What is the posture of Jesus toward those who trust him? In Matthew 11, Jesus invites the weary to come to him that they might find rest. He says he is gentle and lowly in heart. Is that how you have heard Jesus presented? Or have you been told that he is harsh, exacting, and probably disappointed in you?
Members’ Podcast: Jon and Justin talk about the patience, mercy, and gentleness of Christ–and how much we all need to be reminded of that. The guys also discuss self-righteousness and confusion of law and gospel in the pulpit.
Isaiah 42:3; 61:1
Luke 7:36-50; 15:1-35; 18:9-14
2 Corinthians 10:1
Ephesians 4:1-4; 5:1-2
1 John 2:1-2
Justin Perdue: Hi, this is Justin. Today on Theocast, we’re going to be talking about Jesus, and in particular, we’re going to be talking about the posture of Jesus toward his own. In Matthew 11, Jesus invites the weary to come to him and says that he is gentle and lowly in heart. But is that how you have thought about Jesus? Is that how you’ve heard him presented? Or have you heard Jesus presented as something that is frightening, scary, and unsafe? That he is just waiting to drop the hammer on you and is exacting toward his own? If you have, this podcast is for you today, we’re going to consider the love, the patience, the mercy of Jesus in both the regular and the members’ episodes. We hope this is encouraging for you. Stay tuned.
We’re going to be talking about Jesus today, and in a particular way, we’re going to be talking about the nature of Christ, the posture of Jesus, in particular, toward his own.
We are going to be talking about that subject matter because in evangelicalism broadly, there seems to be, at best, a confusing picture painted of the Lord Jesus in terms of his posture toward us and at times almost a conflicting message that is presented to us where Jesus feels all kinds of ways about us, and a number of those ways are not great and they are frightening.
Jon Moffitt: Can I even say, without trying to be sacrilegious, it comes across as if Jesus is bipolar. It’s like at one moment, he’s one way, to the same people, he’s a completely different way. How can that be?
Justin Perdue: I understand what you mean in terms of not wanting to come across as sacrilegious. I just want to clarify. I think what you’re saying is true in that Jesus is depicted that way—that one moment he is gentle, he’s tender, he’s compassionate, and the next moment he is threatening, scary, exacting, and is causing us to question whether or not we’re in him at all, or if anybody ever could be.
Obviously, the ministry here at Theocast is characterized by us helping one another, frankly, and also helping those who might ever listen to us to rest in Christ because we are all weary pilgrims as we are making our way as sojourners and exiles in this wasteland called fallen earth. We’re all pilgrims on the way to the Celestial City, and we are weary because of living life in a fallen world, because we too are still fallen, and battle our sin and struggle in all kinds of ways. It matters very much how we understand our Lord and Savior to relate to us. It matters very much especially in those moments where we’re low and down and not doing well. How is it that Jesus feels about me? How does Jesus think about me? What’s his posture toward me? Is it disappointment, anger, and wrath? Is his MO one of unsettling me and scaring me into zeal, passion, and discipline or is it something else? That question is huge.
Jon Moffitt: It’s the thing that drives you either towards Christ and affection or drives you away from him. I think a lot of the coldness that people feel, this distance, is because they have been handed a Jesus that is exacting, that is harsh, that requires you to be on your game, to be the dedicated people who have figured out how to discipline their life in such a way that it reflects the very nature of Jesus. We’re going to get into this in a minute, but we use law passages that are meant to crush you, we use them to motivate us to draw near to Christ. We’re going to make the argument that what draws us near to Jesus is not the law of Christ, but what draws us near to Christ is his mercy, his grace, his gentleness, his kindness, and his love.
Justin Perdue: His love, his patience—all of those things.
Jon Moffitt: The kindness of God is what’s supposed to lead us to repentance. But what happens is, and I know that you and I have both experienced this style of Christianity within the modern, and I would say, conservative evangelical world, the Calvinistic world, and even parts of the Reformed world, Jesus is used as a whipping post. You take him and you just beat people over the head with, “Well, this is what Jesus is requiring of you and you’re not doing it. How dare you say you’re a Christian? How do you not question your salvation if you aren’t living up to Jesus expectations of…?” Then whatever you want to put in there, whether it’s forsaking all wealth, your affections, your time, your dedication, evangelism. Then Jesus is presented to you as one that requires, I would say, not the complete law because no one could do that, and they would say no one is saved by the law, but a lesser view of the law. It’s not a full debt. I think you said it well in a podcast a few weeks ago: it’s not that they’re expecting you to be perfect, but you at least need to have the desire to be perfect. When you can’t make it, when you’re not there, you look at Jesus not as one to adore, but you look at him and you wonder how you could even ever consider yourself to be a part of his family because you can’t live up to the expectations he’s put upon you.
Justin Perdue: Maybe a quick caveat out of the gate, before I say what I’m about to and launch us into this conversation, is in everything that we’re about to say, in no way are we contradicting the idea that we would reverence the Lord Jesus Christ. Not to bury the lead here, but to understand that he is gentle, lowly, patient, and kind, that he loves us and that he delights to show grace and mercy to sinners who know they need him is in no way contradictory with the fact that he is the Lord of all creation and that we reverence him, and that we reverence God, meaning that we understand who the Lord is and what He requires because He has revealed it to us in his holy law and we understand that for every law breaker, the wrath of God rightly comes upon him or her. So, of course, we revere the Lord in that way; we fear Him in that biblical sense of that word, that word “fear” meaning to reverence and to be in awe. Of course we are. Part of what makes God so worthy of that is the fact that He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, and that He delights to show that, and He delights to forgive iniquity, transgressions, and sins—and He has done that in the person and work of God the Son made flesh whose name is Jesus.
Now, we’re going to talk about him. I know I need this conversation regularly in my own Christian life. I know you feel the same, brother, and I trust there are thousands and thousands of people out there who will listen to this who need this as well.
Let’s start by doing a little bit of, as we like to phrase it, deconstruction—to diagnose what’s going on out there that produces this kind of confusion with respect to Jesus and his posture toward us. We’re in him. We talk a decent amount on this podcast about the distinction between law and gospel, and how important that is that we rightly divide those two things. That manifests itself in a whole host of ways, but pertinent to our conversation today, there is a ton of confusion in evangelicalism broadly, and maybe even more specifically, as you alluded to a minute ago, the Calvinistic evangelical world. I say this humbly but unashamedly: there is a failure to rightly distinguish between law and gospel when it comes to the speaking, the teaching, and the discourses of Jesus Christ; the words that come out of his mouth as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. A lot of people out there assume that if Jesus said it, that it must be gospel somehow. If it’s a red letter, it must be gospel.
Jon Moffitt: I have to be careful, and you need to understand some of the titles that are presented in the Bible are not biblical—the books didn’t necessarily have titles to them. ” The Gospel of John” is misleading; it should be “The Life and Times of Jesus Written by John”. Because not everything in John’s letter is gospel.
Justin Perdue: Some of what Jesus says is gospel; most of what Jesus preaches and teaches is law. Everything that Jesus came to do in our place that we never could is gospel. So his perfect life, his righteousness that’s counted to us by faith—that’s gospel. His passive obedience, his suffering, bearing the penalty of the law in the place of those of us who have broken it, bearing the wrath of God for our transgression and iniquity—that’s gospel. His triumphant resurrection that vindicated all of his work, but also secured our bodily resurrection—that’s gospel.
Jon Moffitt: Another way to almost reword gospel is that it’s the reward of the works of Christ. We are being rewarded what Christ has done. It’s tricky when you’re using illustrations, but you and I would not describe the playing of a football game, the middle of the game, as the actual reward. No, the reward, the win comes at the end. If you mix those two, which ends up happening, gospel means we are receiving what Christ has done, but somehow gospel means, no, it’s what Christ has done and what you do, too.
Justin Perdue: The gospel is the message. It’s the news of what Christ has done. That results in the salvation of the elect, the salvation of all the saints, because of Christ and because of him alone. That’s the good news. The good news, as we’ve talked about recently, actually contains nothing within it that we are to do.
The issue at hand here is that when you collapse law and gospel, and when you don’t distinguish between law and gospel as Jesus is speaking and teaching it and interacting with people, then what you end up doing is giving and painting this very confusing picture of Christ. When Jesus encounters people who are self-righteous, when he encounters people who are trusting in themselves, either that they are righteous or that they can become or achieve that righteousness, he meets that with an exacting posture, he meets that with even a threatening and unsettling posture, and he speaks law into those situations and to those people. His aim is to unsettle every person who understands that he or she is well, to unsettle every person that understands that he is righteous. He is aiming to crush people with the law that they might see who they are rightly, and then be driven to their only hope, who is Christ himself. That’s his mission. And that’s what he’s trying to achieve.
Again, not to bury the lead: every time Jesus encounters a person in the gospels, every time he encounters a person who is aware of his or her need, who understands that he or she is sick, unrighteous, has no merit, and are desperate, every time he encounters such a person, he greets them and meets that with compassion, gentleness, tenderness, and he forgives their sins.
Jon Moffitt: That’s what he even says: “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” When Jesus is talking to those Pharisees, they want Jesus to be the victorious King, and Jesus is like, “No, I’m here to save you. Unless you see me as that, then you cannot be saved.”
Real quick, I want to take us to Matthew 11. This is a great point, Justin, what you just made. Jesus is having a conversation with this crowd of Pharisees. He’s dialoguing with them about the nature of himself, what he is here for, and how it is that he is going to save sinners, but they don’t see themselves as sinners. In the midst of this conversation, he just starts praying. Matthew says he’s praying publicly out loud in front of these Pharisees. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.”
Justin Perdue: It’s dripping with irony.
Jon Moffitt: These people are not looking at Jesus with affection at this moment after he says this. They’re clenching their fists even more. They’re even more upset.
Justin Perdue: Because he’s praying a prayer in their midst that indites them.
Jon Moffitt: In their culture, children are a thing to be shunned, they’re to be quiet, they’re to be put off in the background.
Justin Perdue: They represent foolishness and neediness.
Jon Moffitt: That’s exactly right. Jesus is saying that the Father of heaven has revealed it to the needy and foolish, but to you who think you’re wise, he’s hidden it from you. “Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” You have here Jesus saying that if you’re going to know the Father, it can only happen through him, and if you want to know Him, then Jesus is going to be the one that reveals it to you, and you who are self-righteous and you who see no need of Jesus, you’re going to be blind to it.
Now it’s almost like he speaks past over the shoulders of the people he’s talking to and onto those in the background who are too afraid to stand up front because they’re not as righteous as the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Jesus looks past them and says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden.” Labor under what? He just got done talking about those who are self-righteous under the law, a law that really isn’t the Moses Law; it’s their law. Then he says “heavy laden”—you could feel the weight of your sin under that. Then, I love this: “And I will give you rest.” Then he says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
What’s interesting is that Jesus doesn’t speak of himself, as far as his nature is concerned; he speaks of the Father’s will, the relationship to the Father, the relationship of, “I am the door”, “I’m the way”, “I’m the light”, “I’m the living water”. But here he is calling those who are feeling, I would say, trashed by the law; their sins are just weighing them down. What does Jesus use to entice them to come down? Is it fear? Is it dread? Is it the future of God coming and throwing them into some kind of a… No, he says, “Come to me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,” which is contrasting the Pharisees; they are harsh and they are not lowly in heart.
Justin Perdue: Jesus, over and over again, is clear that he has nothing for people who understand that they’re doing well with respect to the law. He’ll even say, “I didn’t come to call the righteous, I came to call sinners. I didn’t come for those who are well, I came for those who are sick.” Now, he’s not saying that there are those who are righteous in and of themselves. He’s not saying that there are any fallen human beings who aren’t sick. His point is, “I came for those who know they are in need.” I agree with your point that the Pharisees had, if anything, just added to that burden by putting the hedge around the law. Not only was there the Mosaic Law and everything that it contained, there was even more piled on top of it. So Christ is speaking to people who have been crushed by that, who are quite literally being buried under that burden that they can’t carry—and they know they can’t. He says to those people, “Come to me. You’re weary, you’re exhausted, you’re way down. Come to me. That burden that’s on you that’s impossible for you to bear, I’ll carry that for you.” The reason that he can say, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,” is because Jesus has taken the yoke of the law upon himself for us and has fulfilled it; he has carried that load and then he invites us to come to him, and he gives us a very different yoke, a very different burden that he says is easy and light. We’ll probably talk about what that is here in a minute.
This is a word to the weary struggler, to the person who knows deep in his or her heart that they’re not meeting the standard and they’re grieved by it, they’re exhausted, they can’t do it. And it’s effectively the tax collector from Luke 18. It’s the beating your chest, not looking up to heaven, saying, “God, have mercy on me because I’m a sinner.” That’s who this is to. And look at the posture of our Lord towards us.
Jon Moffitt: I always find comfort when you look at Peter, Paul, and James, and they reflect on Christ. They, in many ways, interpret the gospels. You have to understand that sometimes we think that the way that the New Testament was written was from Matthew forward. Actually, the gospels come a lot later. For instance, Corinthians was written before the gospel. There are a lot of people who don’t know this.
Justin Perdue: Galatians is probably the earliest piece of writing in the New Testament.
Jon Moffitt: Exactly. I think it’s James that’s close by. Paul describes Jesus and he says, “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” If someone wants to say, “Jon, you guys are misrepresenting Christ here in Matthew and you are not interpreting that correctly.” I’m interpreting it the way Paul does because he says he’s entreating them. He’s calling them to repentance. He’s begging them with what? The meekness and gentleness of Christ. I look at that and I go, “That makes sense.”
Justin Perdue: Here’s another one: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” Paul’s word there in 1 Timothy 1:15-16 is, “I am the foremost of sinners.” In other words, nobody’s a worse sinner than me and Jesus Christ has been gracious and patient with me so that you might know that he will be the same way with you.
Jon Moffitt: Recently people are increasingly getting confused by rest and not taking sin seriously. There is no way under heaven and hell that Jesus is saying, “Come on to me and don’t worry about your sin.” That’s not what he’s saying. He is saying, “Come to me and I’m going to free you from your sin.” When he says, “rest for your soul”, what gives your soul anxiety? What causes it to feel guilt and sin?
Justin Perdue: He’s talking to people who are grieved by sin.
Jon Moffitt: Resting is not saying,” I don’t have to worry about my sin because there’s grace.” no grace leads us to repentance.
Justin Perdue: For any person who is arrogant or comfortable in sin. There is a message that we speak from Scripture and it’s called the law. Jesus does that in his ministry, the apostles do it in their writing, we do it, Jon, as preachers and pastors in our local churches. We preach the law toward those who are arrogant and comfortable in sin.
Jon Moffitt: I winna go back to here and what Jesus is saying, and I love it because it brings so much comfort to know that what we have been saying and preaching and what leads us along is grounded in the very words and nature of Jesus Christ. It’s not as if I needed this, but when I look at it, as you said, Justin, sometimes we get beat down by, unfortunately, legalism and pietism; people will attack you. There is so much of it that it’s prevalent in popular evangelicalism. I just want to say, have we not read Matthew 11? Why is this not a part of our systematic theology when we think about Christology? I want to say here again that he’s talking to people who are crushed by their sin. The law that’s being put upon them is too much for them to carry—those who are heavy laden and burdened. Then he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” Why would we want to do that, Jesus? He goes well, “Because I am gentle and lowly in heart. My intentions are not to crush you. My intentions are not for you to earn your salvation. I am here to give you the rest they and the law cannot give you.”
Jesus has made his yoke and his burden very, very obvious of what he means by that. What does he mean? We go find rest in Jesus, he’s giving the rest of our souls; now, what are we supposed to be doing?
Justin Perdue: He says, “You’re burdened and heavy laden. Come to me. I have taken the burden of the law from you. I have fulfilled it. I have taken the burden of your sins from you and have atoned for them, and you will bear none of that anymore.” I’m going to say the shortest and then expand a little bit where he effectively says to us, “Now that I have done all that for you, and you have come to me, love me and love each other.” Loving him is more, “Love me and abide in my love. Live and rest and dwell in my love, but love each other.” Even if we’re going to say it as “love me and love each other”, we respond to that as those whom Jesus Christ has rescued. Oh yeah, absolutely. What else would we do, Jesus, but to love you in light of how you have loved us and have given yourself for us? That’s Ephesians 5:1-2. Also Ephesians 5:1-2: therefore we love each other. Of course, this is what we would do. That yoke is easy and that burden is light, according to the Lord Jesus. And it is.
Jon Moffitt: I want you to pay attention again to Paul. Paul says in Ephesians 4, he gets done just giving you the glory of Christ. We probably mention this passage every week, but it’s so relevant to the everyday life of the Christian; why not mention it? Ephesians 4, Paul says, “I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” If we go back to Matthew 11, he says that if you believe in Jesus, if you’ve come to him, that’s because it’s been revealed to you or he has called you unto himself. Paul is saying if you’re one of these ones who have been called, this is the burden that you bear. I love this. He doesn’t point to actions, as far as these are the watermarks by which you must hit; he says, “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity in the bond of peace. It’s like, “Listen, be nice to each other. That’s what I need you to do. Be kind.”
Justin Perdue: In other words, love each other; be humble, be gentle, be patient, be kind, and pursue unity because we have all been united to the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re united to him and we’re united to one another in him. That’s the message, for sure.
Hebrews is chock full of stuff, but Hebrews 7 is beautiful, where we read in Hebrews 7:25, in particular, that Jesus always lives to make intercession for his own. He is able to save to the uttermost all those who draw near to God through him. That’s a wonderful, wonderful thought about Christ and his posture toward us. He intercedes for us. But then also he advocates for us when we sin. 1 John 2:1-2. “Little children, I’m writing these things to use so that none of you may sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but the sins of the whole world.” Christ advocates for his people. Dane Ortlund does a good job of talking about Christ’s roles. Dane does a nice job of talking about Christ as intercessor and Christ as advocate. Even the difference between the two, that as an intercessor, that’s an ongoing role; as an advocate, that particularly happens when we sin. It’s not that Jesus advocates for us once we’ve gotten beyond our sin and we’ve gotten better; he advocates for us in the midst of it, and that’s a wonderful reminder in terms of Christ’s gentleness in his love toward us even in our weakness and failure.
A couple of other passages from the gospels—and these are both from Luke that come to mind—we touched on one of these a few weeks ago, so I’m not going to labor it. In the aftermath of that interchange in Luke 14, where Jesus is exhorting people to take up their cross and more or less to renounce everything they would ever look to in themselves, immediately Luke 15 follows. Jesus is speaking to people, and we’re told that sinners and tax collectors are gathering around him; they’re drawing near to him and the Pharisees don’t like it. Then what does Christ do in that context where he’s got sinners and tax collectors drawing near to him, and the Pharisees are upset? Because those kinds of folk shouldn’t draw near to a prophet. What does he do? He tells three parables about the joy that there is in heaven when sinners are saved.
Jon Moffitt: Not the righteous.
Justin Perdue: When sinners repent, when sinners are saved, there’s rejoicing in heaven, just like when a shepherd loses a sheep and goes and finds it, brings it back, and has a party. Just like the woman who loses a coin, turns her house upside down and inside out and finds it, calls her friends together and has a party. Jesus says it will be in heaven.
Then, of course, the prodigal son, which is all about the posture of God toward us. We’ve blown it in every way, and then even when we think about how we relate to God, we come back to God with all of these pitches and presentations. “Let me work for you as a slave. Treat me as a hired servant.” And the Father effectively says none of that; I’ve got a robe of righteousness for you, a ring of grace, and shoes of mercy. Let’s celebrate cause you were lost and are found; you were dead and you’re now alive. It’s who God is. That’s huge that we would understand that whole passage, that whole chapter, that’s very well known. What is it that gives occasion for it? It is self-righteousness, people that think they don’t need a Savior, and people who are upset that Jesus would have sinners draw near to him. Christ is like, “You don’t get it. This is who I am. This is who my Father is.”
Jon Moffitt: I was going to say that what’s interesting about the story of the prodigal son is that the prodigal son never disowned his father. He still realized that he was in his family, but what did he try to do? He tried to earn his way back into the good graces of the father.
Justin Perdue: He tried to earn it. He said, “Let me work. Let me be a slave.” The father interrupts his pitch. Because he’s saying, “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and before you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.” And he’s going to say, “Treat me as a hired servant.” That’s when the father says, “Bring the best robe and put it on him.”
We think, “I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to somehow plead my case and bring something.” And the Father delights to say, “No, that was never what this was about.” And of course that robe of righteousness is the very righteousness of Christ that we put on.
Jon Moffitt: Right. And it’s not that the father was justifying the son’s sin because the son had repented; he had come home. If you think we’re saying God is just going to look past your sin, that’s not what we’re saying.
I’m going to read to you a couple of passages that are, what I would say, prophecies of Christ, and even the nature of God’s relationship to the sinner. First one is Isaiah 42:3, when he says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” There are so many people in my church, and we’ve even gotten three or four or five emails this morning from Theocast listeners from around the world—this describes you. You are bruised for a number of reasons; it could be circumstances, it could be cancer, it could be your own sin. Then you definitely feel this idea of you being barely alive. What we hear in this radicalness, in this description of Jesus, is that if you’re not full of flame on fire for God, then you should be questioning your salvation, you should be questioning whether you’re truly in God. And you have here the prophets saying, “Don’t worry. For those of you who feel like a strong enough wind is going to come and snap you, and you’re not as strong as you know you’re supposed to be, and for those of you that a little poof is going to blow out your fire, don’t worry. That is not going to happen.”
I’m going to read you a quote from Richard Sibbes’ book, The Bruised Reed. He quotes Isaiah 61:1, and he says, “He ‘binds up the broken hearted’. As a mother is tenderest toward the most diseased and weakest child, so does Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest. Likewise he puts an instinct into the weakest things to rely upon something stronger than themselves for support. The vine steadies itself upon the elm, and the weakest creatures often have the strongest shelters. The consciousness of the church’s weakness makes her willing to lean on her Beloved and to hide herself under his wings.” I love this. The church is described as weak and Christ is described as strong. We somehow reverse this as if we are the ones to be strong, and Jesus says, “No, I’ll be strong enough for you.”
Justin Perdue: Amen, brother. There’s a great interchange toward the end of //The Bruised Reed//. It’s a hypothetical dialogue between Satan and a believer. Satan, of course, is the great accuser of the brethren, and so Sibbes is talking about how effectively, as we would frame it, the sufficiency of Christ and the love of Christ toward us is what we are able to look to in order to extinguish the darts of the enemy. Satan, of course, is lobbying all these accusations about how this believer has no faith, no love, and all these things, and the believer is acknowledging it: “You’re right. I’ve got barely a hint of faith and love.” The devil will say, “Christ is not going to regard that.” the believer keeps pointing back to Jesus and the nature of Christ ultimately to say, “No, Jesus will fan that flame. He will sustain and fan that flame until he has brought judgment to victory.” That is the hope of the Christian.
One last passage, Jon, from the gospels that I think is really good to illustrate the posture of Jesus towards sinners; it’s the woman of the city from Luke 7. This is a woman who is a prostitute. Jesus has been invited by a Pharisee to come have dinner at his house. Jesus is in the house of Simon the Pharisee, and this woman of the city, as Luke says, because she has heard that Jesus is there, she comes to this Pharisee’s house. That’s a shocking thing to say in and of itself, that a woman at the city who is a sinner, a prostitute, would come to the house of a Pharisee because she’s heard that Christ is there. Of course, there’s the famous account where she comes in and she cleans the feet of Christ with her own tears, her own hair, and anoints them with the ointment she’s brought and all of these things, and the Pharisee is indignant. He’s thinking if this man were a prophet, he would have nothing to do with this woman because of the kind of woman she is. Of course, Christ knows his thoughts and gives him this illustration about a moneylender who had two debtors, one owed him 500 denarii, the other owed him 50. Neither could pay, and the moneylender forgives the debt. Who’s going to love the moneylender more? And the Pharisee rightly answers that it’s the one who had the bigger debt forgiven. So Christ then points to the woman and demonstrates that she has done all of these things for him because she has been forgiven much. He says that her sins, though they are many, have been forgiven, and she has loved much. And then he just looks at this woman and says to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Two verses later, he looks at her and he says, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” It’s so good. It’s gripping, right?
An observation not unique to me: Jesus offers not one single word of rebuke to that woman. Though her sins are many, he says so himself, the only words he speaks to her are words of forgiveness and peace. “You’re forgiven, daughter, and you can go in peace because your faith in me has saved you.” Jesus is a friend for sinners; there is none like him. This is how he always treats people who come to him in that way, and that’s what we are aiming to uphold this morning and what we aim to uphold in our churches all the time. Jon, I need this, you need this. I need Christ to look upon me, a wretch, who knows I’m a wretch, and say, “Son, you’re forgiven. You can go in peace because your faith in me has saved you.”
Jon Moffitt: To your point, Justin, she doesn’t need to be rebuked. She is there because she’s a sinner. Someone might say, “Jon, you gotta be careful there. Justin, should be careful because that can make it sound like someone could live in prostitution and just come to Jesus and it’s okay.” No, she came to Jesus because she wanted forgiveness, not justification for her sins.
Justin Perdue: Amen, brother. It’s very clear in the context: she’s got no merit, she’s got no righteousness, she’s got no confidence in herself. Her posture is meek, humble, and contrite, and is casting herself upon Christ. To everyone who comes to him that way, Jesus says, “I will never cast you out. I will keep you and I will raise you up on the last day.”
Jon Moffitt: If you are the smoldering wick and the bruised reed, let me encourage you that Paul makes it very clear how it is that you were to be cared for and it’s not by yourself. Justin and I will explain that to you. Secondly, I have some thoughts on preachers who come in with the self-righteousness, almost of the Pharisees, and just lay law on those who are the smoldering wick and the bruised reed, and it is disgusting. So I have some thoughts on that as well.
Justin Perdue: I imagine the members’ podcast, the one we’re about to do, is going to be spirited today. If you want to listen in on that conversation, you can find more information about our membership and ways that you can partner with the podcast at our website, theocast.org. The membership and everything related to it is going to be changing in the near future. I know we’ve been saying that for a number of weeks. We’re working hard to get that pulled off for you, and we are excited about what it’s going to be like. The podcast that we’re about to do is very much a family time. We’re having a conversation with one another. Those who have partnered with us to join this Reformation, we’re going to continue to think about this subject matter in terms of the posture of Christ and even some of the things that John raised: how a number of preachers seem to have a posture that is similar to that of the Pharisees and self-righteousness and all that good stuff.
If you’re interested in that conversation, we look forward to talking with many of you over there. We thank you for listening today. We hope that you have been encouraged as we have thought about the gentle and lowly posture of Jesus Christ towards sinners like us. We look forward to talking with you again next week.