MELVIN NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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TEXT: Luke 7:36-50
As you know, Friday was Veteran's Day. Throughout this nation & around the world, wherever our nation's flag flies, some people, at least, paused to remember the price that has been paid for the freedoms we enjoy.
ILL. On Nov. 19, 1863, Pres. Abraham Lincoln stood on the battlefield at Gettysburg to dedicate a portion of that land as a national cemetery.
The featured speaker of that event was Edward Everett, acclaimed as the greatest classical orator of his time. A former United States senator, Governor of Massachusetts, & President of Harvard University, he spoke for more than two hours to an audience of over 25,000 people. His was a masterful address, broad in its scope & dramatic in its presentation.
Next was a musical interlude by the Baltimore Glee Club. And then, finally, Pres. Lincoln was formally introduced, & the people settled back down in their chairs & on the grass to listen to him. Lincoln spoke simply & clearly, & startled the people by the briefness of his remarks.
Now folks, I realize that most of you are already familiar with what he said, but would you listen again to a portion of it? After his opening sentences, he said:
"We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting & proper that we should do this.
"But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living & dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
"The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here.
"It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion
"that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, & that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Gettysburg does not stand alone in our memory. Time would fail if I sought to mention such places as Valley Forge, Flanders Field, Omaha Beach, Iwo Jima, Pork Chop Hill, & Desert Storm.
But folks, we must realize that if freedom is to be carried on from generation to generation if our children & our grandchildren are to enjoy freedom then we must be willing to pay the price, because "freedom is never free."
"Freedom is never free." It sounds like a paradox when you say it, but it is true. "Freedom is never free."
In the same way, forgiveness is never free. That, too, sounds untrue at first. But before forgiveness takes place there is always a price to be paid.
A. With that in mind, I call your attention to Luke 7:36-39. This incident, & the parable Jesus shares are of particular importance to us. Please listen as I read.
"Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so He went to the Pharisee's house & reclined at the table.
"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, & 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 & poured perfume on them.
"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 & what kind of woman she is that she is a sinner.'
Jesus had been invited to the home of a Pharisee by the name of Simon. That is quite something because the Pharisees saw Jesus as a threat to their power, their teachings, & to their very legalistic system.
They saw Jesus as their enemy. Not all of them did, of course, but most of them resented Him & His teachings.
But this Pharisee invited Jesus to his home. We're not sure exactly why, but he did invite Him. And Jesus accepted the invitation.
B. The scene needs to be described, I think. It was normal, when a guest arrived, to make him feel welcome by going through certain common courtesies.
First of all, his feet would be washed. A guest's feet would be caked with dirt after walking in sandals on the dusty roads. So a servant would greet him at the door with a basin of water, & would wash & dry his feet.
After his feet had been washed, the host would come & greet him with a kiss to make him feel welcome, & let him know that he was an honored guest.
Then it was a matter of courtesy to anoint the head of the guest with some sweet smelling, cooling oil. Maybe it was because of the hot oriental sun. Maybe some of the men were thin on top & slightly sunburned. I'm not sure exactly why, but it was customary to use oil to anoint the head of a guest.
All of these things went together to say, "You are welcome in my home." But when Jesus visited the home of this Pharisee, none of these things happened. Luke says that Jesus sat down at the table without His feet being washed, without the customary kiss, or the anointing of oil.
C. Then as they began eating an unusual thing happened. This woman Luke calls her a sinner & the word he uses means "an immoral woman, a prostitute," came to where they were eating probably an outdoor patio to take advantage of the evening breezes. She stood at the feet of Jesus & started weeping.
Her tears fell on His feet, so she dried them with her hair. Then she broke a vial of expensive perfume & anointed his feet, & began kissing them.
All the while, Simon the Pharisee was watching. He was greatly offended by what was going on because it was obvious that all the things he had failed to do to make Jesus welcome, this woman was now doing.
Simon knew what kind of woman she was. So as he judges her, he also judges Jesus. He assumes that Jesus, in not stopping her, is condoning immorality. Simon thinks, "If this man really were a prophet, He would know she is an immoral woman."
Jesus knows what Simon is thinking. And Jesus knew more about her than Simon did. When Simon looked at her all he saw was a prostitute, a sinner, someone to be shunned.
But Jesus saw her as a repentant sinner, a precious soul seeking some way to express her love & appreciation for what Jesus had come to mean to her.
I want you to notice a couple of things in this passage that you may not have thought about before. Vs. 37 begins with these words, “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town…”
Wait a minute, it doesn’t say, “who is living a sinful life.” It says “who had lived a sinful life.” That’s past tense, isn’t it?
Now if your Bible is a study Bible with detailed footnotes at the bottom of the page it will probably point that fact out. My study Bible says, “She must have heard Jesus preach, & in repentance she determined to lead a new life.”
And in a few moments we will be reading vs. 47 where Jesus, in speaking about her says, “Her many sins have been forgiven…” I think that we can safely conclude that Jesus had met her before, had already forgiven her, & she had become one of His followers. That’s why she had followed Him there that evening.
D. Now let’s continue on with vs’s 40-43, "Jesus answered him, 'Simon, I have something to tell you.' 'Tell me, teacher,' he said. ‘Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, & the other 50.
'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?' Simon replied, 'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.' 'You have judged correctly,' Jesus said.
Jesus says that one of them owed the moneylender 500 denarii & the other one owed him 50 denarii. Now don't try to translate that into dollars, because you could easily get confused. Just remember that a denarius represented a day's wage.
So one owed the equivalent of 50 working days, & the other owed 500 working days. Using a 5 day work week, one man owed him ten weeks work & the other owed him 100 weeks, or almost two years.
Jesus says, "Simon, neither of them could pay their debts. So the money-lender tells them, 'I know that you don’t have the money, so I am going to cancel your debts, & you no longer owe me anything.' Now then, Simon, which one will love him more?”
I imagine that Simon was sitting there with his mouth open. First of all, to think that a moneylender would not collect what was owed him was unreal. Simon couldn't even imagine that happening with the moneylenders he knew.
Secondly, he was probably trying to figure out why Jesus was telling him that story. He couldn’t see any point to it. But he went ahead & answered the question Jesus had asked saying, “'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.' 'You have judged correctly,' Jesus said.”
E. Vs’s 44-47 tell us, "Then He turned toward the woman & 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 & wiped them with her hair.
'You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.
'You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’"
CONCL. Now how does this passage of Scripture tie into the feelings of patriotism that we have expressed this morning? I think it does, because freedom & forgiveness relate to each other in so many ways. For example -
I. EVERY ONE OF US IS IN DEBT
A. Every person in this room is in debt to society, to our nation, & to God. We are all debtors. Now if I were to talk about atonement or regeneration some of you might go out scratching your heads. But when I talk about being in debt, you know exactly what I am talking about. All of us are debtors.
An important asset when you're in debt is a good memory. Because if you don't remember to whom you owe money you're going to have all kinds of trouble. And Simon's problem was that he had a poor memory.
I imagine when Simon looked at himself he thought, "God, you're lucky to have me on your team. I'm pretty special. I have memorized the law, & I pray beautiful prayers, & I do many significant things for You. I'm a Pharisee & I have mastered the art of being a Pharisee. God, I'm a pretty special guy."
What Simon forgot was that he was a sinner, too. His sins were sins of the heart, & he didn't recognize them as sins. So it was easy for him to forget that he needed forgiveness too.
B. Isn't it easy for us to forget how indebted we are to those who paid a price to achieve freedom for us? Isn't it easy to come into God's house & open our Bibles & forget those early pilgrims who crossed the ocean to settle in this new land for “the glorie of God”?
We put hamburgers on the grill & sit around enjoying all the material blessings that God has given us, & forget the blood that was shed so that the stars & stripes could fly in the breeze & that we could still enjoy the freedom that is ours as citizens of the United States of America.
We owe a great debt to those who have gone before us. We also owe a great debt to our God who has redeemed & forgiven us. We are all debtors.
II. WE CAN NEVER REPAY THAT DEBT
A. Secondly, we can never repay that debt.
ILL. If my creditors should decide to collect everything I owe all at once, I would be in deep trouble because I owe more than I can pay all at once. I can whittle away at it, but I couldn't pay it all back if everybody wanted their money at the same time.
When I think of the debt I owe to our forefathers for the freedoms that we enjoy, I realize that is also a debt that I can't pay. And when I think of the debt I owe God in heaven for the price He has paid for my sins, I realize that I can't pay that either.
Now back to our story. This woman came to Jesus & stood at His feet. She wet His feet with her tears & tried to dry them with her hair. Then she anointed Him with oil. It was an expression of gratitude & love.
You say, "Well, that's the way to pay God back." But she wasn't paying Him back. All she was doing was saying, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins."
B. That's all we can do, too. We can never pay God back. But we can roll up our sleeves & go to work. We can worship & serve, we can cry & pray. We can even seek to reach others for Jesus.
We can do all that, but we will never even if we work 20 hours a day the rest of our lives never be able to pay the debt that we owe our God.
III. FORGIVENESS IS AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE
Then finally this Forgiveness is available to everyone.
A. First of all, we stated that all of us are spiritually in debt. Secondly, we said we can never repay that debt. Now we are saying that "Since we can't pay it, therefore we stand in need of forgiveness from it." And the good news is that forgiveness is available to everyone. But forgiveness is not free.
Forgiveness always costs something. For the moneylender it cost 550 denarii to forgive those who were indebted to him - a small amount when compared to the debts we're talking about. But forgiveness always costs something.
When God said, "I forgive you of your sin," think of the price that He paid -because before forgiveness there was the agony of Gethsemane; before forgive-ness there was His death upon the cross, His burial & His resurrection.
That price had to be paid. The ledger had to be clear before forgiveness could be ours. But now that it has been paid it's available to all.
B. Isn't that also true of our freedom? The price has been paid. It is available to all in this land. That is why we rejoice at the Declaration of Independence. That is why we rejoice in the Statue of Liberty - because freedom is available to all of us in this great land.
ILL. Robert McCormack was a sergeant in WW I. He nearly lost his life while saving the life of Major Henry Parkin. Fortunately, both men survived the war. From that day on, until he died 25 years later, in April of every year Parkin wrote McCormack a letter of gratitude.
The last letter Parkin wrote contained this brief note: "Dear Bob, I again want to express to you my appreciation for another year of life which I would not have enjoyed had it not been for you & the price you were willing to pay to save my life. I want you to know, I am grateful."
Today, God's forgiveness is available. He offers it to you through Jesus Christ His Son. The price has been paid & He invites you. Will you come?