Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Repent! Turn to Jesus; He Changes Your Life!

Luke 7:44-50 In our midweek sermon last week we mentioned that Jesus never drew back from sinners or kept them at arms’ length but reached out to them and spoke to them and cared for them and we see that same thing before us tonight in the home of Simon the Pharisee.  
This was an enemy of Jesus—someone who opposed his mission—someone who would work to convict him unjustly and judge him worthy of death. 
And yet, Jesus loved him and accepted an invitation to come to his house and share a meal in the hopes that he could convince Simon and the other religious leaders there that day to repent of their self-righteousness and receive his forgiveness.
There was someone else there that who stuck out like a sore thumb.  The Pharisees and other religious leader—even if they were self-righteous—were still outwardly righteous.  And Jesus, of course was so holy that no one could bring a charge against him later on at his religious trial but had to twist and distort and lie about what he had preached.
But there at Simon’s house, in the very midst of that serious and upright occasion, with the religious leaders gathered together and Jesus as honored guest, was what Luke calls “a woman of the city, who was a sinner”
While her sins are not specifically mentioned, that she was “a woman of the city”—a woman belonging to the city—we can begin to get a sense of what she was.
That notorious sinner stood before Jesus, so close to him that her tears wet his feet, and she fell to her knees and began to wipe his feet with her hair and kissed them and took a jar of ointment that she had brought with her and anointed his feet.
Keeping a safe distance from that dramatic display of emotion—standing at arm’s length from this sinner who needed forgiveness and a new life, was Simon and the other religious leaders who were watching closely and saying to themselves: 
If this Jesus really was a prophet, he would know who was touching him.  In other words, if Jesus really was who he said he was—the Messiah, he would never allow that woman to get with 1000 feet of him-- much less close enough to wet his feet with her tears.  He would never let that sinner touch him—much less bend down at this feet and dry them with her hair and anoint them with ointment
I want you to picture that scene in your mind’s eye because it really does set the stage for what happens next.  Jesus turned to the woman and “said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?”   I just love that!  Of course he saw her!  Everyone in the room saw her!  By this time half the community knew she was there!  Do you see this woman?
Jesus asked this question in the same way as God asked Adam and Eve in the garden “Where are you?”  Of course God knew where they were but he wanted them to have an opportunity to confess what they had done and receive God’s forgiveness--just like Jesus did for Simon.  Simon, do you see this woman?
But not only had Simon seen her—he saw an opportunity in her.  He didn’t see a woman who was broken and in pain--or someone who needed forgiveness-- or someone looking to make a change from a life of sin like a religious leader ought to do. 
He saw her as the Pharisees so often saw women and the weak and children and the broken—as a prop—a tool to make a point against Jesus --and in this he was like every other man she had known who regarded her, not as human, but something to be used. 
Simon thought that he would use her as an object lesson to show that Jesus was not at all who he claimed to be-- because he couldn’t see the truth about this woman and her sins.  But of course Jesus knew about her sins—it’s why he had come into this world in the first place, to forgive sinners and give them a new life.
But there was only one person there that day who, seeing what was right before his eyes, was still blind to the truth—the truth about himself—and that was Simon. 
Last Sunday we heard Jesus say to the Pharisees that he had come into the world for judgment, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind. 
Simon couldn’t see the truth about Jesus- or the truth about the woman- and he couldn’t see the truth about himself-- and so he was the one who stood there spiritually blind in God’s sight—he was the one who was guilty--not this sinful woman and certainly not Jesus. 
And so Jesus took the object lesson that Simon himself had chosen and used it against Simon so that he could see the truth about himself—so that his sin-blindness could be healed.  Jesus told him:
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 from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
            The kinds of things that Jesus mentions were the everyday, ordinary acts of hospitality that any decent person would offer to a guest.  They weren’t heroic acts of faith-- but the simple things you would do to welcome a guest—things that anyone could do if they were a decent human being-- to say nothing of a believer.
But Simon had offered Jesus none of them.  And as one after the other was omitted, it was one slap in the face of Jesus after another, done by this religious leader who thought himself better than everyone else in the room.
Simon wanted to use the woman as an object lesson to show everyone in the room just exactly who Jesus was (or wasn’t) as the case may be.  And the woman did serve as a lesson—but as a lesson showing what kind of sinner Simon was-- and the kind of difference Jesus had made in the worst of sinners-- who was changed forever by his forgiveness.
The forgiven woman who saw Jesus for who he was—the God who is to be worshiped--stood in stark contrast to the self-righteous, sin-blinded Pharisee and went far and above anything that was demanded of her as a courtesy: she poured out her love in tears-- and showed her gratitude in her gift-- and her desire to serve in wiping Jesus’ feet. 
This was a woman whose life had been changed by the forgiveness of Jesus and she showed that change in her life by her deeds of love.  So it is for all of us.  Jesus said: 
I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much.  But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
The greatness of the forgiveness she had received was demonstrated in the greatness of the love she gave-- and so just the opposite was true for Simon and his lack of love—that he had no love to give because he had received no forgiveness.
Now, it’s not as if Simon didn’t need great forgiveness-- and it’s not as if Jesus would not grant great forgiveness (even to this Pharisee who hated him) but Simon didn’t think he needed it and he certainly wouldn’t humble himself to admit it. 
That’s why Jesus had to show him the truth about himself reflected in the love and faith of the woman who had been saved from sin and changed for eternity.
And so what about us here tonight?  Do we find ourselves in the place of the woman of the city who threw caution to the wind and cast herself on the mercy of Jesus and whose life was changed forever because of it?  Do our lives of loving service and sacrifice show that we understand the greatness of the forgiveness we have received? 
Or do we find ourselves in the place of Simon, looking good on the outside, standing in judgment of others and their sins, still maintaining our precious dignity, but with no real change in our lives because we are not willing to receive Christ’s forgiveness? 
What a blessing it is to know that, to the self-righteous-- and the sinner-- Christ says the same thing:  “Your sins are forgiven.” Your sins, great and small, known and unknown by those around you, are forgiven. 
Christ speaks those words to all of here tonight---to the sinner and to the self-righteous—words empowered by his death and resurrection-- and they are true and they have the power to forgive us and fill our hearts with love and change us forever.
But who is it that is able to receive them and be changed by them?  It is the one who can answer this question posed by those around the table:  “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
            That is the question all right and the answer of faith is given by the man who was healed of his blindness we heard about on Sunday and the woman who was forgiven of her sin that we learned about tonight is that this Jesus of Nazareth is truly God for only God can heal and forgive and change lives forever—and that’s exactly what happened in the home of Simon the Pharisee.
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  As we have talked about over the last several weeks in Church and Bible class, this woman’s faith saved her, not because it was sincere (though it was!), not because it was filled with love (though it was!), this woman’s faith saved her because of the One she believed in.  And she left Jesus’ presence in peace.
In the Bible that word means, not just the absence of conflict, but wholeness.  And that is exactly what happened.  Her sin were taken away.  She was filled with the Holy Spirit.  She was not a child of God.  She was changed forever.  She was whole and right and free.

And that is the promise for every one of us assembled here tonight.  That we can turn to Jesus and repent of our sins and receive his forgive us and be changed forever and made whole.  May God grant it to us for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

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