The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful (3): The Bad That's Good
Intro –Jesus’ parable teaches that all people have a deadly common problem – the problem of sin. “The wages of sin is death.” It doesn’t matter whether it is the best person who ever walked the earth, or the most horrendous reprobate, all are equally guilty before God. Somehow, we inherently know that. We do. That’s why everyone does something to try to deal with guilt. Everyone. Some rationalize – like the guy who stole a car from the front of a cemetery saying, “Well, I assumed the owner was dead.” We may deny it; repress it; refuse to think about it; cover it with a frenzied lifestyle or just ignore it. Our society is expert at psycho-babble that points blame anywhere but us! Like the gang members in West Side Story to Officer Krupke!
Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, / You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke / That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies, / Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks!
Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset;
We never had the love that ev'ry child oughta get.
We ain't no delinquents, / We're misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good! [Even the judge gets in the act!]
Officer Krupke, you're really a square;
This boy don't need a judge, he needs an analyst's care!
It's just his neurosis that oughta be curbed. / He's psychologic'ly disturbed!
But guess what? In the end, none of these methods works. My dad was 59 years of age when he was found to have colon cancer. He ignored symptoms long enough that the doctor prepared us for the worst. We had the elders come and pray, then they operated. They found a grapefruit size tumor, and the doctor said, “I don’t know how to explain it, but it hasn’t spread. Both ends of the colon are clean.” The cancer was cut out and Dad had another 30 years. But that would not have been the case had we ignored, repressed, denied or blamed something else for the symptoms. And the same is true of sin. It has to be cut out by repentance. That’s the only remedy – the only remedy for guilt.
That’s the message of Simon’s dinner party. Dinner is interrupted by a woman of the streets who comes crying and anointing Jesus’ feet. Simon is appalled by the lack of decorum. But Jesus shows by means of a brief parable that Simon and the woman have a common problem. Both are sinners. But they do differ in one respect. The woman is forgiven; Simon is not. Simon’s outward goodness is actually bad, keeping him from God; the woman’s badness has been made good by Christ. Everything turns on forgiveness. That’s what makes bad, good. So what does forgiveness look like?
I. Forgiveness is Based on Faith Alone
This woman has come to Simon’s house for one reason only -- to express a heart that overflows with gratitude for forgiveness from a past that had rendered her an outcast. She didn’t come to get forgiven. Somewhere in Capernaum she had heard Jesus preach; considered her sinful life, heard Jesus’ call to repentance and she believed! She had no good works to offer, but she believed and was forgiven. Now – having been forgiven much, she loves much and longs to express that love.
She’d been a willing participant in sin -- taking her pleasure where she could find it – perhaps rationalizing it was her only means of support. No one suggested, not Simon, not she and not Jesus, that she had not been a great sinner. She was. But she’s been forgiven. Jesus says in v. 47: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much.” Jesus says her sins “are forgiven.” Perfect tense -- past action with continuing results in the present – best translated “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven.” She was a new person in Christ. Having told Simon that her sins had been forgiven, Jesus turns to assure the woman herself in v. 48, “And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven”, surgically extracted to be visited no more judicially.
But how? How forgiven? Was it some act of contrition? Some symbolic ritual? Turning over a new leaf? Was that it? Jesus answers in Lu 7:50, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Her faith saved her. Pure, unadulterated, heartfelt commitment to Jesus. It’s the perfect tense again – “your faith has saved you in the past with continuing results in the present; go in peace.” This woman had experienced the truth of Eph 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved (perf tense) through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God 9) not a result works, so that no one may boast.” She could never say, “I did it.” She could only say, “He did it.” And she loved Him for it. Simon wanted to say, “I did it,” and as a consequence, he was still in his sins. Charles Wesley worked hard for salvation, even doing missionary work in America. But he had no peace until one day he was ready Luther’s intro to Gal. He describes his conversion: “At reading the words, ‘What? Have we then nothing to do? No! nothing but only accept him, “Who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” ’ there came such a power over me as I cannot well describe; my great burden fell off in an instant; my heart was so filled with peace and love that I burst into tears.” Forgiven much, he loved much! Note two things about faith.
A. Faith Has an Object – Faith must have a worthy object. Telling people, “Just believe,” is folly. Faith in faith in a suicide mission. During the Boxer uprising in China in 1900-1901, there were some Boxers who did not believe bullets could kill them. They thought that their incantations and rituals made them invulnerable. They were honest and entirely sincere in their belief. But when the bullets flew, they fell. Faith in faith is folly. Faith requires a worthy object.
Jesus is the only such worthy object of saving faith. In v. 48 Jesus tells the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” “Can He really do that?” Absolutely! Jesus showed that by their own rules. The Pharisees believed that any disability was caused by sin. So when Jesus told a paralyzed man in Lu 5:20, “Man, your sins are forgiven you,” the Pharisees snickered. Lu 5:21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They thought they had Him, but, of course, it was all a setup. Jesus forgave rather than healing this man to lead the Pharisees into this very trap. When they questioned, Jesus turned to those scoundrels in Lu 5:24 and said, “24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And there he went, walking down the street, proof positive by their own rules that Jesus could forgive sins. Faith must have an object, Beloved and it must be Christ. Peter said later in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” The great irony of our passage is that the woman, whose sins were many, was forgiven – while Simon, whose sins were comparatively fewer, was unforgiven. He didn’t believe.
B. Faith is Personal -- V. 50, “And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Your faith. Not your friend, your mom, your dad, your bro, your sis, but your faith. It must come from your heart. The question is have you accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord? Saving faith is as personal as it gets. You must decide. C. S. Lewis notes: “One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. You cannot put Him off with speculations about your next-door neighbors or memories of what you have read in books. What will all that chatter and hearsay count when the anesthetic fog we call ‘nature’ or the ‘the real world’ fades away and the Divine Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable?” I ask again – Do you know Jesus – personally? Forgiveness is based in personal faith alone.
II. Forgiveness Issues in Shameless Love
God’s demand for perfection is a crushing demand. But once we grasp that what He demands He also provides, our hearts will overflow with love for Him. Little love for God evidences little sense of forgiveness, or perhaps no forgiveness at all. John says in I John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” God demands, but God gives. And when we respond, it’s not long before there is a true love fest going on. That’s what this woman represents. Lu 7:37-38, “And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.” She loves so well she doesn’t care that she is violating almost every social taboo imaginable.
She has slipped into the courtyard with other quiet observers. She’s come prepared with an alabaster flask of ointment.” Jewish women of means went out with a vial of perfume attached to a cord around their neck. The vial’s long neck allowed the scent of the ointment to penetrate their environment. The only way to actually remove the content was to break the neck of the vial. This woman brought a vial of alabaster – the finest type of container quarried in Egypt. It implies a costly perfume – probably represents all she had.
She seems to want to anoint Jesus’ head with her costly gift. But she is overcome by her emotions. This hardened woman of the street, finding herself in such sudden and close proximity to the Lord who saved her releases years of pent up guilt and shame in a torrent of tears. “Heart water” Luther called it. Tears of joy and relief. She was probably appalled that Jesus had not been afforded the common courtesy of foot-washing, and so as He reclined at table with His feet sticking out behind Him, she began to wash His feet with her tears. Imagine the tongues wagging as she begins to minister to Him.
Having no cloth to wipe His feet, she wiped them with the hair of her head. That was unheard of. In those days a girl bound up her hair on her wedding day and never appeared with it unbound again. It was loosened only in the presence of her husband. The Talmud says that a woman could be divorced for letting her hair down in the presence of another man. The rabbis considered a woman’s loosening her hair and uncovering her breasts as equally shameful. Shock filled the room; she cared not. She began to kiss Jesus’ feet. Then she broke the vial of perfume and began to anoint His feet. Luke’s language (imperfects) indicates she kept on crying, wiping, kissing and anointing. She was defying all social convention, but she did not care. Her focus was Jesus, and her intense desire to demonstrate her love for Him. No wonder Simon was apoplectic. But the woman cared nothing for what others thought; only for what Jesus thought.
This woman understood something few of us ever get. She knew forgiveness. She knew forgiveness not only forgets the past – it remakes the past. Let me show you an astounding text. The Children of Israel constantly turned from God to the idols of their neighbors. It was a lifestyle with them that God describes in sexual terms. They are spiritual adulterers, betraying God who describes them in Jer 13 26) “I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen. 27) I have seen your abominations, your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings, on the hills in the field. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will it be before you are made clean?” This is the X-rated version of the spiritual state of Israel, and it leads them to captivity.
But God sees a future for Israel. Jer 31:4, “Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!” Oh what? Oh Virgin Israel? Really? Oh, yes, Beloved. Look at Jer 31: 21) “Set up road markers for yourself; make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities. 22) How long will you waver, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man.” Listen closely, Beloved. That last phrase is controversial, but “created” is the same word (ברא) used in Gen 1:1 to depict God creating from nothing. And the word “man” is literally “mighty one” – same word used of Christ in Isa 9:6 where He is called the “Mighty God.” This describes the virgin birth of Christ (a woman, Mary, encircling a Mighty One – Christ in her womb) – the means by which God becomes a man to die to pay sin’s penalty, thus providing the forgiveness to turn a whoring Israel into a Virgin Israel. They can return to what they were – turn back the clock. Simply amazing! And what God can do for a nation, He can do for an individual. We have no idea how deep God’s forgiveness goes, Beloved – to the point of remaking the sordid past that we created on our own. God makes prostitutes into virgins. That’s why the woman loved Jesus so much. She’d been made new! When you get that vision, only Jesus matters.
How I wish we could grasp what we have in Christ? When we do, we will love like the woman did. So, how do we show our love. By singing “My Jesus, I Love You,” perhaps with a tear in our eye on Sunday? Is that it? Working up some emotional experience? No, that’s not it, Beloved. I’ve seen people work up great emotions on Sunday and live like the Devil the rest of the week. That’s not it. Nothing wrong with those things, but that is not how we show our love. There is another way. We can’t physical kneel at Jesus’ feet and anoint them. But there is something else. Something Jesus tells us. It’s in John 14:15, 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” You will – not because you have to, but because you want to. You will. It will be a lifestyle with you. He repeats in John 14:21 “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Of course, there are lots of commands in the Bible. Dealing with our conduct and purity. All of them count. But let’s just start with the one He left us just before His ascension. It’s particularly applicable to this woman. In His Great Commission, Jesus tells us to make disciples. Share Christ. He tells his disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” If you love someone, you talk about them, right? That’s all Jesus is asking. We’ve overcomplicated this issue to the point that people think they can’t do it. He’s saying, talk about me, witness what I’ve done in your life in Eaton, Colorado, US and beyond. Believe me, we can all do it. If we don’t speak Jesus name except on Sunday, it is very unlikely we love Him and questionable that we are truly forgiven. Let’s talk about him.
Suppose you were at lunch with someone yesterday talking about the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It’s history, right? So you ask, “Who is your favorite historical person?” They give you their answer. Questions are always a great entre to people. They tell you Washington, or Lincoln or Babe Ruth or Caesar – whoever. But inevitably they will ask you who you like. The opening. “I love Jesus.” “Why Jesus?” “Because He died and rose again for me. And when I asked Him to forgive my sins, He did.” Who know what questions that will inspire? And you have just shared with gospel!
It just takes a little creativity to interject Jesus into our lives and conversation. “Why didn’t you get mad when your wife wrecked the car last week?” “Well, I didn’t think the Lord would want me to act that way.” “What’s the Lord got to do with it?” ”Because He died and rose again for me. And when I asked Him to forgive my sins, He did.” Why did you give me Heaven or The Case for Christ or The Reason for God for Christmas? “Well, because I want to share Christ with you. I love him Because He died and rose again for me. And when I asked Him to forgive my sins, He did.” You say, “I could never do that.” Beloved, you cannot not that. Jesus said so. He said in Matt 10:33, “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” If we’re forgiven, it has to come out at some point. To continually deny him, or in Luke’s words be ashamed of Him shows we don’t really know Him. ”Because He died and rose again for me. And when I asked Him to forgive my sins, He did.”
You say, but I’ll get questions I don’t know how to answer. Yes, you will. So do I. What do you say, “I don’t know about that, but I know that Jesus died and rose again for me. And when I asked Him to forgive my sins, He did.” You get into a philosophical discussion about science. Someone says, “Surely you know the Bible has errors. Evolution has proves the Bible isn’t true.” “Well, I don’t know about that, but I know that I love Jesus. He died and rose again for me. And when I asked Him to forgive my sins, He did.” Are you getting the picture?
What about CO and the US? Well, you’re sending cards all over the country right now, right? What do they say? Any mention of Jesus? Listen, I have nothing against people enjoying Santa at Christmas. But why spend good money and send Him all over the country and you could be mentioning Jesus? We are not loving in ways that we could be. We’re not taking Jesus’ commands seriously. The question is whether we are even forgiven. Forgiven people love much. And they obey Jesus’ commands. And they share Jesus. Now, please don’t hold back. Send us your cards. But next Christmas, put Jesus back in it. Come on! Who are we?
How about the world? Forgiven people have a vision that goes worldwide. They support missionaries by money and prayer. On January 12 we’re meeting to talk Guatemala. You’re either a goer, a sender or you’re disobedient according to John Piper. So you need to be there if God is calling you to go, or you need to be there to help with fund raisers and prayer teams and whatever else it takes to get the team going.
We can’t literally weep at Jesus’s feet and anoint them, but we can obey. Oh, let’s love enough to obey.
III. Forgiveness Results in Peace
V. 50: “And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Removal of sin brings peace. There is no peace in a body infected with cancer. It fights for its life. Only when it is removed is peace restored. The same is true spiritually. Sin must be removed to make way for peace. Jesus literally says to this woman, “Go into peace”; enter the realm, the sphere of peace.
That starts, of course with peace with God who tells us in Rom 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified (declared righteous) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Everything stems from that. There can be no peace elsewhere until there is peace with God. But when we have Him, we have all we will ever need. Jesus’ peace is permanent and based on forgiveness of sins and a right relationship with an infinite God. No amount of money, prestige, position or fame can buy peace. It comes from sins forgiven and eternal destiny settled. Harrison Ford is an icon of Hollywood. His movies have grossed over $2 billion. He told the magazine interviewer, "You only want what you ain't got." When asked what he did not have, he replied, "Peace." There was a hole in the soul of Harrison Ford. There's a hole in the soul of each one of us until God fills it. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The woman got peace.
Conc – Simon had faith in himself and the cancer persisted. The woman had faith in Christ and sin was gone. Simon judged Jesus; the woman believed Him. He did not come to be judged; He came to be believed. I love how A. J. Gordon put it: “It may seem like a very stupid and stubborn thing not to think with the great thinkers, but we prefer to believe with the great believers. Let him who will, choose for himself the epitaph: ‘He thought with the great thinkers and it was counted to him for originality.’ We prefer to take our place with faithful Abraham, if with him we may win this epitaph, ‘He believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.’” Cut out the cancer, Beloved. Don’t deny sin; repent it. Let God make a new you -- By faith. Let’s pray.