Almost every time I have been led to reflect on this story in the Bible - Luke 7:36-50 - I am moved to tears, as it captures in dramatic form, the very essence of what Christianity is all about. And what the world outside of belonging to and ruled by Christ is all about. The contrast is stark and the choice is clear cut. Accept that we are sinners and in need of the Redemption, forgiveness of sins - Salvation - offered by the death of Christ on Calvary. Believe, mistakenly, with eternal consequences, that we are not so bad, or just ok, and that Christ's death is of no consequence to us. Just something of - dubious - historical value. The story!
Jesus was dinning with some Pharisees, one of whom was named Simon ; " when a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and 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"
Simon, the Pharisee, then became angry and wondered in his mind that if Jesus were truly a prophet then he would know that the woman who was touching him was a sinner.
Then came one of the most profound revelations in history. " Jesus answered him, Simon I have something to tell you.......Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which one will love him more?
Simon gave the correct answer - the one who had the bigger debt canceled.Then Jesus admonished Simon for not washing his feet, not giving him water, but praised the woman who behaved differently and then pronounced forgiveness for her sins - which only God can do.
Because she loved much.
The two great challenges that all Christians face are; one, to accept fully, not halfway, that our sinful nature placed us in debt to God, which we can never pay back. And that Christ's death on Calvary has canceled all debts - and thus we should be forever grateful like the sinful woman.
And thus fully embrace the thoughts of the songwriter who penned these words, on which I was led to reflect this week:
My God how wonderful Thou art........
O how I fear thee , living God,
With deepest, tenderest fears,
And worship thee with trembling heart,
And penitential tears....
And secondly to share with whomsoever we meet on this earth, this profound and life changing truth. This is the " something " that we have to tell the world. But we can only be authentic in our telling if we are first constantly repenting before Almighty God and in tears about our sinful state like that 'woman'.
Whilst walking this week after reading the story, it came home forcibly to me that we have attempted to be too sophisticated in our analysis of what has gone wrong with the world around us, when there is only one problem and one solution to that problem. The problem is lust - the desire to have something, anything right now, regardless of the consequences. I just must have it.
It is lust for money which is at the root of the Governor of Illinois' decision to sell Obama's Senate seat, and which has seriously distracted the President -elect and caused people to question his integrity, even before he has had a chance to take office. The same desire for oil security or even the removal of Saddam so inflammed the minds of George W. Bush and Co. Ltd. which provoked them to invade Iraq with now disastrous consequences. Look back on history and you will find the same story repeated time and time again. It was the unbridled lust for riches and power which caused the colonial powers to rape Africa and rationalise their action by relegating non whites to a subhuman category. The same thing happened in Nazi Germany,
Pol Pot ruled Cambodia, in Bosnia and in Rwanda. Closer home, the same madness caused politicians to give guns to their henchmen in a bid to secure power at all costs, and which seeds sown long ago, are now causing us the reap the whirlwind of gun violence, abductions, rapes and general mayhem in our country. The same virus of lust now affects our body politic, the police force, the business sector, the professionals, the media, the entertainment industry, and is at the root of the HIV epidemic, the breakdown in family life, teenage pregnancy - I just must have it now.
And God have mercy and forgive us, that philosophy has invaded the church for some time now. I just must have God's blessings now. Not in eternity. And this lust, and lack of patience made Cash Plus and Olint, two Ponsi schemes, appear to the unwise, as " blessings" from God, with consequences far exceeding the loss of money. And which " theology" has turned God into a " celestial bellhop" who pours out blessings to those who fast and pray long enough, and who have faith that can move mountains. In short a God made in our own image, and because of which the nation, which badly needs leadership from the authentic church, has suffered immensely.
The solution to the inherent lust in the hearts of all mankind is what Jesus shares with Simon.
The question which asks in essence; " Do you realize how much you have rebelled against the living God and deserve to die - for all men have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God?.
The question is who are we? Simon or the "sinful woman". The Simons of this world, both inside and outside the church have not fallen at the feet of Jesus, because they do not realize how much they are indebted to the God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all mankind, who came down as man in the form of Jesus. They are having a good time either ignoring Jesus or in
" perpetual praise" without time for repentance.
I was led to read another section of Scripture this week, and when the full impact hit me , I was moved to send out the following text message : " In him was life, and that life was the life of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it..... though the world was made through him the world did not recognize him" John 14-5& 10. What a tragedy?"
The problem Obama faces in the USA, and Prime Minster Golding here in Jamaica, is not only the crisis affecting the world economy, but the crisis affecting the entire world. That God, the Creator was , and still is , in the world, through the authentic church, rescuing mankind from its propensity to succumb to lusts of various kind - the kind which led a respected Wall Street Banker to bilk a significant number of " intelligent New Yorkers" of billions of USD - and the world has neither understood Him nor recognized Him. That's the crisis! That's the tragedy.
And as one Baptist preacher observed this morning, as we continue to celebrate Advent - the second coming of the Jesus - if we think we are in crisis now, all of that will be nothing compared to the crisis of the return of Christ as judge.
Maybe that sinful woman recognized something that we have missed, why she loved Jesus so much. Perhaps that story moved the same hymn writer to pen another verse of the story about the " Wonderful God"
Yet I may love the too, O Lord,
Almighty as thou art,
For thou hast stooped to ask of me
The love of my poor heart
No doubt that's why the Lord led me to read the following meditation along with the story.
AMAZING GRACE OSWALD CHAMBERS DECEMBER 12
" My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Mark 15: 34
IN WORD Are you aware that every crack of the whip on Jesus' back, every thorn piercing His scalp, every stroke of the hammer is what God thought about our sin? Have you considered that every time Jesus tried to breathe, cried out in thirst, tried to heave His body up against the pull of gravity, it was punishment deserved. Not by Him, of course. By us.
Does that sound harsh? Surely we aren't all that bad, are we? We' re human, of course and therefore imperfect; but do we really deserve such punishment?
According to the Bible, we do. And if we really think about it, as well intentioned as we assume we are, we can all recall times when we have shunned the personality of the Holy for something that utterly violated it. On purpose. What cosmic treachery! We're foolish to think that it was just an innocent mistake and that God will overlook it. Look at the Cross to see what God thought about it.
Jesus knew the answer to His question in vs 34, even as He asked it. He wasn't seeking the divine reason behind His suffering; He was pointing us to it. The quoted Psalm that begins with this cry of anguish ( Psalm 22) speaks of God's deliverance of all His people. That's the answer. He was forsaken so we wouldn't be.
IN DEED " God has made him who had no sin to be sin for us" ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). Whenever your faith grows apathetic, whenever your sense of His Grace grows dim, whenever your mercy towards others finds its limits, think of that. Contemplate the staggering absurdity of the infinitely Holy suffering the consequences for those who rejected His holiness. Let your cry become; " My god, my God, why haven't You forsaken me?" And be grateful. Let His grace amaze you and prompt your zealous passionate worship.
So who are you going to model? Who I am going to model ? Simon or the " sinful woman". Not only will our fate hang in the balance when Jesus comes again - not for another Christmas, but for judgement - depending on how we answer and live out that choice, but also those to whom God has sent us to spread the gospel. That's the sad reality and for which judgement too will meted out unto us.