As I prepared for this week’s sermon, I was pressed spiritually to place the events of this week within the context of our spiritual eternity as believers. As I watched the news throughout the week, I have seen the emotional extremes evidenced throughout the people of nation. From individuals who were saddened by what happened brought to the point of tears and anger. To others who were excited and elated by the voting results, holding onto a hope that through a man, America and thus the people of America would realize a new tomorrow. Even within my workplace, there were many individuals who were caught between these two dichotomies either uncertain about tomorrow or hopeful for tomorrow. As I placed these happenings in context, I realized that you and I need to understand and embrace where we place our hope and peace. In Philippians 4:7 our Lord says to all his children “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What do the scriptures mean when it says that our Lord will give you and me a peace that will guard our hearts and mind? What does it mean to guard our hearts and mind? A peace that will transcend all the understanding of mankind.
This morning, we need to ask ourselves, where is our peace founded upon? This moment in history is an incredible opportunity for us as believers to share the hope and peace that we experience as children of the kingdom of Heaven, no matter what the future holds for us today.
Scripture – Luke 7:36-50 (ESV)
A Sinful Woman Forgiven
36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 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, 38 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. 39 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.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 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. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Engaging the Word
As we go through this passage, we are going to compare two very different individuals. One who thinks that they have defined who God or a prophet should be. The other individual is just searching after peace in her life and through the wreckage of her life, realizes forgiveness, hope and peace lies entirely in the Son of God that sat before her that day. Our Lord was invited in the home of Simon the Pharisee, where he is to sit and have dinner with a man who is either purposefully bringing our Lord in to entrap him or has an attitude requiring the Son of God to fit into his definition of religion. As our Lord comes into the home of Simon, traditionally Simon is called upon to wash the feet of all that are invited into his home but as we see here in this passage, it seems that our Lord is just sat down so that he can be seen with Simon. I don’t know what Simon’s exact reason for having our Lord in his home, whether it was to trap him, or to see if he really was a prophet or the mere reason of being seen with the relevant important person of Jesus Christ in his home. The woman that we see in this text, takes advantage of the tradition of that day and walks into this setting just so that she can pick up the scrapes that are being left for those less fortunate. You see in those times, it was normal for the beggars and less fortunate in the community to come into the areas where those who had much so that they could pick up the scrapes that were left for the dogs.
Folks here in this passage is a truth that each of us need to grasp if we are ever to have complete freedom and peace exist within our lives. Because men and women think of themselves to be intelligent beings, able to conquer the world and thus conquer whatever they may face this life we quite candidly don’t think that we need God in every aspect of our lives. You and I may be thinking this morning, that we are not like this Pharisee Simon, but if you take the time to consider all that he did, unfortunately we do it on a daily basis. Simon, thinks that he has figured out God through his religion so God has to fit into his religion. How often do we find ourselves expecting God to fit into our theologies? Simon perhaps thought that he just wanted to be seen by others to be hosting this important prophet. How often do we place ourselves in places so that we can be seen by others, whether it is on church boards, in leadership positions, up the front of the church, or even just in church? Sometimes our service, our spiritual motive for church existence is not defined by the presence of our Lord but by our own motives and plans. We don’t come to God just to be with our Savior, sometimes we come to God to be seen with God. In Philippians 2:6, Paul writes of spiritual perspective that our Lord provides and few embrace. “Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Our Lord Jesus Christ paid the price for all in this death on the cross and risen self; but in this action our Lord provided a truth that realizes the miracle of this amazing truth in our lives as believers. David puts it another way in Psalms 25:9, “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.”
You see looking at this woman we see brokenness and hopelessness. A woman searching for peace and hope in her life and in this moment, she realized that her only hope lay in the Nazarene carpenter’s hands sitting in the home of Simon. She was known to be a sinner in their community, but she did care because all she knew was that she needed God. She may have been prostitute; we don’t know but as I sat with our Lord talking to him about that day. I could see a young woman broken, dirty, probably cowering from the stares that beared upon her and the snickering remarks that passed by her ears. With long dark hair, the remanence of old smudged make up on her face, and torn dirty robes from being pushed to the side by the society that surrounded her. She had come to pick up the scraps that were left behind but realized that true promise lay before her. She had nowhere to go, no one to lift her from the hole she had dug in life and so in her desperate need and humility, she realized rightness lay at the feet of the Son of God. She had nothing to give but her tears, the only thing of value left in her life and herself as an offering. As this woman reached down to the feet of our Lord still dirty from traveling, feeling the very presence of our Savior, she broke down and gave all that she had. The very presence of our Lord revealed to this woman the emptiness and waste her plans had brought her. In this moment, she began to weep and wash the very feet of our Lord hoping that in just washing the feet her Savior that he would take pity and give her hope once more.
The Doubt of man
So Simon seeing this happening right before him, begins to look upon our Lord with pity; thinking that if Jesus really was a prophet he would know who this woman was and would allow this woman to do what she was doing. For to those of that day, just the mere touch of the unclean, according to tradition, would make those who were clean unclean. But our Lord knowing the heart of Simon using a parable, shows Simon that forgiveness is not a function of quantity but a function of need. If you have ever struggled with freedom from an issue in your life where you have needed forgiveness and freedom no matter how big or how small the issue is, our Lord desires to give us freedom and forgiveness. The question is, how big do we need that forgiveness in our lives. If we come to God, wanting him to fit into our lives, like Simon that day, it is no wonder that personal struggle still exists. Spiritual freedom can only be realized when we give it all to Christ as this woman did that day. That day as Simon looked down upon our Lord he did not see the Son of God, because he did not think he needed the Son of God. In this Simon’s heart was beded with the doubt of man, unwilling to embrace the truth that Jesus Christ, was not just a prophet but actually the long awaited Savior of all mankind. Because of this, the doubt of mankind limited the limitless possibilities of God in the life of Simon. Because of this, the doubt of mankind limited God’s forgiveness and chained the freedom that sat before him that day. As our Lord saw the doubt that had bound the life of Simon our Lord’s heart must have cried for this man that sat before him. He was so close the truth and yet so far because of the doubt and unbelief that spurred him forth that day. As it says in Mark 16:16 “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”.
Peace is Waiting
Through the snot and tears that this woman cried upon the feet of our Lord, bearing before him her deep need for his presence and truth in her life, this woman that reaches around her neck for the only thing left of value in her life, an alabaster flask. This alabaster flask tied around her neck, held her identity as an individual and was of prized value to any woman of that day. Yet in this moment, this woman grabbed all that was left of her and poured all that she had upon the feet of her Savior. It was not only all that she valued but it was her identity within this world. In this moment, this woman went from a woman without purpose and place, to a woman with forgiveness and peace. A woman who was scorned and laughed upon, to a woman who now was a child of the living God. In this moment of faith, this child of God realized peace, a peace that she had long searched after. In her faith, she had realized a peace that surpassed all understanding because it was founded in the person of Jesus Christ her Savior. She no longer had to worry over the snickering hearts and words of those around her, because victory over this world was now within her. No longer did she need to fear the hopelessness of this world, because hope was given in the presence of her Lord. That day as this woman looked into the loving eyes of our Savior she realized the words of our Lord “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.”
I don’t know in your heart of hearts why you are here today. Maybe it’s because you want to seem important in the church. Maybe it’s because this is where your friends hang out. Maybe it’s because its tradition just like Simon. This morning, if you have come in asking yourself where you can find peace in your life, in your family’s life, the answer is sitting at the table desiring to see your faith. We can all sit at the table looking upon those who we define as less fortunate than us, not understanding that we are just as lost as the woman broken and weeping upon the feet of our Lord. God wants to give each of us amazing possibilities in our lives if we will just place the world of doubt that we hold onto down and just trust in his name. Our Lord wants to give us the fullness of his forgiveness and his freedom in our lives if we will just let go of the doubt and judgement that we hold onto. Our Lord wants to give us a whole new identity as his child, not a broken element of this world, if we will just pour our identity at his feet today.