Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MUCH FORGIVEN (Luke Chapter 7)

The problem with mere religion is that it has no life to it.  It is cold, hard, loveless, and lifeless.  Religion says “do this” and “don’t do that,” supposing to somehow bestow benefit to the lives of its adherents.  Religion is a scam, ill-founded on the false-premise that do’s and don’ts can somehow work to regain that which was lost in the fall.  But “dos” and “don’ts” are no substitute for the love and forgiveness bound up in Christ.

Simon was a Pharisee.  The affairs of his daily routine were governed by countless “do’s” and “don’ts,” and in doing such things he esteemed himself righteous.  He invited Jesus to his home for dinner (Luke 7:36).  We are not given the reason why, perhaps he was curious about Jesus, but whatever the reason the setting was disrupted in curious fashion.

A “woman of the city, who was a sinner” entered the home (Luke 7:37).  She was an immoral woman.  That Simon knew of her reputation, “what sort of woman” she was, would indicate some sin of a public nature (7:39).  Perhaps she was a prostitute.  To enter that Pharisee’s home was an incredibly bold venture.  What caused her to do it?  In the chronology of events Jesus had previously invited “all who labor and heavy laden” to come to Him (Matthew 11:28).  Perhaps she came looking for Jesus, yearning for His promised “soul rest,” something that mere religion could never provide.

So the woman entered the house.  Jesus was reclining at the table (Luke 7:37).  She came up behind Him and began to do all that she could do that she might express her love for Jesus.  She had brought an “alabaster flack of ointment” (Luke 7:37).  She was weeping and “began to wet his feet with her tears.”  She then wiped His feet with the hair of her head and anointed them with that rare and expensive perfume (7:38).  It was an unprecedented, public display of extravagant devotion.  It would be repeated by another on a future occasion, and the response of the religious in both cases speaks to their ignorance of matters pertaining to grace, love, and forgiveness (John 12:1-7).

Simon was disturbed by what he saw.  “Didn’t Jesus know ‘what sort of woman’ she was,” he thought.  But Jesus discerned his thoughts and used the opportunity to explain, by means of a parable, important truths to a man who was religiously wise but spiritually stupid.  He said, “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 one of them will love him more” (Luke 7:41-42)?

We are all, in sin, debtors before God.  Religion falsely supposes that the debt can be somehow worked out through religious self-effort and good deeds.  Simon was a religious man, he had not experienced God’s forgiveness.  He saw no need for it.  His religious life had no “vertical” to it.  He was ignorant to matters pertaining to grace and love.  In his religiosity he was cold, and hard, and lifeless.  He invited Jesus to his home, but his invitation was not marked by love.  He gave no kiss, washed no feet, and offered no anointing.  In his religious economy the sinful woman was not worthy.  He had no loving concern for her and used her faults to bolster his own religious prestige.

But the sinful woman found a friend in the “Friend of Sinners.”  No sin debt can exceed His capacity to forgive.  His forgiveness worked a change in her, freeing her from her bondage in guilt to love Jesus in extravagant fashion.  Her life was utterly and remarkably changed by Jesus.  She loved Him much because she was much forgiven. And in that she possessed something far more precious than Simon’s dead and heartless religion.  One by one God’s much-forgiven saints file into church on any given Sunday, like alabaster flasks they were created in Christ Jesus and filled with His love that they in turn might be spilt out as He was.  The sinful woman loved Jesus in extravagant fashion, she serves as a wonderful example to all those who have been much forgiven!

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