Truth Infused With Hope: Seen
10/10/2018 3:55:40 AM
October 7, 2018
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Luke 7:36-50
We all want to be seen. – Video we just watched (made by a Christian, actually!)
-Huffington Post – secular article about being seen for who we are vs categorized in school and society
-We all want to be seen as we are, who we are deep down, the “real” us vs a persona or mask we wear
-We all want to be KNOWN and loved just as we want to know others and love them- It’s actually how God designed us!
We all want to be seen.
-begins at a young age: think of a little girl, twirling in her skirt, “Daddy, Daddy! Look at me!” She’s saying, “Do you see me?”
-or a little boy playing Little League. He gets up to bat and checks over at his parents, “Do you see me?”
Older – teenagers and young adults going to school or going out (think U of G) – dress up, dancing, etc. “Do you see me?”
Adults too! Husbands and wives, “Do you see me?” At work, trying to impress the boss, “Do you see me?”
We all want to be seen. We all want to be known. We all want to be accepted and loved, told that we matter.
-Cultural touchstone- YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. “I want to be seen!”
-Clutter of images, hard to be seen! And even when people see us with their eyes, not always seeing us.
That is what happens in our text today….
Context – Matt, Mark, Luke and John all have accounts of a woman anointing Jesus with expensive perfumed oil
-Yet! There are a significant number of differences between Matt, Mark and John on the one hand and Luke on the other! Both times the hosts are named “Simon,” but in one case it is Simon the Pharisee and the other Simon the Leper. These were not likely the same man! A leper could not likely become a Pharisee. (Simon was a common name in that region in the First Century. That’s why Jesus gave Simon the disciple the nickname “Peter.” There was also Simon of Cyrene, etc.)
Really good chance Luke’s was the first event and that recorded in Matt, Mark and John by Mary was a “copy cat” or inspired by the first [Darrell L Bock, Luke, p. 141]
What It Says
Some things to point out in the text that take careful reading:
1- Pharisee invites Jesus – not sure who Jesus is yet
> this is a test!
-End of the story tells us the Pharisees were trying to put Jesus in his place – we’ll get there, but the Pharisee host deliberately insulted Jesus at dinner
2- People in Roman culture reclined on benches with their feet all pointing out and their heads near the table. [pic]
3- Dinners like this were public affairs, and commoners, poor people were allowed to enter the large home in the hopes of getting some leftovers
Uninvited guests were allowed into large dinner parties as spectators. This is how a woman with a reputation could get inside the party! We don’t know what her reputation was exactly, but most likely she was either a prostitute or adulteress. She must have had some contact with Jesus previously, but most likely it was indirect- quite possibly she was one of the crowd who heard his preaching and had their heart transformed. Wherever she had come across Jesus before, she had already repented of her sinful life before going to the dinner party.
How do we know? She came prepared to anoint Jesus with what was an expensive, perfumed oil. This was a way to honour a person in that culture. Most likely she would have looked for an opportunity to anoint his feet or maybe his hands. This was a response of gratitude for having transformed her life and for preaching a message of repentance and forgiveness.
Work from the end to fill in gaps at the beginning: v. 45 woman kissed his feet since he arrived + v. 44-46 Simon did not perform a number of expected cultural greetings!
What do you do when you invite guests over to your house today? We have company regularly- we come to the door, welcome them, shake hands or hug, offer to take their coat, ask if they want anything to drink – Even Sheldon Cooper knows you are to offer distressed guests a warm beverage!
Imagine when company comes, you stay on the couch watching TV with your feet up, you give a vague wave and leave them to sit on their own! Simon: No water to wash feet (think of Jesus washing disciples’ feet!) No kiss of welcome/greeting (think Europe and the double cheek kisses/for us a warm handshake). Oil on head as a greeting and honour – another cultural component would be oil for guests to wash their hands! Simon didn’t offer any of these things. Why?
Simon didn’t think Jesus was really a prophet. That’s why he said to himself, “If he were really a prophet…” he would know the reputation of the woman and not let her touch him! A “true prophet” would recoil at letting any woman touch him in public, especially a sinful woman! But Simon already thought Jesus wasn’t a prophet, Jesus’ lack of response to the woman further confirmed the conclusion Simon had already drawn.
Simon wants to take Jesus down a notch. His cultural snubs were an attempt to put Jesus “back in his place” – this was “confirmed” in Simon’s mind by Jesus’ lack of recoil from the woman. As a Pharisee, Simon would never talk to a woman in public, not even his wife! Certainly he wouldn’t allow a woman to touch him!
-Jesus ups the ante by reading Simon’s thoughts! Simon “thought” to himself, but Jesus knew it and told a parable! Jesus was a prophet! He could read Simon’s thoughts.
In the parable, two men are forgiven different sized debts. Forgiveness of debt and forgiveness of sin were closely related ideas in Judaism. When we sin, we owe God something. When we fail to live up to God’s law, we owe him something. Common link.
Parable about forgiveness is clear – Simon is the man who owed little and was forgiven little, the woman the one who owed much and was forgiven much. So who was the one owed the debt?
Jesus’s parable is provocative: those forgiven much love much – easy. But the woman is showing Jesus love, not God….Is Jesus saying he is the one doing the forgiving? Jesus confirms the hint in the parable by explicitly telling the woman, “Your sins are forgiven!” The onlookers ask, “Who is this who forgives sins?!?”
Jesus shocks everyone by putting himself in the position of God by forgiving the woman’s sins. Not only
is he a prophet who can read Simon’s thoughts and tell an appropriate parable, but Jesus claims an even higher status of being on par with God by forgiving sins!
One final note- the woman’s sins are forgiven because of her faith- Jesus’ earlier comment “her many sins are forgiven – for she loved much” – the love is a response to forgiveness! Great love is the response of gratitude for great forgiveness.
What It Means
What does it all mean? We’ve seen, by working backwards from the end, that Simon was out to show up Jesus, that he snubbed Jesus upon his arrival and that the woman had come prepared to honour Jesus.
In forgiving sins, Jesus makes a claim to divinity. More than just a prophet! Simon tried to reduce Jesus to a mere teacher, “put him in his place” but Jesus showed he is not only a teacher (tells a parable), not only a prophet (knows Simon’s thoughts), but also the divine Son of God, the Messiah who can forgive sins! Don’t lose sight of Jesus’ claim here to forgive sin! (similar situation to Jesus healing lame man lowered through the roof, btw- reads minds and forgives sins!)
I want to zero in on the scene with the woman….
Jesus asks, “Do you see this woman?” Trust me, everybody SAW the woman! It was obvious, it was scandalous, it was shocking. Everybody saw the woman with their eyes. As one commentator put it, Jesus didn’t have to look at the woman as she wept over his feet. He didn’t have to turn to see her because “all he needed to know about [the woman] he could read in the mirror of Simon’s shocked face!” [Caird, Luke, p. 114]
What Simon saw was the woman’s status and reputation. Simon saw a woman- in that culture, Pharisees didn’t have anything to do with women in public to avoid any ritual uncleanliness. Wouldn’t even talk to their wives in public. Would cross the street so as not to come too close to a woman. Daily prayed, in part, “Thank you God I was not born a woman!”
Simon saw the woman’s reputation. We think it was a reputation for sexual impropriety, either for adultery or prostitution. That’s what Simon saw. What Simon saw was “that whore touching Jesus!”
Jesus saw a woman created in God’s image, saved by grace and transformed through repentance. Jesus saw a woman whose heart was filled with gratitude. She stood up for Jesus when nobody else would. He had just been publically humiliated by Simon and likely the other Pharisees at dinner who had plotted with Simon to “put Jesus in his place.” She impulsively moved forward to stand with him, to offer her oil to wash his hands, but his hands were out of reach! And then the tears came! The tears came and fell on Jesus’ dirty, unwashed, insulted feet. As her tears began to wet the dust on his feet and reveal streaks of skin beneath, she knew she could at least wash Jesus’ feet that Simon had pointedly failed to look after. But she had no towel. She surely couldn’t lift her skirts to dry his feet, so she unbound her hair and used that to wipe dry them!
In that culture, women only let their hair down in private in the presence of their husbands. So this was a further scandal! But she was unhindered by the scandal. She was more scandalized by the insult to Jesus by Simon. But letting down her hair was not only practical to dry Jesus’ feet, it was also a sign of commitment and loyalty. Women only let their hair down in the presence of a husband!
Jesus saw a woman whose heart broke for his dishonour. She wept over the insult done to him. Jesus saw a woman who was loyal to him, committed to him, who put him above her own honour/reputation, who risked much for him. Simon could have/should have had her thrown out of the house physically!
“In a story that calls hearts and eyes to attention, we find that the woman not only saw God when others did not, but far more significantly, God saw her when others did not want to see her. Pouring out all she had at the feet of the incarnate Son, weeping at the sight of his genuine presence, his human touch, his countercultural kindness, her silent prayer was interpreted, and answered. Then Jesus lifted her head and said to her what he had told the others, ‘You are seen. You are loved. You are forgiven.’” [Jill Carattini, Slice of Infinity, Sept 28, 2018]
How do we apply this? There are so many ways! First, notice the gratitude of the forgiven woman. Gratitude for forgiveness leads to worship and love. Those who have been forgiven much love much. How much have you been forgiven?
I think one reason the church in the West has struggled so much is that we’ve lost sight of what we’ve been forgiven. We are all “good” people. We don’t think we’re that bad so we don’t think we’ve been forgiven much.
Churches that do emphasize people’s sinfulness tend to do it in a shaming way- you are bad, vs you’ve done bad. The woman didn’t feel shamed by Jesus’ message of repentance and forgiveness! In our Post-Modern culture there is no right and wrong à no sinfulness, therefore no forgiveness! We are “sick” instead of sinful, so we take more pills but never seek forgiveness.
Gratitude requires recognition of what has been given. What have you been forgiven? Has it lead to love? Vs spoiled children who feel entitled, don’t recognize what they’ve been given, so they show no gratitude and no love. That’s why the woman was able to be grateful to Jesus- she knew she was sinful. Simon, on the other hand, thought he needed no forgiveness. How often is it that the truly down and out are willing to surrender to Jesus but those of us doing well don’t? Have you cheapened the grace shown to you? Do you feel entitled? Do you show gratitude in love and worship?
Worship is our appropriate response to who God is and what he has done. The woman responded to who Jesus is and what he had done for her! She honoured him when others insulted him, stood up for him in solidarity, served him in washing his feet, she gave sacrificially in the perfumed oil and in publically humbling herself before him.
How can you honour Jesus when others insult him? How can you stand up for Jesus and his children in solidarity? How can you serve him? How can you give sacrificially to him? How can you publically humble yourself before him?
Forgiveness is available. Maybe you haven’t asked Jesus to forgive you yet. Let him in. Turn to him and let him transform your heart, your character, your very nature
Regardless of if you have turned to Jesus yet or not, Jesus sees you. Jesus sees me. Jesus truly sees you as you are. He sees the good that you wish everybody else could see. He sees the bad that you’re desperate nobody else sees. He sees it all. He sees you. Just as he saw the woman, he sees you. Others may see your reputation (good or bad). Others may see your job (for good or ill). Others may see your body (fit and beautiful or not so much). But Jesus sees you. And you know what?
Jesus loves you just as you are, and too much to let you stay that way. That is the truth infused with hope we all need to hear. That is the truth infused with hope our neighbours, families and coworkers need to hear. Turn to Jesus. For the first time, for the thousandth time, turn to Jesus. Fall at his feet. Wet them with your tears. Be seen by Jesus. Be known by Jesus and never be the same again. Amen.
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