Freed From Guilt

Imagine the scene.  Jesus and His disciples are at a dinner party in the home of a prominent Pharisee.  Everyone is talking theology and politics.  The dinner is quite peaceful.  All of a sudden, the tranquility of the evening is shattered, as a prostitute walks across the room, anoints the feet of Jesus and wipes His feet with her hair.  This was not one of your everyday experiences.  In fact, it appeared quite scandalous.  Who was this woman?  How did she know Jesus?  Why would Jesus allow her to touch Him in that manner? Where were His scruples? (read Luke 7:36-50) 

That she was a prostitute is conjecture.  It doesn’t exactly say that, does it?  It says she “lived a sinful life.”  That pretty much puts her in the same boat as anyone else.  But let’s pretend her sin is worse.  Let’s pretend that she is a prostitute.  Let’s pretend that somehow she really was worse than anyone else in the room.  It’s not true, of course, but we can pretend for a few moments that she really was the worst person in the room. 

 With this in mind, it is not difficult to understand why this woman came to Jesus.  In some fashion, He had touched her life, and she had been changed.  She noticed that there was something unique about Jesus – something worthy of worship.  In this act of extravagant love, this woman expressed her adoration of Christ.

Examine the humility with which she approached Christ.  He was reclined at the table – no doubt the center of attention.  With tears of humility, she came to stand behind Him.  She did not come making demands or expressing expectations.  She came to Him in humble submission.

How do we approach Christ when we approach him in worship?  Of course I am not asking how we go to church on Sunday – though that can be a part of it.  Worship is bigger than a Sunday morning event, isn’t it?

She approach with humility.

This woman also expressed a degree of courage when she came to Christ.  She knew that everyone would be watching her.  She knew that she would potentially become the object of ridicule.  She understood that a person with her lifestyle did not fit well at the typical Pharisaic dinner party.  As she approached Jesus, the dinner guests watched with dumfounded expressions on their faces.  This woman didn’t care.  She loved Christ.  She needed Christ.  She trusted her reputation to Christ.

How willing are we to trust our reputations to Christ?  It’s easy to speak well of Him at church.  How are we when it comes to expressing loyalty and devotion to Him outside of religious circles – at dinner parties, at the YMCA, at school or at the coffee machine at work?

The woman approached Jesus in tears.  She anointed His feet with perfume and wiped them with her hair.  She kissed and caressed Jesus’ feet as an expression of her devotion.  Her love was extravagant – she spent a year’s wages on this one solitary act or worship.  Jesus said of her, “She has shown great love.”

One Sunday, following worship, a family was driving home from church.  The father was complaining the entire trip about the service:  “The preacher seemed unprepared,” “He spoke too long and too loud,” The Choir was off-key.”  The litany of complaints continued until the son in the back seat spoke up. 

“Daddy, when the offering plate was passed, how much did you put in?” he asked. 

“Five dollars,” the father said.

“It seems to me you got a lot,” the boy said.  “Especially considering what you were willing to put in.”

What we give of our money, our time, our talent and our enthusiasm is an expression of the measure of our love for Christ.  This woman gave a full year’s wages in one act of worship.  Do you even give the typical 10 percent tithe?  If you do, is it an expression of duty and responsibility, or is it an act of loving devotion?

What prompted this woman’s devotion? 

Jesus said: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much.  But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (v. 47). 

In other words, she loved extravagantly because she had been loved with extravagance.  She worshipped Christ because she had experienced in Christ the forgiveness and grace of God.

One of the more inspiring stories of the missionary movement of the early 1800’s was that of the call of J. Lewis Shuck.  Shuck was in attendance at a Foreign Mission Board meeting at First Church in Richmond, VA.  An offering was collected during the proceedings to be used to support missionaries.  Not having any money, and feeling the call of God’s Holy Spirit, Shuck took a scrap of paper and on it wrote:  “I give myself!”  He fulfilled his commitment becoming a missionary to China with his wife, Henrietta.

The greatest act of worship is still for us to give ourselves to Christ.  That’s extravagant worship.  That’s the kind of worship that fees us from guilt by helping us see ourselves as recipients of God’s grace.

This Sunday, when you gather in your church to worship, included a slip of paper with your tithes and offerings.  On it write the following:

 “In light of the love and grace that our mine thanks to the generosity of the Triune God, I give myself today to God for the sake of loving the world.”

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