The “First Week”: Week Eight/Session Three.
Theme: My Own History of Sin and Grace.
Our reading for today: Luke 7: 36-50.
One of the Pharisees asked Him (Jesus) over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just 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 and 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. When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought He was, He would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over Him.”
…turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, He said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for My feet, but she rained tears on My feet and dried them with her hair. You gave Me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing My feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed My feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”
Then He spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.” That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does He think He is, forgiving sins!” He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7: 36-39, 44-50 MsgB)
Isn’t Jesus of Nazareth an interesting character? One amazing dude?
Who else do you know could go to a religious dinner party held in his honor, invited by a bunch of high-brow, high society church-goers, and then, while sitting at their nicely decorated dinner table, allow a low-light prostitute to come into the room, literally draping herself over him, washing his feet with her tears, wiping them clean with her hair, and then pour a fragrant perfume over them?
Now you and I have read this New Testament account so many times, we’re no longer offended by this story, but this morning, as I’m reading these words written in Luke’s gospel, I’m struck to the core of how my parishioners might respond if we actually allowed this type of event to happen at our next church pot-luck dinner!
Shocking! Don’t you think?
And I don’t care what generation reads this story…let’s call it here as it actually is!
This account is highly suggestive, full of erotic messages and, without a doubt, no pastor I know would allow this type of trash to unfold in their Sunday morning services! Let alone at a dinner party with a bunch of church elders!
But you see, Jesus of Nazareth apparently had no problem with either His self-esteem or His ability to deeply love another human being, despite the ugliness of the situation. And if Jesus, the Holy Son of God, can sit in a room with this much sin trafficking in the air, then how much more is He not put off by the stink of my sin?
I mean, let’s get honest here.
From the way Luke tells the story, when this woman of the night walks into the room carrying a bottle of expensive perfume, no one really knows her intentions when she walks up to Jesus and begins to let down her hair. As a matter of fact, Luke even indicates to us that the dinner host is seconding-guessing his kind thoughts about Jesus, especially when the Master is allowing this sexy gal full access to his space around the dinner table! But apparently, Jesus knows something we don’t. And I’m guessing it’s that awareness that allows Him to keep interacting with this lost daughter of God. Don’t you think?
Yet, isn’t it amazing, that 99.9% of today’s upstanding, religious leaders, myself included, would quickly remove ourselves from the situation as described here in Luke’s gospel? Gosh, I’d even quote the scriptures (1 Thessalonians 5:22) that warn me to remove myself from any appearance of evil, excusing myself to the restroom to gather my thoughts and to get my mind back on godly matters!
But not Jesus!
Apparently, the Master knows something is going on here that He must stay with. A move of God is going on in this woman’s heart and He doesn’t want any religious-minded legalism to get in the way of this divine appointment that will change this woman’s life forever. Some believe that this prostitute in this story just might have been Mary Magdalene or Mary of Bethany, two women who became key figures in the New Testament accounts of Jesus and His early disciples. And while there’s no way to prove that theory, the truth is that this one woman with a pot load of stinking sin in her life was not rejected by the One who had every right to call her a dirty, rotten sinner.
Wow! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound (and smell!), that saves a wretch like me!
My prayer: Jesus of Nazareth…You are one amazing Savior! For You, sitting at a dinner table, being approached by a woman of the night was an opportunity to display the amazing grace of God. For me, a sinner, I’m shocked at Your ability to love and extend grace when everything inside me says ‘run, Marty, run.’ So for that, my Lord, I say thank You. Thank You that none of my sin inside me repels you. You love me and give grace to me, despite the ugliness within. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So if Jesus was able to see a God-moment in what most of us would call, minimally, a fleshly temptation, or at its worst, an interruption from the pits of hell; what needs to change inside me as I view my own sin or the sin of others? Can the Holy Spirit so rewire me from the inside out that I no longer judge myself or others based on our sin, but on the amazing work of God He sees in each of us?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.