Grace and peace are yours from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Expectations determine response, right? I recently read a book where the author used this illustration. He was invited to speak at some event and they were putting him up for the night. When he arrived he discovered that they were putting him up at the Holiday Inn Express. Now, if he had been expecting to stay at the Ritz Carlton where there’s a expansive room, where you get room service, where they fluff the sheets for you, he would have been terribly disappointed. However, if he was expecting to stay at something like a college dormitory where you shared a room with someone, had a public restroom with cold showers, his reaction to Holiday Inn would be, “Wow! My own room! With my own bathroom! A warm shower! How awesome!”
Expectations determine our response. It’s also true with God. What’s your response to God? You see, it’s an amazing thing. When someone is first brought to faith in Jesus, they’re on fire, they’re amazed at God’s grace, they share it, they live it. “I was headed for eternity in hell! Now I’m going to heaven!” But here’s Satan’s lie. After a while, he gets us to start expecting things, expecting certain things from God, becoming dissatisfied with life, with God, with His gifts, with His grace and love. The challenge is to renew yourself in the gospel every day. “I was lost! I deserve nothing but hell and judgment forever! And now I’m God’s child! Now I’m an heir of eternal life! No way!” Every day.
We have a case study before us of two different individuals and two different responses to Jesus. The title in my Bible says this is about Jesus being anointed by a sinful woman, but actually it’s about two different people: Simon, a pharisee, and a sinful woman who isn’t even named. Who are you more like? Who am I more like? What’s your reaction to Jesus?
This Pharisee, named Simon, did something very, very unusual for a pharisee, he invited Jesus to dinner. Now, if you know anything about what the Bible says about pharisees, you know that Jesus saved his most unremitting criticism for the pharisees. Who were the pharisees? The pharisees were the cultural and religious elite of Jesus’ day. They were on the outside the most upstanding people you would ever meet. Clean cut, civil, respectable, very moral, very religious, someone you wouldn’t mind having as a son-in-law. Most of them, however, hated Jesus. But here we have something unusual. A Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. Keep in mind that eating dinner at someone’s house at this time was far more than a social event, it was a act of association with someone – remember that one of the criticisms that was held against Jesus was that he not only “welcomes” sinners but even “eats” with them.
He invites Jesus to dinner. He’s honestly interested in Jesus. He’s intrigued by him. He wants to know more about him. Well, they gather to eat. First this that we have to keep in mind is that they didn’t sit at tables, like we think of, no one’s feet were under the table, rather, everyone was lying on a couch, up on one elbow, head toward the table where you were eating and feet stretched away from the table with your sandals off. And at this formal banquet, people would have been walking around, even people from the street could stand by and watch and listen in on the conversation.
Now, all of a sudden, a woman comes up behind him, came up to his feet, began to weep and wet his feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair and poured perfume on them. Who was she? Completely unlike Simon, she was literally a “woman in the city, a sinner.” Every commentator agrees that this is most likely referring to the fact that she had been a prostitute. She comes in and starts crying and her tears are falling on Jesus’ feet, that’s probably when Jesus turned and then everyone turned and she undoes her hair, she starts wiping his feet with her hair and then pours this perfume on his feet, this ointment on his feet, they didn’t wear shoes, they had sandals, so feet were often calloused, dirty, smelly – this was a comfortable luxury to soothe and cleanse and sweeten feet. And this perfume was probably a little jar she had worn around her neck and in order to pour it, you would have to break the neck of this jar to pour it all out on Jesus’ feet.
Imagine the awkwardness of this whole situation! A formal dinner and this sinful woman comes in and is shedding tears all over the place, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, pouring out her expensive perfume on his feet! What’s Jesus going to say? What’s Jesus going to do? Notice Jesus’ response to these two individuals: one gets a harsh rebuke and one gets an incredible welcome.
What’s going on here? Two different responses TO Jesus come from two different understandings OF Jesus which result in two different responses FROM Jesus.
Notice the two different responses to Jesus. Simon has his own ideas, his own conceptions of God and Jesus: “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is- that she is a sinner.” And what does Jesus say? He pretty much says, “Simon, she wept over me, she hugged me, she kissed me, she anointed me with oil.” Imagine what Simon was thinking, “What? You want me to weep over you? You want me to hug you? You want me to kiss you? You want me to do all of that? I invited you to dinner, isn’t that enough? See the difference? Simon is saying, “Jesus you can have my food for a meal, you can have my ear for a little bit, but that’s it. The woman, on the other hand, is saying, “You can have my whole life, I give it to you.” You see the little jar of perfume? Not only would that have been incredibly costly, but it was likely a tool of her former trade, in a hot climate without showers, this jar of perfume would have been incredibly important for her former job, but what is she doing? She’s pouring it out at Jesus’ feet. I’m giving you everything, I’m giving you my life, I’m not holding anything back. Simon is saying, “You can have this, you can have that, but I’m not going to weep over you, hug you, kiss you, give you everything.”
What about you and me? What’s your response to Jesus? Would you weep over him, kiss him, hug him, pour out your life at his feet? We sing a hymn that says, “Take my love, my Lord, I pour, at they feet its treasure store, take myself and I will be ever, only, all for thee.” Do we sing that? Does Jesus get everything or are we like Simon, detached, keeping him at a distance?
These two responses come from two different understandings of Jesus. The problem with Simon is that he doesn’t see his need. He doesn’t understand his need for a Savior like this woman does. So Jesus says, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” Now, when Jesus says, “I have something to tell you.” You should probably run, because Jesus is throwing a grenade. And Jesus tells this parable about two people who owed money, one owed 500 dennarii and another 50. Neither of them could pay him back. Which means both of them were facing the same outcome: prison, losing everything. You see, it didn’t really matter how much either of them owed, the fact is, NEITHER of them could pay back and so they BOTH would receive the same outcome.
You’re a Simon if you don’t see your need. You don’t see that you cannot pay. You don’t see you’re just as lost as the next person and it doesn’t matter if someone has 10 times more sin in their life than you do, because together you’re lost!
The other thing that Simon didn’t understand but this woman did was the cost. The debts were forgiven. Now in order for a debt to be forgiven, it doesn’t mean it disappears into thin air, someone has to pay. If you default on a loan and can’t pay, that debt doesn’t disappear, the bank has to eat the cost, someone always pays. Simon doesn’t see the cost to pay his debt. The blood, the sweat, the thorns, the tears, the agony, the suffering, the spit, the mockery, the nails in the hands and feet- that’s the cost that you didn’t pay, I didn’t pay, God paid for your sin and mine. That’s why she wept tears of gratitude, that’s why she ripped off the most precious thing in her life and poured it at Jesus’ feet.
And finally two responses: Simon, who doesn’t see his deep need for forgiveness and doesn’t see the incredible cost, get a rebuke. But what about the woman? Oh my! She gets so, so much! “Her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” You see that? Your love is a response to how deeply forgiven you feel yourself to be. The reason she has the ability to love is because she sees she’s forgiven.
Are you holding on to a grudge? Are you able to forgive others? Are you able to love others? Jesus says that your ability to let go of grudges, your ability to forgive, your ability to love others is directly proportional to how forgiven you feel. If you see your debt as little, like 50 or 500 or 5,000, the size of debt that you see Jesus Christ has covered will determine how much you can forgive and love people. The greater you see your debt to be, and the greater you see God’s forgiveness to be, the more you’ll be able to love.
“Father, I have a debt of sin to you, I have an insurmountable debt of sin that I could never, ever, ever pay. But you did. You paid all of it with your blood shed on the cross, you covered the multitude of my sins in full! What incredible grace! What incredible forgiveness! How could I not, like this woman, shed tears on your feet, kiss your feet, take my most prized possessions and pour them out at your feet. How can I not sing, “Take my love, my Lord, I pour, at thy feet its treasure store. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee. Amen.