Can’t Believe It?
Devotional and photo illustration by Pastor Steve Marquez
People who have been given the devastating news of their having a terminal illness are said to be in the “Stage 4” of life. Stage4 Ministries desires to serve them and their caregivers. The ministry is run by Steve and Monica Marquez. Steve, formerly pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Smith, AR, is a Stage 4 cancer patient fighting Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC), better known as kidney cancer. Steve and Monica are available to speak at churches or other groups to encourage people that they can have hope in this world and—through Christ—hope for the next. Visit www.stage4ministries.com for more information.
Have you ever received such good news that you couldn’t believe it? I remember after my first surgery for cancer in Texas, I was sent back to Arkansas without a follow-up or even an appointment to see a doctor for my continuing care. Then, I received a call from the surgeon’s office. The nurse told me that my follow-up with the surgeon would be in three months. I couldn’t believe it and said, “You expect me to live that long, then?”
“Of course!” she said.
She then told me to make an appointment to see my local oncologist in Arkansas and that he would be covering my local follow-up and keep more specific track of my cancer care. This was amazing to me. I would live! Praise God. Of course, it would be an extremely tough next three months with many major surgeries on the horizon as the cancer grew back, but the expectation was life!
I get the same sense from an uninvited guest that showed up at a feast thrown in honor of Jesus in Luke 7. A woman fell at the feet of Jesus and began sobbing; her tears wetting from heel to toe, then using her hair to dry them. I don’t get the idea from the story that she was looking for anything but compassion from the Savior. She wanted to be near someone who loved her and made her feel human again. Allowing her to do this accomplished that goal, but it also allowed for an object-lesson for Simon, the religious leader at whose house Jesus was eating. Simon was disgusted by the mere presence of a sinner like this woman and couldn’t understand why Jesus didn’t feel the same. His honored guest told a story about a moneylender who forgave two people. One owed a large sum, the other a little. Both were forgiven. Jesus asked Simon,
“Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he [Jesus] said to him, “You have judged rightly” (Luke 7:42b-43, ESV).
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he [Jesus] said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:47–50, ESV).
Jesus has to say three times that the woman was forgiven. THREE TIMES! The last time, in my mind, I see Jesus with a smile and a face full of compassion saying to the woman that she was truly forgiven. She couldn’t believe it—she would live! She went away justified, and Simon was dumfounded. Who was this Rabbi from Galilee that He could forgive sins?
This illustrates two responses to the grace of God. One, the woman who says, “I can’t believe it, I am free!” And the Pharisee who says, “I won’t believe it!” Therefore, he was not free. In his story, Jesus spoke of two people who were in debt. Two sinners. But Simon saw only one. He didn’t see himself in the parable. Although his sin was not as outwardly open as this woman’s, he was still a sinner in need of a Savior—but he refused.
Simon’s lack of personal responsibility and judgmental attitude allowed a log in his own eye to make him blind to his own sin (Matthew 7:1-5). But the woman had no such thing. She and everyone at the table knew her sinful ways and because she went to Jesus anyway, He had compassion on her. He would have done the same with everyone in the room, if they would have asked.
Is your sin big? God is bigger. Is your sin small? Don’t let it keep you from the Kingdom of God. Open your eyes and see a compassionate Savior who wants to forgive. I need it, you need it. We are all in need of the greatest gift ever: grace, mercy and peace through what Jesus did on the cross. His blood washes the greatest of sinners and those who think their sin is small. Both need it. Both receive it at the cross.
What a joy to know life!
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.