Friday, February 19, 2016, 12:38 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give Ear to Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 7:36-50 (NASB).
She Was a Sinner (vv. 36-39)
Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “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.”
A Pharisee was a religious leader in the temple, and a teacher of the scriptures, as well as a governing authority over the Jewish people, as part of the Sanhedrin. Jesus often chided them for their self-righteousness, their hypocrisy, and their strict adherence to human tradition and to a list of external rituals which they followed over and above love and mercy. They worked hard at looking good on the outside, but Jesus said their hearts were full of wickedness. Jesus told his disciples, that although they had to obey the Pharisees, they were not to be like them, i.e. they were not to practice what the Pharisees did.
This woman was described as being a “sinner.” I find that particular interesting, since we are all sinners by nature, although some of us have been saved by God’s grace. The Pharisees were sinners, too, according to how Jesus described them, and yet they looked on this woman with disdain, as though they felt they were superior to her, but they weren’t. All of us have sinned, and we all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval, which is why Jesus died on the cross for us, so that by faith in him, his righteousness could be credited to our accounts. All of our own righteousness is like filthy rags in God’s sight. It is only by the grace of God that we are able to be forgiven of our sins, and restored to fellowship with God. We are not made righteous in God’s sight by following religious rituals or human traditions. We can never be good enough in our own merit. Only through faith in Jesus Christ and in his blood sacrifice for our sins can we be saved from sin.
The woman had obviously heard of Jesus or she had heard him speak and had watched as he healed the sick and afflicted, and delivered people from demons, and raised the dead. She, most likely, would have heard his calls for sinners to repent of (turn from) their sins and to follow him in obedience. She would have heard his messages of love, mercy and forgiveness. She, unlike the Pharisees, knew she was a sinner. When she heard that Jesus was at the Pharisee’s house, she came there seeking him. I believe her tears were tears of repentance. The context bears that out. I believe her acts of love toward Jesus were humble acts, acknowledging the fact that she was a sinner, but seeking Jesus’ forgiveness and healing, and a relationship with him. She risked much by going there, but she was willing to be rejected, disdained, and cast aside as trash in order to come to Jesus.
The Pharisees thought they could earn their way into God’s approval by following human traditions passed down to them by the elders, and by following their own strict interpretation of the law, which they added to. They thought they could gain merit with God by their self-righteous acts and their religious snobbery, and that God would see them as superior to this woman who was a “sinner.” But, God doesn’t think like humans think.
Jesus said that he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Those who thought they were already righteous did not acknowledge their own sinfulness and need for a Savior, but this woman did. Jesus honored her because of her humility, because she was seeking out Jesus with her whole heart, because of her repentance over her sinful lifestyle, and because of her desire to be a servant of the Lord in ministering to his needs. Jesus will honor the repentant sinner, but he will cast aside those who think they are righteous in their own merit, because they will not humble themselves, confess their sin, and turn from it.
You Didn’t, She Did (vv. 40-50)
And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them 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.” 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. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
This story greatly touches my heart every time I read it. The Pharisee, who was a religious leader in the temple and a student of the scriptures, much like a pastor of today, I would think, saw himself as better than this woman, and he wanted Jesus to reject her like he did. But, Jesus doesn’t judge like humans often do. Humans often judge by appearance, or by the norms of society and by what is socially or traditionally acceptable behavior. God, nonetheless, looks at our hearts. He is not so much concerned with where we have been, as he is with where we are now. No matter how badly we have sinned, if we come to him with humble hearts, repentant, and in faith receive him as our Lord and Savior, he forgives us our sins, he accepts us into his family, and he gives us new life in Him, free from slavery to sin, and now free to come under the control of righteousness.
The Pharisee was so self-righteous and filled with pride that he failed to give Jesus the common courtesies extended to household guests. The woman, on the other hand, filled with humility and with a sense of her own sinfulness honored Jesus with her expressions of love for him. What the Pharisee should have done, he did not do, but the woman did, even at the risk of even more rejection and possible mistreatment.
So, what can we learn from this? As humans, we tend to judge people by externals, by outward performance, and by human traditions and cultural norms. We may even judge our own selves this way, and thus judge falsely that we are acceptable to God because we follow a set of religious rules and practices passed down to us from previous generations. As well, we can learn that a bunch of head knowledge does not necessarily result in heart understanding and humility. Many highly educated people, including those who have attended Bible colleges and seminaries, are so caught up in all that they know, that they fail to hear God’s voice speaking to their hearts and to respond to his voice with childlike faith. So, when they see someone actually respond to Jesus with childlike faith, they don’t get it, and they might be prone to mock, criticize and reject that person’s actions.
Also, a lot of people were brought up with religion, and thus they follow their religious practices, but they don’t have a relationship with their God. They don’t know him personally, intimately and affectionately. They have all the forms of faith in God, but it is external only, and head knowledge only. They have never come to Jesus, as this woman did, in all humility with a repentant heart, weeping over their sins. Thus, they were never born of the Spirit of God, and have not been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and resurrected with him in newness of life. They do not possess the Holy Spirit living within them, empowering them, leading them, and directing their steps. They operate in the flesh, following what they have been told to do, but they don’t understand the working of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. So, when they see someone operating in the Spirit, in a heart response of love to their Lord, in true worship of him, they don’t get it, and they are likely to reject that person as this Pharisee rejected this woman’s actions towards Jesus.
This is how Jesus was ultimately treated by the Pharisees and other religious leaders in the Jewish temple, too. They didn’t get him. They didn’t understand him, because they didn’t have a relationship with Almighty God, but only had a religion. So, if we are his followers, we can expect to be treated in like manner as was Jesus and this woman. We can expect that even our leaders within the church who are following man’s teachings and human traditions will not understand it when we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Yet, God will honor us for our childlike and sincere faith. He receives us, even when humans reject, mock and criticize us for following our Lord in pure devotion. We are doing for him what others should have done, but did not do, because they were too caught up in following humans, and thus did not have ears to hear the Spirit’s voice speaking to their hearts.
Jesus Christ is calling out to each and every one of us to humble ourselves with childlike faith, to turn from our wicked ways, and to follow him in obedience and surrender to his will for our lives. He will forgive all our sins, and he will save us because we believed in him.
Give Ear to Jesus / An Original Work
Based off Isaiah 55 / February 16, 2016
Call on your Savior.
Seek the Lord while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way;
Turn to the Lord.
God will have mercy.
He’ll forgive you of your sin.
He will freely pardon you
And give peace within.
Turn from your sin, follow Jesus,
Be cleansed from sin.
Give ear to Jesus.
Come to Him. Your soul will live.
Listen to Him speaking to you:
“Eat what is good.”
If you are thirsty,
Come to Jesus, drink from Him.
Drink His Spirit given to you.
Be born again.
Listen to Him. Do what He says.
Rejoice in Him.
God’s Word, eternal,
Will achieve what He desires.
He is willing none should perish,
Saved by His blood.
Share now the gospel.
Jesus died so we’d go free.
Walk in vict’ry,
Free from your sin, eternally.
Die to sin, and live to Jesus.
In Him believe.