Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we approach the birthday of our country we think about the future. We long and pray for a strong nation in which liberty, justice, and equality for all are the watchwords. We pray for a country in which morality is upheld along with the dignity of men and women. We pray for a country in which people recognize good and stand up to evil. A country in which chaos and anarchy are replaced with sharing, caring, and mutual respect. Lord, the only way we’re ever going to have such a country is if we humble ourselves, individually, before You, curb our pride, and submit ourselves to You with humble hearts. Give us such hearts. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF REAL LIBERTY!
TEXT: Luke 7: 36-50
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Freedom is a beautiful word. The cry: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” is a cry for freedom. New Hampshire’s motto: “Live free, or die!” eloquently expresses what America is supposed to be all about. Thus, it might seem strange in our modern culture to talk about submission, for we usually think of it as the opposite of liberty. And yet, submission is a good thing. Without it laws are not respected or obeyed. Without it the strong trample the weak. Without it the “little guy” gets left in the dust.
Nations are but groups of people. And yet every nation begins and ends with the individual. Therefore, it is quite amazing and troubling that many Americans will admit that it is o.k. to obey human laws, but that it’s somehow unjust to expect people to submit to God’s laws. And isn’t that the situation in America today? People go to church and hear happy talk about: love, forgiveness, and eternal life. They go to have their egos stroked. But the moment one of God’s laws concerning wrong behavior cuts a little too close to home, they walk out the door. They want spiritual freedom without submission. And they fail to see that such an approach leads to spiritual anarchy. It leads to the slavery of sin.
Our lesson is quite amazing. Here a woman willingly submits herself to Christ. She bares her soul and openly humbles herself before Him. And the result of this is that Jesus forgives her and her conscience is freed from inner torments. Since she represents each of us, today we need to focus on how important it is to:
SUBMIT TO CHRIST AND FREE YOUR SOUL!
In the opening verses of this lesson we see that this women did just that! Jesus had been invited to a dinner at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and 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.” Who was this woman? We don’t know. It wasn’t Mary, of Mary and Martha fame.—She anoints Jesus much later in His ministry. We have no reason to identify her as Mary Magdalene, either, as some have done. Likewise, we don’t know what her sin consisted of. Obviously, however, her life and conduct were notorious, for: “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘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.” Was she a prostitute? Maybe. What we do know is that the Greek word for sin used here conveys the meaning of: missing the mark and living an ungodly lifestyle. But, that’s not the important point, is it? What’s truly important is her humble, repentant submissiveness.
For her to come to this feast was a huge breach of decorum. For her to wash Jesus’ feet with costly perfume from an alabaster jar was unheard of. That was for slaves to do for their masters. And then she undoes her hair, which for an oriental woman of that day would be equivalent of stripping herself naked today, and wipes his feet with her tresses. Why does she do it? Why does this proud sinner lay her soul and life open to the obvious ridicule that this Pharisee gives voice to? The answer is: because she knows that without forgiveness from her Savior and God, her conscience will give her no peace. Without God’s forgiveness she will be ruled by cruel despair, anger, and second-guessing. Likewise, she has come to realize, the hard way, that forgiveness only comes to those who are willing to freely submit to God’s will and God’s way.
Simon the Pharisee cannot understand this. He thinks that spiritual freedom comes from forcing his own feeble will upon God instead of allowing God’s will to reign over him. In other words, Simon believes that life is all about making God do what he wants, instead of humbly doing what God wants. Simon is clueless as to what real forgiveness feels like. He’s clueless as to how it frees and liberates one’s soul. Simon believes that if his will and God’s will coincide, great. If not, “tough luck, God,” for Simon values his pride more than God’s truth. And in this Simon show’s that he is also clueless as to what real, genuine, thankful love is all about.
Well, Christ is rather patient with this dense individual. He tells him that parable about two debtors. Each owes a moneylender, a loan shark, more than he can ever pay back. The loan shark forgives the debt of 50 denarii to the one and then forgives the debt of 500 denarii to the other. “Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.” Then, Christ comes to the point of the parable. “Turning toward the women He 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. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.—Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Like David in our Old Testament lesson, this woman comes to a recognition of her helplessness and hopelessness without Christ. And so, like David, she repents. She submits to God’s will and lays herself at His feet. She submerges her pride and offers Christ nothing but a humble heart. But, that’s exactly what He wants! “For He humbles the proud, but exalts the humble!” as the Bible says. O, if you don’t read carefully, those words: “her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much” you may get the impression that real love for God has to come from us and that it precedes, or somehow earns, His forgiveness. That, by the way, is the Roman Catholic view of this passage. However, in the Greek text that little word: “For” doesn’t mean “because” it means “therefore.” She has forgiveness and therefore she is able to love God and her fellow humans freely without conditions imposed by pride. Submitting to Christ frees the soul. Because when you empty your soul of pride, the mother of all sin, you allow God’s love for you in Christ to come, to grow, and to flourish!
You can do what this woman did! As we approach Independence Day—just one week from now–learn the lesson of eternal freedom by submitting to Christ. Every one of you has some pet sin. What have you said, or thought, or done that you’d die over inside if it ever became public knowledge? What pet sin rules you and dominates you every week and every day? What sins do you try not to think about on Sunday morning when you say the confession and which you try to ignore when you come to commune? Your pride says: “I’m free to do what I want!” But your conscience says: “It’s slowly killing me.”
Don’t be a Simon! Submit to Christ. Humble your hearts before His throne of judgement. Let God be God in your heart and in your life. For then you shall discover the truth of Christ’s cross, which is, God’s Son has already carried that burden that you bear, and He left it nailed to that bloody tree. And then, in its place He offers you life, eternal liberty, never-ending love, and the pursuit of genuine happiness which will never disappoint. For no debt is too great to be forgiven by His precious blood.
The great paradox of Christianity is that submitting to Christ frees the soul. And how do I know that? Because my Savior, Jesus Christ, submitted to my sins and my death on the cross and in the process freed me to live in the newness of a loving life. All this is mine by believing and trusting in Him and not in myself. Today, this is God’s gift to each of you! So, “go in peace, your faith has saved you…..” Amen