Have you ever had a moment in your life where you felt you had nothing to lose?
In chapter 7 of Luke’s gospel, Simon the Pharisee asks Jesus to his home for a meal.
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. (v. 36)
In our day, inviting someone to a meal would be a private event, but in Jesus’ day and culture, a personal invitation into the home of a person of Simon’s position of communal spiritual leadership was a political statement. Doors and windows of the home would even be open so that others would be able to view this important occasion.
In today’s terms of social media, Simon is “taking a selfie.” Just as we might take a photo of ourselves standing with certain people in a certain place and positing it for our friends to see, Simon wants to make sure that others are aware that Jesus is in his home. He desires to be admired as important and holy, worthy of a personal audience with Jesus. But Simon’s selfie is about to be “photo-bombed!”
And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. (v. 37-38)
This woman is a documented sinner who has no business even being in the house of a Pharisee. Yet she boldly enters and embarks on an intimate one-on-one encounter with Jesus, seizing the attention of the whole dinner party.
With this action, Simon’s religious system is turned on its head and his first response is one of disgust:
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” (v. 39)
As we see in this passage, when someone messy comes along, full of sin and needing Jesus, the falsely religious are quickly exposed. Jesus is always stern with this state of religiosity in a person’s heart, but He still desires to reconcile even these fakers to Himself.
And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” (v. 40-43)
When something happens in your world that is not how you want it or if someone “undeserving” or relationally depraved is unexpectedly blessed, how do you respond? Are you quick to hope that people reap what they sow or stay in their rightful place?
Are you like Simon, so concerned with painting a holy picture of yourself for others to see that when an opportunity comes along for someone else to have an authentic encounter with Jesus and receive His forgiveness that you fail to even see him/her?
Jesus draws a harsh line between religious pursuit and relationship with Him:
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (v. 44-47)
While Simon is concerned with his own appearance of closeness to God, his neglect of honoring Jesus is noteworthy, especially when contrasted with the woman’s sincere outpouring of honor. Simon has not offered Jesus the basic respect of a water-filled basin for him to wash His own feet, no customary oil to refresh his guest’s skin from the harsh climate, and not even a customary kiss as a hearty welcome that one would offer a friend in this culture. The woman, on the other hand, washes Jesus’ feet with her most heartfelt tears, she pours out her most valuable perfume to anoint Jesus, and she kisses His feet with abandon to show her affection and gratitude.
The devil would have had this woman believe that in her despicable position, Jesus would not accept her. This woman has no business being at the dinner party of Simon the Pharisee, yet she enters as if she has nothing to lose.
The devil desires for you to believe this as well: that whatever you have hidden—whatever darkness you do not want others to see—will be unacceptable to lay at Jesus’ feet. When Jesus willingly makes His way to your space, how will you receive him? With adoration, humility and gratitude, or with self-importance?
“But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (v. 47)
When was the last time you really thought about that was at stake with your sin and your relationship with God?
This is a scary statement. Imagine your sin laid out before you like a monthly cell phone bill. Every action recorded, big and small, known and unknown. This is a bill you cannot pay, yet as Jesus tells us, the Debtor graciously forgives your debt. When was the last time you really thought about that was at stake with your sin and your relationship with God? When was the last time you imagined all of that sin laid out at Jesus’ feet and realized that he willingly lifts that burden and carries it to the cross to die for you?
As we read Jesus’ words to Simon, it’s time to come to term with the pieces of Simon that are in us. Are you wrapped up in religious routine that will bring you no closer to Jesus, but instead invokes His harsh words? It’s time to fully take on the position of this sinful woman, fully aware of what is at stake and accepting God’s forgiveness with heartfelt gratitude and affection. Jesus wants us to approach Him being aware that we have nothing to lose!
As we close this last Sunday of the year and look toward resolutions of 2015, remember that no one “resolves” better in your life than Christ. You can never resolve your own problems and sin better or more fully than He can. What is keeping you from Jesus that ultimately needs to be given over to Him? What will you lay at His feet going forward?
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