Summary: Jesus: Friend of Sinners, Part 2 of 7.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN (LK. 7:36-50)
I had known for quite a while an elderly man who had two sons. The older son was the valedictorian of his school, a researcher at a Forbes 500 company, and a visiting professor at a graduate school. The younger son paled in comparison; he was an average student, did not graduate from college, and had hit the glass ceiling with his qualification.
The younger son decided to further his education, applied to a college nearby his brother’s residence and, along with his wife, lived with the brother to ease the financial burden. The initial excitement wore off quickly, the two families did not get along, and a baby added to the younger family complicated and amplified things.
After the younger brother’s graduation, the two families separated with hard feelings. The host set a date for his brother to leave the house, and the younger family huffed and puffed in anger and left for work and residence in another country. A few weeks later, the older brother received news that his brother was dead. He was swimming in a pool when he drowned. No one heard or saw it. All relatives blamed the older brother for driving the younger one literally to his death, the surviving widow practically cut off all ties with the family, and the older one was wrecked with guilt, regret and pain.
When I visited the two brothers’ father, who was confined to a nursing home for Parkinson’s disease, I could hear him asking me through his stammering, pausing, and mumbling: “Why? What wrong did I do in my previous life?” My heart was racing fast and feeling pained, but I bit my tongue and said to him, “You did nothing wrong. You had two good sons, you gave your best to your family, and you were a wonderful father.”
Not knowing if you are forgiven, who to turn to, and how to get there are the biggest burdens one can carry.
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; nevertheless, 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, dried His feet, and odorized it 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.
What kind of person does God forgive? Is He willing to forgive the type man has condemned? How is genuine repentance demonstrated?
The first requirement for genuine forgiveness of sins is to feel the heaviness of sin in your heart.
FEEL THE WEIGHT YOU BEAR
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. 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, 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. (Lk 7:36-38)
Evagrius, the fourth century desert father who believed that tears are God’s gift to believers to assist them in the prayer life, said: “The man who is seated in his cell and who recites psalms is like one who stands outside and seeks the king. But he who prays with tears is like one who holds the king’s feet and asks his mercy.”
The Bible says, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Ps 126:5)
The noun tear and the verb tear in the English language, two words with different meanings, share the same linguistic root for an obvious reason. Webster’s dictionary says the verb tear is “to pull or remove by force.”
A Sunday school student asked me if this was the same woman found in Matthew 26. The differences were significant. In Matthew the visitor was not labeled a sinner, the host was Simon the Leper, and the critics were the disciples. Unlike the woman in Matthew’s account who poured perfume on Jesus’ head (Mt 26:7) and body (Mt 26:12), the reputed sinner in this passage wept for her sins and poured perfume primarily on Jesus’ feet, since she considered herself unfit to anoint his head. The sinner in Luke was the only person in the Bible who cried for her sins before Jesus.