Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
I know a guy… you’ve heard the phrase before. When the plumbing goes to pot at 1:00 in the A.M. it’s good to have a guy. When the car’s on the fritz, it’s good to have a guy. When you’ve got a problem, it’s good to have a guy. And it’s fitting that this 4th Sunday after Trinity also happens to be Father’s day, and the guy who’s been there for more than the 1:00 a.m. plumbing calls, innumerable car fixes and any number of other things I’ve had a problem with, is here today, thanks dad… thanks to all the father’s not just for the tasks you’ve done but also for your faithfulness in showing to us all the great love of Christ Jesus through your patience, diligence and faithfulness to our mother’s and us throughout the years… It truly is good, to have a guy.
And this theme, it’s good to have a guy, continues into the Gospel text for today, for we see two sinners today; Simon the Pharisee and the unnamed woman who were, despite their different circumstances, looking for the promised one, the long awaited Savior, the one, the man, the guy who would come for all.
Simon was a prominent Pharisee. He was well respected, he practiced what he preached, he was the guy who had been given to protect the moral integrity of the jewish community, he was the guy everyone looked to for the right answer and in everything he did and thought, he looked to fulfill the law of God.
Simon was… on the fence about Jesus and so He invited Jesus to dinner, to sit, front and center in the place of honor, just to the side of the host of the party. It was a sort of show and tell, if you will. Simon knew the tales of Jesus, but he wanted to be absolutely sure about who this Jesus was so, he invited Jesus to dinner and see what He’ll do, and just moments into the party, something drastic happens; a woman of the city walked smack dab in the middle of all the most righteous people in the whole city; men who obeyed nearly every law that existed in the Torah, who literally fulfilled them almost perfectly.
So the woman of the city walks in; no doubt you’ve seen the old western movies where the piano player stops playing, the laughter turns to silence, and all the eyes become fixed on the new arrival. At last, some answers were going to be forthcoming. For the Pharisees, they were finally going to have an answer as to whether or not this Jesus was the One God had sent to fulfill that whole Messiah thing. What was Jesus going to do? For the woman, an answer was going to come as well. She was looking for a guy too. A guy she had heard preach and teach, a guy of whom she had heard great tales of healing and forgiveness. She too was looking for the Messiah and was down to her last straw. She comes in weeping, carrying an alabaster flask of ointment, bends low to kiss the feet of the Lord and lets her hair down to dry the Lord’s feet. Brother’s and Sister’s; the infractions that this woman perpetrated in these actions were all cause for great scandal.
First, she touches feet, a task reserved for the lowest of all slaves, her doing so would have culturally placed her into a place of subjugation lower than the lowest caste of people in her culture, she was verifying what the Pharisee’s were thinking about her. Second, she let her hair down; big deal pastor, besides we all need to let our hair down every now and again, dear Christians please understand that the way things are in 2013 are not the way they were nearly 2000 years ago, for a woman to let her hair down in public would have been cause for great scandal in line with Leviticus 13:45 and Numbers 5:18 where releasing the hair would be a sign that she herself was placing herself outside the boundaries of proper Israelite community.” And finally, but most importantly this sinner anoints Jesus with oil… what did this show? In those days anointing was sign of hospitality, was used for medicinal purposes, but was also used for special purpose of setting aside Priests and Kings for their special duties, but this woman anointed Jesus for none of these reasons, in fact her anointing was much simpler, for she was verifying what this Jesus had come to do, Jesus had come to die, to put sin to death with Him and this woman verified this. She anointed Jesus with oil and thus prepared our Lord for His death.
She came looking for a guy… indeed she had come looking for the true Messiah, Simon and the rest, were looking for something, indeed someone else. But the woman of the night, stuck gravely in the muck and mire of her hideous sin sought the Only One who could forgive her of her sins and that day, by faith, that had come only by hearing, she entered into a place that she had absolutely no business being and she left with her one and only need fulfilled.
I should really be more charitable to Simon and the Pharisees, we do know what they were looking for and we see this in Simon’s reaction. “Simon said to himself; “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” But from what we’ve read earlier in Luke’s gospel we know that Simon’s thoughts are consistent with the rest of the Pharisees; Hear the word God: Jesus said; “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ Jesus knew this woman was a sinner, of course He did. She was one of the very ones He had come for, the very One Paul reminds us of in 1 Tim. 1:15: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And look at our Lord’s reaction to Simon… who by the way spoke these words to himself; “And Jesus answering (for He knows the inner thoughts of all) said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he 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?” Jesus was there that day as the Savior of all, the woman had come to receive what He had to give, but Simon and the Pharisees they couldn’t grasp the fact that Jesus parable included them. They couldn’t apprehend the fact that Jesus was the One who cancels every debt, He is the answer for every sinner in this world, His death would be the once and for all atonement for all sinners that would reconcile us to our Heavenly Father. The only problem… Simon didn’t believe that he was a sinner.
For the sake of brevity we should break the parable down; the money lender is God the Father, the two debtors… most immediately were Simon and the Woman in our Gospel, but in a greater sense they are us… indeed all people. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Notice Simon’s hesitancy; Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” But Simon, the self-righteous one, Simon the law abider, Simon the Pharisee, like all the Pharisees in his day and all we Pharisees who live today, could not and indeed cannot grasp what the Lord says. Simon, you have failed to welcome me to your earthly feast of fat things, you have failed in even the smallest task and the reason is simple; you think you have it all figured out. You believe that Salvation comes by your obedience to the Law, you do not believe that you are a debtor in anyway. Therefore, you have not been forgiven, for you haven’t the foggiest notion that you too are a debtor, a sinner, that you too in the midst of all your obedience to the law, your welcoming me to the feast and giving me the place of honor, have done nothing for you, for I have come for one reason; to forgive sinners, to redeem them, to make them right with God the Father by my vicarious work that I will accomplish for you and all debtors on the cross. I have come bearing only one great gift, and you, Simon, have said that you do not need it, nor do you want it. Then turning toward the woman he 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.”
It’s easy to look at this text and see what we believe is an easy prescription for getting on God’s good side. It’s easy to look at the verses just referenced and think that being right in God’s eyes is all about the posturing, the hospitality, the conjuring up of tears, and the welcoming of kisses. But today Jesus shows us that these are; NOT WORKS TO DO, but rather results of faith, results of apprehending that there is no hope in this world of for the next without Jesus. Jesus says that the woman’s faith has saved her and what He means is not that she conjured these things up in herself, but that the realization of her fate as a debtor before God was one where she could not fulfill any good work, she could not conjure up any subjugation, she couldn’t do anything to make herself pleasing to God, she brought nothing to Jesus that day but her sins, she laid them at His feet and believed that He would forgive her. This woman came in reeking of her sins, everyone around her knew, but none more important than the one on whom her tears fell. She, in the vast depth of her sin was forgiven a great deal, she had greatly sinned, she stood at the bottom of the very same pit as Simon the Pharisee stood, the very same pit that we find ourselves in on a daily basis, and yet her hope, Simon’s hope indeed our hope is and was only found in the one whom the people around the table spoke of “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
Who is this? It is Christ your Lord, Lord of Heaven and earth, the one anointed for the death of all and risen for the life of all! Christ your Lord who still even this day forgives the sinners of this world by His very word spoken through the mouth of a sinful man. Christ our Lord who gives Himself to us still for the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of His word. Christ our Lord who taught us to pray the Lord’s prayer and to remember, in this specific instance, the fifth petition; And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
What does this mean?
We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.
St. Paul reminds us in the second chapter to the Ephesians; “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” He who is forgiven little loves little. Dear Christians, your great sins are forgiven, your little sins are forgiven by the shed blood of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you’ve got a guy who paid your full redemption price, who covers your sin still to this day. “Who is this who forgives sins? Jesus, your guy, true God and Man; who washes you not with tears but with His own blood. He is the one who anoints your body not with costly perfume but with His own white garment of righteousness. He comes to you still by His word, by His sacraments and the Holy Spirit has worked faith in you–the very faith by which you are saved and in which you live in peace.”