March 5, Thursday
One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to come to his home for a meal. During the meal a woman of ill-repute came in. Weeping, she approached Jesus. Because they usually ate their dinners reclining, she came up behind Jesus and stood at His feet. She washed His feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and kissed them. Then she anointed them with a fragrant oil.
Of course, the Pharisee was appalled at this and thought to himself, “If He were really a man of God, He’d know what kind of woman this is; and He would have stopped her.”
Jesus said to him, “Simon, let me tell you a story.”
Simon, the host, replied, “Do tell.”
And so Jesus began, “Once upon a time there was a banker who had made loans to two individuals. As time went on, it turned out that neither one could afford to pay back their debt. The banker, kind fellow that he was, forgave them both. Now, a question for you, Simon: if one of them owed fifty dollars and the other one ten times that, which one would love the banker most?”
Simon said, “No doubt it would be the one with the larger debt.”
Jesus answered, “You got that right! Now, about this woman: whereas you didn’t offer me the common courtesy of a foot-rinsing and a towel to dry them when I arrived, she, on the other hand washed them with her tears and dried them with her own hair. Some hosts greet their guests with a friendly kiss on the cheek — which you didn’t, she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since she got here. And some hosts bless their guests with a token anointing of perfume upon entering the house — again, not something you were inclined to do for Me; but the fragrant aroma of the oil she rubbed on my feet now fills the room. In other words, she who may have sinned greatly (in your eyes) has loved much. As for those who don’t feel the need for forgiveness, there’s not too much gratitude in their hearts.”
Then Jesus turned to the woman and said, “Your many sins are all forgiven.” While the other guests were trying to wrap their minds around how He could claim to forgive sins, Jesus went on to tell her, “Your trusting response to God has set you free. Go in peace.”
Jesus continued His ministry to the towns and cities throughout Israel, spreading the liberating and exciting Message of what God’s Kingdom was like and how to be part of it. The twelve apostles went everywhere with Him, as well as a few women whose lives had been touched by Jesus. Among the women were Mary from Magdala, whom Jesus had rescued from seven demons; Joanna, wife of one of Herod’s personal assistants; and another named Susanna. Many women who had the means saw to the provisions Jesus and His disciples needed from day to day.
In one place they entered a house, but the crowd pressed in so tightly there wasn’t even room to sit down and eat. Not everyone was so impressed, however. Even some of his own family were saying that He was “out of His mind.” Nevertheless, the steady flow of blind, mute, and demon-possessed came and received their healing. The phenomenon was causing people to wonder if, in fact, this was the “Son of David” who would become their great deliverer and King.
The Pharisees would have none of it. Instead, they started explaining away Jesus’ activities as being energized by Beelzebub, another name for Satan, the ruler of the demons.
Jesus knew what they were thinking and spoke up, using some stories to make His point.
“Really now, why would Satan be in the business of casting out demons? Everyone knows that a kingdom divided from within can’t stand long. That’s no way to take dominion. Besides, if my exorcism is authored by Beelzebub, as you suggest, where do your sons get their power to do the same thing? If, on the other hand, I am doing this by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has come here and now.
“Who would ever think of breaking into the home of a strong man to rob him without first tying him up? Once that’s taken care of, he can plunder the whole place.
“I’m here to tell you that anyone who isn’t actively working with Me is working against Me; and worse than that, if anyone attributes the Message or work that I’m doing to the devil, they have committed an unpardonable sin — not because of what they’re saying about Me but because of what they’re saying about God’s Holy Spirit who is behind everything I do.
“It’s easy to tell what kind of tree you have by the fruit it produces. Some of you are like poisonous snakes spitting out your venom. What should we expect? What comes out of a man’s mouth is whatever his heart is full of. Your own words, even the most insignificant ones, will testify against you in the Great Judgment. But those who have stored up good treasure in their hearts will speak good things, and their testimony will acquit them on that Day. Words have consequences.”
The scribes and Pharisees shifted the subject matter by suggesting they just needed some clear sign or evidence that He was who He claimed to be.
Jesus didn’t change the subject but continued His scathing exposé: “It’s an adulterous, unbelieving generation that requires more signs. Here’s a sign for you: Jonah was in the belly of a great fish for three long days and nights and the Son of Man will spend three days in the heart of the earth.
“Need another sign? The men of Ninevah will shake their heads at your unbelief since they repented when Jonah preached judgment to them, and I’m greater than Jonah.
“Or this one? The queen of Sheba will testify against you at the judgment since she traveled a long distance to hear what Solomon had to say, and I’m greater than Solomon.
“We’ve been talking about unclean spirits. Listen to this: suppose an evil spirit leaves a man and goes out looking for a better victim, but, after searching far and wide, finds nothing. That spirit will not only return to the cleaned-up but empty soul, but will also bring seven more treacherous spirits with him. Without question, the man is worse off at the end than he was at first. That’s a word for this wicked generation.”
While He was teaching the multitude, His mother and brothers came to talk with Him; but they couldn’t get anywhere near Him. Someone noticed them and let Him know they were there.
Jesus’ response was unexpected. “You want to meet my family?” He asked. “It’s you. Any of you who loves My Father and is anxious to hear what He says, and to do what He wants you to do is a member of My real family.”