Summary: It’s a well-known fact that Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost – the down-and-out. But what about the up-and-in? We are, and we live with, people who are not drug addicts, s and ex-cons. The folks we live with are highly educated, sophistic
Can Good People Love God?
Rev. Dave Weidlich ~ Cooper Mountain Presbyterian Fellowship ~ Oct. 6, 2002
Read Zechariah 4:6
So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
In our Luke passage, we find two people who met Jesus, but only one came away forgiven. Let’s see what made the difference.
Read Luke 7:36-50
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (v. 47)
A good leader is supposed to recruit people who are more competent than himself. I agree with that, but there’s one notable exception. How do you do that if you’re the Son of God? Where do you find more competent people? Still, Jesus could have recruited the most accomplished people of his day.
Jesus said you will do greater things than I did. Yet, it appeared he was recruiting people who were far less competent than he was, less competent than the average person.
You might expect Jesus to recruit highly accomplished Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. They were already religious, they knew religious language, they were already educated. The religious leaders had the distribution mechanism already in place. Wouldn’t it make sense to recruit highly respected men?
Instead Jesus recruited some untrained fishermen, a disrespected tax collector, even women were part of his circle of followers; some of them were very disreputable women. There wasn’t a one of them who had friends in high places. In addition to Jesus’ recruits, look at the people Jesus spent much of his time with. Jesus spent great amounts of time with sick people. Some were lepers or demon-possessed – people who were cast out of their families and towns.
In Luke’s story for today, we have a juxtaposition that is truly delicious. We have two people that you just would not expect to see together, at least in public.
The scene is the home of a Pharisee – the purest of the morally pure. Pharisees were religious and often judgmental. They were strong on justice but when it came to mercy, there wasn’t any. Simon, the Pharisee in our story, seems to fit this description.
Then there is a woman who visits the home who is called “a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town”. She’s a bad woman – a sinner, she’s called later in the story. When you read that you know sparks are going to fly. This party isn’t going to be smooth.
This is like sitting George Bush down with Saddam Hussein.
Tanya Harding meets Miss Manners.
Like Rasheed Wallace and an NBA referee walking into the same restaurant.
This is one of those kind of match-ups. You know things are going to get – and you won’t have to wait long to see the sparks fly.
But things are tense in Simon’s house even before the woman arrives. It starts when Jesus arrives.
Three things were always done when a guest entered the home of a Jewish man:
1) The host placed his hand on the guest’s shoulder and gave him the kiss of peace – a mark of respect.
2) Next cool water would be poured over the guest’s feet since the roads were dusty and shoes were only soles of leather strapped to the feet.
3) A pinch of sweet-smelling incense would have been burned (William Barclay)
But Simon did none of these things for Jesus. He doesn’t offer the courtesy you’d offer a stranger, much less the respect that would be due a rabbi of Jesus’ reputation.
As if things aren’t tense enough, people started dropping in. That was customary when a rabbi would visit a home- all kinds of people were free to come in.
So we read that a woman came – a . She is called a “sinner” by Simon, the host of this dinner party. She comes in and makes her way to Jesus – and what a commotion she stirs up.
She takes her alabaster – a phial of concentrated perfume, very expensive – which would have been hanging around her neck. She poured it on Jesus’ feet, and with the tears of a woman who fully acknowledges her unworthiness, she washes Jesus feet. Then she loses all sense of propriety as she lets her hair down and dries Jesus’ feet with her hair.
You say, “That’s weird.” It is – and it was then too. It’s very personal – it must have felt awkward for everyone there, uncomfortably so. Yet Jesus seems entirely comfortable with all this attention.
Seeing Jesus’ body language, Simon, the host, can’t help but comment 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.” (v. 39). Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and confirmed with his words what his body language was already communicating. Jesus told Simon a parable. Two men owe money and have their debts forgiven. Who’s more thankful? Who’s going to have more love for the one they owed money to? He makes Simon answer his question.