A Woman Which Was a Sinner Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
A Woman Which Was a Sinner
(adapted from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon)
Read: Luke 7:37-50 (KJV)
We are going to talk a lot about grace today, so let me give you a definition of grace; it is the unmerited favor of God which comes to all who by faith receive Jesus as Savior. We are not only saved by grace, through faith but through this grace, we also receive the blessings of God and the fruits of the Spirit.
Now let’s get to our story.
The woman in this story has been confused with Mary Magdalene. I don’t know why this error is made, because there isn’t any evidence, that this woman, who was a sinner, has any connection to the Mary who had seven devils cast out of her. What's more, the sinner in our story is not Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. That Mary also anointed our Savior, but that happened previous to this anointing. This woman, who was a sinner according to our text, should not be confused with Mary of Magdala or Mary of Bethany.
In the story that’s before us, there is the image of both grace and love. Let’s begin first with grace, and then we will speak about love.
The first thing to say is, “GRACE IS AN EXPENSIVE OINTMENT.” This story is literally dripping with grace. Here grace falls like a gentle due from heaven.
First, grace is glorified in its object.
She was a sinner, not in the everyday sense of the term, but a sinner in the filthier sense. According to the parable, which our Lord told on this occasion when He compared her to the Pharisee, she was a five-hundred-pence sinner, and he was only a fifty-pence sinner.
She practiced what is termed, the oldest profession. She sinned and made others sin. But, and this is a miracle, she was an object of exceptional grace, and she was destined for eternal life. Why was this?
On what grounds was she selected? What was it that made her so special, that Jesus would bless her so greatly?
Was this an extraordinary and isolated case? Not at all, because God has frequently chosen the lowest of the low and the most degraded. Look into the word of God, and study the genealogy of our Lord.
Listed there among great saints, you will find shameless Tamar, the harlot Rahab, and the unfaithful Bathsheba, so the indication is that the savior will enter into a relationship with the most degraded and fallen of the human race. Friends, I must say, "I am glad He does."
Jesus was known as “a friend of publicans and sinners,” but it was a title that was thrown at Him out of contempt. I am glad that He was a friend of sinners and of the worst people because now I know He will not refuse to associate with me.
This was Jesus’ character, and He was not ashamed to bear it. They said about Him, “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” The free grace of God doesn’t make a distinction among men on account of merit because none of us are deserving of God’s gifts. The law of God declares that we are all sinners, but the grace of God comes to the most unworthy of us in order to show itself to be grace. It comes to live in the most unworthy hearts so that its freeness can be better seen. By the grace of God, some of the vulgarest blasphemers, persecutors, thieves, fornicators, and drunkards, have been forgiven, born again, and made to live sober, righteous, and godly lives. The message that we have from this is that God is longsuffering, and He will save all those who believe in His Son, no matter how great their sin is. Folks, there are no number of sins or a sin that is so great that it can stop His grace from doing its work. And as proof, we have this wonderful example of undeserved grace here in the case of this woman.
It’s a wonder that Jesus would save any of us, but to save her is even more astonishing. No doubt, she may have said to herself, “Why me Lord, why me?” If she was here this morning, perhaps she would sing this song for us:
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath bro’t me safe this far,
And grace will lead me home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
Now, picture the scene, which is before us; Simon the Pharisee is seated at one of the tables, and he is a good respectable man, or rather, that’s how he thinks of himself, and yet, he is not saved. This poor prostitute has received the Lord’s salvation, but not Simon. How can we explain this? There are many in the city just like her; some better, some worse, but she alone is saved.
How about you; what was it that separated you from your former life and brought you to be the Lord’s? Brothers and sisters, once you have discovered that God has chosen you and you feel His love, and He brings you close to Him, and He covers you with the perfect righteousness of His Son, it breaks your heart. You want to cry out, “How could You have chosen me? What am I, that You have blessed me so much?”
And think about this precious thought, “God loved you before the world was created. He saved you when He could just as well leave you alone. He chose you over thousands who were great and dignified, the wise and educated.” This should fill you with reverence, wonder, and affectionate gratitude.
Where sin once abounded, grace now abounds much more.
The “woman which was a sinner,” is now kneeling at the Savior’s feet, and she is crying, because her sins are forgiven, and because she loves her Savior. She was a public sinner, but now she openly follows Jesus.
Second, we can see from this story that grace is greatly magnified by what grows out of it.
Who would have thought that a woman, who had lived such a shameful life, would come to honor the King of kings; and become one of His favorite servants? Would you have imagined that she would offer Jesus better hospitality than the Pharisee? And that she offered it with a better spirit and with more style than the Pharisee could have done, even if he had tried.
Now let me speculate how this woman came to have faith in Jesus.
I believe that the Holy Spirit brought this woman to a place where she could hear Jesus speak. Earlier in this chapter, it appears that Jesus had been preaching the gospel to the poor.
Perhaps, she stood in the street, attracted by the crowd, and as she listened to our Savior’s talk, she couldn’t turn away. She had never heard a man speak like that before, and when He spoke about God’s willingness to accept, anyone who would come to Him, she began to cry. And she heard Him say that the Father in heaven would receive sinners who repent and that He would love them. Then her heart broke, she quit her evil trade, she became a new woman; she wanted better things for herself, and she was anxious to be freed from sin. But she was very disturbed because she questioned in her heart if she could really be forgiven. But her faith and her love grew. The Holy Spirit worked in her heart to form a feeble hope, and a small confidence; she believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, that He had come to earth to forgive sins, and she believed in Him. Her sins were forgiven and she longed to worship Him and to hear Him speak to her personally. Then one day, Jesus came to the city where she lived, and she thought, “Here is my chance to come close to the Blessed Prophet; He has already done so much for me, that I love Him more than anyone; more than my own soul. I will sneak into the Pharisee’s house so that I can see Him one more time.” Now, when she came to the door, she saw the Savior lying down with His head resting in one hand and His feet behind Him. The food was placed where it could be reached with the free hand, and the servants stood in the area between the walls and the feet of the guests. This was the customary way of dining at that time. Jesus was reclining close to the door because the Pharisee had little respect for Him and therefore had not given Him the best and innermost place at the feast. The woman was not noticed as she came and stood at His feet. She saw that the Pharisee had refused Him the ordinary courtesy of washing His feet. She noticed that His feet were all stained and travel-worn, and she began to cry, and her tears fell like showers on His feet. Then, she removed the ribbon from her hair, so that it hung freely over her shoulders and back, and she wiped those sacred feet with it. She must have thought that this was a poor way to honor the Son of God.