James Alex Gardiner

Luke 7: 36-50; 10: 25-37; 15: 13-24

          These scriptures, beloved, are often used in the glad tidings, and used very successfully, the Lord using them to bring about blessing in persons’ souls.  I trust they will be used at this time to effect blessing in all our souls.  I came to them by way of what the Lord says to Simon; He says, “I have somewhat to say to thee”.  He may have somewhat to say to each one of us at this time.  He is having to do with a Pharisee in chapter 7, a lawyer in chapter 10, and Pharisees and scribes in chapter 15, and they are standing athwart the activities of divine grace and divine blessing.  I hope there is nobody in this room like that - no Pharisees, persons who feel they are far superior to other people - here.    The glad tidings come to us, beloved, in order that we might be blessed, that we might be relieved of the burden of our sins, that we might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; and that we might make way for the love of God to be shed abroad in our hearts, with all the fullness and blessedness of what is involved in that.  We need to be in reality; real about things. 

          Here is a Pharisee in chapter 7 who begs Jesus that He would eat with him.  There is a certain urgency about this, ‘You must come and have a meal with me’, as though he really wanted the Lord to be there.  The Lord Jesus takes His place at table, and then something happens which would have been an embarrassment to the Pharisee, an intrusion as he would have thought.  This section has to do with love for Christ, manifest in wisdom’s children in their love for Christ.  Now ask yourself, ’Are you one of wisdom’s children?’ - am I one of wisdom’s children?.  People may think they are very wise, that they have got a fair bit of common sense.  They may think that they can judge things, can assess things and so forth.  It is only natural to fallen man. Well, there is a woman here who has great desire to be in the presence of Christ, and nothing is going to stop her.   Is that you, beloved?  This is her conviction.  The glad tidings has in mind that persons should be convicted.  And they should be so convicted that nothing is going to stop them getting to the Lord Jesus.  This woman was not coming to confess her sins or anything like that, she is showing an appreciation for Christ.  That is very remarkable, and it has been mentioned over the centuries as an example of reality and an attitude that receives divine commendation; how blessed that is!  The Lord comes in to the house, sits down, takes His place at table, and if this woman had not come in you would have thought that was all right, you would have thought this Pharisee was a very genuine fellow: he begged Him to come into his house.  Appearances do not mean everything.  Maybe they do not mean much, and instances happen which manifest the real motivation, the real attitude of the Pharisee.  Here is a woman, who comes into the house; could you cope?  “A woman in the city who was a sinner”.  I suppose that is past history: she “knew that he was sitting at meat in the house of the Pharisee”.  She is a very intelligent woman, she knew where the Lord was, and she locates Him and nothing is going to stop her coming to Christ.  She was a sinner, but not now; I do not think there is anything of the sinner about her.  She comes into the house, and “having taken an alabaster box of myrrh, and standing at his feet behind him weeping, began to wash his feet with tears; and she wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the myrrh”.  She is making everything of the Lord Jesus.  This Pharisee’s house is cold and austere.  They really give the Lord the impression, ’We have asked you in here, but we do not really want you’.  Have you ever been in any place like that?  ‘Oh yes, you must come’, and then when you go you get a cold shoulder; that is what the Pharisee did to the Lord.  And this woman comes in, and the Lord Jesus says to Simon, ‘See this woman, she has furnished me with everything you should have furnished me with’.  How does this bear upon you, beloved?  Has it any reaction in your heart?  Simon begins to speak to himself; he says, “This person if he were a prophet would have known who and what the woman is who touches him, for she is a sinner”.  “This person if he were a prophet”.  That is all he thinks about Him, ‘this person’.  “This person if he were a prophet would have known who and what the woman is who touches him”.  Now this is the part that impressed me to read these scriptures: Jesus says, “Simon, I have somewhat to say to thee”.  Beloved, He may have something to say to you.  He may have something to say to me at this time.  “I have somewhat to say to thee”.  ‘Oh’ Simon says ‘Say on, say it, Teacher’.  Not the prophet now, “Teacher, say it”.  He says, “There were two debtors of a certain creditor: one owed five hundred denarii and the other fifty; but as they had nothing to pay, he forgave both of them their debt: say, which of them therefore will love him most?”  This creditor must have been a very wealthy person, if he could write off debt like that.  The Lord Jesus is indicating how divine love acts, how grace acts.  Think of God writing off your debt.  Could you estimate your debt?  Could I?  You would never have any hope of counting up the amount of sins and the things that you have done, militantly against divine grace and against God.  Beloved, you are a sinner, ’Simon, you are a sinner, you might as well accept it.’  What are you going to do about it?  Do you know Him as your Saviour?  Has your debt been written off?  Have you got a clearance?  You may be a fifty pence debtor, or a five hundred pence debtor or a thousand pence debtor; it makes no difference.  You are a debtor, you are a sinner, and as a sinner you have to do with a holy God.  And He is prepared, beloved, to write off your debt, to free you: “he forgave both of them their debt”.  “Forgave ...  them.”  Jesus, beloved, at this very moment is prepared to forgive you your debt.  God is prepared to forgive you your debt.  He would write it off: He is wealthy.  He has got an abundance of grace.  How great God is, known as the Father, and He would write off your debt now.  He would let you know that you are forgiven.  Have to do with Him.  What does He want?  All He wants is repentance; all He wants is for you to admit the fact that you are a debtor.  Do not play the Pharisee part; that is only fatal.  It will get you nowhere - in fact, it will end up in judgment.  You go on to chapter 16 and there is a man in hades and he is looking upward.  He says ‘Go and tell my brothers; this is an awful place; all I need is just a drop of water’.  Oh, it is fixed; there is a great gulf fixed.  How urgent the glad tidings are, beloved.  How urgent they are, because the day may finish at any time; who knows when the Lord is going to come.  He could come now; He could come later on this evening.  His lovers are waiting for Him, and when He comes the day of grace is finished.  But now you can have your debt forgiven.  It can be written off: complete clearance.  “He forgave both of them their debt.”  Simon - he is hesitant he is a Pharisee, he will not come clean - he says, “I suppose”.  What a foolish thing to say, was it not, “I suppose”?  Why does he say, “I suppose”?  “I suppose he to whom he forgave the most”.  Well, that was obvious was it not?  Have you got a reserve about this?  Have you?  Are you Simon?  “Turning to the woman”, she is an example.  ’This is an example of persons who love me and who have had their debt forgiven’.  Take a look at her, find her in the scripture, see what she does.  She does not speak, she does not say anything.  The Lord Jesus manifests divine approbation for this woman.  He tells Simon what she has done.  ‘Why did you not do that, Simon?’  ‘She did this, why did you not do this?’  ‘I came into your house, you treated me in the most awful inhospitable way, but this woman was full of hospitality; look what she did’.  He says ‘You did not give me water on my feet, she washed my feet with tears; you did not make me comfortable, Simon.  In fact you made me feel most uncomfortable’.  Is that how you are, beloved, when the Lord Jesus speaks to you?  But maybe you are uncomfortable when He speaks to you - “Simon, I have somewhat to say to thee”.  Think of that.  “Thou gavest me not a kiss, but she from the time I came in has not ceased kissing my feet.  My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but she has anointed my feet with myrrh.”  See how the pronoun is emphatic, she has done this, she has done that, she has done the next thing, and ’you have done nothing’.  That is a very sad matter of condemnation over against this great matter of approbation.  This woman who was a sinner, a woman of the city who was a sinner, and this is how much she loves Christ; this is one of wisdom’s children.  This is the wise thing to do.  “She has anointed my feet with myrrh.  For which cause I say to thee, Her many sins are forgiven; for she loved much; but he to whom little is forgiven loves little.  And he said to her, Thy sins are forgiven.  And they that were with them at table began to say within themselves, Who is this who forgives also sins?”.  They do not come out with it; they think it, they turn it over in their minds, ’Who is this?  Who is this person?  If He knew ...’.   They have no appreciation or apprehension as to the greatness of Christ in His dispensing divine grace. 

          This is the mercy seat here.  Christ in Luke’s gospel is the manifestation of the mercy seat.  You can go to Him at any time, and speak to Him; He will answer your questions.  He says to the woman, “Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace”.  Would you like Him to say that to you, beloved?  He would say that to you as you go out of this room, “Go in peace”.  Not a care in the world - your conscience is clear, the burden of sin is off your shoulders, you are going out perfectly happy, and in right relations with God.  How blessed that is.  Well, Simon did not get the gain of it.  That is sad.  And those at table with him, they did not get the gain of it.  They think these things in their own way.  What is going on in your mind at the moment?  Go and tell the Lord.  Tell the Lord what you are thinking about Him at the moment.  He will listen.  I remember an old sister on her death bed, and it was most affecting.  We were talking and she said, ‘You know, there is nobody like Him; you can tell Him anything you like, and he will listen to you, any hour of the day or night’.  That is how available Jesus is, beloved.  And He is available to you now.

          I read in Luke 10 because here is a lawyer.  He is wanting to justify himself.  In Luke 10, the Lord tells them about somebody going away, and in Luke 15 He tells them about somebody coming back, and divine grace in its fullness and blessedness has met every need.  Is that not wonderful?  You have not got a need, beloved, but divine grace will meet you.  The Lord is able for it.  Not only will He meet the need, but he will furnish you with an abundance of wealth and knowledge of Himself, and joy and blessing in your heart.  Well here is this lawyer and he is tempting the Lord, asking the Lord, “Teacher, having done what shall I inherit life eternal?”.  Well, you cannot do anything to inherit eternal life - it is a gift of God.  All this ‘What shall I do?’ business is really fatal.  You cannot do anything.  You are cast on God.  So the Lord says ‘Well, you are a lawyer’. “What is written in the law? how readest thou?”.  And he goes over the commandments, the first commandment, the second commandment, loving thy neighbour as thyself, and Jesus says to him, “Thou hast answered right: this do and thou shalt live”.  Then he wants to justify himself.  How we love to justify ourselves.  It is innate in every heart.  Justify myself, prove that I am right you see, and you are wrong.  That is man; that is how he feels with God.  He is right and God is wrong.  Well, He tells him about who his neighbour is.  Jesus in this gospel has come in as a neighbour.  He came in as a baby in Bethlehem’s manger, grew up at Nazareth.  We see him as a boy of twelve about His Father’s business.  And then we see Him about thirty years old going out in service, and no matter what the cause, what the trouble is, He is able to heal.  Luke is healing; He heals people, He makes them whole.  Well, He is telling this man about somebody who has gone away.  Who is my neighbour?  Well, He says, “A certain man descended from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers, who also, having stripped him and inflicted wounds, went away leaving him in a half-dead state”.   I might say that Jerusalem in Luke is different from Jerusalem in Matthew.  There is something very creditable about Jerusalem in Luke.  There was a man in it and the Holy Spirit was upon him and he came in and he took the babe in his arms.  There would be quite a few babes getting circumcised at eight days old, but he takes Jesus in his arms and he makes a prophecy, chap 2: 25-35.  And then there is an old woman there, and she knows people who are waiting for redemption in Jerusalem.  She goes round and talks to them chap 2: 36-38.  That is how Luke presents Jerusalem.  At the end of the gospel it becomes a city of refuge; they went back to Jerusalem and preached the gospel.  That is what happens in the Acts.  Well, this man is leaving a place of privilege and is going down, is going into the world.  How sad that is; you fall amongst thieves.  The world is full of thieves, beloved.  Perhaps they are not going to rob you physically and materially, but there are an abundance of moral robbers around today, more than there has ever been, and what are they robbing you of?  They are robbing you of your time.  You do not have to go to the picture house; you do not have to go to the football match; you do not have to go to the theatre now: it is all at your own fireside if you want it.  You see the computer and all that sort of thing is very useful, but it can be so very dangerous.  You can tune in to whatever you want, pick it up on the internet and all that, and you will lose a taste for Jerusalem.  You are being robbed.  You may be very lively, full of life, but you are being deadened: the quickening, the power of Christ is being deadened in your soul.  You are being robbed of what is proper to you, what belongs to Him, and these things do it.  Spend your time with other things, and naturally it is ideal; nature loves it.  This man was going down to Jericho, and he fell amongst thieves, and I think these are among the thieves today that rob people of their time so that they do not give the same time to the scriptures, they do not give the same time to prayer, they do not have the same time for reading the truth or the ministry and all that is good and consequently there is the evidence of barrenness.  How sad that is, wounded need healing.  Well, the good Samaritan is going around, beloved, in the power and wealth of His grace, not charging anybody with anything; not Him - he is too big for that.  How great He is.  He comes up to the case, with no condemnation; He pours in oil and wine and He brings in healing.  He makes Himself so attractive, so that all these other things are left behind.  He puts you on His own beast; you have got something, you have got a power now.  You are still wounded; you are all bandaged up, and you are going to the inn.  The inn is a privilege and a place.  J B Stoney said that it is not like a hotel: it is “while he is a stranger and a pilgrim here” (Letters Vol 3: 160), on the way.   You are left in there until you can find your feet; how very fine. 

          And then you are able to go on with what is normal.   You are able to go to Bethany.  Luke writes methodically, with moral method.  Once you come out of the inn you can go to the next section into the house of Martha, v 38-42.  In application Martha had been in the inn, she had convalesced and got well, but this is just a recurrence of the trouble.  She says, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”.  What does it say?  “Now Martha was distracted with much serving”.  She has got herself out of focus, Christ is out of focus to her.  “Dost thou not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Speak to her therefore that she may help me”.  Well, Martha your illness is coming back again, you need some oil and wine.  And the Lord says to her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but there is need of one, and Mary has chosen the good part, the which shall not be taken from her”.  That is good health, beloved.  When Jesus came Mary went and sat down at His feet, putting everything aside.  She is going to listen to what He says; ”Mary ... having sat down at the feet of Jesus was listening to his word”.  That is the full result of the current lesson period, restored to good health.  Sit at the feet of Christ and listen to His word, preferring that above everything else.

          Well, I come to chapter 15.  They are well known chapters, and here is somebody coming back.  In chapter 10, somebody was going away and he is brought back.  Here is somebody coming back.  “There arose a violent famine”.  He went out to a land a long way off.  It has been linked with the gentile position, “ye who once were afar off”, Eph 2:13.  He “dissipated his property, living in debauchery”.  Then there arose a famine in the land.  Well, beloved, we are surrounded by ”a violent famine throughout that country”.  I do not know that the famine has been more violent than it is today.  I think last week or the week before we had three murders in our city.  How violent the famine is, not to speak about desperate drugs, and muggings and all that sort of thing - that’s the world, beloved.  Jericho is where you go to.  Well, “he began to be in want.  And he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country”.  He cannot put a foot right, one step after another, worse and worse and worse, right down to the very bottom.  Then he comes to himself.  I think that coming to himself is a result of the woman sweeping the house, finding the piece of silver.  He does not know that, but the work of God is beginning to assert itself.  “Coming to himself”.  So he says that he is going back home, going back to his father.  That is the service of the shepherd.  He is going to walk back, but really he is being carried back on the shoulders of the shepherd.  Luke’s moral method is very wonderful.  Divine Persons are serving this man, he is going to God.  But the shepherd is there, and the woman is there, and he has been found, the piece of silver has been found, and he is going back to his father.  He thinks of all that he is going to say, ’I am going to say this, and I am going to say the next thing, and if I can just get a low place within the door that will suit me fine!’  I have said this before in the preaching; I was speaking to the man in the seaman’s mission, and he was telling me about a business man who has been very good to the mission.  He has contributed a lot of money, and he has helped them in arrangements, and the superintendent said to me, ‘I spoke to him about his soul, and he said he thought perhaps he would get a place just inside the door’.  The superintendent said, ’You have got no chance whatsoever’, and he was shocked.  He was one of the top business men in his city.  He said, ’He looked at me, sort of stunned’  ’No’, he said, ’You will not get a place just within the door; there are no places just within the door, none at all.  To get into heaven you must come the divinely appointed way, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ.  You have got to come to Christ, have your sins forgiven, be clear of yourself, come under the shelter of the blood of Christ, and you are saved’.  Well, what do you think of that?  The man said, ’I suppose that is right’.  This very affluent business man was kind hearted and so forth, but he was putting his trust in good works.  The mission superintendent said, ’You have got no chance’.  That is not where to put your trust; you must put your trust in the blood of Christ.  Believe in Christ, put your trust in God. 

          Well, this son is going to say a lot of things, and he comes back.  He is a long way off and his father sees him and runs to meet him.  “His father ...was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck, and covered him with kisses”.   That is a welcome for you!  Jesus is saying this to a group of Pharisees and scribes, who are criticising the Lord saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them”, v 1.  So He speaks these parables.  The woman’s reception of Christ in Luke 7 is a reflection of the father’s reception of the son.  Marvellous expression of divine grace “ran, and fell upon his neck, and covered him with kisses”.  He made him feel at home, made him feel wanted.  How did he know it was his son?  Because he was his father, that is how he knew.  You know, God knows everybody; He has got creatorial rights over every single person on the face of this earth.  And he is not abrogating them.  He is keeping them, holding them, and He is exercising His redemptive rights.  So the father has a right to run, fall on his neck and cover him with kisses.  The young man says that he had “sinned against heaven and before thee; I am no longer worthy to be called thy son” and he is interrupted.  “Bring out the best robe and clothe him in it”.  This is God, beloved, this is God’s heart of love going out in grace to a sinner.  It has been said that nobody ever went into that house without being clothed in the best robe.  Bring it out, clothe him in it.  And then “put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet: and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry”.  Would you like to be in that position?  It is available for every single person in Kirkcaldy this very minute.  Reconciliation has been effected, “bring the fatted calf”, ’we have been keeping this for you’.  “Kill it, and let us eat and make merry”. 

Well, beloved, that is the glad tidings: “they began to make merry”, and there is no end of the merriment.  Why?  “For this my son was dead and has come to life, was lost and has been found”.  Heaven is rejoicing over repenting sinners.  What a place heaven is, a place of joy and happiness; sinners are repenting, persons are coming to Christ.  I often say in the preaching, you have no idea the number of persons, this very moment of this very day, who are coming to Christ in repentance and having their sins forgiven, genuine, real persons who will be converted.  What about you?  You can answer that for yourself, beloved.  I can say for myself that I am a repenting sinner.  Never, ever get away from repentance.  I could not get away from repentance because if I think of my past history I am humbled to the dust.  What do you think about that?  Is that you?  Maybe still some of the Pharisee about you, maybe still about me, but a repenting sinner is a person who is of great value to heaven. 

          May it be true of us all for His Name’s sake.


30th November 2008