On: February 4, 2015 | By: admin | Under: Blog | Comments: Comments are off
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Luke 7:36-38
There are three characters in this scene: Simon the Pharisee, Jesus, and the unnamed alabaster woman. Let’s start with the woman who gate crashed a private dinner party. I’m not up to speed on the cultural set up in the Roman Middle East, but it seems unlikely that you would expect any Tom, Dick or Harriet to wander around the table as you were entertaining. Let alone start weeping, get down on all fours, wash your guest’s feet with tears, dry them – with her hair … and pour expensive perfume over them.
What’s going on? Simple, really. The woman had much to be forgiven and therefore had much gratitude when she experienced God’s grace. It’s likely that she had encountered Jesus shortly before this dinner and the enormity of what had happened – not just pardoned for her sinful life, but set free from it and given new purpose and hope – had suddenly struck home.
What does this have to do with me? My lifestyle might appear respectable to all around me, but the Bible is quite clear: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) I recall taking a work colleague to a lunchtime Christmas Carol service, when the preacher had laid down, with some emphasis, that everyone was a sinner and in need of God’s grace. (Love came down at Christmas) True, of course, although it felt a little direct for the season of office jollity. My friend was indignant at being described as a sinner.
And this is the human problem. Most of us fail to recognise the self-centredness and pride that run through most of our behaviour. We see only occasional need for God’s gracious forgiveness – a plaster rather than heart surgery! Our Holy God sees things entirely differently and so did this woman. It wasn’t so much the magnitude of her sinfulness that led her to throw aside all caution and social nicety to express her gratitude; rather the opening of her eyes to the scale of God’s loving kindness.
There’s a fundamental lesson here: if we focus on ourselves, we are at risk of lurching between self justification and beating ourselves up. If we focus on God, we cannot do anything other than wonder at His immeasurable and unconditional grace. Then our joy will be measured against His love, not our unworthiness. A changed perspective will make all the difference.
Father God, change my way of seeing things, that my joy might be measured, not against what I’ve done, but who You are. At the Forgiver, not what’s been forgiven. Amen