“Who invited that woman here? How dare she come into this house!” murmured some in the crowd. As if blind and deaf to the scorn of others, she does the unthinkable. She begins weeping upon and kissing the feet of the master.
What is God after … ?
The story begins in Luke’s gospel.
———————————- Luke 7:36-50 (NIV 84) ————————————-
“Now one of the Pharisees (a highly educated, religious leader) invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’ ‘Tell me teacher,’ he said.
‘Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii (a denarius was equal to a day’s wages), and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’
Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’
‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.’
Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’
Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’ “
What do we learn about the Savior through this encounter?
Postured for Forgiveness
It is customary when coming before a king to bow down as a posture of submission. In the ancient world and even today, the refusal to do this is not only an insult but a sign of rebellion. It is punishable even by death. In school as a child, I was taught about having good posture.
“Sit up straight!” All of this illustrates a truth.
Our posture communicates something.
The scene is set at the Pharisee’s house. He invited this teacher to dine with him. Perhaps he was intrigued at Jesus’ miracles or the fame that was spreading throughout Israel about him. Then, in walks this woman. What we know from the text is that she was well known in that town and that this Pharisee judged her as a sinner. She doesn’t say anything to anyone. She doesn’t even look up. She postures herself low to the ground. She was weeping and deeply troubled in heart. What I find amazing about this encounter is that she wasn’t even invited to the party. It says that “when she heard Jesus was going to be at the Pharisee’s house” she came. She risked rejection. She risked ridicule. But to her it didn’t matter. Only one thing mattered, to be near Jesus.
She postured herself for forgiveness. While everyone else was joking, making small talk, and appearing dignified, she was weeping at his feet. While everyone else was sitting in the seats of honor, she chose the posture of dishonor. While everyone else was trying to impress Jesus or appear important, she is wiping his feet with her hair and kissing his feet. She crowns it all by pouring expensive perfume on his feet.
A humble heart posture will always leave a pleasant aroma in the atmosphere.
Jesus was the only one she came to impress and impress him she did. He commends her and forgives her sins. Perhaps, this woman saw something that no one else did… that Jesus was the King of the Jews. If the others had seen it too, they would have been bowing down likewise.
You cannot maintain a prideful posture and expect to be forgiven by God.
Passion for Forgiveness
In Charles Dickens’ famous musical A Christmas Carol, we see a crotchety old man named Ebenezer Scrooge. He has more wealth than he knows what to do with but no joy, no compassion, no friends. He finds glee by pinching pennies and tormenting his employees making them work long hard hours. The story takes a dramatic turn by the end as Scrooge is changed by an encounter with three spirits.
Have you ever asked yourself what God’s heart is like? Is he approachable, understanding, and compassionate or eager to punish?
Many see God as Ebenezer Scrooge … powerful and wealthy yet distant, cruel, and unmerciful.
As we look again at this encounter with Jesus, we see that Jesus exhibits the character of God to humanity in the way he interacts with the sinful woman. Before I go further, I’d like us to look at a passage from the book of Exodus. Moses is leading the people of Israel through the wilderness and is speaking with God Almighty. God begins to declare his nature to Moses:
“And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ ” Exodus 33:19
“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet, he does not leave the guilty unpunished.’ “ Exodus 34:6-7
Does this surprise you? Now let’s get back to Jesus.
There he is in the presence of all these people at this dinner party. This sinful woman is making a scene at his feet. Not only does he not stop her, but he welcomes her. Why? Because Jesus exhibits the nature of God. Jesus said that anyone who has seen him has seen the Father (God). God’s nature is unchanging. He is compassionate and quick to show mercy to the humble and broken. Jesus had a passion for forgiveness.
He tells a parable to Simon (the Pharisee) about two debtors. One owes 500 denarii and the other 50. Neither was able to pay the master so the master (God) forgives them both. He then asks him which will love the master more. Simon was the one who owed 50. But his problem was that instead of rejoicing in his own sin being forgiven and then having compassion on others, he was excessively judgmental and proud. Comparison blinded him to his own debt before God. Jesus never commends the woman for being sinful. But he commends her for her faith and action. Although the Pharisee’s judgment about the woman’s sin was accurate, what the Pharisee lacked was a passion for forgiveness!
A passion for forgiveness causes us to rejoice at the repentance of a sinner, not look down on the one whom God is willing to forgive. To the Pharisees, those who think they have led better lives than others, be careful! Remember that you too are a debtor before God. Get down on your knees with the rest of the sinners and remember that Jesus is looking for a people who will love him much!
Power of Forgiveness
For anyone who has had an argument with a loved one or a friend, you know that there is no peace afterwards. Unless there is reconciliation, the damage will remain. Sadly, bitterness has robbed marriages of their vitality, friendships of their joy, and causes brothers to stop speaking. What then is the power of forgiveness?
Forgiveness holds the power to restore peace. After the woman worships Jesus and repents, he says to her, “Woman your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Peace is the absence of fear, anxiety and oppressive thoughts. It tells us that everything is okay. The war is over. Jesus extends this to the woman… and to anyone who comes to him in humble reverence.
The second power released by forgiveness is love. The one forgiven much loves much, but the one forgiven little, loves little. God has chosen to lavish his forgiveness on a broken and hurting world with the purpose of inspiring a people who will love him with all their hearts! Could it be that God allows our sin, brokenness, and pain while patiently waiting so that he can show us how merciful he is?
How do we receive this peace and love?
Although we may forgive others, we can’t cancel our debts before God. You need not look any further than your own heart, thoughts, words, and actions in the past few days to see that you fall short of God’s standard, which is to love him and love our neighbor as ourselves. Our sin makes us debtors before God. Jesus is the only one with the power to forgive because he paid the price for our sins on the cross. His death and resurrection makes it possible for us to experience a right relationship with God… and to be made new.
Which one in the story are you? Are you the Pharisee or the woman at Jesus’ feet? The good news is you can come to the feet of Jesus today to receive his mercy and grace. Will you come?
The one forgiven much, loves much.
If you would like to renew or make a first time commitment to Jesus Christ, message me. I would like to know.