I was recently reading the story where Jesus was invited to dine with a Pharisee, and a woman of the town who was “an especially wicked sinner,” came and anointed him with oil. You find the tale in Luke 7:36-48. There are many things that we can say about this event, but what grabbed my attention this time is where, in the Amplified Version, verse 39 says that the Pharisee thought, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is . . .” What I found interesting is that the Pharisee didn’t just blurt this out, we are told that “he said to himself . . .”
One thing I have learned over the years, is that what is in my heart and mind are of greater importance to our Lord, than my words and deeds. My inner most places need daily purification. Now I freely admit I am only talking about myself, but maybe, just maybe, you can relate to that.
Now, part of the process of purification and cleansing is recognizing and confessing judgmental, impure, or critical thoughts before they can make their way to our mouths and actions. I admit it, I often fail at this. But our Father really can change our negative thought processes, attitudes and motives. The process takes time and, oh no, dare I say it? Our cooperation. Yep, that’s right. We need to work with Him, to make this happen. However, because these thought patterns are just as much habitual sin as the transgression of the woman from the story above.
Again I bring up that the Pharisee “said to himself . . .” This phrase and the way Jesus responded are very important because they force us to realize that He holds us responsible for the things we say to ourselves. (Ouch!) Yep, He reads our minds and our hearts. And sometimes our minds need a viewer rating, don’t you agree?
Now notice that just the fact that Jesus allowed the woman to wash His feet caused the Pharisee to question whether Jesus was the prophet he thought He was . . . The Pharisee implied that Jesus obviously didn’t know what kind of woman she was. The original wording is quite interesting. The English phrase, “what kind” is derived from two Greek words: poios, meaning “what,” and dapedon, meaning “soil.” Interesting . . . the Pharisee’s comment that Christ didn’t know where she came from literally meant “He has no idea the dirt she comes from.” Ooh!
You know what? Dirt is dirt, and we have all have it no matter where we come from. I’m not sure that our Lord sees one kind of dirt as dirtier than another. One thing is for sure: His blood is able to bleach any stain left by any kind of dirt. (Yippee! Oh, thank you Lord).
Now the King James Version puts Christ’s response after He read the Pharisee’s thoughts, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee” (Luke 7:40). I bet he does . . . but just in case you think I am feeling pious in my deep compassion for the habitual sinner, I assure you I am presently shuddering over the times Christ has had “somewhat” to say to me! Don’t ever put me on a pedestal! And as many of you know, I rarely quote for King Jim, but I do love the way KJV renders the response from the Pharisee: “Master, say on” (Luke 7:40) which makes me grin a little. What was he expecting the Master to “say on?” I have a feeling it wasn’t what Jesus said next.
You know the story, Jesus told a parable of canceled debts. Two guys owed some money to somebody. One owed him a whole bunch, the other just a few bucks, but neither had the ability to pay what he owed. So the guy holding the note canceled both of their debts. What a great deal! But then Jesus asked Simon which debtor appreciated the debtor’s action more? Well the answer was obvious, but Simon seemed rather reluctant to acknowledge it. Maybe he thought it was a trick question of something. But he says, “Well . . . I suppose . . . it’s the guy with the bigger debt.”
Well Christ said, “That’s right. You have judged correctly” (Luke 7:43). But what we miss in this is that Simon had been judging during the whole ordeal. It was just the first time he had judged correctly.
Jesus then brought the parable to life. He compared the way Simon and the sinful woman had responded to him. All three times Jesus describes the Pharisee’s action, He began with the unsettling words, “You did not.” How poignant. You see, one of the surest signs of an ancient or modern-day “Pharisee” is a life characterized far more by what he or she does not do than what he or she does. “No, Simon, you didn’t sleep around. You didn’t take bribes. You didn’t externalize your depravity. But as well, you did not give Me any water for My feet. You did not give Me a kiss. You did not put oil on My head. You did not see yourself as a sinner, and you did not receive My gift of grace–but she did.” Oh, man! That was harsh.
He packs the punch into the living parable in verse 47: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little loves little.” The Message renders it as:
“If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”
This isn’t because that i’s the way it has to be, but because that is the reality of our human tendency.
Let’s get candid here. If you are a disciple of Yeshua, if you have sworn an oath to follow the Master with all your heart, soul, and strength, then you no longer have the option or luxury to harbor unforgiveness and judgment against another person, irregardless of any transgression that person has committed against you. That is the bottom line. Jesus said to forgive . . . or you won’t be forgiven. Do you see the “.” (period) there? There is nothing more to be said . . .
I may have struck a cord in your heart with what I have said so far, but there is something else we should see here. First, Christ never down-played or minimized the sin of the woman. Human sympathy makes excuses like, “What you did wasn’t that bad” or “After all you’ve been through, no wonder . . .” or “Well your father wasn’t a very good dad, so that explains all your actions . . .’ All that may be true, but Christ never calls sin less that it is. To picture Christ minimizing the woman’s sinful past is to miss the entire point of the encounter. The point is that even though her sins had been many, heinous, and habitual, she had been forgiven, saved, and liberated to love lavishly.
Here’s what I pray:
Father, I want to be wise about what is good, yet innocent about what is evil (Romans 16:19). I want to wash myself clean from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, making my sanctification complete in the fear of God (II Corinthians 7:1). Yet my life has proven again and again that desire is not enough. Help me, Lord, for I need You desparately.
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