Who Is This Who Even Forgives Sins?
I preached this sermon this morning out at Cottonwood.
36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
This Pharisee invites Jesus to have dinner with him- Why do you suppose he would do something like that? It seems like kind of a weird thing for a Pharisee to do. Jesus accepted the invitation, went to his house and reclined at the Table.
It seems like Pharisees get a bad rap. There are all these negative feelings associated with Pharisees. In reality, they are just doing what all the rest of us are. They are just trying to practice their religion the best way they know how. So what if they consider themselves to be more pious than everyone else. They can’t be all that bad or Jesus wouldn’t want to eat with them, right?
37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,
You kind of get the impression that there were a lot of people at this party because for this woman to simply hear about the party and show up and get to the very feet of Jesus without being noticed is pretty impressive.
So here in these first two verses, the stage is set. We have the principle actors in this morning’s drama and the show we are going to see is entitled, “Who Will Win Over the Heart of Jesus”. As we sit and watch the story we want to know how Jesus is going to respond to this awkward situation.
Back to the question of why the Pharisee invited Jesus there to begin with. When we hear the word Pharisee, we automatically think about all the horrible things that the Pharisee’s did to try and trap Jesus. They lay bait in front of him hoping for him to take a bite into it and fall into their trap. We don’t get that impression in this situation. Every indication from the passage tells us that we have one pious teacher of the law inviting another pious teacher of the law over for dinner to chat it up. No mal-intentions at all.
But then there’s this woman. This is no doubt an awkward situation for everyone present. Imagine you are at a party. It’s a large party and people are coming and going, so the fact that there are uninvited guest running around is not really important to you. What gets weird is when one of the uninvited guests falls at the feet of an invited guest.
38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
Its so strange isn’t it? Why would a person do such a thing? Doesn’t she know that such an act would cause people to look at her weird? Doesn’t she know that she is at a Pharisee’s house? She must not know the Pharisees reputations or she would not put herself on the line like this. Doesn’t she also know that Jesus’ feet are probably dirty? Wearing sandals all day and walking around on roads thousands of years before concrete and pavement doesn’t make for a pretty sight. Doesn’t she know that if she wipes his dirty feet with her hair that people will look at her even more strange? Doesn’t she know how much the perfume she is just drenching all over his dirty feet is worth? People are already speculating as to how she got the money, now they are no doubt judging her in other ways as well. This awkward situation just turns from weird to more weird. Things just get more uncomfortable as this sinner continues. Heads are turning, people are leaving, gossips are talking and the mood just goes downhill…all because of this woman.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Finally, our pure intentioned host steps in and relieves the tension. He does just what everyone was hoping someone would do and says something to Jesus. Now people may think from this that Simon was trying to trap Jesus. I don’t think he was. I think that our past readings of the Bible and most every sermon we have heard in the past has painted a grim picture for every Pharisee. I think in a situation like this everyone would feel a little awkward. The Pharisee was just saying what everyone else was thinking. Wasn’t he? Everyone was just waiting for him to put an end to this sinful woman’s act. He was only acting in the best interest of his party. Yet he did not want to insult his honored guest so he put the ball in Jesus’ court. It is now up to Jesus to do something about the impurity which has created so much tension for the Pharisee and all his guests.
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
The peculiar thing is that Jesus doesn’t say anything to the woman. He just speaks right to Simon.
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
And then in Jesus’ typical fashion he uses a story to say something about the situation. He uses an example the emphasize the point. As this woman, who has lived a life full of sin sits at his feet weeping and Simon wonders what is going to be done about “this problem” Jesus tells them this parable.
41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
I am sure everyone listening to the story was wondering just what does that have to do with anything at all. They may have been thinking, we’ve got this serious problem on our hands and you are talking about moneylenders and debts. But Simon, being a gracious host, puts his concerns temporarily aside and answers Jesus question.
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
Simon knows the absurdity of the moneylender’s decision. To totally cancel a debt worth more than a year’s worth of wages is something no one would ever expect. For that matter no one would expect to have a debt worth more than a months wages cancelled. Yet Simon is not stupid, he knows that the one with the greater debt has more to be thankful for.
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
With these words, “You have judged correctly” Jesus simply means, you’ve got it, you’ve guessed the right answer. Yet perhaps these words mean something more. Perhaps Jesus chose these words, “You have judged correctly” specifically because it is the first time in the entire evening that any sort of correct judging has been done at all. From the time this woman came into his house, people were judging her incorrectly. And now Jesus had to create a story in which the answer was so obvious, it would be impossible for Simon to judge incorrectly.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Not quite what Simon was expecting to hear, Huh? He wanted Jesus to fix the problem and instead, he gets a lecture on being a good host. He expected for Jesus to sympathize with his problem of having a sinner in his house and instead, Jesus says that Simon could learn something from this woman. He was thinking that he was so much better than this woman yet, Jesus says she has more love than him.
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Who is this who even forgives sins?
Who is this who even forgives sins?
I think that in the midst of Jesus putting the smack down on Simon, we miss something that he is trying to say about his own forgiveness.
From the moment that the woman entered his house to the moment she fell at his feet and cracked open the perfume bottle, everyone was comparing themselves to her. Here a woman easily identified as sinner willingly allows herself to enter an arena where her faithfulness will be compared to the piety of a Pharisee. This woman didn’t stand a chance against Simon.
Yet there’s one thing that we always seem to miss about Jesus parable about the moneylender. The moneylender saw both the debts of the men and cancelled both the debts of the men. The money lender didn’t play the comparison game and as far as Jesus was concerned, it could have been Simon with the bigger debt. It doesn’t matter to him.
Have you ever met someone who didn’t think their conversion was as good because they hadn’t done as many bad things as someone else? I remember in college, they had this week in chapel where they would get people to come up and speak about all these life difficulties they had overcome.
This one guy got up and talked about how he had a drug addiction that was costing him over $10,000 a month. One day he just decided to quit and so he did and became a Christian.
Another guy talked about how he had been to prison and had done all these horrible things but had come full circle and was now a minister at a church of Christ and everything was better.
I think we hear stories like that of people who have done such horrible awful things and we look at our own stories of coming to the feel of Jesus and we just don’t feel like they can compare. We think that since we didn’t have a huge dramatic conversion where we stopped the drugs and drinking and sleeping around that our encounter with Jesus wasn’t as meaningful.
The thing we forget is that Jesus, the moneylender, cancelled both debts. When Jesus looks at us, his heart does not see one person with a greater debt than another person. Instead the heart of Jesus sees two people who need him.
The heart of Jesus sees two people who have both at one time or another been separated from him.
The heart of Jesus sees two people whose debts he wants to cancel.
The heart of Jesus is just as willing to cancel the debt of the man owing 500 denarii as the one owing 50.
The heart of Jesus is just as willing for Simon to invite him into his home as he is for the sinful woman to sit at his feet.
The heart of Jesus is just as willing to offer himself on the cross for those who don’t know him as he is for those who do.
The heart of Jesus is just as willing to die for those who are ok with all this as he is for those who aren’t.
This has always been kind of a struggle for me.
Jesus was just as willing to die for Osama Bin Laden as he was for me. Let me rephrase that. Jesus was no more glad to die for me than he was for Osama Bin Laden. His love is equal.
I think that in our churches we have come to a point where this message might be too challenging to hear. Because if we are to hear this message and, like Simon the Pharisee, to “judge correctly” than it wouldn’t bother us to sit on the pew next to a murderer. If we were to “judge correctly,” it wont bother us to have a meal with someone who has deeply hurt us. If we are going to look at our lives as people whose debts are no greater or no less than anyone else’s it wont be a problem to share a songbook with people who disagree with us.
The heart of Jesus is one who forgives sins.