(Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman)
Title: The Answer to your deepest need
Aim: To present the need for forgiveness that will make the congregation ask if they are missing out on something.
A Salvation Army Officer, who worked with street people, was approached by a prostitute who was in a desperate situation. He wasn’t in uniform, she didn’t know he was a Christian, she just knew him as someone who might be able to help. She described the mess she was in: she was sick, she was homeless, she was a drug addict and had a two year old daughter that she couldn’t even afford to buy food for. The officer was upset but horrified to see the woman’s situation, but he tried not to let it show. He asked her if she had ever gone to the church for help . She looked at him in amazement "church!" she said, " Why would I ever go there? They’d just make me feel even worse than I already do!"
I guess you could say that the church has lost touch with the Jesus who was a friend of the outcast and the sinner. Perhaps because the church sometimes seems so unforgiving, we have lost what forgiveness really means, we have forgotten how Jesus forgave. You may not think so, but our greatest need is forgiveness. Do you not think so? Well, let’s look at the story to see what we can discover.
1. The heart of the Pharisee
Perhaps the church today, perhaps you, have the heart of Simon the Pharisee. He was the man in whose house Jesus was having dinner. It was normal custom for people living in Israel at the time of Jesus to welcome visitors with a kiss, to give them water to wash their feet (they wore sandals on dusty roads remember) and anoint his head with perfumed oil. Simon had not done any of that. Perhaps we could say that maybe Simon felt that he was a good man, on equal standing with Jesus, he thought he was just as good as Jesus so he wasn’t going to lavish any kindness on him.
What kind of heart is it that has that attitude? The heart that has no regard for Jesus. No regard for another’s comforts, a puffed up image, the view that he didn’t need a saviour.
We can tell more about Simon’s heart when the former prostitute came into the house. He certainly didn’t want to have anything to do with this woman; he certainly didn’t want her in his house. More than that, he definitely thought that someone like Jesus shouldn’t be mixing with the likes of her!
Simon was too busy looking at the faults in others to see the sin in his own life. He was too blind to see his own need.
Of course, Jesus, being God, knew what Simon was thinking. So Jesus, in the way that only he could, addresses Simon’s bad heart by a little story.
2.The heart of the matter
Jesus’ story was quite simple. Perhaps I can re-tell it by using a modern example.
There was a man who had purchased a bicycle from Halfords using his credit card and another man who purchased a brand new motorbike from Halford on a credit arrangement. The bicycle cost about £120, but the motorbike was almost £12,000! The man with the bicycle only had it to travel to a job which he didn’t really like anyway, then he lost the job and couldn’t afford to keep the bike. But the man with the expensive motorbike had just been made redundant in his high paid job, there was no way he could make the payments, and he was in real big trouble if he couldn’t pay the £12000 and all the interest that had built up. Then, out of the blue, the manager of the store called the men up and told them that the company had made so much money that year that they didn’t have to pay their debt, so he cancelled their obligation to pay.
Now lets think….who is going to be more grateful for the debt being cancelled? Yes, of course, the man who owed the £12,000!!! You see the bicycle man didn’t really see his debt as being that significant, he didn’t really care much about the manager who had let him off. The man who owed a lot was really really relieved and ecstatic and he thought the manager was the best man in the world.
You can see what Jesus was saying to Simon when he told the story similar to the one I just told. He was saying "Simon, you really don’t know what it is like to be forgiven the same way this woman has. In fact, your outward actions towards me just prove that you have not received forgiveness from me that makes you want to show you love as this woman has done."
3. The heart of the Woman
Lets look at the heart of the woman. She was a woman very much like the woman I told you about in the opening story. She lived a sinful life, selling her body for sex, probably to people on the same social level as Simon, living a life of the gutter. Of course, no one would talk to her. They would all point to her and say, oh there’s that prostitute again, and turn their noses up, perhaps even throw a stone or two. She was probably a very deeply hurt and bitter woman.
But wait, what has happened to her? She gathers all the money she has, goes out and buys an expensive alabaster jar, the most expensive ones to have in the world of Jesus’ time, fills it with expensive perfume and goes into Simon’s house. We can see the sheer love she had for Jesus. He obviously hadn’t treated her like other men had. She washed Jesus feet with the tears flowing from her thankful heart, she never stopped caring for him.
You see, this woman really knew Jesus. She had come to have faith in him, it had transformed her life totally, she felt different inside, the hurts, the fears the dirtiness inside her had all gone. Her debt, the weight of her sinful lifestyle had been lifted, she had been forgiven. Her sin hadn’t been forgiven because she anointed Jesus feet, but the fact that she had given so much love an attention showed that she had a great deal to owe him because she had been forgiven her sins by him.
Imagine if the woman I spoke about in the story earlier had been given a new home, a clean bill of health, food for her child, a way of paying her way without selling her body.
This is the reaction that we see in this woman. Not because she had been given a house, or anything like that, just that she had simply been cleansed inside.
4. The matter of our heart
What does this story have to say to us today? I think the message is really quite clear. Jesus spells it out. This extreme overflowing love for Jesus which the woman had was proof that she had really been forgiven, cleansed, restored. She really had discovered her deepest need, something which changed her life. You know, some bible teachers say that this woman was Mary Magdalene or one of the women who Jesus appeared to on the first Easter Sunday, she was one of the first to witness Jesus risen from the dead. But even If she wasn’t, her life would have changed, her bitterness was gone.
What about Simon, well, we don’t know how he reacted to Jesus’ story. But, his cold heart and lack of love for Jesus were sure proof that he was not forgiven, was still the same old stubborn man that he had always been.
What about you? You need to be honest with yourself here friends. You see, not only did the forgiven woman have her place in heaven, but she lived daily with the happiness and great experience of having Jesus in her life. If you are not forgiven, then you are not forgiven. If you are not forgiven, then you life is not going to be fulfilling. You see, God’s promise of blessing, of happiness of fulfillment does not stand for people who simply refuse, like Simon, to see Jesus as he is, to accept him as the master of our lives. Are you saying today "God has never done anything for me"? He has, he has provided that way through Jesus death for you to experience the power of forgiveness.
It doesn’t matter if you go to church regularly, Simon probably went to the temple more that most people, he knew the act, he sang the songs. Yet, he remained blind, bitter, unforgiven.
The woman probably never darkened the door of the temple let alone know the songs. The only thing that is important is that you belong to the people who are forgiven. If you are not forgiven, you are not forgiven.
Do you have the experience of the woman? The experience of a thankful heart that shows its self by the way you live you life? Or, do you have the heart of the religious fake….not accepting your true need for forgiveness.
I guess you could say that Simon almost received forgiveness, he was in the same room as Jesus and never realised that he needed forgiven. But think about it, you can almost be a person, almost being a mother or a father doesn’t make you a mother or a father, almost surviving a sinking ship doesn’t mean you have survived, it means you have drowned.
Friend, you cannot leave this building today unless you experience forgiveness. You can’t almost be a Christian, almost be forgiven. Are you going to sink today, or swim and survive to make the rest of your life worth living! You may never get another chance. As we sing this next song, examine your heart.