I bring you grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, Amen.
God’s holy Word for our glad hearing and learning is the Gospel Lesson for this Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, from Luke chapters 7 and 8.
Let us all pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of the hearts of your people be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
It didn’t quite go as Simon had planned. He had hoped to impress the brilliant Rabbi from Nazareth, and at the same time show him off to his friends. Simon was a very religious man –a strict Pharisee–with a very honored position in the community. And Jesus had accepted the invitation to come into his home. This was going to be good.
But then she showed up. He knew her: they all knew her. That she had a reputation in that city was putting it mildly. She was a sinner.
Interesting…the kind of people this teacher has following him. No, this could be good. Really good.
But then this unnamed woman proceeds to do what Simon neglected to do. She worships Jesus. She falls at His feet and begins to cry. She offers up an expensive offering of ointment. She is in the presence of her Lord and she repents of her sins.
Simon…is disappointed. He thinks to himself, “here is no prophet.” “If he really were a prophet, He would know who was touching Him.” “This Jesus seems clueless.”
The woman’s sins, we are told, were many.
Simon had only one. But it was greater than all her sins combined. It was the sin of unbelief.
And his unbelief made it impossible for him to repent of his sins. And because he was not forgiven, he could not forgive.
Simon, I have something to say to you.
The eager Simon always wanting to impress, answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” (Luke 7:40–43)
When we come to the Lord’s house we meet sinners. All kinds are found here. The reputations of some are well known. Yet, all who repent of their sins are forgiven. None are turned away. Jesus knows what is in each heart. He knows each hurt. He knows each sigh. He knows each tear.
This morning Jesus has a warning for those who shun the sinner; for those who will have nothing to do with the one who comes into his presence to receive His grace; for those who think that by slipping in and out they can have all the benefits of church and get credit for it and yet at the same time refuse to forgive, to continue judge, to maintain their righteous indignation, to shun the brother or sister by going the other direction; Jesus says you cannot have it both ways.
You cannot be forgiven and refuse to forgive. You cannot come into His presence, dine at His table, without touching sinners. If you are afraid of sinners–then you better stay away. For you see, there is not much that is worse than to sit in the pew and look around you and judge other people. Who died and made you God, that you might now decide the eternal welfare of another person? These are the blood-bought souls by Jesus!
Who are you to shun anyone of them? It’s worse than not coming to church at all. At least when you don’t come to church you don’t bring God’s judgment down upon yourself like Simon did. Better you stay at home.
Then turning toward the woman Jesus said to Simon,
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.
You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.
You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven- for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47)
The time Simon spent deciding who was good enough for him to eat and to sit with he may just as well have spent in meditation and prayer, worshipping his Lord.
He may have instead repented of his sins, for which Jesus also came into the world to forgive, and went to the cross to die and shed his blood, so that Simon and all of us like him may have forgiveness, and one day recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, (Matthew 8:11)
But Simon rejected all that Jesus had to offer him. Because he thought he could go it alone. That he was better than all the rest. That he was certainly better than this one sinful woman.
And it’s not just individuals who can be this way. It can be whole congregations. Because further on we read,
Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” Luke 7:49
The whole bunch of them didn’t believe that Jesus could forgive this woman her sins! And why? Because they didn’t believe the forgiveness that was offered them. They just didn’t believe Jesus and His Word.
Instead, they preceded to do to the poor Magdalene that which she previously had suffered under the seven demons from which Jesus had released her. The proceeded to hold her captive in her previous sin. Make her a slave to that sin. And keep her in bondage, of their own making, by not forgiving her.
Friends, this is a serious matter that we must not ignore. When someone is shunned and mistreated by anyone of us because we have it in our minds that they do not deserve the forgiveness of Christ and be welcomed fully into God’s household of grace, we turn the wrath of God upon ourselves because we are immediately held to the same measure.
When the servant of Christ pronounces the absolution of all sins to those around us, and we come up to His table to eat and to drink his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins –and we remain unwilling to forgive, to speak to another individual, to shake the hand, to offer Christian fellowship and signs of friendship, then this is to be Simon the Pharisee.
Don’t expect to leave God’s house forgiven. As a matter of fact, expect your sins to be multiplied against you. Jesus says it here: “he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
But if you’ve been treated this way: take heart. Jesus forgives you. And He promises and gives you His Spirit of forgiveness so that you may forgive those who would hold you in demonic bondage of past sins and offenses. They have no real power over you. Rather pray for them. For they are in great spiritual danger.
We rejoice today at the good news that our sins are truly forgiven; that our heavenly Father welcomes all who repent of their sins and believe that they are forgiven for Jesus sake. We rejoice with one another in this forgiveness, that not one of us is denied by God Sonship and Daughtership in His heavenly kingdom. That we are washed and made clean by and also offered this day the very blood of Him who came into this world to save sinners, that bought us to be His own and that sprinkles clean and gives a good conscience.
To each of us this day Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you. You sins are forgiven; go in peace.” Amen.