Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: We come to a feast at which our Lord Jesus Christ is present. Let us find joy in our sorrow for sin’s forgiven and enter into His rest.

Blessed are Those Who Mourn Luke 7__36-50 trinity 1 proper 6


Blessed are Those Who Mourn: these words of Jesus are perhaps better translated as “Be happy you who sorrow, for you shall be comforted.” How can those at a funeral do other than be sorrowful? How can they not mourn? What blessedness; happiness is to be found in that place?

Yet, this past week, many found occasions to comment on the blessedness of remembering great deeds as well as the eloquent, joyful, uplifting, often humourous words that came from a man who with other men of equal dedication and good will, changed the course of recent history.

Margaret Thatcher said, "And surely it is hard to deny that Ronald Reagan’s life was providential". The truth of those words, that ghostly bit of history were given flesh and blood reality in our time when Michael Gorbochev visited our land, and paid silent tribute by laying his hands on the casket, not of an ancient enemy, but in memory who reached beyond national enmity to establish some trust, some friendship in order to avert war of unimaginable magnitude. Here was a man who, though limited and flawed as all men are, had risen above national stature to embrace and draw out even those we called the enemy and revealed in concrete ways the brotherhood of man.

Of course President Reagan did not bring the wall down singlehandedly, in fact, the wall did not come down until after his administration was over. But he had confidence in the rationality and goodness of humanity, and had faith in the righteousness of his actions that he dared reach toward people on the other side of the wall, believing that ultimately they would reach back. On the other side of that wall, from the end of WWII in 1945 until the wall finally came down in 1990 other men of good will, of that great generation were also at work. Among them Lech Walesa, the Polish labor leader and later president of a free Poland, a priest named Karol Wojtila later to become Pope John Paul II, and Michael Gorbachev. These, and many others, worked for a better world and peace among men, at the risk of their careers and very lives.

In fact, both JPII and Ronald Regan were shot, and nearly became martyrs. They in fact resisted unto blood in their struggle against sin; against the world’s brokeness.

So, in the midst of mourning, this past week, there was some joy, and general uplift in this country as we remembered a life well lived, and also those men and women of the greater generation who shaped the last half of the last century, and hence, our own world.

You blessed, you happy sorrowers, said Jesus on one occasion.

In today’s Gospel, we look at a mourner, a woman in deep sorrow. We don’t know the immediate cause of her sorrow, we only know that she seemed very much alone in the world and was shunned. We do not know her name, other than “sinner.” We know not the nature of her many sins.

Let’s get some background for the Gospel.

The scene is that of a meal at the House of Simon the Pharisee.

We really don’t know what prompted him to invite Jesus to this feast. It does not seem that Simon was really close to Jesus because he did not extend to him the normal hospitality. Common courtesy for the day would have been that as soon as Jesus entered the house of Simon, he would have been greeted with a kiss, His feet would have been washed and His head anointed with oil. It may be this leader wanted an opportunity to learn more of what the followers of John the Baptist and Jesus were doing.

Simon seems to have purposefully omitted the common courtesies accorded to any honored guest. Simon treated Jesus with practiced cool contempt. He carefully avoided every custom that would have made Jesus feel welcome. All the guests must have noticed this, for Luke records it faithfully in his account.

In Luke 7, a sinner, as attested and emphasized in Greek (v 36), went uninvited to see Jesus. The woman has been unreasonably vilified as a prostitute in many commentaries; for she may have simply been a widow. There was little room for unmarried women in that ancient society. The ostracized town scandal showed up at Simon the Pharisee’s dinner for Jesus. The woman stood timidly behind Jesus, stooped below to kiss his feet, and suffered stinging remarks for her actions. She cried on Jesus feet, dried His feet, and perfumed them later.

Simon the host was livid. He frowned on Jesus and fumed at the woman. The woman created a scene by her presence, and not only did Jesus not bar her attendance, and the physical contact between Jesus and the sinner was considered irresponsible, unthinkable, and regrettable. The woman, however, did not hear words of rebuke from Jesus; instead Jesus offered words of forgiveness, assurance, and comfort to her.

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