Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Religious Man And The Sinful Woman

Which one are you? What's your weakness? Naturally, apart from God's grace, do you find yourself leaning towards the self-righteous religious person who is cold and judgmental towards others? Or are you bent more in the pleasures-of-the-flesh, notorious-sinner direction? Luke 7:36-50 has something to say to both.

In this passage Jesus has been invited to eat at the house of a Pharisee (Jewish religious ruler) named Simon. And Jesus accepts the invitation! First lesson, Jesus will eat with most anybody! We constantly see him at dinner parties in the Scriptures. Jesus liked to be around people. He hung out with prostitutes and drunkards, as well as religious hypocrites. He enjoyed a good meal with all types, but he always pointed them to the truth.

As Jesus was eating, reclining at the table according to Jewish custom, a woman who is described as a "sinner" heard that he was at Simon's house. She walked right in carrying a container of ointment. She stood behind Jesus, at his feet, and began to cry. Her weeping grew until her tears began to fall on Jesus' feet. She dried his feet with her hair, and as she did she kissed his feet! Then she anointed Jesus' feet with the ointment. This was not normal, acceptable behavior. But the woman did not care. Obviously, she has a clue about who Jesus really is, and in the presence of the Son of God she is broken about her sin. Jesus later describes her actions as loving him. She is loving on Jesus! This is an act of devotion, of worship! A woman known to be a great sinner has become repentant of her sin and is crying at the feet of Jesus. How beautiful!

Simon did not think it was beautiful. Yes, usually when a sinner is broken and runs to Jesus to give him extravagant worship, a religious person will disapprove. Simon judged the woman. Worse, he judged Jesus! The Bible says he thought within himself that Jesus could not be a prophet, or he would know that this was a sinner who was touching him; this was completely inappropriate.

What an amazing contrast! Here are two people, both in the very presence of God in the flesh. One is aware of her sin and aware of her need for Jesus' forgiveness. The other is blind to both. He feels completely at peace in the presence of God, not in the least discerning that he too should be crying at Jesus' feet for his sins!

Jesus knew Simon's thoughts (proving that Simon was wrong...Jesus was a prophet! And more...). The Bible says that Jesus answered Simon's thoughts (v40) by telling a story. A moneylender had two debtors. One owed him about two years' wages. The other owed him about two months' wages. When they couldn't pay, he released both from their debt. Then Jesus asked Simon, "Which of them will love him more?" Simon rightly judged (he's pretty good at judging) that it was the one who was forgiven the most. Jesus then applied the story to the two people before him.

Simon had not washed Jesus' feet, greeted him with a kiss or anointed him with oil. He had showed no hospitality, no love. But the woman had done it all. Jesus said that her sins ("which are many" v47 - Jesus doesn't make light of her sins) are forgiven. She has therefore loved much! Jesus then explains that she has been forgiven, not because of her love (worship does not save us), but because of her faith (v50). This woman had been loving Jesus - worshiping him - because she believed in him. She wept because she knew she was a sinner (repentance) and she went to Jesus in faith. This sinful woman has been forgiven!

But Simon is left judging everyone in the whole room. Blind to his need. Feeling justified as he compares himself to the sinful woman. Unbroken. Unmoved. Unloving... And unforgiven.

Back to our original question. Which one are you?

May God open our eyes to both our sins, and the Savior who died for our sins at the cross, rising from the grave for our justification. May our forgiveness not result in pride and self-righteous judging, but in love. Great love!

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