How would you feel if you were out to dinner at a nice restaurant with your friends one evening and somebody came crawling across the floor, under your table, and took a hold of your legs? And then, to top it off, they took off your shoes and began to kiss your feet. That is just what happened to Jesus one evening, and the event is recorded in the Gospel of Luke for us to see.
It happened that the person who did this was no upstanding pillar of the community. Just the opposite, she was a prostitute. But from that prostitute we can learn to appreciate all that Jesus Christ has done for us.
Showing appreciation for others is an important part of getting along with people. Men, how many times have you heard you wife say, "You don't show me any appreciation"? You may work hard to provide a nice house, clothe them in finery, and sacrifice your life for them, but if we don't show them how much we appreciate them as the wonderful women they are, they won't be happy. And women, it's much the same way for men.
That is what is remarkable about the way this woman showed her appreciation to Jesus. This woman certainly knew her sin. Everyone else apparently knew about it also. We don't know what led her into her profession. But she knew no shame in showing Jesus her love, with her tears wetting his feet and her hair drying them. What a scene that must have been.
Her appreciation stems from knowing who Jesus was and what he was going to do for her. She was used to being used by men, but here was a man who was about to give himself up to save her. She must have heard Jesus preach and decided to live a new life. That night she came to thank Jesus for the power his word gave her for living in a new way. He gave her the hope that she could be forgiven.
How different it was for another person at the dinner that evening. The man who hosted the party was a Pharisee. When he saw what the woman did he complained that Jesus should know better than to let a prostitute touch him. His words showed that he did not understand who Jesus was or what he came to do on earth.
There is a great temptation for Christians today to judge each other in a similar way. When we come to church and look around, we should not expect to see perfect people. Many of us struggle with sin that is too embarrassing to reveal. All of us have fallen short of the glory God intended for us to show. How many hidden memories are here today? We tell cover over the past and try to forget it, but we are all far from perfect.
If we were to play a part in the story, who would we be, the prostitute or the Pharisee? The Pharisee was socially acceptable, a religious person, always doing the right things in public and following the accepted traditions. As a Pharisee he would pay attention to what other people thought about himself and his family and try to look like a God fearing person in public.
On the inside it was a different story. The Pharisee did not understand what the grace of God really is. God does not want us to pretend that we are doing everything right and do not need him. God wants us to understand what he had done for us on the cross and to know where we would be without him.
You see, our real role in the story is that of the prostitute. I do not mean to say that we are despised in public and are lawbreakers, but we are guilty of sin and need to much to know that we can be forgiven.
There is a lot of talk today about the Ten Commandments being displayed in public places. Have you ever read the Ten Commandments in a deep, meaningful way, reflecting upon how you have broken them in thought, word, and deed? Try reading the explanation in the Small Catechism and ask yourself how well you measure up to God's expectation for his people. You will find that you have broken every one, if not by what you've done wrong, then by the right things you should have done, or by your thoughts about yourself or others.
Yes, a close examination of God's word will show us that we are the woman at Jesus' feet. We have broken God's law and brought shame upon ourselves. But if we also hear the preaching of Jesus today we can come to him as she did, anointing his feet with the tears of gladness that he is our savior from sin. He forgives us by the power that raised him from the dead. He continually preaches to us the loving words of forgiveness. He washes away our sins and gives us his own name, making us a part of his family. He welcomes us to his table, not to crawl underneath and sneak in, but to sit down and be served in the body and blood of Jesus.
To the Pharisees of today who think God owes them something, who would protest their rights and privileges to the Lord, he would remind them that they are proud, self-serving, and unthankful, undeserving of his forgiveness. Unless they repent they will perish eternally.
The story reminds me of an incident I read about, whether it's true or not I do not know. It seems that a woman was at work when she received word that her daughter was very sick with a fever. She left her work and stopped at the pharmacy to get some medication for her daughter. When returning to her car she found that she had locked her keys inside. She was in such a hurry to get home to her sick daughter, she didn't know what to do, so she called the baby sitter told her what had happened and that she didn't know what to do.
The baby sitter said the child was getting worse. She said, "You might find a coat hanger or something and open that door." The woman looked around and found an rusty coat hanger that had been thrown on the ground possibly by someone in the same situation. Then she looked at the hanger and said, "I don't know what to do with this."
In fear and frustration she bowed her had and asked God to send her some help. Within five minutes an old rusty car pulled up, with a dirty, greasy, bearded man who was wearing and old biker skull cap on his head. The woman thought, "This is great, God. This is who you sent to help me?" But she was so desperate she was thankful for any help.
The man got out of the car and offered to help. She said, "my daughter is very sick . . . I stopped to get her some medicine and I locked my keys in my car. I must get home to her. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?"
He said, "SURE." He walked over to the car, and in less than one minute the car was opened. She hugged the man and through her tears she said, "THANK YOU SO MUCH . . . You are a very nice man."
The man replied, "Lady, I am not a nice man, see, I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft and have only been out for about an hour." The woman hugged the man again and through her tears she prayed out loud, "THANK YOU, GOD , FOR SENDING ME A PROFESSIONAL!"
God wants us to see ourselves as the miserable sinners we really are. He also wants us to see him as the gracious, compassionate God that he really is, who would give his own son over to death for us. If we only understood this simple truth, we could do great things. Churches would be full, offering baskets would overflow, and there would be nothing we couldn't accomplish with the Lord's blessing as we showed our appreciation to God for our forgiveness. Amen.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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