The Lessons: Morning Prayer: Ps. 5:1-8; 1 Kings 21:1-21a; Luke 7:36 – 8:3
Holy Communion: Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36 – 8:3
Text: Luke 7:36-50; Theme: “The Proof of Forgiveness”
Feeling like a fish out of water is a familiar experience to many at some stage in their lives. For instance, the soldier in military uniform who returns to his home town for a brief period of leave might feel out of place in civilian society after being accustomed to long periods of military life. It might be worse for an alien immigrant, who feels when he first comes to a new country, how different he is from the citizens of that country, and this may lead to awkwardness and embarrassment at first.
Far worse than that is the feeling of rejection when one is known to be a sinner and yet enters into a home where purity and high moral standards are the norm.
LUKE 7:36-50: OVERCOMING REJECTION TO RECEIVE THE FORGIVENESS OF GOD
This was the case of the unnamed woman in our lesson from St. Luke’s Gospel. She was not an invited guest at the Pharisee Simon’s home. She came in with the other guests, and it is recorded that she was a sinner (Luke 7:37) who had heard that Jesus was a dinner guest at this Pharisee’s home that day. Therefore she brought an alabaster jar of ointment, or perfumed oil, with her, especially to use to anoint Jesus’ feet. For a meal, the guests would have removed their sandals, and would recline with their feet behind them. So she stood behind him, weeping profuse tears onto his feet, wiping them with her hair and anointing them with the perfumed oil.
What was it that had led the woman to this extravagant display of affection? Today in many Pentecostal churches a woman could not get close enough to a pastor in public to display any affection without summarily being escorted from the premises by a team of vigilant body guards. But in Jewish culture of those times, there was more tolerance for this, although Simon the Pharisee questioned within himself why Jesus would allow this act of affection from a sinner. Gentiles were regarded as sinners, but the fact that this woman was known to be a sinner does not indicate that she was not a Jew, but was rather known to be living an immoral life. Pharisees did not want such unclean people to even touch them. Simon pondered whether Jesus was even a prophet, since he apparently did not know this woman was a sinner. All this unspoken rejection by the host and his guests, except for Jesus, must have been a huge barrier for the woman to overcome. But something much more powerful was at work in her soul. She was overcome with sorrow at all her sinfulness, but no doubt extremely thankful for finding the Lord Jesus, her Lord and Redeemer. Some will say these were tears of sorrow for sin, and others will say they were tears of thankfulness for her forgiveness, but our Lord receives them as tears of love for Him, which show the forgiveness of her many sins (Luke 7:47). One of the very first things the Holy Spirit does for the sinner is show him the extent of his sin, the awfulness of it. Then the Spirit leads him to Jesus Christ, so that from him he can receive forgiveness of all his sins and come to know Him and have eternal life. Though she must have felt out of place in the Pharisee’s home, her love for the Lord Jesus Christ overwhelmed this feeling, leading to her expression of repentance and love, and to her receiving the forgiveness and peace which Jesus gave her as a result of believing in Him.
THE PARABLE OF THE TWO DEBTORS
The Lord Jesus Christ explained to Simon in terms of the Parable of the Two Debtors the reason for the woman’s great love in contrast to Simon’s own shortage of love. The woman had experienced the forgiveness of many sins, whereas Simon had experienced the forgiveness of only a few. One can deduce from this that Simon was trying to live an upright life, and that was the reason he only needed the forgiveness of a few sins. The question that arises from this, is why should the person who is aiming to live a righteous life actually love Jesus less? Whether forgiven less or more, surely he should love Jesus as much! The logic of the Parable leads us to the simple truth that those who have experienced forgiveness for more sins, love Jesus more, whereas those who have experienced forgiveness for less, love Jesus less. The Parable, I believe, contains a certain amount of irony. It is probably the case that those who have received less forgiveness haven’t yet discovered the extent of their sins, even in their thought life. If we look with the eyes of the Holy Spirit into all the parts of our life, and into the things we have done, said, or thought, or left undone, unsaid, or not thought about, we can find more than we think that would cause us sorrow, as they cause sorrow to the Holy Spirit.
MARTIN LUTHER’S DREAM
There is a story that one night Martin Luther went to sleep troubled about his sin. In a dream he saw an angel standing by a blackboard, and at the top of the board was Luther’s name. The angel, chalk in hand, was listing all of Luther’s sins, and the list filled the blackboard. Luther shuddered in despair, feeling that his sins were so many that he could never be forgiven. But suddenly in his dream he saw a pierced hand writing above the list these words: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” As Luther gazed in amazement, the blood flowed from the wounded hand and washed the record clean.
(W. Herschel Ford, Simple Sermons for Saints and Sinners, 9)
It is God’s will that all His people live in forgiveness and peace. Therefore, each of us must pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to know all our sins, to repent truly from them and to experience the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit, as the form of Absolution after the General Confession in Evening Prayer reminds us:
The Almighty and merciful Lord grant you Absolution and Remission of all your sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit.