Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Extravagant Forgiveness

There are two occasions in the New Testament where Jesus was anointed by women with expensive perfume.  The latter was just before his crucifixion and He said that He was being prepared for burial.  This is recorded in Matthew and Mark.  The first anointing was by a sinful woman and it was early on in Jesus' ministry, before even John the Baptist was beheaded.  This is recorded in Luke's gospel.

 Luke 7:36-50 NLT
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Let’s step into the woman’s shoes…

She was sinful.  That is all the Bible says.  There is no clarification on it.  Sure we can suppose and some have even given her sin a name, but we don’t know for sure.  With her UNNAMED SIN, today, we CAN relate.  This could look a lot of different ways.  Prostitution, abortion, fornication of other kinds, murder, theft, embezzling, stripping, or drug or alcohol addiction.  Those are BIG public sins.  What if this sin is a little more subtle or even a sin that is so private that no one knows about it but her, but it is eating at her.  Bitterness, unforgiveness, or silent rage, maybe she ran out on her children, maybe she was a habitual liar, or a bully, or had a pornography addiction… the list goes on.
She had heard of Jesus, but she felt worthless, so the only thing she thought she had that was worthy of Jesus was this treasure … her dowry … her life savings … she probably lost all hope of having a normal life so what is the use of having this expensive perfume.
She had a yearning to see this Jesus, so she went where she knew He would be.  Nearing his presence, she began to weep uncontrollably.  At this point no water was necessary and she didn’t have a cleaning cloth, but she did have her tears and this beautiful head of hair ... her crowning glory ... the best, most undefiled thing about her.  She approaches.  She breaks open her best, and pours it on His feet.  She weeps more.  She kisses … not in lust or impurity, but holy, worshipful kisses.  More tears … drying and cleaning the dusty, dirty feet of the Love she’s never known … with her beloved hair.
She may hear the conversation above her, but she, seemingly unaffected by it, keeps up this act of worship for the entire time.  As she washes Him, He washes her!  He doesn’t consider her untouchable, which makes her weep even more.  No righteous person has allowed her to remain in their presence before, let alone allowed her to touch them, even when her motives were pure.  She just wants to love!  She really wants to be loved … rightly.
A friend of mine during a message once said, “He will kiss even the dirtiest of cheek!”  There is nothing about me or you that will make Jesus turn from us, in fact, He is wooing us even now.  He delights in us!  Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure.”  (NLT, emphasis mine)  His presence is drawing anyone who opens their heart to seek Him.  Maybe you’ve heard that there would be a teaching or opportunity to meet Jesus, but felt that you were not worthy of His time.  In ADVANCE He decided that YOU are worth it!  This is not an, “Everyone but me,” thing.  This is a you thing!  He loves you!

There is an allegory in the Old Testament in the book of Hosea.  Now the whole book gets pretty deep and is confusing, but the beginning of the book shares a story of a man named Hosea and compares that relationship to His relationship with Israel or the People He LOVES.  Hosea was VERY righteous and esteemed, and God asks him to marry a prostitute.  We’re talking a pure and righteous man marrying a used up woman.  He obeys, she runs away and gets pregnant by another man.  He BUYS her back!  He shows her selfless love!  This is an example of the love that Jesus has for us.  "'When that day comes,' says the Lord, 'you will call me "my husband" instead of "my master."’"  The price he pays was 15 pieces of silver, some barley and some wine.  Quite a price to pay for someone who has been unfaithful and is cheating, even at the moment they are being bought back.
Over and over again in the Word, God is redeeming or buying back or loving back people who don’t think they are worth it.  He is still doing that today.  While human beings may fail to show the true love of Jesus, He never has quit loving you.  He wants you to just come home and the price He paid was more than 15 pieces of silver.  It was His own life.

For those of you who have been around the church a while and know this story particularly, you may have always heard it told about worship and breaking the alabaster jar as an act of worship to God.  That’s good, but this is also a redemption story.  This is my story.  This is your story.

Are you the one who has never felt wanted by the church, especially?  By Jesus?  Do you think that He has kept a record of your past?  He knows that your extreme forgiveness will bring extreme worship.
Notice that this woman worshiped without singing or playing a note!

Are you the one who is in the church and has been on the fringes because you have felt disqualified by your past?  He decided in advance to bring you into His family.  You delight Him!

Are you the one who loves Jesus and serves Him faithfully, but there’s just that one thing that you’ve been holding on to that really prevents you from coming fully before Him?  Remember He has been building relationship with you all along and wants you to come closer, because He knows there’s room!

Yes, this story is often about extravagant worship, but it is also about extravagant forgiveness!  Let Him wash you as you wash Him!