Summary: This is the "Total Depravity" sermon without using the stock theological labels. It is the first sermon in the series and it's covert because too many of our listens will shut down their receptors when they hear the words "Calvinism."
Last week we listened to a story, a parable, that Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Here is what he said:
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
This next verse is the shocker–the whole point of this parable. Everything makes sense up to this point in the story, and then Jesus adds:
14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14.
Jesus is teaching that it is easy to overestimate our self-righteousness and underestimate our sin. Pride keeps us from God, humility opens the door for God’s grace and mercy to forgive us and make us new. Jesus told that story late in his ministry. I wonder if he thought about this account when he decided to tell his parable.
This isn’t a parable, a story: this is an event from Jesus’ life:
Luke 7:36-50 “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. [Imagine being there with Jesus–this is awkward! Small town, woman with sinful reputation, violating social etiquette and ruining a nice dinner. How do you respond?]
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 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?"
43 Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"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 — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
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?" [That is THE question of the Gospels!]
50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
There is a passage that says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10. You are either a law keeper (totally) or a law breaker. The consequences are worse for some sins, but a sin is a sin. So before we get too far in this . . .
Let me ask you a question: was Simon the Pharisee a sinner? Was he a better sinner or worse sinner than the sinner who invaded his nice dinner with Jesus? Is pride, arrogance, and hypocrisy a worse sin than adultery? At least she was an honest sinner.
What would you think if you go to the doctor with a head ache and he prescribes aspirin, tells you to take it easy and you will be fine. Maybe meditate once a day to relieve stress. Have a glass of red wine. And then you discover a year later that you have a brain tumor, he knew, and now you waited too late.