Have you ever listened to Beethoven?

That might be a strange question to ask most people under the age of 30 these days, but it’s a relevant question to the topic we are about to discuss. I grew up in the 80s listening to country and Southern rock because of my dad, pop and top-40 music because of my mom, rap because of my friends, and everything else because I love music and I’m naturally curious…so I dug around all the sections in the record store.*

I found Beethoven my junior year of high school and one song immediately grabbed my attention and still holds it every time I hear it played. Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 Adagio Cantabile, also known as, Pathétique (or translated: Pathetic). It grabbed me and pulled me in and brought tears to my eyes at 16 years old and something inside of me was saying, “That’s you…you’re pathetic…and hopeless…with no purpose or future.” A song with no words, played on a piano, spoke to my heart and became to me a place to find solace from life.

Now fast forward about eight years. I’m 24, married to my beautiful wife Leslie, I have been a follower of Jesus for about a year and I come across a story in the Bible. In Luke 7 there’s a story about a Pharisee (these would be the church leaders of Jesus’ day) who invites Jesus to eat with him. So Jesus goes to eat with him and a local prostitute finds out that Jesus is going to be there, so she goes to the Pharisee’s house to see Jesus (gutsy chic). I see her in my mind sneaking up to the window and peeking in, alone, feeling unwanted and terrified to be seen knowing that she might be judged or pointed out and ridiculed. Yet she’s heard of Jesus and His mercy to others and that pushes her on. She slips up behind Him and then she can’t hold it anymore…she loses it and begins to weep at Jesus’ feet. Her tears wet His feet and she begins to wipe them off with her hair and anoint them with oil…and she is simply…pathetic.

This is where the Pharisee starts to think, “What kind of man is this letting this nasty woman touch his feet?” Then Jesus pulls a Jedi mind trick, knows his thoughts and tells a story about two people that owe debts, one about $100,000 and one about $1,000, and the moneylender cancels both their debts and then Jesus’ asks, “Now which of them will love him more?”

Then it hit me…both debts are canceled…Jesus was telling the Pharisee, “You both owe debts”…both…were…pathétique. And so Beethoven slapped me in the head again and me being 16 and crying while listening to the song flashed through my mind and I realized that everyone is hopeless, no one has purpose or a future, we’re all pathetic…without Christ. Unless we fall at the feet of Jesus and trust in His mercy and grace we will never truly have hope or purpose or a future. We have been forgiven much, whether we have never cared for God or stepped foot in a church (like the prostitute) or whether we have grown up our whole lives in pews and youth groups (like the Pharisee).

We are all pathetic…we all need Jesus…and when we realize this the real question becomes, “How will we respond, like the prostitute…or like the Pharisee?” Because only one heard the words, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

May we realize how great a debt that has been forgiven us.
May we fall at the feet of Jesus with gratitude.
May we learn to follow.

To listen to Beethoven’s Pathétique: Spotify/YouTube

*For my really young readers, record stores were where you would buy music on large, round, fragile discs that played on “record players” and could be scratched and ruined very easily. You actually had to get in your car and drive there, you couldn’t just download them from your couch. Today some artist put out their music on special “LP” releases (these are records or ‘albums’)…I’m not sure why.