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A Life Touched by Grace

I Kings 21:1-21; Ga 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3


WOMEN OF SCRIPTURE

Ironically, women dominate our Scripture reading this Father's Day and this morning's message could almost be centered on women's spirituality. Luke seems to be particularly interested in highlighting the relationship that Jesus had with women. The physician identifies thirteen women that the other gospels leave out. After reading this third gospel one is left with the impression that women were not as the Rabbi's taught secondary citizens but rather "an integral part of the creation, both necessary and significant; seen as having worth as persons in the own right and not simply in relation to men.1 However, I believe that Luke records the story of the woman anointing Jesus feet not to expound just on women's spirituality but to dramatize the striking contrast of how differently people respond to grace.

THE WONDER OF GRACE

The concept of grace is deeply imbedded in our theology. The NT employs the word 155 times. So you can see it is also, one of the more common words of Scripture. In its most basic meaning, the word means gift. Another author calls it "unmerited favor" Listen to what Eugene Peterson says about it:

Each morning we wake to a world and walk out of our house to an existence that is given by God. God shares who he is and what he makes, his love and his salvation. He is not just maker of heaven and earth; he is not just the revealer of truth; he is not just architect of salvation. He gives. "For God so loved the world that he gave...2"

When our lives are truly touched by grace, they become marked by an attitude of receptivity and gratefulness. They do not claim ownership of people or even of their own possession because they know that all of life is a gift of grace.

Jezebel and Ahab had a difficult time understanding the gift of grace. Their worlds were dominated by conquest and greed. Their personal quest for power blinded them to the grace offered by Yahweh, the god of Israel. Tragically, it cost the life of an innocent man.

THE ARROGANCE OF THE RELIGIOUS

The Pharisee was another person who just did not understand the true nature of grace. As you know, the Pharisee strove to live a godly life. He sought to purse a righteous and holy life through the study of the law and a disciplined life. Yet, he also failed to allow the grace of God to touch his life. Let us consider the story and discover its message for us today.

Jesus has graciously accepted an invitation to dinner at the home of a Pharisee. This is the first of three such dinner engagements that only Luke records. I have often wondered why Luke pays so much attention to Jesus interacting with the Pharisees on a personal level. They were arrogant, pompous, self righteous, snobs. And in this passage, Simon appears to go out of his way to display all three traits.

He extends an invitation to Jesus but then neglects to provide the proper amenities. Martha Stewart would be outraged. His blatant disregard of the social customs can only be considered an well thought out plan to test the Rabbi. In modern slang, Simon wanted to see how much it would take to push one of Jesus buttons.

Jesus never allows Simon's insults to upset him. He calmly joins host and begins the meal. He knows that everyone is secretly snickering over Simon's snub, but he demonstrates what it really means to turn the other check.

THE GIFT OF GRACE IS OFFERED TO A CONTRITE HEART

What Simon, Jezebel and Ahab lacked, this unnamed woman possessed-a contrite heart. We do not know the circumstances that led up to this occasion. She may have had a conversation with Jesus much like the woman at the well. Maybe she heard his teaching in public and. We only know that she had been dramatically moved by his message and so came to offer her gratitude for the gift of grace that had touched her life.

Her dramatic emotional response demonstrates just how seriously she took her own sin. She would not make excuses for her past. She would not minimize the seriousness of her behavior. She understood the consequence that would have occurred.

IT NEVER HURTS TO BE REMINDED OF GOD'S GRACE.

Theologians have caused a lot of trees to be cut down speculating why Jesus told the woman her sins were forgiven. Those who have a works-righteousness theology contend that it was not until the women demonstrated in a tangible way, both her sorrow and gratitude that she was forgiven.

I prefer to read the words of Jesus merely as a reminder of what they both already knew. Her act of love did not save her or gain her forgiveness. She already knew that it. That is what prompted her to enter the house and anoint him. But Jesus' words served to startle Simon and remind her one more time. Such words of affirmation can be very powerful in the healing process.

THOUGHTS TO CONSIDER

Grace is the decent of God, not the accent of man...Brunner, Dogmatics, p. 202.

There are quite a few Simons occupying the pews of churches throughout America. Religion is a very serious affair for them. They live highly moral and ethical lives. The Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount are their code of conduct. They believe that a Christian is someone who attends church and lives a good live. There are at least two problems with this attitude. Garrison Keillor, exposes the first problem when he says

"You can become a Christian by going to church just about as easily as you can become an automobile by sleeping in a garage."3

The second problem is the self-righteous attitude that usually takes root in a person's thinking. This is revealed in the Pharisees thoughts. He calls her a sinner. That is a bit odd since all of us are sinners. Past commentators have speculated on whether or not she was a prostitute. But there is nothing in the story to confirm or deny her occupation. I wonder if Simon calls her a sinner because she is an outsider, someone who is different. She is not like him or his friends. She has not studied the law. She does not know the finer points of theology. She is not from the right family; maybe she is not even from the right race.

Since Simon did not enjoy grace he could not be truly gracious to people who were different from himself. With an inflated view of his own moral goodness, he failed to enjoy the grace of God.



1 Mary J. Evans, Women in the Bible, IVP, p. 48.
2 Eugene Peterson, Traveling Light, IVP, p. 77
3 Garrison Keillor, quoted by William H. Willimon, Pulpit Resource, Vol. 26 No. 1, p. 46.
 


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