(This was a mini sermon I gave last night at our Christmas Eve Eve service)
Most, if not all of us in this room tonight know that Jesus Christ is worthy of our utmost devotion, adoration and love. Most of us, if not all would readily admit – our devotion, adoration and love for Him is not what we wish it was. So I want to talk to you for a bit about how we can increase or grow in our love for Jesus . What is it that deepens our love for Him? What is it that takes what we know about Him in our head, and gets it down at the heart level? Or what is it that prevents that from happening?
Turn with me if you would to Luke 7:36. Or you can read along with the screen.
This incident that we are going to read about happened fairly early in Jesus’s ministry; and the lesson from this incident is very instructive for those of us who know Jesus is worthy of more adoration and devotion and love than we typically give Him.
Let’s look first at the incident, and then we will look at His instruction that followed the incident. Vs. 36-39
“Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:36-39
That Jesus even acknowledged this Pharisee’s invitation, much less accepted it, was a great display of His mercy. The Pharisees of Jesus’s day, some 6,000 strong some scholars believe, were the most influential religious leaders of Judaism. By the time Jesus began His ministry, their hold on the hearts and minds of the Jews of Israel was significant, which gave them power, financial gain, and prestige. They were full of religious show on the outside, but corrupt to the core on the inside.
This Pharisee’s home was probably a fairly large home, and it was not unusual when a dinner was thrown for a special guest in such a home - for uninvited folk to kind of wander in and observe, without partaking of the meal. Needless to say it took a lot of courage for this particular woman to enter.
This account by the way is not to be mistaken for the incident later in Jesus’s ministry when very expensive perfume was poured over His body by Mary of Bethany, anointing Him for burial.
We do not know this lady’s name. What we do know that both Luke and this Pharisee allude to is that she was known in this city as a woman of ill repute, probably a prostitute. It is also very likely that she was one of the many women who joined the crowds and followed and listened to Jesus whenever possible. Whether she ever had a personal encounter with Him before this one, where He actually engaged her, we do not know.
Jesus, like everyone else invited to this dinner was reclining on the floor with His head near the table; His feet away from the table. Very likely the other guests were mostly men and probably other Pharisees, or significant financial contributors to the Pharisees.
This may be the closest this woman ever got to Jesus. As she gazed upon Him, she was flooded with emotion. Her tears flowed to such an extent that Jesus’s feet were wet with them. I’m sure that the important discussion these men were having around the table was rudely interrupted by such a raw display of emotion, and by her actually wiping his feet with her hair and kissing his feet and anointing them with smelly perfume.
You know, Israel in many ways was not unlike America today. We have over the years determined in our self righteous ways what is “sinful” and “unacceptable” and what is moral and acceptable. And in Israel prostitution was considered about as dirty as it gets. Women were considered second class - - mostly to be seen, not heard. Pride on the other hand was ok.
All of this to say, for this woman to even enter this house, much less to carry on like she did probably for five to fifteen minutes - knowing she was being scornfully watched by these men of power and influence – something powerful and life changing had to have taken place in her life prior to this encounter with Jesus of Nazareth.
Vs. 39 tells us, “Now when the Pharisee who had invited Jesus (and implied had not invited this woman) saw this” that is (in his mind) this unrestrained – if not unhinged display of emotion and affection, “He said (or thought) to himself, “If Jesus was really who He said He was and who many of the common Jews were saying He was – that is - a prophet who knows things that no man can know unless God tells him - - He would certainly know this woman was utterly bankrupt in character and was the scum of the earth, and thus He would have never allowed her to touch Him, much less carry on like she did.
Now if this Pharisee had known who Jesus truly was he would have known that any thought he allowed to enter and rumble about in His mind could not be hidden from the One who created the brain and the heart, who knows all secrets, and who sees everything we think is hidden in the darkness.
And so Jesus answered his “hidden” thoughts with a parable, and in doing so, He gave us one of the secrets of what fuels the kind of adoration and devotion that He is so worthy of. Let’s read vs. 40-47.
“And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denari, and the other fifty. 42 When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44 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. 45 You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus, knowing the value every human on the planet has, regardless of this Pharisee’s inner attitude towards Him, addressed him by his name, Simon. And He respectfully waited for permission to speak to the massive difference between Simon’s spiritual condition and this lady’s. Simon somewhat grudgingly granted permission for Him to speak.
Jesus used an analogy from a common practice in those days – money lending and debt recovery – to illustrate the core issue at hand. Jesus again respectfully gave Simon the opportunity to discover the glaring difference between his heart and this sinner lady’s in vs. 42. And Simon again somewhat grudgingly gave the obvious answer to the question about the parable, but didn’t yet see his own moral bankruptcy. So Jesus began to drive it home.
There could not have been a greater contrast between the way Simon greeted and treated Jesus and the way this woman greeted and treated or responded to Jesus. Simon clearly did not invite Jesus to his home so he could know Him better and love Him more. Simon saw no personal need for what Jesus offered. Most likely Simon either wanted Jesus to see who he was, and/or wanted to help Jesus see where He needed to become more like the Pharisees, and to get in line with their agenda.
So what enabled or motivated the sinner woman to lavish affection and gratitude and worship on Jesus; and what kept Simon the Pharisee from showing any gratitude, worship or adoration whatsoever?
Well Jesus tells us in vs. 47. Those who have had their eyes opened to see the depths of their sin and moral bankruptcy, and who have thus turned to the only one who can wash them clean and white as snow by His precious blood - - and who have experienced the freedom and joy that comes from such - - and who every day, throughout the day marvel at the greatness of God’s mercy manifested to them through the cross; those are the ones who love and adore Jesus as He is so worthy to be loved and adored.
Folks like Simon who are blinded by their pride and arrogance; and who cannot see their sin for what it is; and thus see no need for the Savior, they have little ability to love anyone really but themselves.
Please note, when Jesus alludes to this woman’s “many” sins in vs. 47, He is not implying that Simon’s sins are any less. The sin of pride and hardness of heart is at least as bad as any sexual sin known to man. It was pride and arrogance that got Satan and his demons kicked out of heaven. And Jesus railed against the Pharisees throughout His earthly ministry for their hardness of heart caused by their pride.
When the Bible says “There are six things which the Lord hates; Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:…” Do you know what the first one listed is? “Haughty eyes” another term for pride - - Proverbs 6:16
C. J Mahaney once went as far as to say this regarding the seriousness of pride , “…biblical evidence abounds for the conclusion that there’s no sin more offensive to (God) than pride.”
Pride blinds us from knowing and seeing God as He is. Pride blinds us from seeing the stench and seriousness of our sins as it is. Pride causes us to take for granted that our names are written in the book of life (if they are). And pride causes us to scorn and detest others whose sin may be more obvious than ours, but certainly is no worse.
This ex prostitute loved Jesus perhaps as much as anyone else around in Jesus’s day because she knew she was a sinner deserving the horrors of hell; and yet because of the matchless mercy and grace of God displayed towards her, she knew that her sins had been forgiven and were spread as far as the east is from the west; and that Jesus Himself had extended His loving hand of fellowship to her.
To make sure she had that needed assurance, Jesus looked her in the eyes and spoke these words: Let’s read vs. 48-50.
“Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 50 And He said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
I love how Jesus focused in on this woman, ignoring the others in the room.
I love how He is here tonight – ready to give of Himself to those who respond to Him in faith and brokenness and contrition of heart.
We have an amazing Savior folks! One who though pure beyond our ability to comprehend, was willing to be born in the womb of a woman born in sin; he was willing to be raised by parents born in sin, and who though righteous, probably sinned daily. He was willing to be raised with sinful siblings, who probably weren’t so righteous. When He began His ministry He was willing to be increasingly scorned and lied about, maligned and rejected. When His time to suffer for our sake’s came, He endured 3 unjust trials, beatings, being repeatedly spat upon, cussed at and cruely reviled, scourged mercilessly, and finally crucified. At some point in that process, your sin and mine was placed upon Him, at which point He cried out, Father, Father why have you forsaken Me?”
Somehow as unbelievable as all this is that the one true living holy God would do this for us, we believers typically give it little thought in our busy daily lives. And I believe that is a major reason why our love for Him is so weak.
Paul Claudel once said, “The greatest sin is to lose the sense of sin.” Personally I think the greatest sin is breaking the greatest commandment, which is to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, soul, strength and mind.” But surely losing the sense of the depths of our sin and the greatness of our salvation and Savior ranks close behind.
We’re going to finish out our evening together with some more opportunities to worship our Savior in song. I would like to remind you that if you have had your eyes opened to see the depths of your sin and the greatness of our Savior, and you have turned to Him to forgive and cleanse you from all sin, and to bring you into relationship with the living God, there are communion tables set up in the back corners of our sanctuary. Please feel free between now and the time you leave tonight to commune with your Savior at one of those tables.
If you have never personally invited Jesus Christ to invade your life and clean you up and make you whole by His blood and by His Spirit, then won’t you humble yourself and do that tonight?