June 18, 2006

Broken and Spilled Out

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Miscellaneous Scripture: Luke 7:36–50


Broken and Spilled Out

Luke 7:36-50
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

After singer Michael Jackson was acquitted of his recent charges, columnist Derrick Z. Jackson quoted the singer's own words from a 2001 speech at Oxford University. Said Jackson, "When I was young, I wanted more than anything else to be a typical little boy. I wanted to build tree houses, have water balloon fights, and play hide-and-seek with my friends. But fate had it otherwise."

The writer then reflected on the countless jokes made regarding Michael Jackson. He said, "As bizarre as Jackson is, the jokes may be a cover for the fact that all of us see a tiny piece of us in him. Not the child abuse part, but the hole in the soul. If we look at him in another way, it turns out this 46-year-old prodigy is merely…a warning for what can happen if we deprive children of their childhoods."

In that same speech at Oxford, Michael Jackson commented on his father's role in his life. "(He) seemed intent, above all else, on making us a commercial success. But what I wanted was a dad. I wanted a father who showed me love. And my father never did that" (Derrick Z. Jackson, "Not Guilty, but Hardly Free," Boston Globe (6-15-2005).

Not only is that a sober reminder to all of us dads on this Father's Day, but also a reminder that every person on the planet is on a quest for love. That means each of us in this room will seek to be loved - loved by our friends, loved by our spouses and loved by our parents. This drive for love is so strong, we will even go to all the wrong sources to receive it.

But as much as we desire human love, there is another love that many humans have overlooked. We will be unsatisfied until we receive it. And when we do receive it, it transcends and completes the others. It is a perfect love because it comes from a perfect Source able to meet our desire for love, perfectly.

I am talking about the love of God. He can love as no other human can. But since He is perfect, what makes us who are imperfect think that we are worthy of His love? How can God love us despite our flaws? That's makes God's love so great. He sees our weakness infinitely greater than we see them ourselves and has chosen to love His children unconditionally and eternally through the work of Christ.

This morning we'll talk about our quest for love and this divine love that is available for sinners like you and I.

1. LOVE DISPLAYED (verses 36-38)

I'm calling the first point "Love Displayed."

In our story this morning, Simon the Pharisee probably thought very little about inviting Jesus over to his home for dinner. Little did he realize that the events recorded in his guest book would be broadcasted for centuries to follow. Little did the he realize that his dinner guest would be none other than God Himself in the flesh!

Most of the Pharisees conflicted with Jesus, so we have to wonder why this particular Pharisee named Simon would take such a special interest to personally invite Jesus to dine with he and his colleges? Was it to discover a flaw in His ministry and ground for accusation? Was it to personally determine if Jesus was a prophet, as the people claimed (Lk. 7:16, 39)? Was it a desire to entertain the most recent synagogue teacher, a common practice of the day? Was it plain curiosity? Was it a genuine interest in the Savior and longing to hear the way of salvation?

We may never know the answer to that question, but I believe a better question to ask is, "Why did Jesus go?"

It was the Pharisees who accused Jesus of being associated with demons! It was the Pharisees who sought to falsely persecute Jesus, and it was the Pharisees who were instrumental in orchestrating the crucifixion. They were the enemy! Sounds like a trap to me. Forget Simon. What on earth motivated the Son or God to accept this invitation?

Well, knowing the purpose of our Lord's arrival makes the answer obvious. Without hesitation, Jesus accepted the invitation. Because despite their outward piety and inward hostility, Jesus knew this Pharisee needed a Savior as much, if not more, than anyone else. Jesus was the "friend of sinners." He was on rescue mission to seek and save the lost. The Pharisees were not exempt. Simon was lost in a sea of self-righteousness.

Thinking he would be honored, Simon the Pharisee would soon discover that his world was about to be turned upside-down. Expecting to be exalted, he would be humiliated, and the most unlikely character would receive our Lord's praise.

The dinner most likely began like any other during the first century. However, there was one exception. Something was omitted. Normally guests, when entering, would receive a special greeting in addition to water to wash their feet and oil to anoint their head. Simon did not extend these courtesies to Jesus, obvious to all who were present. Yet not sidetracked by the disrespect, Jesus continued with His host. He removed His sandals and as the text says, "reclined at the table" (Lk. 7:36).

Often the individuals in the first century would recline resting their left elbow on low-lying couches, allowing freedom for their right hand to handle the food. Their feet were extended away from the table because they were believed to be unclean and offensive. According to custom, the doors were also kept open. It was common for uninvited guests to enter and position themselves against the interior wall. Especially when a rabbi was present, guests would frequently come in the house to hear the conversation.

Much to their surprise an unexpected guest emerged from the shadows. Suddenly she was silently standing behind Jesus. The original Greek captures the shock, the unbelief, the horror that gripped these religious leaders. There was an unwelcomed guest in their midst.

According to verse 37, this individual was described as "a woman in the city who was a sinner." Based on that description, and the response that follows, we are alerted that she was the town prostitute. Imagine the tension. All conversation ceased. The mere thought of a prostitute entering a Pharisee's house was beyond comprehension. Murmurs would occasionally pierce the silence. Disgust, offense, a grave breach of social decorum.

Yet despite the shock, I do not believe the woman was the center of everybody's attention. I believe Jesus was. Notice her name is never mentioned; her words are never recorded. But Luke wastes no time to record Simon's judgment of Jesus. In verse 39 he murmured, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner."

It was not the woman but Jesus who was caught in the middle of this conflict. On one side the epitome of darkness - a prostitute. On the other side the epitome of righteousness - a Pharisee. How would He respond? Which side would He take? Who was the greater sinner? Surely a righteous man would quickly dismiss her and avoid any physical contact with her unclean body.

Oblivious to all this religious attention, the woman was following her own storyline. Passionate love gave way to courage, courage that would go to any limit if given the chance to worship her Savior. Her courage did not end with entering a Pharisee's house (a gutsy move in itself), but extended to anointing Jesus with expensive perfume. For the Scriptures say in verse 37 that she brought with herself an alabaster (or vase) of perfume.

Think about it. Her perfume was probably the most valuable possession she owned. But for her Savior no sacrifice was too great. For tonight, even at the expense of worsening her reputation, she went to the greatest length to demonstrate her greatest love for Jesus. The potion once used to allure men for evil would be spilled out in pure childlike love over our Lord's feet.

But something went wrong. Something went terribly wrong. Intending to anoint Him with the perfume, she was overtaken by her emotions. Instantly "heart water" (as Luther said) flowed from her eyes. The tears of joy and devotion were spontaneous and uncontrollable. Verse 38 says the tears began "to wet His feet." As each tear hit, it streaked through the matted dust. Not intending this situation, the emotional woman loosened her hair, another social taboo, and began wiping the dirty mess she was creating. Furthermore the text says she began to kiss His feet and anoint them with the perfume. The scene became quite embarrassing to the onlookers.

To the Pharisees she was digging herself deeper into a hole. Yet to this woman we see not an account of her salvation, which probably occurred earlier, but a scene of genuine worship. Her love was a by-product of her forgiveness. Her guilt was lifted. She was given a virgin heart. She felt pure and washed. Her life once plagued by constant rejection was now accepted by God. She was forgiven. Her body, once used for gross immoralities was presented to the Holy One. Her hair, normally a sign of a woman's glory, was devoted to Jesus' glory. And her kisses were acts of pure adoration in reverence and purity and gratitude.

The lines were drawn. The spotlight was on Jesus. How would He react? Would He rebuke the woman or accept such a vile offender? The seconds seems like hours as the audience waited for a reaction from their holy dinner guest.

2. LOVE DEPLETED (verses 39-46)

Taking advantage of the perplexed state of the Pharisees, Jesus, the Master Teacher, used this situation as a lesson. Watch how Jesus takes the shame off the woman and places it on the Pharisees. We've looked at "Love Displayed," now let's turn our attention to the second point, "Love Depleted" in verses 39-46.

Simon responded to these dramatic actions by uttering the following words to himself. Look at verse 39: "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching him, that she is a sinner."

I am reminded of 1 Samuel 16:7: "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'"

Before his very eyes, Simon saw passionate acts of repentance and devotion. But Simon couldn't see beyond his harsh judgmentalism. He could not see beyond what she had been to see what this woman had now become. Why, said Simon, would a true prophet of God permit such offensive actions? For the true prophet of God indeed saw into both hearts and only one was pleasing to Him. And it wasn't Simon's!

Instead of lashing out at Simon or simply answering his thoughts, Jesus appealed to his conscience. The first words recorded from Jesus after this whole ordeal are recorded in verse 40. Politely he asks for Simon's attention. Simon was about to receive more clarification than he had expected.

Beginning in verse 41 Jesus told the following parable: "'A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him more?' Simon answered and said, 'I suppose the one whom he forgave more.' And He said to him, 'You have judged correctly'" (Lk. 7:41-43).

While one debtor may be considered ten times greater in debt, both were unable to repay and both were grateful that their debt was cancelled. The point was clear. The woman would be compared to the one who owed 500 and the Pharisee to the one who owed 50. Outwardly the Pharisee appeared much more religious and righteous than the harlot. He carefully observed the law, attended the synagogue, read from the Torah and associated with those of his kind. The woman on the other hand had lived a life of immorality. Outwardly they were worlds apart, but inwardly both were contaminated with sin.

Simon didn't fully understand where Jesus was going with the parable, but soon discovered he was trapped. By his response, Simon condemned himself. The woman clearly recognized her need for grace and loved greatly, but the Pharisee was blinded by his own self-righteousness. Therefore he loved himself much and loved Jesus little.

Because of what he thought was small outward debt; he saw no need for the righteousness of Christ. Without a need for a Savior his loveless attitude toward Jesus and others was exposed. But the woman rightly saw the magnitude of her sin against the backdrop of a holy God and could do nothing but realize the sweet, sure and complete forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ.

To assume that converted, vile sinners will love Christ more than moral people is misunderstanding the parable. The point is that inwardly we are all vile sinners desperate for God's forgiveness. The more we realize that fact, the more we will need the Savior. And the more we see our need for the Savior, the more we love Him.

Self-righteousness is most detestable to God and self-righteousness, thinking we can earn God's forgiveness, will blind us to the saving grace of Christ.

Are you trusting in yourself or are you trusting in Christ? Self-righteousness will promote self-love. Owning up to your sins and looking to Christ for righteousness will promote love for the Savior.

Nothing to pay! Yes, nothing to pay!

Jesus has cleared all the debt away.

Blotted it out with His bleeding hand!

Free and forgiven and loved you stand!

Hear the voice of Jesus say,

Verily thou hast nothing to pay!

Paid is the debt, and the debtor free!

Now I ask thee, Lovest thou Me?

In verses 44-46 Jesus contrasts the actions of Simon and the actions of the woman. Decide for yourself who loved Him more.

Normally when a guest entered a home, the host placed his hand on the guest's shoulder and gave him a kiss of peace. The guest's sandals were removed and his feet were washed for cleansing and refreshment. Guests also received a touch of olive oil on their heads to sooth the cracked skin that results from life in the desert. Jesus received none of these courtesies from His host.

Beginning in verse 44 Jesus makes the contrast. Determine for yourself who loved Jesus more.

"And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume'" (Lk. 7:44-46).

Who showed the greater love? Who was the greater sinner that memorable evening? Whose heart was most pleasing to Jesus? Simon was silenced. The righteous Pharisee was deflated and an unlikely woman became the hero and model of God-honoring worship.

3. LOVE DEFINED (verses 47-50)

We have looked at "Love Displayed" and "Love Depleted." Our final point is entitled, "Love Defined."

Jesus was not finished. His final words to Simon are a climatic conclusion to this account. In verse 47 our Lord said, "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven (perfect tense-she had been forgiven some time in the past and would continue to be forgiven), for she loved much (agapao, self-sacrificial love); but he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Simon saw no need for a Savior. Therefore he demonstrated little (or based on the account) no love at all. Failing to recognize the magnitude of his sin, Jesus became nothing more than another religious figure.

The woman however saw her sin and subsequent need for a Savior. Notice the order: She was saved by her faith (verse 50). Her sins were then forgiven (verse 48). She therefore loved much (verse 47). She demonstrated her love through extravagant actions (verse 38)

Or if we go in the other direction, why did this woman treat Jesus the way she did? Because she loved much. Why did this woman love much? Because she realized she was forgiven much. And how do we receive this forgiveness? As Jesus concludes the narrative, faith and faith alone is the only way to receive divine forgiveness.

Demonstrating Himself to be more than just a prophet (Lk. 7:39), but the divine Messiah who can forgive sins (Mk. 2:10), Jesus said, "Your sins have been forgiven" (verse 48). "Your faith has saved you; go in peace" (verse 50).

His final words to the woman were simple: "Go in peace." Literally this phrase may be translated: "Go into peace." True everlasting peace only comes in a personal relationship with the Prince of Peace Himself. True peace is understanding that we are right with God, no longer agents of His wrath, but now adopted as His beloved children.

One commentator said, "This peace is the smite of God reflected in the heart of the redeemed sinner, a shelter in the storm, a hiding-place in the cleft of the rock and under the protection of His wing."

In our account the woman is now a new creature, a saved person, once despised, but now redeemed, able to depart in peace.

The message once again is contrary to popular world-view and an attack on religion as compared to a relationship with the Savior. In a marvelous way, Jesus was able to dethrone the beliefs of His day (and our day as well) and elevate the heart of a most unlikely hero. The woman expecting to be ensnared by her actions actually provided a means for Simon to be trapped. The woman holding to no personal righteousness was exalted over Simon's attempt to achieve his own righteousness. The woman was justified by her faith while Simon was condemned by his works. The woman left in peace while Simon remained perplexed and insulted.

A recent survey revealed that 75% of all evangelicals feel good people go to heaven. That's tragic! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is true! Yes, all good people will go to heaven, but the problem is none of us are good! J. Gresham Machen nearly one hundred years ago said, "The fundamental fault of the modern church is that she is busily engaged in an absolute impossible task. She is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. Even our Lord did not call the righteous to repentance and probably we shall be no more successful than He." In Mark 2:17 "Jesus said…'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"

Do we realize our need for Jesus? Do our actions come as an attempt to earn God's favor or do they overflow from a heart that has feasted on God's love and forgiveness? On this Father's Day, do we who are in Christ understand how much we are loved and accepted by our heavenly Father?

other sermons in this series

Mar 3


The Entrusted Message

Preacher: J.T. Colville Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16–21 Series: Miscellaneous

Feb 25


Affectionate Unity That Leads To Boasting

Preacher: Jack McDonald Scripture: Philippians 2:14–18 Series: Miscellaneous