Grace, mercy, and peace be
unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
You make a very distinct differentiation
between when you serve a meal for everyday compared to when you serve
a meal for one whom you wish to honor and or commemorate a special occasion.
Even the location in your house is a different place. The flatware and
the place setting, candles marked differently for someone whom you wish
to honor compared to the everyday meal.
In this morning’s gospel reading,
Jesus is honored. He is invited by Simon, the Pharisee who is very interested
to discern whether or not Jesus really is who He says and proclaims
Himself to be. So he invites Him to his house for a very special dinner.
And the reason we know it is is because the text says, “And He
reclined at His place at the table.” Setting apart this place for
some great Teacher to come and sup with them because what is to be done is there
is to be teaching to go on, and there is to be eating to go on. And
the two are then put together to say, “We are who are gathered
around this table to hear Your teaching, we are in agreement with it,
and we’re going to commemorate that agreement by our supping with one
Well Simon the Pharisee who
had invited Him to this meal is surprised. That is an understatement
to say the least. For the forgiveness of Christ emboldens this woman,
this woman of ill repute. The forgiveness of Christ emboldens her so
to come into a place in which she was not invited and to kneel at Jesus’
feet to do for the honored Guest that which was not done by Simon the
No different than when you
invite the person of honor, they’re the ones who get the special seat,
the special plate, the special position that everyone focuses upon.
Jesus points this out to Simon a little later when He says, “You
did not even wash My feet. You did not even give Me the kiss of peace
and fellowship as one who is in agreement with one another. You merely
wanted to look upon Me and investigate Me with doubts in your mind to
discern whether or not I’m worthy of you.” And yet this woman of
ill repute, this sinful woman, the forgiveness of Christ drives her
to her knees to bend down at Jesus’ feet to wash them.
And here before Simon’s eyes
is the great New Testament example of forgiveness. An object lesson
and a parable are put together. The object lesson of the sinful woman,
the parable of the two men who have been excused and pardoned their
debt. Sadly, Simon the Pharisee receives all of this wondrous proclamation
not with faith, but with disdain. And having received this revelation
with disdain, speaks judgment upon himself. In fact, everyone at that
table who did not believe what Jesus was bringing to them, that forgiveness,
and did not believe that He receives sinners, of whom they did not count
themselves, received such a revelation with condemnation, not with blessing,
as the woman did who heard again her sins were forgiven, who saw in
the eyes of her Lord love and compassion.
This Jesus not only proclaims
forgiveness, but He does so at a meal where He eats with sinners. He
began His ministry eating with a very important sinner, Matthew, the
tax collector. There He received Matthew as a believer. There He ate
with Matthew, solidifying this agreement, this relationship He had with
Matthew. Now Pharisee after Pharisee had Him over to their house. Sadly,
Pharisee after Pharisee received Him as Simon did in condemnation, not
believing that He would receive common sinners.
By washing the feet of Jesus
does the woman reveal to Simon and to all at the table that this is
the honored Guest. And so overcome with emotion is she, that she does
something that no self-abiding woman of the Middle East would ever do.
She let down her hair. A woman in the Middle East never lets down her
hair except in the presence of her husband. Well in a very profound
way did this sinful woman let down her hair in the presence of her husband,
Christ, who is the Groom of the Church. He is our husband, and she honors
Him by letting down her hair in front of Him, the only One to whom she
can let her hair down.
And she shows forth the power
of forgiveness. Her showing up in the midst of this dinner showed herself
to be a great sinner. Her crying and weeping and letting down her hair
shows herself to be a great sinner. And now Jesus, in front of them
all and her, reveals Himself to be the One who has authority and power
to forgive sin, and reveals to her and to all those He is God. That
is power of forgiveness in someone’s life.
Now the Old Testament quintessential
example of forgiveness? Why that is found in our Old Testament reading
that pastor read. David is the quintessential example because here he
is with all the trappings of godliness and Christianness. God even called
him in His holy Word a man after His own heart. And yet he struggled
with lust and acted upon that lust. He put away a woman whom he had
impregnated and killed her husband so that he could rightfully marry
her to cover the illegitimate child to be born to them.
Oh he is a great sinner, as
great of a sinner as the sinful woman who bent down at Christ’s feet.
And yet just as the great woman was covered with even greater forgiveness,
so David, the quintessential example of such great sinner, his forgiveness
of Christ that he received covers his sin even greater. For Nathan his
pastor comes to him and proclaims to him what he has done, and being
confronted with such a sin, he confesses, “I have sinned against
the LORD.” And God’s forgiveness comes to him in words from another
man saying, “The Lord has taken away your sin.”
And if you want to see the
power of God’s forgiveness in David’s life manifested, here is a man
who will view the death of this illegitimate child that he hath bore
with Bathsheba die, and he will know that this child dies because of
his sin. And yet he writes that which the choir sang from Psalm 32.
He wrote that Psalm after he had sinned with her, and penned into words
what God’s great forgiveness can do to a great sinner’s life.
The Pharisees asked the question
of the evening. “Who is this? ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?'”
And the answer was given to us by the epistle reading of Saint Paul,
another great sinner whose God’s greater forgiveness covered when he
said this, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming
a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged
on a tree’— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might
come to” all people…the blessing of faith receiving such greater
forgiveness than our great sin.
Therefore the answer to “Who
is this who even forgives sins?” The One who is cursed by God for
your sins, no matter how great you may perceive them to be. It was Jesus
who said to that woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
And He does this blessing and gives this blessing not outside of this
environment of this meal, but in the very midst of this meal going on,
making the strong delineation between the Pharisees who condemn and
look upon the forgiveness of sins by someone who is supposed to be righteous
and holy to be above Him. They misunderstand.
Jesus said, “Your faith
has saved you; go in peace,” to two very important people who were
both exiled and put outside of the purview of the true Church. The first?
The woman who had hemorrhaging for several years who touched His garment.
Jesus said to her, “Go in peace, your faith has saved you,”
showing her to be a part of the true Church, all those sinners with
great sin who have had them covered by greater forgiveness.
The other one who is notable
is the Samaritan who was already considered to be outside of Israel,
who came back to Jesus…the only one of those 10 men who thanked Jesus
for having been healed by Him. “Your faith has saved you, go in
peace.” The one who is looked upon by the “righteous” of Israel to
be outside of the Church is actually being consoled by Christ to be
inside the Church, for this man with a great sin has found greater forgiveness
in the One who receives sinners and eats with sinners.
Her act before those Pharisees
was the power of God’s forgiveness in her life. The rest of David’s
life from that point forward, though he lived with consequences of his
sin, just like the sinful is going to have to live with all those memories
of her own, just like all of us have to live with the consequences of
our sins, David lived it out, and that sinful woman lived it out because
they knew that they had been forgiven. Forgiveness compelled them forward,
moving them to love and to serve.
It was Jesus who said this,
who loves to mix forgiveness and eating together with sinners. In the
Revelation of Saint John, He said, “Behold, I stand at the door
and knock. And anyone who hears My voice…” Notice He says, “hears
My voice,” not “My knock.” “Anyone who hears My
voice and opens the door, I…” I! God in the flesh, “…will
come in to him…” a sinner, “…and eat with him…”
a sinner, and I will have this sinner eat “…with Me.”
He invites you to His supper
table where you have your place, to feed you, a great sinner with even
greater forgiveness, that you may know He and you are one. That is why
Christ said, “I will come in to him.” He will come in to you.
And having been greatly forgiven as you have, “Love one another,”
He said, “as I have loved you.” Love one another as I have
loved you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
The peace of God which passes
all understanding keep your hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to
life everlasting. Amen.