Christ's compassion, Christ's Love, Uncategorized

Washing the Feet of Jesus

Scripture: Luke 7:36-50

Have you ever done something for the Lord that seemed a little strange to others, but you were so passionate about it that what others thought didn’t matter? The woman in our story today is one such person. She has a passion to worship Jesus. It seems there is something about Him that draws her—something that makes her heart ache to be in his presence.

One thing I want to mention before we go any further is that the other gospels record a story of a woman anointing Jesus. (See Matthew 26:6, John 12:3-7 and Mark 14:3-6). ) That may seem a little confusing, but for now just realize that some Bible scholars have had questions about these passages too. “Whether these accounts represent one event or two, or possibly even three, has been the subject of speculation for centuries.” (http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/women-of-the-passion-anoint-oil)

Identified only as “a sinful woman,” we see that she has a passion for Jesus and as a result, worships Him in a way that seems a little, well…extreme or “over the top” and definitely improper. She has, more than likely, seen Jesus heal, teach, raise the dead, and forgive. When she follows Him to Simon’s home perhaps she wonders if He could forgive her. Maybe she is desperate for the peace that His forgiveness might bring her.

However there are some social barriers in her way. Here she is—a known sinner (probably a prostitute or adulterer), inviting herself into the home of a Pharisee, a religious leader. She also plans to perform an act involving two things that were huge faux pas—touching a man in a society where men and women did not even address each other in public and letting her hair down for someone other than her husband.

But none of this seems to matter to her. Proper or not, she will show Jesus her love. So she anoints Jesus with oil and as she does, her eyes fill with tears, and she kneels at his feet without a word. I can hear the room grow silent. Her tears brim over, and unashamed, she uses them to wash His feet. I imagine she weeps a good bit moved by the fact that she is in His presence, before gently drying his feet with her hair. Think of it, here she is before at least fourteen men (probably more), touching Him and allowing her hair to fall freely over His feet.

At this point Simon begins to think. Perhaps he should not have for Jesus knows his thoughts–thoughts very logical to Simon–that she is a sinner, and if Jesus were a true prophet, He would not allow her to touch Him. First, Jesus tells Simon he wants to say something to him. Almost as if He’s asking for permission. But Simon’s okay with that and tells Jesus to say what’s on His mind.

So Jesus begins his reprimand by telling Simon a story about two debtors, one who owes a great deal and one who owes little. The generous moneylender forgives both debts. “Which one will love him more?” Jesus asks. Simon says that he supposed the one with the larger debt. (I think it’s cool the way Jesus let Simon figure that one out for himself.)

But He is not done.

Jesus points out Simon’s areas of negligence in performing the simple courtesies extended to visitors in that culture. Simon has not even called a servant to wash his guest’s feet. He did not greet Him with a kiss. And look at the “sinner”—she kisses, anoints, washes, and dries His feet. Not only that, but as Jesus says here, she offers these things with her own body—her tears, her hair—and performs the lowliest of services.

He then turns his attention to the woman, and I wish I could have seen the look on Simon’s face as Jesus said these words, comparing him, a religious leader to this “sinner.” We hope he begins to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words. Maybe he is angry at the rebuke, or perhaps he has a revelation about his own character. I like to think that he becomes less judgmental after this visit with Jesus and begins to show mercy to other “sinners,” realizing he is one also.

So what can we learn from this passage?

  • As Simon perhaps figured out, we seldom understand what is in a person’s heart. Maybe on the surface, their sin is more obvious than ours, but that does not make it worse. And Jesus accepts an offering made with a worshipful heart.
  • Jesus is not at all interested in convention. He not only allows the woman’s touch, He compliments her unusual behavior.
  • Jesus forgives sin. He has such a deep well of love he does not worry about who comes to Him; He doesn’t worry about being influenced or tainted by our sin. As a matter of fact, He appreciates the openness and sincerity of the woman in our story.
  • No matter what, Jesus longs to demonstrate His love to us. Some of us may have committed the very sins that this woman was guilty of or worse. He still desires that we come to Him and lay all that “junk” on Him. He can bear the weight of our sins and the shame we may feel because of it—and I may add, the shame we may feel from what others have done to us.
  • Perhaps like me, you become emotional in public worship. Other people may think you’re a little odd for making such a big deal over Him, but I don’t think Jesus minds that at all.

And by the way, the things we have done wrong and the wrongs that have been done to us are not who we are; they do not define us. Jesus sees His followers as righteous and redeemed, and you are of great value to Him.

I invite you to listen to the words of a beautiful song by Mercy Me:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXI0B4iMLuU

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Have you ever been publicly embarrassed either by your own actions or the actions of others? Ever been ridiculed? Ever wanted to defend yourself from accusations that may or may not have been true? If you have, you may understand the feelings of the woman I want to talk about today—the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11)

As we slip onto the dusty streets of Jerusalem, we see her surrounded by a group of men. They seem very smug, and her eyes are on the ground. I try to imagine how she feels as the Pharisees and teachers of the law force her to come with them. Perhaps they give her a shove, watch her stumble, and roughly pull her back to her feet. She is completely vulnerable to their whims. It’s hard to tell from our vantage point, but did they even allow her to get dressed before they hauled her out into the streets? They will tell Jesus she was caught “in the very act” so it seems likely that she may not even be clothed. Can you sense her fear, her trepidation, or perhaps the anger as she takes one step closer to more humiliation? It must seem like a long walk especially in the midst of these men who—probably unknown to her—only want to use her to entrap the teacher Jesus.

They at last bring her to a halt. She looks up from the ground and sees she is at the Temple.  And there is the teacher Jesus. A man who has caused all kinds of furor surrounded by a crowd. Not a small crowd either, not by any means, and they force her to stand in front of them.

The Bible does not say anything about the woman’s emotional reaction but at this point, her heart must be pounding. She can probably hear the blood as it pulses in her ears.

The men approach Jesus as he teaches. They ask Him what to do with this woman, inform him of what she was caught doing. He doesn’t answer right away, but starts writing in the dirt. So they keep questioning him. He finally stands, gives them an answer which they probably don’t quite comprehend at first, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus then bends down to write in the dirt again. The woman waits. Does she think about his words “let he who is without sin…”? Does Jesus somehow know that many of these men have sinned with her or with other women she knows? Does he know that the man with whom she was “caught in the very act” is among these accusers? As His words begin to sink in, she hears a solid thump as something heavy falls to the earth, hears more, a steady rain as the older men leave. The younger stay longer, grow uneasy. But one by one they leave. All of them. When she glances up, she sees stones scattered around her where the men once stood.

And he sees them too—the stones lying impotent on the ground with no one to cast them. He then asks her two questions. “Woman, where are your accusers? Does no one condemn you?”

“No one, Lord.”

And He answers, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

We like to think this passage depicts Jesus as a completely nonjudgmental person who does away with the old Levitical law, and gives the woman a “get out of jail free” card. You broke the law, but hey everyone sins so those men, they just need to go easy on you. “I’m okay, you’re okay” kind of thing. Well, not quite. While this is indeed a sweet story of Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy, there were a few things going on that we might not see with a surface reading. The following may seem a tad technical but I ask you to keep reading.

First of all, the Levitical law stated that both the man and woman were to be brought forward. So where was the man? It is truly not inconceivable that the man whom she had been caught with was among the accusers (as I alluded to above). And others of them were not just guilty of sin in general, but were probably guilty of the same ongoing sin, the sin of adultery. And Jesus knew it. This pricked their guilty consciences, and they left with the tables turned on them, “intimidated into silence by their realization that Jesus was privy to their sexual indiscretions.”

Secondly, when Jesus saw that her accusers were gone, He asked her what could be considered a legal question. The Law of Moses stated there had to be at least two witnesses to the offense so he verified their absence by asking “woman, where are your accusers? Does no one condemn you?” and she confirmed “no one, Lord.” She therefore, under the Law could not be punished for her sin. No witnesses, no execution.

Third lesson: we often gloss over the statement in which Jesus says “Neither do I condemn you…” Oh good, Jesus doesn’t condemn me for a-n-y-thing! I can live as I want and Jesus will still love me. Well, yes, He will still love you, but the next part of that statement puts her actions as well as ours in a different light. He tells her “go and sin no more.” In today’s vernacular, He might be saying something like, “Stay away from that mess. It will only get you in more trouble.” Jesus showed His love to this woman in two ways: by not condemning her, and by telling her to stop sinning. Jesus does not want us to stay in our sin. It is not good for us. It is not harmless. It is not something we can “handle”. He loves us too much to let us bear its weight alone.

And while we need to be careful about not “casting the first stone”, Christ did not mean we should not confront another when they are in a continued pattern of sinful behavior. He often confronted the Pharisees and other religious leaders, calling them some pretty unflattering names. He also gave us permission to help pull the speck out of our brother’s eye, once we had removed the log from our own eye (Matthew 7:5), and Galatians 6:1 teaches that the spiritual believer is to help restore those who have wandered from the faith.

While I’m glad this story is popular, it is an example of how the Bible can be misconstrued. God forgives, He does not wish to condemn. But (and this is a big but) He does not want us to keep on sinning.

Please hear me. God loves us enough to accept us and love us as we are. But He also loves us enough to help us out of the mess we are in.

My prayer is that we would learn to accept the gentle (and maybe not so gentle) rebukes from the Holy Spirit and from God’s word when we have strayed.  I also pray that we would learn how to restore other believers when they are caught up in sin. Of course, we need to be careful in the manner we do this. The Pharisees and teachers of the law give us a good example of how not to handle this responsibility. They seemed to enjoy lording the woman’s sin over her. To not only take her through the streets, but also to make her stand in front of the huge crowd gathering around Jesus must have taken a patent heartlessness (John 8:3). Let us not be like them in our actions or in our minds, but rather restore with a gentle spirit as the Bible teaches, “keeping a watch on ourselves.” (Galatians 6:1 ESV)

Quotations as well as background information are from:  http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1277

Christ's Love

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