Summary: Learn to speak and trust these words which will change your life now and forever: ""I'm a sinner. I am sorry." And "You are forgiven. Go in peace." (Theme and intro adapted from Jon Daniels)
Is it possible for your life to be changed by three words? How about three words like “We’re having twins!” or “Sorry, it’s cancer,” or “Kids, we’re moving.”? We could easily spend the next ten minutes coming up with other three-word combinations that would signal a dramatic change to one’s life. But today we want to consider three words that we need to speak, and three words that we need to believe if we want an everlasting change in our lives—a change that will bring freedom, blessings, and finally heaven. We’ll learn about these life-changing words when we look more closely at a dinner Jesus attended. Allow me to describe the events of that dinner through the eyes of one Jesus’ disciples.
Hi, my name is Matthew. I’m the disciple that used to be a tax collector. I think your pastor wanted me to speak to you about this dinner because, well, as a former tax collector I was used to throwing lavish banquets. In fact I threw such a dinner for Jesus once so that all of my friends could meet him. But the dinner that I’m supposed to describe to you today was one that a Pharisee named Simon hosted. Are you surprised to hear that a Pharisee would invite Jesus to dinner? Yeah, we also were surprised to receive the invitation. You see, the Pharisees were generally not friendly towards Jesus. They thought that he ignored the teachings of Moses, and they hated how Jesus was critical of them, accusing them of being hypocrites. Just as you wouldn’t likely invite to dinner the new guy at work who is criticising your work habits, it didn’t seem likely that any Pharisee would want to hang out with Jesus.
And it was quickly clear from the moment we arrived that Jesus wasn’t really welcome at Simon’s house. Simon didn’t greet Jesus with the customary kiss. Nor did he offer Jesus any water with which to wash his feet. For you I suppose that would be like inviting someone over to your house for dinner, but then refusing to shake their hand when they arrived and not bothering to take their coat or offer them something to drink. Wouldn’t that person wonder why you had invited them over in the first place if you were going to treat them so rudely? And maybe that’s what Simon was up to. Maybe he thought he could embarrass Jesus with these insults forcing Jesus to make a few tight-lipped comments about not being welcome before withdrawing. But as always, Jesus surprised us. He just took the insult in stride and made himself at home at one of the banquet tables. You see, in Jesus’ mind, Simon wasn’t the enemy. He was just another victim of sin for whose sake Jesus had come.
But Jesus wasn’t going to let Simon off the hook. His opening to address Simon’s rudeness came in an unusual way. While we were reclined at the dinner table, as was our custom, a woman approached Jesus. She fell at his feet and started crying. With her tears she wet Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them dry with her hair before pouring expensive perfume on them. It took me just a few seconds to describe the scene, but this was an interruption of several minutes—an interruption that made us all uneasy. Isn’t that how you feel when you’re in a room where a stranger is crying?
We wondered why Simon didn’t do anything about this woman since he was the host. But when we looked up we saw that he was smirking. It turns out that he knew this woman, or rather I should say, he knew of this woman. She had a reputation of being a girl with loose morals. She was not the kind of woman that pious Jewish men would hang around. And that’s why Simon was smirking. Later Jesus told us that Simon had been thinking to himself that if Jesus was really a prophet, he would know what kind of person was touching him and he wouldn’t allow it.
Jesus did know of course what kind of woman was touching him. And he also knew what Simon was thinking. He proved that when he addressed Simon’s unspoken thoughts with a little story. Jesus said, “Simon, I have something to tell you. There were two men who owed a debt that neither could repay. One owed 500 denarii (about a year and half wages) and the other owed 50 denarii (about a month and a half wages). Since neither could pay, the master graciously forgave both debts. Now which debtor do you suppose would be the most grateful?” Simon fiddled with the ring on his finger before answering: “I suppose the one who had the larger debt.” Jesus then shifted in his seat and nodded towards the woman, “Simon, do you see this woman? She has done for me what you refused to do. When I arrived, you didn’t greet me with a kiss. You didn’t offer me water with which to wash my feet. You didn’t anoint my head with oil. You didn’t extend to me any of the common courtesies. But this woman, who was not invited to this dinner and is clearly not welcomed by you, has not stopped washing my feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. She has also poured expensive perfume on them. Sure, she has committed many, many sins, but she has been forgiven them all and for that she is very, very grateful.” Then Jesus turned to the woman and said with a smile: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”