Seeing My Own Sinfulness
Conversations with Jesus Sensing My Own Sinfulness Luke 7:36-50 Pastor Pat Damiani February 10, 2019 NOTE: This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript. If you ever need an auto mechanic, I can highly recommend that you take your car to Chris Terzan in Catalina. From everything I’ve seen, Chris, his son Teddy, and Jason, the other mechanic there, are competent mechanics. But even more important than that, I am confident that I can trust them to do only the work that is needed at a fair price. But I know that there are certainly other places you can take your care and get the same kind of honest, competent service. But the one thing that you will get for sure at Terzan’s that you won’t get anywhere else you take your car is that you’re going to hear about Jesus from Chris. To tell you the truth, I’m a bit jealous of Chris and other people like him who just so naturally want to tell everyone they meet about Jesus. That is something that is just not as natural for me, and my guess is that the same thing is probably true of many of you. There is a reason for Chris’ enthusiasm for Jesus and I’m going to share part of his story with you a little later in the message that will help you understand why his love for Jesus just overflows like that. But before I do that, we’re going to look at another of Jesus’ conversations that will not only help us to better understand Chris’ story, but which will hopefully help us to understand our own story better, too. I’m convinced that is one of the keys that will help all of us to have the kind of enthusiasm for sharing Jesus that I think we all long for. This morning’s message is the third in our current series titled “Conversations with Jesus”. We’re exploring some of the conversations that Jesus had during His earthly ministry to help us rekindle an appreciation for the simplicity of the gospel. So far, we’ve taken a look at Jesus’ conversation with the very religious Nicodemus and an unnamed woman at a well in Samaria. Today, we’ll examine an encounter that Jesus has at the home of a Pharisee named Simon somewhere in Galilee, probably near the middle of Jesus’ three-year earthly ministry. So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Luke chapter 7. The last two weeks we were in John’s gospel account and you’ll find the book of Luke right before that. Or if you’re using your digital device, you can just type in the reference. The account we’ll be reading today begins in verse 36. And since we need to get a sense of the entire conversation before we begin to talk about it, I’ll read through the end of the chapter. [Read Luke 7:36-50] Although there is another similar event recorded in the other three gospels, this is not merely another account of that event, which took place shortly before Jesus’s crucifixion. That event took place in the house of Simon the Leper, not Simon the Pharisee. And it took place in Bethany, which is near Jerusalem, and not somewhere in Galilee. Before we can fully understand fully the significance of everything that happens here, we need some historical and cultural background. As a Pharisee, Simon was likely well-to-do and had a nice house with an open courtyard in the middle. When the weather was nice, meals were often eaten there. The table was usually in the middle of that courtyard and the custom was that when a Rabbi came to dinner all kinds of people would be allowed to gather around the outside of the courtyard to listen as he taught. And the poor would often be part of that gathering, hoping to be able to pick up some of the scraps from the table once the meal was over. This explains how the woman was able to be present here. When a guest entered a house for such an occasion, it was customary to do three things: 1) The host gave the guest the “kiss of peace” 2) Cool water was poured over the guest’s feet to wash and comfort them, and 3) Since they didn’t have deodorant, some kind of incense or perfume was placed on the guest’s head. We see in this story that Simon failed to do any of those things. During the meal, the people did not sit but instead reclined around a low table, usually leaning on the left elbow, leaving the right arm free, with their feet as far away from the table as possible, for good reason. Nobody really wanted to eat with someone else’s feet in their face. This explains how the woman was able to have access to Jesus’ feet. Simon, a Pharisee, had invited Jesus to his home for such a meal. Although we can’t be certain of his motivation, we do know that by this time in His ministry, the Pharisees weren’t big fans of Jesus and they were already looking for ways to undermine His ministry. So it probably wasn’t because he was genuinely interested in hearing what Jesus had to say. More than likely, he had invited Jesus there to catch Him saying or doing something that could be used against Him later on. That attitude seems to be confirmed by the fact that Simon didn’t show Jesus the common courtesies normally extended to a guest. We are next introduced to the other main character in this story. This woman is unnamed by Luke, probably to protect her dignity. In spite of some who have speculated otherwise, she is almost certainly not Mary Magdalene, who Luke names elsewhere in his gospel account. She is identified here only as “…a woman of the city, who was a sinner…” which means that she was likely a prostitute. It’s important to note here that in His earthly ministry, contrary to what we often hear today, Jesus treated women with great dignity and respect. In fact, in a culture where women were largely treated like property, Jesus gives them much worth. And that is especially evident in Luke’s gospel, where he highlights the role that women play in the ministry of Jesus more than we see in the other three gospel accounts. As the meal progresses, this woman notices that Simon has failed to offer Jesus the common courtesy that a guest deserved, so she proceeds to do to Jesus what Simon had failed to do. As she approaches the feet of Jesus, she begins to weep, and she is so overcome with emotion that her tears begin to wet his feet. The word “wet” there literally means that she rained down tears upon His feet. We’re going t learn a little bit later on why she loves is so emotional. And then, since she didn’t have a towel, she let down her hair and used it to dry Jesus’s feet. In that culture, all women were required to wear their hair up, and to let it down, other than in private with her husband, was considered to be disgraceful. For the Jews, that was actually grounds for divorce. But this woman is so overcome with her love for Jesus that she really isn’t concerned about what anyone else thinks. Next, she begins to kiss the feet of Jesus. The verb “kiss” there is a compound word that means to kiss earnestly. It is the same word Luke uses to describe the father’s kisses when the prodigal son came home. Finally, she took the alabaster flask from around her neck and anointed Jesus’ feet with the costly perfume that was inside. While perfume was certainly used by prostitutes as part of their trade, in a world where people did not bathe often, many Jewish women carried perfume in a container that was carried on a cord or leather thong around their neck. I think at first, Simon was probably shocked to see that this woman was even present and that she would actually approach Jesus like this. But as this event unfolded, I think deep down inside, he was probably cheering her on because he now had some good dirt on Jesus. If this happened today, I’m pretty sure he would have taken out his iPhone and recorded the whole thing. He thinks to himself, “There is no way this guy is a prophet or else he would have known what kind of woman this was.” What is really ironic here is that even though Simon doesn’t think Jesus knows the woman is a prostitute, Jesus does know exactly what Simon is thinking. So in verse 40, we read that Jesus answered Simon, even though Simon hadn’t said anything out loud yet. But that doesn’t seem to phase Simon at all, So when Jesus tells Simon that He has something to say to him, Simon says “Say it, Teacher.” Jesus proceeds to tell a parable about two debtors. The first man owed 500 denarii. Since a denarii was roughly equal to one day’s pay, that was about a year and a half’s wages. So in Tucson, where the average household income is about $50,000 a year, that would be roughly $75,000. The other man owed fifty denarii, or about 2 month’s wages, or about $7,500 for the average Tucsonan. When they can’t pay their debts the moneylender cancels both of their debts. Jesus, then asks Simon, “Now which of them will love him more?” Simon seems to be a bit reluctant to answer Jesus, so He begins his answer “I suppose”. I suspect that Simon realizes that Jesus is applying this parable to him, so he is reluctant to condemn himself, but he is even more reluctant to appear ignorant in the eyes of his guests. When he answers that the one who was forgiven more loved the moneylender more, Jesus tells Simon that he has answered correctly. We will expand upon this some more as we continue the story, but this is a good time to pause and identify… TODAY’S GOSPEL TAKEAWAY If I think that I have been greatly forgiven, I will greatly love Jesus. If I think I have only been forgiven a little, then I will only love Jesus a little. Or, if like Simon, I don’t think I need to be forgiven at all, I won’t love Jesus at all. As Simon heard the parable, I have to believe he was thinking, “Jesus is right. This woman is at least ten times worse than I am.” But with that thought, Simon was actually admitting that he, too, was a debtor. Maybe he wasn’t nearly as bad as this woman, but he, too, had violated God’s holy standards. And even if his sin was not as bad as that of the woman, it really didn’t matter. It’s kind of like asking which person is in bigger trouble – the one drowning in 50 feet of water or the one drowning in 500 feet of water? It would be ridiculous for the person in 50 feet of water to look at the other guy and think, “At least I’m better off than him.” And it certainly wouldn’t do any good for the guy in 500 feet of water to think, “I’ll just swim over to where the other guy is and I’ll be OK.” They are both going to drown. But far too often, our thought process is a lot like Simon’s because we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others and think that because we’re not as bad as they are, we’re OK with God, But the truth is we’re all drowning in our sins, no matter how little or how great they may be. And Jesus is about to drive that idea home with Simon. In verse 44, Jesus finally turns to the woman and he asks Simon. “Do you see this woman?” Of course he sees the woman! Everyone in the room has seen her, and I’m pretty sure that from the moment she began to touch Jesus, Simon hasn’t taken his eyes off of her. No doubt he is mentally making notes of every detail of her encounter with Jesus so he can use it against Him later. Jesus then proceeds to rebuke Simon for his failure to extend even the basic common courtesy to Him and to point out how the woman had demonstrated her love for Jesus by doing everything Simon had failed to do. We now come to verse 47, which is really a pivotal verse in this passage. So let’s pause for a moment to examine that verse in more detail: Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” The first thing we discover here is that this is likely not the first time this woman has encountered Jesus. The verb “forgiven” here is in what is known as the perfect tense, which means that it is an action that occurred in the past that has continuing implications. We could translate it something like this: …her sins, which are many, have already been forgiven and continue to be forgiven… We don’t really know where or when this woman had met Jesus before, but it is clear here that she had already been forgiven well before this act of extravagant love she carried out in Simon’s home. If we’re not careful, the phrase “for she loved much” could easily obscure that crucial truth. But both the parable itself and the words that Jesus is going to speak in verse 50, make it clear that forgiveness precedes and results in love and not the other way around. This woman’s extravagant love was evidence of the fact she was forgiven, not the cause of her forgiveness. And because she has been forgiven much, her love for Jesus is great. On the other hand, for those like Simon who had no sense of their own sinfulness, their love for the one who could forgive their sins would be little or none. Jesus then speaks to the woman directly for the first time and reassures her that her sins are forgiven. The verb “forgiven” in verse 48 is also in the perfect tense, which reinforces the idea that her sins had been forgiven some time in the past. And then Jesus also reinforces the truth that it is not her love that has saved her, but rather her faith. Just like the debtors in the parable had done nothing that caused the moneylender to cancel their debts, Jesus has cancelled the debt of her sin strictly out of His grace and mercy. And all she had done was to respond in faith to what Jesus had done for her. Once again, we see that this passage teaches us that… I’m pretty sure that there is at least a little bit of Simon in all of us. Most of us probably think we’re better than we really are to at least some extent. And as a result we tend to play it safe and never really love Jesus extravagantly the way the woman in this story did. That is especially a danger for those of us who were either raised in church who have been in the church for many years. I think sometimes it is possible for us to become so familiar with the things of God that the gospel no longer stirs our heart like it once did. So how do we overcome that tendency so that we can be more like the woman than like Simon? I’m going to approach that question a little differently than I often do. Rather than give you several different principles to follow or applications to make, I’m going to ask you to consider three questions that you ought to ask yourself in response to this passage. THREE QUESTIONS TO ASK IN REPONSE TO THIS PASSAGE: 1. Have I acknowledged the depth of my sin? While my purpose this morning is not to burden anyone here with unnecessary guilt over your sin, we can see from this passage that guilt can actually be a good thing. The woman, who was well aware of her sin, was directed by her guilt to Jesus, the only one who could remove that guilt by forgiving her for her sin. On the other hand, Simon, who didn’t think he was a sinner at all, or at least not a very bad one, didn’t feel any guilt at all. And as a result, he rejected the one who could have forgiven him for his sin. This question really applies in two distinct ways this morning. First, there may be some of you here this morning like Simon who have never acknowledged your sin. You consider yourself to be basically a good person who has no need for forgiveness. But as we’ve seen this morning, it really doesn’t matter if you’re a 50 denarii sinner or a 500 denarii sinner. It doesn’t matter if you’re drowning in 50 feet of water or 500 feet of water. As far as that goes, it’s possible to drown in a bathtub full of water. But in every case you will drown in your sins, unless you acknowledge those sins, ask Jesus to forgive you and put your trust in Him by making Him your Lord and Savior. But the question also applies to those of you who have already made that commitment, too. It’s so easy to start comparing myself to other people and to think that my sin really isn’t as bad as theirs. Sure, I‘m willing to admit that I am a sinner in need of God’s grace and that I needed Jesus to pay the penalty for my sin on the cross. And I’ve genuinely put my faith in Him alone as the basis for my relationship with God. But it’s still possible to think that my sin really isn’t all that bad compared to a lot of other people. And if it is true that my love for Jesus is in direct proportion to my sense of my own sinfulness, then the result of that kind of thinking is that I won’t love Jesus with great abandon like the woman in today’s passage did. So the first question I need to ask is: Have I acknowledged the depth of my sin? 2. How has Jesus’ forgiveness changed me? Jesus’ forgiveness had an obvious impact on the life of the woman in this story. She was willing to worship Jesus in a way that cost her greatly. It cost her her pride as she washed, dried and anointed the dirty feet of Jesus. It cost her the expensive vial of perfume around her neck. But perhaps even more costly than that was the scorn and rejection of the self-righteous Pharisee and his dinner guests. But her desire to see and worship Jesus was greater than her fear of rejection by those men. When was the last time that Jesus’ forgiveness caused you to act like that? When was the last time that the forgiveness of Jesus caused you to worship Him extravagantly in a way that really cost you something – your pride, some of your material resources, your reputation? When was the last time that you worshiped Jesus in a way that risked being rejected by others? So the second question I need to ask is: How has Jesus’ forgiveness changed me? 3. Do I view others like Jesus does? Simon viewed this woman, and probably pretty much everyone else other than himself and his fellow Pharisees, as unworthy of God’s favor. And, at least to a degree, he was right. None of us, not even the most righteous among us, deserve God’s favor. But Simon went even beyond that because He wrongly assumed that some people, like this woman, were even beyond the reach of God’s grace. Jesus on the other hand, didn’t look at people at all like that. We see evidence here that Jesus didn’t so much see people as they are as much as he saw them as who they could be in Him. Aren’t you glad that Jesus looked at you like that and that He didn’t write you off? I know I sure am. I am convinced that once we come face to face with the depth of our own sin, we not only love Jesus more, but we also begin to love others much deeper, too, because we start to view them from Jesus’ perspective rather than through our own eyes. So the third question I need to ask is: Do I view others like Jesus does? All of us need to answer those three questions. And frankly for most of us, that is going to take more than just the short time we have left. So I encourage you to take your sermon outline home with you and spend some time in prayer thinking about those questions this week. I began this morning by telling you about Chris Terzan. Now let me tell you more of his story. Chris grew up in south Phoenix where he became a successful business owner. But he had two secrets that very few people knew about. He was a drug addict his entire adult life and he was associated with numerous street gangs. In 2010, he committed a second felony was sent to prison. After three years behind bars, he was ready to commit suicide. But in December 2013 he began to attend a Celebrate Recovery meeting and met a group of men who exhibited great joy even there in prison. Chris learned that their joy was a result of the fact that their sins, as awful as some of them were, had all been forgiven by Jesus. Because of the love those men had for Jesus, Chris eventually became a disciple of Jesus and by the time he left prison he had developed a 128-man ministry in the prison yard. Today, Chris has been out of prison for several years and is active in a number of Christian ministries, including Dunamis Prison Ministry, which he founded to prepare Christian inmates for release from prison. But you’ll learn everything you need to know about Chris the moment you meet him. Because he has been forgiven much and understands the depth of his own sinfulness, he loves Jesus deeply and passionately and that love just naturally overflows whenever you’re around him. I want to be more like Chris, Don’t you? [Prayer] Discussion questions for Bible Roundtable 1. Why are most people so reluctant to acknowledge the depth of our sin? How do we get past that? 2. To what extent should our love for Jesus be emotional? How do our feelings fit in with our faith? 3. What are some of the costs we might incur if we love Jesus extravagantly? 4. Jesus was willing to enter the house of a hypocritical Pharisee who Jesus knew was looking for some “dirt” on Jesus. What can we learn from Jesus’ example?