A Sacrificial Faith Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
A Sacrificial Faith
Luke 7:36-7:50 (Read first)
What we have in our text this morning is a record of the worship of a woman who falls at the feet of Jesus in worship. We are never told her name. Luke does not record a single word spoken by the woman in her sacrificial act of worship. Wordless worship; now there is a thought. But her worship was so overwhelming that Jesus uses her as an example to a very proud religious leader.
Did you know that each of the gospels has an account of the washing of Jesus’ feet by a woman (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14: 3-9, John 12:1-8 and in today’s text in Luke). The accounts of Matthew, Mark and John all deal with the same incident, but the one recorded in Luke is a unique incident, recorded only in his gospel.
Turn in your Bible to Luke chapter seven and verse thirty-six as we look at this remarkable story of sacrificial faith.
“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. (37) And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil.” Jesus is invited for a meal into the home of a religious leader (a Pharisee) by the name of Simon (v. 40, 43-44). We really don’t know what prompted this invitation. It does not seem that Simon believed in Jesus or loved Jesus because he did not extend to him the normal hospitality. Common courtesy for that day would have been that as soon as Jesus entered the house of Simon, he would have been greeted with a kiss, His feet would have been washed and His head anointed with oil. But Simon didn’t do any of those things, and that suggests an underlying animosity on the part of Simon which Jesus will address in verses 44-46. Simon seems to have purposefully omitted the common courtesies accorded to any honored guest. Simon treated Jesus with contempt, and he enjoyed doing it. He carefully avoided every custom that would have made Jesus feel welcome. And you cannot help but think that all the guests noticed it as well.
In sharp contrast to Simon, a woman enters the room because she wants to find Jesus, who she had undoubtedly heard was a friend of sinners. And she was well qualified in that department. Our English translation does not convey the shock that the entrance of this woman made, when it says “when a woman.” What it means is literally “And look a woman!” The shock was primarily because of this woman’s reputation. The text tells us that she was a sinner (a person with a bad reputation and character. It is also suggested that she was a prostitute). But, whatever her sin, she was a woman with a bad name.
Her desire is to find Jesus and when her eyes finally rest on Him, the other guests fade into a mist of tears; it suddenly doesn’t matter what these respectable people think about her. All that she sees is Jesus. According to verse thirty-eight, “ and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.” She knelt at the feet of Jesus with the perfume she had brought for the purpose of anointing his feet.
Then an unexpected complication arose, she was weeping so uncontrollably that her tears began to fall on Jesus’ dusty feet. No doubt she was embarrassed, and she searches desperately for something to wipe the feet of Jesus, but she had not come prepared for this eventually. She is ashamed and embarrassed, because her tears had fallen on the feet of Jesus. She takes the one thing available to her, she lets down her long hair and begins to dry his feet. But the more she wipes with her hair, the more tears that fall. She uses the water of her tears to wash His feet, something that could hardly have been planned in advance. She then began to kiss his feet. In fact, the text uses a word which means “to kiss again and again;” she repeatedly kissed his feet. This woman is a self-forgetting mess – crying unashamedly, her nose running, her hair wet with a muddy mixture of tears and dirt. As the sweet fragrance of her sacrifice fills the room, anyone who was not aware of this woman’s actions, became aware.
All eyes are on Jesus; what will he do. He doesn’t appear to be either embarrassed or upset at the extravagance of this display of love and devotion. What she did, she did remarkably well; she worshiped. This woman’s worship came at great personal cost. It cost her, the expensive vial of perfume; it cost her, the humility to kiss, wash and dry with her hair the dirty feet of the Lord. Perhaps, the greatest cost she faced was the contempt and rejection by the self-righteous Pharisee and his dinner guests. No one had invited her. She was not wanted here. She probably would be mocked and she might be thrown out. But none of those things mattered, her desire to see and worship Jesus were greater than her fear. The price that she had to pay may be high, but to her, it was worth it.
Simon’s reaction, given in verse thirty-nine reveals much about the condition of his heart. “Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." In Simon’s mind, he was passing judgment. Simon’s reasoning went something like this.
• If Jesus were a prophet, he would know people’s character.
• If Jesus knew this woman was a sinner, He would have nothing to do with her.
• If Jesus were a true teacher he would not allow her to touch him this way.
The word that Simon uses in this verse to say that she is “touching” him is a word used to describe immoral activity. The word that he used suggests that this was a very improper action.The problem with logic is the same as the problem with computers; your output is only as reliable as your input. Because Simon’s logic was based on false assumptions it led him to false conclusions.
First, he believes that if Jesus were a prophet, He would be aware of the character of the woman who was touching him – which was correct. Jesus was not only able to discern the character of this woman, but he was capable of knowing what Simon was thinking. The conclusion that Simon reached was entirely wrong. He thought, “Since Jesus did not shun this woman, he didn’t know this woman’s character, and therefore he was not a prophet at all. By telling Simon those things that he had only thought and not spoken, he proved that he was indeed more than a prophet.
I don’t want you to miss this, in verse forty. Jesus turns to Simon and says, “Simon I have something that I want to say to you.” I wonder if Jesus comes week by week and taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, “You and I have something to talk about!”
There only two kinds of sinners in the world and everyone here fits into one of the two categories. There are sinners who know they are sinners and there are sinners who do not know that they are sinners. What he has to say are some very important principles that are as meaningful today as they were when they were spoken.
1. Just Like The Two Men In The Story Every One Is Spiritually In Debt (vv. 40b-42)
At the end of verse 40, and then in verses 41 and 42, we have the story. “So he (Simon) said, "Teacher, say it." (41) "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. (42) And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both.” Jesus used a story to explain what he meant.
There were two men who had borrowed money. Since a denarius was equal to about a day’s wages; 50 denarii equaled nearly 2 month’s pay; and 500, about 2 year’s wages (22 months). These were incredible debts considering that the average wages were barely sufficient for survival. And although there is considerable difference in what each man owed, what is important is that neither man was able to pay. But the creditor in a great show of mercy and compassion canceled each man’s debt. Jesus’ question recorded in verse forty-two was, “Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?"