Luke 7:44–50 (NIV) 44 Then [Jesus] turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
My dear friends in Christ,
Change is hard. Change takes time. A recent study showed that on average it takes 66 days to make a change and establish a new habit. Sometimes change is not good. 66 days for a straight-A student who loves Jesus and his family to fall prey to drugs and alcohol. 66 days for lying to become his primary means to get what he needs. He drifts away from church. His family struggles to keep in contact with him. Finally he has nothing but the clothes on his back and his destructive need for another high.
Sometimes change is a good thing. The overworked, almost burned out couple heads off for a few weeks of vacation. How do they come back? They are tanned and relaxed, recharged for their lives and their jobs.
The woman in Luke 7 needed a change—wanted a change. Can you see how hard it was for her to even think about approaching Jesus? When she showed up at the dinner party she quickly became the center of attention. “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 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.” (Luke 7:37–38 NIV).
Simon, the host of the meal, reacted as any moral man of high standing in the community would. He called her a “sinner.” He hadn’t invited her to his home. Who did she think she was? And Jesus, well, if Jesus couldn’t figure out who this woman kissing his feet was, then he certainly couldn’t be a prophet!
Jesus’ reaction to Simon and the woman was pure grace. He told a parable of two debts that were owed to a moneylender. One debt was ten times the size of the other debt. Then, the moneylender had a change of heart. He canceled the debts of both! Jesus asked Simon the question: “Now which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:42 NIV). Simon unwittingly, and perhaps begrudgingly proved Jesus’ point. “ ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said” (Luke 7:43 NIV).
Jesus told Simon that the forgiveness of sins changes people! It could change this woman. She was a well-known “sinner” in the village. That was a nice way of saying that she was a prostitute. Can we possibly understand what she was going through? Do you think this woman ever cried over the humiliation of selling herself for men to use? How many tears did she cry without anyone knowing, without anyone caring? We don’t know the woman’s name. She was just another nameless sinner with plenty to cry about.
At Jesus’ feet she found change! The sinful woman becomes a forgiven woman. Her tears of sorrow are transformed into tears of thanksgiving. Her lips that had offered kisses to the highest bidder now kiss Jesus’ feet in worship. She offered Jesus her highest gift: perfume poured on his feet. A prostitute had come home to her Father’s house as a dearly loved daughter. The forgiveness she received from Jesus changed everything about her! She didn’t speak a single word: her tears, her gift of perfume, and her tender drying of Jesus’ feet spoke volumes.
Simon the Pharisee’s silence also spoke volumes—volumes on self-righteousness. Simon had plenty of judgment stored up in his heart, but had little love to show Jesus: no water for washing, no kiss of greeting, no oil to soothe Jesus’ skin. Simon’s reception of Jesus was barely socially acceptable. The woman loved much, for she had been forgiven much. Simon the Pharisee loved little, because he had been forgiven little.
What is our reaction tonight when Jesus comes over for dinner and the village prostitute shows up uninvited? Or, should we ask who we are at the dinner party? The Pharisee bottling up judgment at the head of the table or the prostitute pouring out tears of thanks on Jesus’ feet?
We would be quick to claim that we are the forgiven prostitute! But when is the last time we’ve shed a tear over a sin we’ve committed or the shame from which Jesus saved us? When is the last time we’ve given Jesus our over-the-top gift out of pure thanksgiving? When is the last time we’ve publicly expressed our love for Jesus? We love him in church. But do we love him as openly and obviously when the people around us don’t want to hear about him?
Have we simply become accustomed to loving less, because deep down we figure that we have little that needs forgiving? If that’s the case, no, when that’s the case, then the first sin we need to repent of is our love affair with Simon the Pharisee! We need change! We need a repentant heart—a heart that turns to Jesus in genuine sorrow over our sin. We cry, along with that sinful woman, over our heartache, our hurt, our depression, our shame. Then Jesus says to YOU and ME: “Your sins are forgiven. . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Jesus’ forgiveness changes everything about our lives. Thankfully, it doesn’t take 66 days for his forgiveness to take effect! It does take time to change our sinful habits. Whether it takes 1 day, 66 days, or much longer, we have Jesus’ love to move us forward. Paul wrote, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15 NIV). Jesus’ love changes the way we look at our lives. We see a church; Christian love sees it as a special place to meet with God. We see an order of service; Christian love sees it as an opportunity to proclaim the forgiveness of Christ—to pray, praise, and give thanks. We see an offering plate; Christian love sees an opportunity for generosity. We see a stranger; Christian love sees an object of our concern. We see our fellow members; Christian love sees brothers and sisters. We see another family’s child; Christian love sees another soul to teach about Jesus. We see a ministry; Christian love sees pure gospel opportunity!
We do all of this—and much more—is done because forgiven “sinners” can’t wait to show Jesus how much he means to us! We love the Lord and the people around us because of who we are in Christ—forgiven and dearly loved. Simply put: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NIV).
Winston Churchill once said, “There’s nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” Jesus has saved us. His forgiveness and love has changed us—moving us in the right direction! In faith, turn to Jesus; he changes everything about your life! All through Jesus. Always through Jesus. Only through Jesus. Amen.
To God alone the glory!
Sermon edited from 2017 Lent kit: “Repent: Turn to Jesus!” by Aaron L. Christie. © 2016 Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.