled her to go to Him at the house.
The woman went because she had encountered Jesus, and that changed everything. Jesus brought her in, cleansed her, showed her value, granted her dignity, and made her whole again. He saved her from a life of rejection, shame, and nothingness, just as He saved us when we were dead in our sins. We were broken, outcast, spiritual harlots, but God, being rich in mercy, made us alive together in Christ (Ephesians 2:4).
As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine–where are they? “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:12-19
The ten lepers were considered outcasts, separated from their family, friends, and society. They met Jesus from afar, and when He saw them, He told them to go to the priests. As they were going to the priests, they were healed. Only one of the ten recognized his need and turned back to praise Jesus – he was a foreigner, a Samaritan, and he turned back and fell on his face to give thanks. The Samaritan was an outcast by birth, by ethnicity, and by disease, yet when the rabbi healed him, he praised God. He understood the great gift and worshiped Jesus.
In the next passage, we see an encounter between Jesus and a man born blind. The disciples asked Jesus whether it was the man’s sin or his parents’ sin that caused his blindness. Jesus answered that it was neither, and healed the man on the Sabbath. This caused quite a stir in the community and the Pharisees investigated the healing by interviewing the man and his parents. His parents did not want to get in the middle and said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God- fearing and does His will, He hears him. “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out. Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. John 9:24-38
In this account, who worshipped Jesus? Not the parents, not the pharisees, but the blind man who had been in darkness his entire life and now could see. The one who had been in darkness his entire life and who was healed was the grateful one. Because he was born blind, the man came into relationship with Jesus. We are blind to our need for Jesus, and only when we recognize our great and daily need for Jesus will we truly see. We will live a lie of mediocrity and ungratefulness until we recognize and embrace our need.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” Acts 3:1-4
Peter and John went up to the temple, and a lame man was begging for alms. If you’ve ever seen people on the street begging for money, most won’t look you in the eye. Like this man, there’s a sense of insignificance and shame, which is why Peter said, “Look at us.” Eye contact with a person on the street communicates value and worth to a fellow child of God. We are all spiritually homeless apart from Christ. We have nothing to offer and we cannot buy our way out of spiritual poverty – we all need Jesus.
And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene–walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. Acts 3:5-8
When God healed the man, he knew what he had been saved from and he was leaping for joy and praising God! Are we walking and leaping and praising God today for our salvation? We were lame, but now we can walk. We have an inheritance in heaven and we are daughters and sons of the King!
When the Pharisees saw what the woman was doing to Jesus, they criticized Him for letting a person like her touch Him:
Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. “When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Luke 7:39-48
The woman was consumed with what God had done for her, and she responded in an act of worship. Simon did not even offer Jesus the common courtesies of the day, yet the woman went well beyond what was required out of a grateful heart and a love that was born out of Jesus’ love for her.
The lepers, the blind, the lame, and the sinner all describe us spiritually apart from Jesus. We often forget that, and do not offer Jesus the common courtesies of our day. We need to be reminded, which is why Jesus said, “Let him who has ears hear.” In the Upside Down Kingdom of God, it is the weak who experience His strength, the blind who see, the fainthearted who receive His mercy, the foolish who receive His wisdom, and the broken who receive His grace. We need to stop fearing man, and stop believing our own lies and the lies of this world. We need to repent.
‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Revelation 3:17-18
When we are self-sufficient, we forget our needs. We forget that we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked apart from Jesus. What we are depending on in this world isn’t going to make it – we need to come into an understanding of how much God has done for us, and if we know we are forgiven much, we will love much.