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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

2 Samuel 12:1-10,13–14; Luke 7:36–50

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 4, Proper 6, series C
Saint Paul Lutheran Church  
Manito, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jun 12, 2016 

How would you feel if a man turned to you and said,

We are going to take you upstairs.  Then we are going to knock you out and take a saw to your ribs.  At the same time, we are going to slice open your legs and remove some of the extra blood vessels down there.  Then we are going to take those vessels and sew them into the area around your heart.  Then we are going to sew everything back together and you are going to spend a month recuperating from all the trauma that we are going to inflict on your body.

It sort-of makes you want to run away and hide.

Now suppose the remarks go more like this,

Well, weve done all the tests.  If you look at this diagram, you will see that there is a blockage here, here, here, and here.  Its amazing that you were able to walk in here under your own power.

Then he goes on to say,

What we can do is take some veins from your legs and use them to bypass these blockages in order to get the blood supply to your heart back up to 100%.  We would have to do surgery on your chest and legs in order to do that.  You would spend about a month recovering here at the hospital and then another few months recovering at home.  There would be follow-up therapy for about a year after the surgery.  Id like to begin the process of admitting you to our surgical center as soon as possible.

Now the process makes more sense.  You realize that you need this surgery in order to stay alive.

Most medical treatments sound absolutely horrible if all you talk about is the treatment.  Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery they all sound like barbaric forms of torture if you do not know the reason for the procedure the diagnosis.  On the other hand, when you have the diagnosis, the treatment makes sense and you realize that the medical community is doing the best they can for you with the medical knowledge that they have.

Spiritual health is very similar to this.  If I were to simply proclaim that about 2,000 years ago some mean, old soldiers took a perfectly innocent carpenter and nailed Him to a piece of wood and hung him by those nails out in the hot sun until he died, you would probably say, Oh, that sounds awful!  Why would you tell me about such a horrible thing?

You see, if we do not have the diagnosis for our spiritual problem, then the treatment of our condition makes no sense.  It is like a doctor telling you about a medical treatment without telling you about the diagnosis.  It is all quite horrible and barbaric.  That is the reason that it is so important for a doctor to inform his patient about the diagnosis.  That is also why it is so important for a pastor to tell his flock about their diagnosis before God.

The event that Luke recorded for us in todays Gospel demonstrates this very well.  Simon the Pharisee does not know the diagnosis of his sin.  He does not understand how bad he really is.  The woman off the street is keenly aware of the diagnosis of her sin.  People have been crushing her with the reminder of her diagnosis for years.

The scene is dinner at a Pharisees house.  From time-to-time a leading member of the community would invite some of the more popular teachers to a meal.  The hope was that these teachers would have some kind of a discussion at the meal current events theology philosophy politics or some other topic of interest.  While you had to have an invitation to eat with the host, there were also arrangements for the general public to listen in on the conversation.  Jesus was rapidly gaining followers at this time in His ministry and Simon the Pharisee decided to invite Him for a meal.  As far as the Pharisee was concerned, Jesus was just a status symbol that would draw a large crowd.

People in that time and place reclined at table.  As a wealthier member of the community, Simon probably provided dining couches for his guests.  Typically, you would lie on your left side and prop yourself up with your left elbow.  Then you would eat with your right hand.  The thing is that your feet would be out in the open at the foot of the couch.  When the woman came in to wash Jesus feet, everyone could see her.

In that day, a woman always had an escort out in public.  A father, husband, adult brother, adult son, or some other adult male relative escorted them.  The fact that this woman was alone, says something about her right away.  She also let down her hair in public in order to wipe Jesus feet.  This is all very intimate activity.  To top it all off, this woman was already notorious, for Simon said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner. (Luke 7:39) So this is a potential scandal in the making.

Jesus diffused the scandal with a short parable:

A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more? 43Simon answered, The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt. And he said to him, You have judged rightly. (Luke 7:4143)

Jesus then used this parable to compare the woman and the Pharisee.  Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgivenfor she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. (Luke 7:4447) Jesus gave His full approval to the woman and severely criticized his host, Simon the Pharisee.

Without the diagnosis of sin, the Pharisee had no appreciation for his savior.  Simon did not even have a servant offer Jesus the common courtesy of a foot washing upon entry into his home.  The woman, on the other hand, had received the diagnosis of her sin and understood that it was the forgiveness of sins from Jesus that treated her sinful condition.  She was willing to endure deep shame in order to demonstrate her appreciation for the forgiveness she had in Jesus.

So it is with you as well.  Without a diagnosis of sin, you will have no need for forgiveness.  You will remain condemned.  A faithful pastor will do everything that he can to help you understand your diagnosis of sin.  Then, he can proclaim the treatment of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Of course the first person who hears the pastors proclamation of sin is the pastor himself.  How can I proclaim the diagnosis of your sin until I have first explored the depths of my own sin and discovered my utter helplessness before Gods holy law?  It is only then that I can begin to appreciate the forgiveness of sins that Jesus earned for me with His suffering and death on the cross.  It is only then that I can proclaim the wonder of Jesus forgiveness to you.

So when I tell you what a dirty rotten scoundrel of a sinner you are, I am only setting you up for the amazement of Gods love for you in Christ Jesus who loved you and gave himself for you. (Galatians 2:20) I am giving you the diagnosis so that you will gladly receive the treatment of Christs sacrifice with joy.  I am setting you up so that you can rejoice in the salvation you have through Jesus Christ in His perfect life, His suffering and death, and His resurrection and Ascension.  I am setting you up to receive His eternal gifts through the power of the Holy Spirit who comes to you in Word, Water, Absolution, and Meal.

Todays Old Testament lesson provides us with an example of a man who was in denial over his diagnosis.  He thought he could cover-up his own sin all by himself.  King David had committed adultery with the wife of Uriah, one of his most effective and most loyal army officers.  Instead of accepting the diagnosis of his sin, he decided to hide the evidence of his sin.  He arranged the death of Uriah at the hands of an enemy.  Then in an act of royal charity he took the widow into his own house.  He deluded himself into thinking he had everything under control.

Nathan the Prophet was King Davids pastor.  In an act of incredible bravery and love, he confronted David with his sin.  He used a parable to open Davids mind.  A wealthy man slaughtered the pet lamb of a poor neighbor in order to entertain a friend.  Davids anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. The Bible records very few scenes that have more drama than Nathans reply.  Nathan said to David, You are the man! (2 Samuel 12:57) This is Nathan loving David enough to diagnose his sin so that David could receive forgiveness.  David confessed his sin and Nathan gave him absolution.  David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said to David, The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. (2 Samuel 12:13)

Nathan is an example of what every loving, faithful pastor does.  He diagnoses sin, he hears confession, and then He absolves sin with the forgiveness of sins that Jesus Himself earned with His holy life, suffering, and death.  This is the forgiveness that Jesus gave to His church on the day He rose from the dead.  [Jesus] breathed on [His disciples] and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld. (John 20:2223) This is the same forgiveness that Jesus gave to the woman who washed His feet with her hair.  He said to her, Your sins are forgiven.  Your faith has saved you; go in peace. (Luke 7:48, 50)

The word of God is clear on your spiritual diagnosis.  It is written: None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. 13Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. 14Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. 15Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16in their paths are ruin and misery, 17and the way of peace they have not known. 18There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:1018) That is the diagnosis of the Bible for you and for me.

How precious it is then, that the Bible tells us that words that Jesus spoke to the woman on that day are also for you.  Your sins are forgiven.  Your faith has saved you; go in peace. (Luke 7:48, 50) Amen

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