Today’s message is titled, It is Grace. You may know Grace as a name, Grace to you might be what you say before you eat, it could be an ideal you live your life by. I have been a Christian for 13 years and in ministry for 10 of those 13 years, I have studied the Bible intensively for my degree at Bible College for the past four years but I still don’t have a handle on Grace. Sometimes I get glimpses of Grace in my relationships, with my wife, my children, my parents, my in-laws, through my friends. Though I strive for Grace to be my first response that is not always the case. Grace is an action, a motive, a feeling, grace can be expressed in tears and in laughter. I could define grace to you theologically, biblically, and even theoretically but I feel it is safer to let Jesus define grace to us today. I would like to bring our attention to the response of the person who receives God’s grace in our story. The theme of our message today has to do with gratitude. If you remember one thing from today’s sermon it is this, “Gratitude is evidence of God’s forgiveness, evidence of God’s grace.”
Have you ever been invited to someone’s house for dinner when you knew they really didn’t want you there? I have. My wife and I were invited to someone’s house some years ago and we knew that that person saw us as enemies. We were cordial and conversational at the dinner table but part of me wondered why on earth this person wanted to have us over for dinner. We found out a few months later when this individual tried to get me fired by making up lies that had shreds of the truth in them. They told my boss that I had done things that breached the contract and mission statement of the company. This person was looking for evidence, however small to have me fired because they wanted my position. Jesus had a similar situation happen to him. In Luke 7:36 Jesus was invited to dinner by someone who didn’t really want him there. Please turn there with me as we learn how Jesus handles himself in an awkward situation.
Luke 7:36-50 (read it)
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 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.
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.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people 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 forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
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—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Side Note: Some might read this to mean that the woman earned Jesus’ forgiveness through the washing of Jesus’ feet and her tears. This is not so. Her actions are evidence of experiencing forgiveness. The “for” in verse 47 “for she loved much” reveals that her love was not the grounds for her forgiveness rather it is evidence that she has received forgiveness. “For she loved much” is the evidence not the cause of God’s forgiveness.
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.”
Luke wrote this Gospel to help Most Excellent Theophilus understand who Jesus was. In chapter 7 up to this point Jesus had done three things; he healed the centurion’s servant in 7:1-10, raised the widow’s son from the dead in 11-17, and was revealed to be the Coming one promised in the Scriptures (7:18-35). Again the question of “who is this Jesus” comes to the forefront when Simon the Pharisee questions Jesus’ identity as a prophet.
Now if you’re familiar with Luke’s Gospel you’ll know the Pharisees don’t think too highly of Jesus so the question must be asked “was Simon the Pharisee any different?” After Jesus’ story Simon the Pharisee is chastised for not treating Jesus hospitably, “Jesus 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…” Some scholars believe this is because Simon the Pharisee was looking for a reason to discredit Jesus opposed to earnestly seeking who this Jesus was. I think Simon’s behavior towards Jesus and the “sinner” proves this, you see the power hungry Pharisees were losing their authority over the people and constantly looking for ways to discredit and shame Jesus.
So this powerful member of Jesus’ day invites Jesus to his house for a meal. Not too long into the meal the Pharisee finds the evidence he was looking for and concludes that Jesus is not even a prophet for if he was he would have known who was touching him and what kind of woman she was, a sinner.
This woman is seen as a sinner by the Pharisee. What’s wrong with this judgment? The Pharisee is a sinner too.
Simon the Pharisee is thinking falsely about Jesus. We can conclude that Simon the Pharisee believed two false things about Jesus 1. A prophet would not allow a sinful woman to do this and 2. Jesus didn’t know that this was a sinful woman and thus was not a prophet. We don’t know how Jesus perceived the Pharisees thoughts but consider how he could have responded. (Strong) Jesus, God incarnate, Lord of heaven and earth, Alpha and Omega, could have gotten angry and stormed out of Simon the Pharisees house casting down fire from heaven. How does God handle someone’s lack of belief and challenge? (really soft voice) He tells a story.
Have you ever been in a situation where the Lord didn’t do what you expected? You didn’t get the job you applied for, a family member wasn’t healed, the oncoming car hit you. Jesus, through story reveals that not only would a prophet allow a sinful woman do what she did but that he is more than just a mere prophet.
Then Jesus asks Simon the Pharisee a question, “Who would be more grateful?” to which Simon answered correctly, “the one forgiven most”. Jesus reveals that he not only knew the woman but that he knew Simon the Pharisee. Simon the Pharisee is caught and Jesus turns the tables on him from judging others to judging himself. Look at how gracious Jesus is! We know Jesus’ judgments on Simon the Pharisee but Jesus allows the Pharisee to see for himself!
To cap it all off Jesus ends this real life parable by ensuring the woman her sins were forgiven for the benefit of her, the Pharisee, as well as us reading this story today. Here’s what the story reveals: Jesus knew Simon’s thoughts, 2. He knew the woman was a sinner, 3. Jesus is able to forgive sins, something only God can do.
Interesting to note in verse 49 Jesus states, “you are forgiven”. He doesn’t say “God forgives you” or “go to the High Priest to have your sins forgiven through sacrifice”. He himself forgave the sins of this woman. In 5:20-21 Jesus forgives the sins of a man and the Pharisees question, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The question of “who is this Jesus” is being answered by Luke in chapter 7: Jesus is healer, he is the resurrection, he is the forgiveness of sins. The most amazing miracle in the Bible that we all can experience today is the forgiveness of sins. The people didn’t question Jesus when he healed the sick, they didn’t question him when he raised the dead, they questioned him when he forgave sin! Think about that, we have two amazing physical miracles from the mouth of Jesus but what do people question? Something that has no physical representation. How difficult is it to say you are forgiven compared to healing the sick and raising the dead? But that’s what Jesus was challenged by for “only God can forgive sins”. Guess what Pharisee, Jesus is God.
Though we’re moving beyond acceptance of forgiveness, that is what we do after we have experienced God’s grace, and though we’re not really told how the woman was saved before she came to Jesus, I do want to illustrate what acceptance of God’s grace looks like. Imagine for a moment that God has given you a gift, perfectly wrapped and apparent to the world that it is for you. Now instead of opening the gift you parade it around and show everyone the beautiful wrapping paper and ornate bow. You don’t even know what the wrapping paper is wrapped around. One day God shows up and asks you to unwrap the gift. When you do you realize the gift is Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the way of life, an ever present friend in time of need, King of heaven, and Lord of all. You don’t get credit for opening the gift God prepared for you and you certainly didn’t deserve the righteousness, holiness, and clean slate that God has afforded you. But you are grateful.
The woman’s attitude toward Jesus is evidence that she had experienced forgiveness. Take that concept to a new level in your relationships. What if instead of seeing people as self-righteous or sinful, bitter, or hard hearted we viewed them as lacking an experience of the Lord’s forgiveness? You can tell a person’s attitude toward Jesus by the way they treat others. Instead of berating someone when wronged those who have accepted God’s forgiveness respond with grace, instead of a harsh chastisement they have a story. Evidence of experiencing the Lord’s forgiveness. Again we see Jesus’ upside down kingdom where the most likely candidate, a Pharisee, compared to the most unlikely, a sinful woman, makes it into heaven. The outcast accepts forgiveness. The last have become the first and the first have become the last.
If someone loves much they have experienced forgiveness. If someone doesn’t love either they have chosen not to accept grace or God is waiting for you to act in offering it. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.”
Consider your own interactions and thoughts in your mind, are you grateful? Do you dwell on things not going your way or are you so captured by God’s grace, God’s forgiveness that everything is received with gratitude?
Have you ever gone to a rest home or retirement home and visited the elderly? In my experiences there are two types of people residing in those places and yes this is a generalization; those who are happy and bubbly and have vigor for life and those who are bitter and angry. I hope to be the former if I get to live that long. I hope to be full of life and excitement. I hope to have a story for those who would seek to put others down around me and do it with a smile on my face. I hope to reveal what God has done in my life through the appreciation and gratitude I show Jesus and those around me. Imagine how you would relate to those who are enemies of God? Instead of anger and self-righteousness you might think, “Oh that poor thing hasn’t experienced God’s forgiveness and love yet” and then go and do something about it.
The woman’s gratitude led her to take action. Her experience of God’s forgiveness led her to express appreciation by serving Jesus.
In this passage we see the experience of salvation expressed as the “forgiveness of sins” (49), “deliverance” (vs. 50), and “peace” (vs. 50). These are three elements of life that we should remember when things are difficult.
In closing, both Simon and the sinful woman’s standing before God was revealed and determined by their attitude toward Jesus.
So where do you stand?