Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (C – Proper 6)
June 12, 2016
Text: Luke 7:36-8:3
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom. 10:15; ESV [cf. Is. 52:7]). Jesus preaches the good news of sins forgiven to the woman in our text, and she adores His beautiful feet. Quite literally. That she is behind Him, and then at His feet, shows her great humility. It is the humility of repentance. She is a sinner, and she knows it. She knows her need for this good news which Jesus brings and bestows upon her. We are not certain what her sin is. Could it be that “a lady of the city” is something akin to our designation, “a lady of the night”? Whatever the case, she knows her sin quite well. She weeps tears of sorrow for having offended her God. And with those tears, she washes the feet of her God, her Savior, Jesus. She lets down her hair, an act considered rather immodest in her society, but certainly not to the God who has numbered every hair of her head. With that hair, she dries His feet, kisses them profusely in worship, and anoints them with expensive perfume. How beautiful are the feet of our Lord. They do not kick this sinner away. They receive her worship, even as gracious Words pour from the lips of their Owner.
Simon doesn’t like it. Simon, the host, the Pharisee, seeing all these things, thinks 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” (Luke 7:39). But Jesus is more than a prophet. He is God in human flesh. He does know who and what sort of woman this is, that she is a sinner. That is precisely why He does not refuse her. He knows her sins better than she, who weeps for them. He knows her sins so well that He has taken them into Himself. According to the Law of Moses, in allowing her to touch Him, He has taken her uncleanness into Himself. That’s just the point. He takes it, that He might pay for it in His suffering and death. Yes, He knows who this is, and what she has done. And He knows what Simon is thinking. “Simon, I have something to say to you” (v. 40), whereupon He tells this parable: A moneylender had two debtors. One owed him five hundred denarii, a denarius being a common day’s pay. Five hundred days’ worth of pay! The other owed fifty, a considerable amount, but certainly much less than the one who owed five hundred. But be that as it may, neither of them could pay. So the moneylender forgave the debt. He cancelled it. He wiped the slate clean. Unbelievable. “Now which of them will love him more?” Jesus asks (v. 42). And the answer is obvious. But Simon knows he’s been caught. “The one, I suppose,” he replies (you can almost hear the snarkiness), “for whom he cancelled the larger debt” (v. 43). And he’s right. He has judged rightly. And now here’s the application. This woman owes a great debt to God. Her sins are many. She has nothing with which to pay. She could never hope to pay off her debt. Not by any good work. Not even by her worship at the Savior’s feet. But God has wiped her slate clean. He’s cancelled her debt. He’s forgiven her much. So she loves much. She worships, not so that she might be forgiven, but because she has been forgiven. She loves Jesus because of what He has done and is doing for her. Clearly she is represented in the parable by the one who is forgiven much, therefore loves much.
But who does the other character in the parable represent? This must have grated on Simon, for the Savior’s implication is unmistakable. The other character represents him. Yes, Simon, you are the man! You are perhaps clean outwardly. But inside you are full of sin and death, a whitewashed tomb, as Jesus says elsewhere (Matt. 23:27-28). The woman has led a life of manifest sin. Her sin is obvious to all. But she is no worse than Simon, than the other Pharisees, than the pious Christians sitting in the pews this morning, who perhaps live morally upstanding lives, but their hearts… If others could see into our hearts, know the desires of our hearts, hear our inner thoughts… We are just as sinful as the woman in our text. We don’t like to admit it. Perhaps we’ve even deluded ourselves, as had Simon, into believing we’re better than her, better than others. If this is you, repent. If you’ve ever thought, “That person over there really needs to hear this sermon,” repent. This sermon is for you. If you’ve ever railed against the moral failings and weaknesses of others without first examining your own life and removing the log out of your own eye by Confession and Absolution, repent. Perhaps, like Simon, you think you only owe the 50 denarii, not the 500 of the woman. But you still owe 50, and you can’t pay. You can never hope to pay back the debt. Not by any good work. Not even by your worship of Jesus here at Church. Jesus must take your debt, 50 or 500 or 5,000… Jesus must take your uncleanness, your sin, into Himself, to be paid by His blood. That’s the only possible payment. And He does it in His innocent suffering and death on the cross, for the woman, for Simon, for you.
Whether you’re the woman or the Pharisee in our text, you have been forgiven much. All your sins are forgiven. And now follows your Christian life of love. You love because He first loved you. You love because you have been forgiven much. The order is very important, here. It is true, Jesus says, “her sins… are forgiven—for she loved much” (Luke 7:47). This does not mean her love caused her forgiveness. Rather, her forgiveness caused her love. It is like saying, “It rained, for the windows are wet” (Buls). The windows being wet didn’t cause the rain. The rain caused the windows being wet. And so the forgiveness given by Jesus caused the woman, causes you, to love much. That means worshiping at Jesus feet, not that you might be forgiven, but because you have been forgiven. That means serving your neighbor in Christian love, providing for their bodily needs and confessing Christ to them, not to earn forgiveness, but because Jesus earned your forgiveness and has given it to you freely. That means being generous with your time, talent, and treasures for the work of the Church, not because working for the Church and giving to the Church earns you points with God, but because God has forgiven you all your sins in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and declared you His own child in Holy Baptism. Jesus paid your debt to God for sin. He paid it in full. You are reconciled to the Father. God loves you. You belong to His Kingdom. Heaven is your home. He will raise you from the dead on the Last Day. Rejoice. Weep, not only for sorrow over sin, but for joy in forgiveness. And go love, because you can, because Jesus has freed you for this very thing. Love and serve your families. Sacrifice for them. Work diligently in your vocations, serving your neighbor out of love for the Lord. Participate in society. Pay your taxes. Enjoy God’s creation and take care of it. Speak up for the defenseless. Give to charity. That’s the Christian life. That’s the thankful and loving life Christ Jesus frees us to live by forgiving our sins. And when you don’t live that life perfectly (and you won’t, because you can’t), there is Jesus, forgiving your sins, saying to you as He says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (vv. 48, 50).
Yes, the Lord Jesus says to you as He said to David through Nathan, “The LORD also has put away your sin” (2 Sam. 12:13). He has put it away in His wounds. You shall not die, for He has died in your place. And He is risen, and reclines with you here at His Table with His risen Body and Blood. Come and fall at His feet, those beautiful feet that were pierced for your transgressions. Come and hear the gracious Words coming out His mouth. Take and eat, this is my Body… Take and drink, this is my Blood… shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins. He will not kick you away. He will never do that. He receives you. Jesus receives sinners and eats with them. Jesus receives you and feeds you for eternal life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.