Not So Super, Mario
Today, we’re starting a new series of sermons called “God on Film.” So over the next few weeks, we’re going to be taking a closer look at some blockbuster movies to see what these films can teach us about our faith. But the reality is that even though we are officially starting this sermon series today, this series unofficially got started last night with a family movie night right here at Melbourne Heights where we watched the new Super Mario Bros. movie.
Now, for those of you who may not know who Mario is, he’s a video game character created by Nintendo. And he’s been starring in their games for over 40 years. And in these games, Mario is a plumber from Brooklyn who somehow ends up in the Mushroom Kingdom. But unlike most plumbers, Mario doesn’t spend his time snaking drains or installing sinks. Mario spends most of his time fighting with mushrooms and turtles to save the Mushroom Kingdom and its princess, Princess Peach, from the evil Bowser.
And that’s essentially what happens in the new Super Mario Bros. movie. But as often as we’ve seen this kind of story before – a story where a hero saves the day – I gotta tell you that I still loved this movie. And that probably has something to do with the fact that I grew up playing Super Mario Bros. games. So I got excited to see some of my all-time favorite characters – like Mario and Donkey Kong – come to life on the big screen.
But I also enjoyed a lot of the little Easter eggs hidden throughout the movie. Like I laughed when some of the toadstools in the Mushroom Kingdom were hitting bricks to earn gold coins. And I loved it when Bowser started playing the “Underground Theme” after he finished singing “Peaches.” And I spent most of the movie just waiting for Mario to find the Tanooki suit so he could turn into a flying raccoon.
But my favorite scene in the entire movie was the one with the training course. Now, Princess Peach took Mario to this training course so that Mario could prove that he was good enough to help Princess Peach as she tried to save her kingdom. And that makes sense because Mario had just shown up out of nowhere, so the princess had no idea who he was or what he was capable of.
And if Mario was going to prove himself worthy of helping Princess Peach, he was going to have to overcome a lot of the obstacles you’d expect to encounter in a Super Mario Bros. video game. He was going to have to jump on bricks and dodge fire bars. He was going to have to survive Pirahna Plants and avoid being hit by a Bullet Bill. He was going to have to beat up a cardboard bad guy and outrun falling donut blocks.
But before Mario got the chance to prove he was good enough, Princess Peach was going to show him how it was done. And Princess Peach absolutely flew through that training course like it was nothing. And when she finished, this was the look that Mario had on his face. And Mario had this look on his face because Mario isn’t feeling so super. Mario is wondering if he’s good enough to do what Princess Peach just did.
And I think that’s why this scene is my favorite scene in the entire movie. This scene is my favorite scene because we’ve all felt the way that Mario did after he watched Princess Peach’s flawless run through that training course. We’ve all had moments where we don’t feel so super about ourselves.
We’ve all had moments where we don’t feel so super about ourselves.
We’ve all had moments where we haven’t felt like super students and we wondered if we’d be able to pass our next math or spelling test. We’ve all had moments where we haven’t felt like super athletes and we wondered if we’d end up getting cut from our basketball or soccer team. We’ve all had moments when we have felt like super spouses or super parents.
And I know what I’m about to say isn’t easy to hear and it's even harder to admit since many of us grew up singing hymns like “Jesus Loves Me” and "Amazing Grace.” And we grew up hearing stories about God reforming doubters, prostitutes, murderers, and worse and then using them to do his work and build his kingdom.
But we’ve all had moments when we believed that God doesn’t feel too super about us either. And I feel confident saying that we’ve all had moments where we’ve thought God wouldn’t feel too super about us because there have been times when I’ve thought God wouldn’t feel too super about me.
And that’s because I know the kind of person that I am. I know that I’m the kind of person who gets ticked off when all the drivers on the road around me are acting like jerks. I know that I’m the kind of person that gets jealous when I see my friends and followers posting pictures of the incredible vacations they’re on right before I have to go to work. I know that I’m the kind of parent who says “We’ll see” a lot when I’m tired and I don’t want to play a game or build a Lego set with my daughter. So I know that I’m not a perfect person. I know that I’m more like Mario than Princess Peach. And that makes me wonder if I’m good enough for God.
So let me ask you a question, deep down inside, do you ever wonder if you’re good enough for God? Or do you ever wonder how God really feels about you?
When you think about all the times you’ve failed in life, when you think about all the mistakes that you’ve made, when you think about all the wrong that you’ve done, does it make you wonder how God feels about you?
Well, if you have ever wondered how God feels about you, I have a story that I want to share with you today that will show you exactly how God feels about you. So, if you’ve got a Bible close by, go ahead and grab it and turn to Luke 7.
And, as you’re finding Luke 7, I just want to point out that the book of Luke is basically a biography of Jesus. So as you’re reading the book of Luke, you’ll be able to read about Jesus’ birth and his baptism. You’ll be able to read about Jesus’ ministry and the miracles that he performed. You’ll be able to read about his crucifixion and his resurrection.
But today, I want us to take a look at what happens when Jesus was invited to a dinner party. So let’s take a look at Luke 7 together where we’ll start reading in verse 36. Luke writes:
36 One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. After he entered the Pharisee’s home, he took his place at the table.
Luke 7:36 (Common English Bible)
Now that’s an interesting way to start this story. We’re told that Jesus is about to sit down and eat with a Pharisee. And I don’t know how much you know about the Pharisees, but the Pharisees were the elite religious leaders of their day. So the Pharisees weren’t the kind of people who ever wondered how God felt about them. They were the keepers and the teachers of their faith, they thought of themselves as being as close to perfect as possible, so they had no doubt that God loved them.
So hearing that Jesus was about to eat with one of them is a little like hearing that Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd were going to get together to hang out. So you know that things are going to get interesting over dinner. And that’s exactly what happens as we keep reading. So let’s pick up in Luke 7:37 and see what happens next. Luke writes:
37 Meanwhile, a woman from the city, a sinner, discovered that Jesus was dining in the Pharisee’s house. She brought perfumed oil in a vase made of alabaster. 38 Standing behind him at his feet and crying, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured the oil on them.
Luke 7:37-38 (Common English Bible)
So Jesus has been invited by one of the religious elite to dinner, but while he’s there Luke tells us a woman from the city – a sinner – shows up. Now over the years, there has been a lot of speculation about who this woman is, or what her particular sin may have been. But all Luke tells us is that she’s a sinner, which is the exact same word that Simon Peter (who was one of Jesus’ closest friends and followers) used to describe himself a couple of chapters earlier when he told Jesus, “Oh, Lord, please leave me – I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.”
So based on the way Luke describes this woman, she was no better or no worse than one of Jesus’ closest followers. She was a sinner – someone who had messed up and made mistakes – who had come to Jesus’ feet. But that’s not exactly how the Pharisee saw things. As the story continues we learn:
39 When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw what was happening, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. He would know that she is a sinner.
Luke 7:39 (Common English Bible)
Here, the Pharisee looks at this woman and sees everything that is wrong with her. He knows her reputation. He knows that she’s messed up. He knows that she has made mistakes. And in his mind, he’s thinking that if Jesus truly is a man of God, and he knew who this woman is, he would want nothing to do with her. If Jesus knew who this woman is, then he wouldn’t love her…he would loathe her.
And that’s the same way that a lot of us think about ourselves. We think that if Jesus really knew us he wouldn’t love us...he would loathe us.
We think that if Jesus really knew us he wouldn’t love us...he would loathe us
But this Pharisee was about to learn an important lesson, and it’s a lesson we all need to learn. This Pharisee is going to learn that not only did Jesus know who this woman is, but he also knew everything that the Pharisee was thinking. In Luke 7:40 we’re told:
40 Jesus replied, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Teacher, speak,” he said.
41 “A certain lender had two debtors. One owed enough money to pay five hundred people for a day’s work. The other owed enough money for fifty. 42 When they couldn’t pay, the lender forgave the debts of them both. Which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled.”
Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”
44 Jesus turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your home, you didn’t give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in. 46 You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has poured perfumed oil on my feet. 47 This is why I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven; so she has shown great love. The one who is forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other table guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this person that even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Luke 7:36-50 (Common English Bible)
With this woman still washing his feet, Jesus begins to talk to this Pharisee, a man named Simon. He tells Simon a story and asks him a question.
“A certain lender had two debtors. One owed enough money to pay five hundred people for a day’s work. The other owed enough money for fifty. When they couldn’t pay, the lender forgave the debts of them both. Which of them will love him more?”
In this little story, the two debtors represent us: imperfect people. These are both people who have messed up. These are both people who have made mistakes. These are both people that we think God shouldn’t love.
But in this story, both of these people are forgiven. They’re forgiven of their debts. They’re forgiven for messing up. They’re forgiven for making mistakes. They’re forgiven for not being perfect.
So when Jesus looks at this woman, sitting on the floor beside him at the table, Jesus doesn’t see her debt. Jesus doesn’t see the times she’s messed up. Jesus doesn’t see the mistakes that she’s made. Jesus doesn’t see that’s she not perfect.
Why? Because, just like the debtors in the story, she has been forgiven. And Psalm 103:12 tells us, “As far as the east is from the west—that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.”
Now think about that for a minute. “As far as the east is from the west—that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.” Now, I want you to imagine that after our service this morning that you decided to travel north. Well, if you travel north long enough you’ll eventually hit the North Pole and you’ll start traveling south. And if you travel 12,430 miles south, you’re going to hit the South Pole and then you’ll be traveling north again.
But now imagine you want to head east. At what point do you start traveling west again? You never do. If you start traveling east you will always be headed east, unless you change directions. And that’s how far God has removed your sins, your mistakes, and your imperfections from you.
So stop believing that God is angry with you. Stop believing that God is upset with you. Stop believing that God wants nothing to do with you.
If you have ever felt like you’re not good enough for God or if you have ever felt like God couldn’t love you, I want you to listen to me right now. Because what I’m about to say is the most important thing you’ll hear me says. And that’s not just true for this sermon, this is the most important thing you’ll ever hear me say. So are you ready? Here it is: God loves you.
God loves you.
And that’s not just something I’m saying because I’m a preacher. It’s not just something I’m saying to make you feel better about yourself. I’m saying it because it is true: God loves you. God really loves you.
In Isaiah 54:10, God tells us, “10 The mountains and hills may crumble, but my love for you will never end.” In Isaiah 43:4, God tells us, “you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you.” In Jeremiah 31:3, God tells us, “I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.”
So no matter how many times you’ve messed, God loves you. No matter how many mistakes you’ve made, God loves you. No matter how imperfect you are, God loves you.
But here’s the thing, I know that just hearing me tell you that God loves you half a dozen times to end this sermon isn’t enough for that reality to sink in. So I want to challenge you to do something this week and any time you wonder if you’re good enough for God, I want you to re-read those Bible verses I just read to you.
I want you to read Isaiah 54:10. I want you to read Isaiah 43:4. I want you to read Jeremiah 31:3. And I want you to know that God loves you, and God thinks you’re pretty super…even if you’re name isn’t Mario.