SS Lesson for 04/10/2016
Devotional Scripture: Eph 2:1-9
The lesson reviews the humble sincerity of Saving Faith. The study's aim is to learn a fresh grasp of our sinfulness and God's grace. The study's application is to put our faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and to show acts of love for and to Him.
(Adapted from the Bible Expositor and Illuminator Commentary)
Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace
This passage illustrates the principle Jesus laid down in verse 35. A Pharisee named Simon is contrasted with a sinful woman, who received forgiveness (v. 47) and salvation (v. 50). Simon (v. 40), a Pharisee, invited Jesus to... dinner, perhaps to trick Him in some way. It was the custom of the day when one had a dinner party to provide for the guests’ feet to be cleaned before the meal. Because most roads were unpaved and the normal foot attire was sandals, it was common for people’s feet to be dusty or muddy. As pointed out later in the episode, Simon did not provide for Jesus’ feet to be cleaned at the beginning of the dinner party (v. 44). For special dinner parties recliners or couches were provided for the guests to use while eating. A woman arrived at the dinner after she learned that Jesus was eating there. She had lived a sinful life, and was probably a prostitute in the community. Her life was known enough for the Pharisee to characterize her as a sinner (v. 39). She was not an invited guest at the dinner gathering, but came in anyway with a jar of perfume. Her presence was not unusual for when a Rabbi was invited to someone’s house others could stop by and listen to the conversation. As the woman stood behind Jesus, her tears began to fall on His feet. It was a normal sign of respect to pour oil or perfume on someone’s head. Perhaps the woman felt unworthy to anoint Jesus’ head, so she anointed His feet. Such an act would have amounted to a large financial outlay for the woman who apparently was not wealthy. She also bent over Jesus and wiped her tears off His feet... with her hair. She constantly kissed His feet (the Gr. verb katephilei is the imperf. tense suggesting continuous past action), a sign of the utmost respect, submission, and affection. Jesus pointed out later that the host, in contrast, had done none of these things to His head (v. 46) or even given Him water for His feet (v. 44), whereas the woman was constantly anointing His feet. The passage does not state why she was weeping. It may have been because she was seeking repentance. Or she may have been weeping for joy at the opportunity of being around the One she obviously considered to be the Messiah. The host thought that Jesus could not possibly be a prophet, for if He were He would have known that the woman was a sinner. And He then would not have let her touch Him, for a touch by a sinner brought ceremonial uncleanness. Jesus, knowing Simon’s thoughts (cf. 5:22), taught in a parable that a person who is forgiven much loves more than a person who is forgiven little. In the parable one man was forgiven a debt 10 times greater than another man—500 denarii compared with 50 denarii. These were huge debts, for one denarius coin was worth a day’s wages. When asked which one would love the lender more, Simon rightly responded that the one who was forgiven the larger debt would naturally be more inclined to greater love. Jesus then applied the parable to the woman. The woman had been forgiven much and therefore she loved Jesus very much. Jesus was not implying that the Pharisee did not have much need for forgiveness. His point was that “a sinner” who is forgiven is naturally going to love and thank the One who has forgiven her. Simon’s treatment of Jesus differed vastly from the woman’s. She was evidencing that she loved Jesus for she realized that she had been forgiven much. She realized that she was a sinner and in need of forgiveness. In contrast, Simon saw himself as pure and righteous and therefore did not need to treat Jesus in a special manner. In fact, he did not even extend to Jesus the normal courtesies of that day: greeting a male by a kiss on the cheek, and anointing a guest’s head with a small portion of oil. In effect he did not seem to think Jesus could do anything for him, for he did not consider Jesus a prophet (v. 39). But the woman was not forgiven because of her love; rather, she loved because she was forgiven (vv. 47-48). Her faith brought her salvation: Your faith has saved you; go in peace (cf. 8:48). Her faith in turn caused her to respond in love. The other dinner guests wondered who Jesus is since He forgave sins (cf. 5:21). Though Jesus in this interchange with Simon never explicitly stated His claim to be the Messiah, He spoke as He did because He is the Messiah.
During college, my favorite student organization was the prison ministry. Once a month, a group of students would conduct a service there. It had worship, a short message, and group prayer. I enjoyed fellowshipping with my brothers behind bars. These men were elated to commune with us. Prayer time was especially precious to one. In prison he had become a follower with a passionate faith. His witness had drawn many to Jesus. His love for Christ was almost tangible. A few months after I started going, this man approached me. He looked at me and said, "Sister, I want to tell you just how Jesus saved me. Can I?" At my nod, he proceeded to reveal his background and gang involvement. Then he said something stunning. "Sister, I killed someone." He went on to talk about how he had been saved. "Sister," he concluded, "Jesus cleaned me up and gave me this ministry, and I love Him so much. He forgave me of everything, scoundrel that I am." That moment I realized how little I valued God's forgiveness. I had never done anything illegal. By society's standards, I was the better person. Yet he, not I, was brimming with joy. He made my love for Jesus look like a candle flame next to a wildfire. The same can be said about the people in this week's lesson. The woman had a reputation. Everyone knew her as the town prostitute. They were repulsed by her appearance at the feast and even more by her actions. Yet this woman was showing the depth of her love for Christ. By wiping Jesus' feet, she demonstrated her willingness to do the crudest of tasks for Him. In using her hair, she offered her whole heart. The ointment was precious. In using it, she proved her readiness to give up her most costly possession. This also showed her eagerness to trust Christ for provision and turn away from her profession. She was willing to go to any extreme for the Saviour she adored. She would lay down her entire life. Simon, though, was only half in. While he attended temple, he was not devoted to God. His heart was divided. He was self-sufficient and did not feel the need for Jesus. He had lived a moral life. It was the woman Jesus forgave. When Christ told her that God was willing to forgive the mess she had made of her life, it was huge. She had felt that she could never again be right with God. In telling this parable, Jesus made Simon take a hard look at himself. Christ revealed that Simon was lacking in faith and love. The woman was saved because she came to Jesus and offered her loyal love, while Simon thought he could make it without Jesus. There are many who think that they can get by without Jesus. Sure, we say that we love Him; but do we? A saving faith is one in which nothing is held back. There is no room for compromise. Moral behavior will not save us. Our good works are filthy rags next to His righteousness (Isa. 64:6). When we consider how He has rescued us, it should make us pause. Our love must be such that we are willing to place all that we have and are into His hands, for any purpose. This is what the woman understood. That is the level of devotion in a saving faith and what we are called to in our daily walk.
Today’s text sets forth one of many stories in the Gospels that play on the contrast between two types of people: the saint and the sinner. We use those two categories somewhat loosely since they are not mutually exclusive (example: Christians are both saints [the word used in other translations of Romans 1:7; 16:15; etc.] and sinners [3:23; 5:12]). Jesus regularly associated with both types, and—much to the surprise of his contemporaries, even his disciples—he praised and encouraged penitent sinners while blasting those whom most devout Jews admired as models of saintly faithfulness. Jesus’ parables often contrast a stereotypically “righteous” person with someone whom most would view as an unlikely candidate for salvation. Examples include the parables of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the prodigal son (15:11-32), and the Pharisee and the tax collector (18:9-14). In context, Jesus used such stories to make two critical points: (1) God forgives those who trust in his grace, regardless of how sinful they have been, and (2) since God himself forgives sinners who repent, Jesus expects his followers to do the same. The text of today’s lesson stands out for the extreme nature of its contrast between a person thought to be one of the most righteous and another viewed as being one of the most sinful. (Some propose that this incident is the same as that recorded in Matthew 26:6, 7 and its parallels in Mark 14:3 and John 12:1-3, but that is unlikely.)
36 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,
38 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.
39 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."
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
5 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
2 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?
4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he 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. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?"
43 Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged."
44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.
45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.
46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.
47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
2 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" 14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him — and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."
21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." 16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." 17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
48 Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"
50 Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation
The first lesson of this incident is that Christ came to seek and to save sinners. A woman who was considered a great sinner by her peers was forgiven by our Lord, while those who thought themselves righteous went away unforgiven. There is a strange attraction to Christ for those who will admit they are sinners, and who wish to turn from their sins. Jesus is never more approachable than He is to sinners. In John’s gospel we read these words of great encouragement to every sinner: “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). While it is true that Jesus is the sinless Son of God, who hates sin and who will ultimately judge sinners, the message of the gospel is that in His first coming Christ came to save, not to condemn. Jesus thus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). This is because in His first advent, Jesus came to bear the penalty for man’s sin Himself, and to save men from eternal damnation. All who come to Him for forgiveness and salvation will be saved. None will be turned away. But there is yet another coming of Christ, when He comes to judge. At that time, it will be too late. Those who come to Him them will tremble in fear of Him, and rightly so. My admonition to you who have never come to Christ as this woman did is that you come now. Come, trusting that He will receive you, that He will forgive you, that He will save. No one is more accessible to sinners than Christ. No one is more repulsive to the self-righteous than Christ. May each of us be like this woman, rather than like Simon the Pharisee.
The second lesson which we can learn from our text is to recognize the characteristics of self-righteousness as evident in the life of Simon the Pharisee. I cannot dwell on the evils of Pharisaism here, so suffice it to mention just a couple of characteristics of Simon which are evident in our text, which could be true of us as well. Simon was more interested in passing judgment on God than he was on God’s judgment of him. Simon felt that his home would be more righteous by keeping sinners, like this woman, out, than by inviting sinners in. Many churches feel the same way. Simon was inclined to see some sins as greater than others in the eyes of God. Sexual sin was unforgivable, but pride was acceptable. Simon thought of religion as something to be preserved; Jesus thought of true religion in terms of penetration. Simon wanted to keep sinners out, Jesus went out to sinners. Some of Simon’s error is the failure to grasp the change from the old covenant to the new. The Old Testament dealt with sin as incurable, and thus the principle defense was simply to avoid contact with sin and sinners. The new covenant came with a solution for sin. The new covenant could change hard hearts to soft ones. Thus, Jesus did not feel compelled to deal with sinners the way the Old Testament taught—seek to destroy or to avoid them. The Pharisee looked at sin something like the way we look at AIDS. It has no cure, and thus the best course of action is to avoid any and all contact. But, you see, the gospel teaches that Jesus is the cure for sin. Thus, Jesus did not need to avoid sinners, He could seek them out, just as we could aggressively attack AIDS if there was a foolproof cure. Somehow Simon and the other Pharisees of the New Testament found it difficult to be “touched” by those they would not touch. In all of the New Testament I fail to see one incident in which a Pharisee was touched by the misery, the sin, the shame, the grief of another human being. It is little wonder that the Old Testament prophets had to speak so often about mercy and compassion. I see none of it in the Pharisees in the gospel accounts. To have compassion obligates one to minister to others. To lack compassion allows one to use others for one’s own personal gain, at their expense. Jesus, who did not hesitate to touch or be touched by sinners, was constantly “touched” (emotionally) by them. May we be like Him. The painful reality is that our churches often reflect the mood of Simon’s house than they do of Jesus Himself. We ought to welcome sinners, if they acknowledge themselves as sinners, and if they seek to be saved from their sins. All too often, sinners are shunned by the church, more than they are sought be it. May we learn from our Lord to be more like Him and less like Simon.
Lastly, we learn a great deal about worship from this woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears. It is true that we do not have the opportunity to wash the feet of Jesus, as the woman in our text did, but we can learn a number of principles pertaining to worship from her actions. Consider these principles with me as we conclude.
(1) Worship is for sinners. The woman who worshipped Jesus was a sinner. Our Lord neither denied this, nor minimized it. It is important to recognize that sinners can worship God. As you think through the complex rules and regulations of the Old Testament law, it becomes evident that God established worship for sinners. Otherwise, it would not have been necessary to have all of the intricate rules and rituals and sacrifices. Worship, in the Old Testament, was for sinners. So, too, in the New Testament. As our Lord said, it is our awareness of our own sinfulness, in conjunction with the knowledge of our Lord’s perfection, which stimulates worship. Those of us who are most sensitive to the magnitude of our sin, should also recognize the magnitude of God’s forgiveness, thus stimulating our worship. I sometimes get the impression that when we come to the Lord’s Table we think that we have to reach some kind of momentary sinlessness before we can worship. How foolish. Even momentary sinlessness is impossible. When Paul warns against observing the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11: 27) he is referring to the inappropriateness of the drunken excesses in the Corinthian observance of communion. There is a world of difference between an “unworthy manner” (and adverb, “unworthily”) and an unworthy state (being a sinner). While we will be sinless when we worship God in heaven, we worship as sinners on earth.
(2) Worship takes place at the feet of Jesus. The proper position for our worship is at the feet of Jesus. It suddenly occurred to me that the feet of our Lord are very frequently mentioned in our text. While Simon did not even do justice to our Lord’s head, the woman was only comfortable at Jesus’ feet. She kissed them, washed them, and dried them with her hair. She did not feel worthy to do otherwise. Particularly in Daniel and the Book of Revelation, men find themselves falling at the feet of Jesus, when they recognize Him as God. Worship at the feet of Jesus acknowledges His greatness and our unworthiness; His perfection, and our sinfulness. Worship that exalts man is not true worship.
(3) Worship is preoccupation with the person of Jesus Christ. The woman who worshipped at the feet of Jesus was preoccupied with Him, and Him alone. The fact that there were those present who disdained her did not matter, for she cared only about what her Lord thought about her. The fact that many present were hypocrites did not prevent her from worshipping, for her worship was focused on the Savior.
(4) Worship is not concerned about receiving something from our Lord as giving something to him. Jesus was approached by many people, most of whom wanted something from Him. I do not wish to minimize this or to condemn it. If I lived in Jesus’ day and were blind, I would want to come to Jesus for Him to restore my sight. But this woman’s worship was expressed by her giving to Jesus, not getting from Him. Too often, our prayers are like a wish list for Santa, at Christmas time. Too seldom, our prayers are praise and adoration alone, without any request, where our only desire is to be in His presence, forever.
(5) Worship involves the emotions. The tears of the woman who worshipped Him by washing His feet are most significant. The worship of this woman was, may I say, emotional. Those of us in our tradition tend toward a very intellectual worship. We could use a good deal more emotion. Remember that we are to love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Worship should involve the mind and the emotions.
(6) The worship of this woman was without one word. It took me a while to realize that while our Lord spoke to this woman, Luke did not record so much as one word which she spoke to Him. It is possible that she spoke to Him, but Luke does not find it necessary to record the fact if she did. I make a point of the silence of her worship because some women seem to chafe at the fact that their leadership in public worship if forbidden in the New Testament Scriptures. I also would point this out for the benefit of those men who think that they can only worship when they speak publicly. The best worship may be wordless.
(7) Finally, worship is not easily hindered. There were many reasons why this woman could have stayed away from Jesus and not worshipped Him. She was not invited. She was not wanted. She might be expelled. She would be scorned. There would be hypocrites there. But in spite of many difficulties, the woman did what she desperately desired to do—she worshipped Jesus. Why is it that a couple drops of rain, a late Saturday night, and we find worship too difficult.
May God enable us to worship as this woman did, to the glory of God, and for our delight.
Since 1982, many of us have seen the quirky series of TV ads that ask, “What would you do for a Klondike® Bar?” After leading with that question, the ads show individuals doing ridiculous, embarrassing things to earn one of the chocolate-covered ice cream treats. Copying the theme, Internet videos show people attempting embarrassing, even dangerous, stunts in order to get things such as Super Bowl tickets. In one case, a pregnant woman offered to paint her stomach with a company logo for the tickets. Another person agreed to allow a ticket donor to destroy his beloved car. One couple offered that anyone who gave them tickets to the game could name their newborn baby. One man offered a kidney in exchange for tickets. What would you be willing to do for something you really wanted but couldn’t get? The wording of the question must be rearranged when it comes to forgiveness of sins and eternal life. In this case, the question is What would God be willing to do for something we really need but couldn’t get on our own? What he was willing to do—and did do—was send his Son to die and pay the penalty of the sin-debt that we owe. On that basis, God offers forgiveness for even the worst sins. He clears our debts because the debts have been paid. Our response is to humble ourselves in realizing that we have thereby escaped having to pay that debt ourselves by eternal punishment. May our gratitude for this match that of the sinful woman in today’s story!
1. We can be in Jesus' presence no matter what our status in society may be (Luke 7:36-38)
2. It is dangerous to imagine we know the Lord's thoughts on a matter (vs. 39)
3. If we think our sins are slight, we fail to adequately appreciate grace (vss. 40-43)
4. A true understanding of our sin and God's grace will bring from us an outpouring of love and devotion (vss. 44-47)
5. Jesus' assurance of forgiveness is sweet—except to those who harbor unbelief (vss. 48-49)
6. Jesus gives us peace when we come to Him in faith (vs. 50)