Forgiveness & Love

Luke 7:36-50 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. 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. 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.” 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.” 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.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

When people meet Jesus in the Gospels, they can act a little. . . .  Odd. I don’t mean this pejoratively, and I don’t mean to trivialize the narratives; it is simply the honest and natural reaction to some of the behavior that we find throughout the Scriptures.  Meeting Jesus compels one mature adult man climb high up into a tree; others are led to rip holes in a roof. It compels a woman to sneak behind Jesus in a crowd and snatch at his cloak; another purposefully compares herself to a dog when she speaks with him.  Here, in Luke chapter seven, a woman comes uninvited into a strangers home, weeps in public, spends expensive ointment on his feet, and then washes those same feet with her own hair.  Greeting someone by breaking into stranger’s houses and weepingly washing their feet with your own hair was not a common Middle Eastern welcoming ritual - it was as alarming then as it is now.

How does Jesus respond?

  • He heals the man that was lowered through the hole in the roof (John 5:8)

  • He calls down the man in the tree and stays with him (Luke 19:5)

  • He blesses the woman that grabs his robe (Matthew 9:22)

  • He lauds the faith of the Syrophoenician woman and heals her daughter (Matthew 15:28)

  • And here, in Luke 7, He proclaims the woman washing His feet to be the very picture of gospel forgiveness.

The common thread? “He who is forgiven little, loves little.”  These people love Christ and pursue Him relentlessly because they are the only ones who truly understand the stakes!  It is worth climbing a tree like a child for Messiah to come to your house? Is it worth ripping a hole in a roof for Messiah’s healing?  Is it worth grabbing at a robe for Messiah’s power? Is it worth taking table scraps if it means Messiah’s grace? In this light, is any of this behavior truly odd?  In this light, aren’t these actions truly the only sane thing to do? If you knew for sure that beneath a roof lie healing for a terrible affliction, you would tear it apart.   If you knew for sure that drawing His attention would bring Jesus into your home, you’d climb anything. If you knew the tremendous power of Jesus could stop your long torment, you would grab at Him with all your strength.  If you knew that humbly waiting for the scraps off His table meant saving your daughter, you would glue yourself to His presence.

And so: If you knew that Jesus knows all of your sins - from A to Z - and responds to your sins by forgiving them, then you love Him with all of your heart.  You burst into His presence, and weep at his feet, and spend all that you have worshipping and adoring Him. At the end of the day, this woman’s actions aren’t odd or confusing at all - she’s the only one at the dinner making any sense. 

We live in confusing times with an uncertain future.  We don’t know what the disease is going to do, we don’t know what the government is going to do, and we don’t know what the economy is going to do.  Here is what we do know: we have been forgiven greatly.  Let us love greatly.  What better outcome could there be to months in quarantine than a church that has grown in its understanding of the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ?

The time will come when Christians have to take actions that seem very odd to the world around us; for many of you, your life has already seen many of these moments. The way to prepare for these actions, Scripture tells us, is to flee from our own strength, and dive headlong into understanding the love of God.  The more we understand our forgiveness, the more we love Him. The more we love Him, the less the world can threaten, shame, or distract us - so that when your family, friends, work, peers, a room full of Pharisees, or even the whole world look at you in confusion and derision, you see none of it, because all you see are the wonderful feet that have brought you salvation.  

—David Schexnayder, Administrator


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