Prostitutes, Pharisees, & Beethoven’s Pathetic Song

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.

TV, The BBC, & A Sorcerer That Brought Me Closer To Jesus

I watch more TV than I should, I know this, but mindless entertainment is one thing that Grace and I share. We love falling into series together on Netflix or Amazon Instant Watch. We haven’t watched many in her 15 years of life, but a few we have enjoyed are H2O: Just Add Water, The Elephant Princess, and most recently Merlin a BBC series about the time of King Arthur and the sorcerer Merlin.

In the show magic has been banned in Camelot, but Merlin, the sorcerer, is a personal servant to Arthur. Merlin feels such a deep obligation to the prince and future king that he continues to serve him while keeping his magic secret. Although it is difficult denying his true nature his devotion to Arthur and the kingdom that he is building drives him to selflessly help further that kingdom.

When Arthur finally discovers that Merlin has magic he is torn between the law of the kingdom and his love for his faithful servant. Yet, as he sees Merlin in action he realizes just how devoted he is to the kingdom and at one point says, “All these years, Merlin. You never once sought any credit.” To which Merlin replies, “It’s not why I do it.” We finished the series a couple weeks ago and the night it ended I went to bed thinking about the final episode. I just couldn’t shake it from my mind for some reason. Something about the conversations and interactions between Arthur and Merlin just kept rattling around in my head and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I went to sleep…unsettled…and woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning with a realization…I am a horrible Merlin.

Through 5 seasons and 65 episodes Merlin remained a faithful servant to the prince and future king, Arthur Pendragon and not just to Arthur, but to Camelot, his kingdom. His only concern was king and kingdom…he loved Arthur…with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength. So it made me ask the questions, Do I love Jesus this way? Do I care for His Kingdom this way? I had to admit that too many times the answer is no. So it brought me to do what I could, I repented of my desire for “credit” and recognition. I repented of my self-serving mindset that so many times has my own interest in mind over and above the interest of His Kingdom. I repented and asked His forgiveness and His help to love Him more and serve Him better. But the lessons from Merlin didn’t stop there.

Towards the end of the last episode Merlin shares with Arthur, “Some men are born to plow fields, some live to be great physicians, others to be great kings. Me? I was born to serve you, Arthur, and I’m proud of that, and I wouldn’t change a thing.” And in Arthur’s final words to Merlin he says, “Everything you’ve done…for me, for Camelot, for the kingdom you helped me build…thank you.”

When I awoke that night, those lines also flooded into my mind and made me ponder the hope that I have in Christ, despite my failures. The hope that one-day I would stand before our King, in His Kingdom and I would hear Him say a similar, yet more glorious phrase, “Well done good and faithful servant.” And that thought allowed me to praise Him for being faithful…even when I am not…and then I fell back to sleep and rested well.

May we realize that we were born to serve Jesus, the Prince and King.
May we serve Him selflessly to further His Kingdom.
May we long for the day that we hear Him say, “Well done.”
May we learn to follow.