Ever messed something up bad. I’m talking really bad; colossally bad; professional grade bad. You didn’t start out to do it, but that is what happened. I know and so does this unnamed lady. Maybe you, like us, are on the road back. Recovering toward something or someone. Maybe there are folks who don’t want you to ever forget just how bad you messed up. Here is a story for all of us.
Our friend hears through the grapevine that Jesus is having dinner at a Pharisee’s home. Though uninvited, she decides to go. Luke points out that she had lived a sinful life in that town. Notice the word HAD. I believe that she wasn’t the same person she once was. Maybe she had heard Jesus speak. Perhaps it was John the Baptist that had reached her. We don’t know who or how; what we do know is that she HAD been that way and now evidently wasn’t. And she decides to go see Jesus. Maybe she wanted to ask some questions; perhaps she simply wanted to thank Him in person for this life changing experience. Either way, she went to the party.
You know it must have caused a bit of a stir when she walked in. Wives pulled their husbands close, maybe even going as far as to put themselves between her and them. Servants wondered at why she had been invited. Maybe they just assumed, knowing her past, that she was there “accompanying” one of the guests. She walks in outwardly confident, strong but cringing with each glare thrown her way. She knew what she had been. “Why can’t they see that I’m different?” were her thoughts. Suddenly the last of the crowd parts, and there she is face to face with Jesus. In her mind, the room grows silent; she’s rehearsed what she wants to say but thoughts and words leave her. She is in the presence of the One who made the incredible change in her life. And the water works start. People always tell me about the questions they are going to ask Jesus when they see Him in heaven. I just smile and go along but I’m thinking to myself “No you aren’t!” We are all going to be just like our friend.
She begins weeping, but I’m betting we would say “sobbing” today. She’s making a spectacle of herself, and yet she seems unaware… or maybe she doesn’t care. “These folks have made their mind up about me already,” she thinks, “this is between me and my Savior!” The tears run off her face and are making puddles on the floor and the feet of the One she is standing over. Suddenly she sees that the tears are mixing with the dirt on Jesus’ feet. In a flash she sees an opportunity to give back in some small way by cleaning His feet. This wasn’t her plan. She wasn’t prepared, but she saw an opportunity to show thanks. So she knelt and began using her hair to dry the tears and clean off the dirt. Now, the house was packed that evening; couldn’t someone bring her a towel? Why was everyone just staring? Luke says that the thought running through the host’s mind, “If this man were a prophet, He would know what kind of a woman she is.” The same thought was running through everyone’s mind. Not what kind of woman she was; but is. It’s a sad fact that many can’t differentiate between what you were, and who you are. They had labeled her a sinner and that was to be forever her role. Only she and Jesus knew the real score. After drying His feet she then brought out the ultra-expensive perfume she had brought. Now in her old life, this would have been used to enhance the experience the gentleman had paid for. To some there it smelt alluring; to others it probably had a familiar scent; but to her it represented her past and it stank. She had probably thought to bring it to Jesus as a gift that He could sell and provide for His ministry. Maybe she thought to anoint Him with it as a sign of Him becoming King of her heart. But as she stared at His feet, those wonderful feet that had brought the good news to her and changed her life, she broke the jar and poured the perfume onto His feet. The tears were now those of joy. She had been able to do something to publically thank Him. She, like many of us, had gone from being forgiven to being useful. That is what we all want to be, useful to ourselves and others. And she unknowingly handed Jesus a perfect teaching opportunity.
“Simon, I have something to tell you,” Jesus starts off. No doubt Simon thought he was about to be thanked for his generosity. Maybe He would speak about the wonderful home and time He was having. But Jesus begins with a story: Two men owe; one a large sum; the other not so much. Neither had the ability to pay, and both debts were forgiven. And the question was, “which would love the banker more?” Jesus was a master story teller. The first man was seriously in debt, he hadn’t started out that way, but that’s where he was. The second’s debt was more reasonable. But, Jesus said that NEITHER could repay their debt. Think about that. Sin is basically the equivalent of a student loan. Pay on it all you can but it’s never going away! Whether it is crushingly huge or seemingly manageable we can’t repay or repair the debt owed. Now, we who have screwed up royally understand this. We can easily see that there is no way we could ever overcome all the mistakes. But what about the folks whose life has not been so messed up? Those that grew up in church and never left those teachings? They understand that they have faults but compared to us, they seem quite lily white. And yet neither of us can ever repay the sin debt. Simon concludes rightly that the one with the most debt will love the one who forgave more. There is no doubt in my mind that all of God’s children love Him. That being said, there is a direct and proportional relationship between the intensity of the love we have and the depth of grace given.
Jesus then drops the hammer on everyone present that evening. “Do you see this woman?” Not “Do you see this prostitute (or ex-prostitute)?” No labels were used, only her gender. He then goes on to use her as an example, a good example, of love and deeds. Jesus points out all the slights the host had shown Jesus and the unadulterated love the woman had. He sums it up with, “I tell you, her many sins are forgiven!” Jesus knows about each sin and (I believe) emphatically told everyone all of them ARE forgiven. Not will be or might be but now and forever more are forgiven. He ends it with “For she loved much.” She, like me, knows how deep the grace pool is and having been shown that depth of love had to try in the best way she knew to return it.
Sensing that the crowd was struggling with the fact that Jesus could forgive sins He adds at the end, “Your faith has saved you”. Faith in the One who can save; Faith in the promise of debt forgiveness; Faith that life can be recovered. That each of us can also undergo the transformation from useless to forgiven and eventually to useful.
I’ve seen this transformation in not only my life but in many others as well. If you are having trouble believing that the grace pool is deep enough for you or that recovery is even possible from the life you’re living, let me urge you to pick up the phone and call Step Seven. We know, we care, we are here to help the next person.
Step Seven Ministries