Summary: Sometimes the people we think need forgiveness are the ones who already have it.
Tradition tells us that Abraham Lincoln once went to a slave auction. While he was there, he noticed a black woman who was about to be auctioned off, and entered the bidding.
The bidding went back and forth until eventually Lincoln won, paid the price, and purchased her. When they brought the slave woman over to him, Mr. Lincoln instructed them to take off her shackles. He then said to her, "You are free to go."
The surprised woman looked at him and said, "You mean that I don’t have to go home with you?"
He said, "No, you don’t."
She said, "You mean that I don’t have to do what you tell me to do, or say what you tell me to say?"
"You mean I don’t have to be your slave, I don’t have to put up with your whims and your fancies?"
He said, "No, you don’t. I paid the price for you, and so I can now set you free."
At that the woman bowed her head, and tears streaming down her cheeks, she looked up at Abraham Lincoln and said, "Then I guess I’ll go with you."
Romans 3:23 tells us that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
But through Jesus’ death on the cross, and His subsequent resurrection to life, He has set us free of our bondage - to sin. He is able to offer us forgiveness for our sin and a life of freedom.
In the Lincoln story, the woman is so grateful for her freedom that she freely chooses to be a servant of the one who set her free. This morning, I want to think about how we respond to the forgiveness and freedom offered to us by looking at one of the parables of Jesus found in Luke’s gospel and the story surrounding it.
If you have your Bibles with you, why don’t you take them out and turn to the 7th chapter of the Book of Luke. We’ll be looking at verses 36 and following. It is the story of a time when Jesus joined Simon, the Pharisee, for dinner.
Now as we look at this story, let’s consider the context in which it is placed.
The Pharisees, as a general rule, didn’t like Jesus. They gathered together to figure out ways to trap Him and make Him look bad. When Simon, the Pharisee, is introduced, we have in mind a Pharisee as one who rejects God purpose. They rejected both His messenger, John the Baptist, and Jesus. And it didn’t matter how they acted. Nothing would make them happy.
In verse 33, Jesus says:
Luke 7:33-34 "For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ’He has a demon!’ 34 "The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ’Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
I just love the irony of this last statement, and Luke’s placement of it. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, a friend of sinners” – and the very next thing Jesus proceeds to do is eat and drink - with Pharisees, who do not even recognize their own sinful nature. It is as if Jesus is saying, “Yes, what you have accused me of, I do. But do you know which part you play?”
Character Introduction and Storyline
Our story begins in verse 36.
36One of the Pharisees asked [Jesus] over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. 37Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume 38and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. (Luke 7:36-38, MSG)
When Jesus dines with the Pharisees, one expects a certain amount of conflict. But the real tension in the story begins when the woman is introduced.
Now, it was customary at that time for uninvited guests to crowd behind the banquet table during a meal. But there was also a sense of holiness and purity attached to Pharisaic meals. So if this woman was indeed a prostitute, as the text seems to suggest, then even as one of the uninvited crowd, she is an intruder, and most likely unwelcome.
But the opinions of others do not stop her from doing what she came to do. She wants to show gratitude to Jesus and anoint him with expensive perfume.
Then her emotion gets the best of her and she begins to cry and kiss His feet - an act of great devotion and humility.