The Greatest Gift
We are celebrating Christmas. We all have memories of our favorite presents. Maybe it was the year you got your new bike, or your brand new wii or nintendo 64, or that atari. I can remember waking up on Christmas and finding a trampoline in the garage and or a go-cart in the yard. Those were such fun memories. What was the best gift you got? What was your reaction?
We all have different reactions to great gifts. As we celebrate Christmas this year, I want us to be reminded how much greater the gift of Christ is than any other gift we could receive. We don’t want to lose Christ in the midst of Christmas, nor do we want to lose him in the other seasons of life. I want us rooted in the truth that he is greater than everything else.
Today I want to do that by looking at the reaction of a woman towards Jesus. We have never reacted to any gift the way she reacts to Jesus, and it tells us why he is the greatest gift.
Let’s read Luke 7:36-50
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he 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." 40 And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "Say it, Teacher." 41 "A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly." 44 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. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48 And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" 50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:36-50 ESV)
I have received some great gifts, but none of them caused me to fall at the persons feet, pour perfume and wipe them with my hair. This woman reacts to Jesus in a way that no one has ever reacted to a Christmas gift. It is one of complete worship, devotion, and gratitude. I want to look at four things here that show us why Christ is the greatest gift.
First, he brings...
We all live with a concern of what others might think about us. That concern can paralyze us. We do or do not do things because of what someone might think about us. Maybe we don’t do things God calls us to do because of a fear of others. We don’t talk about our faith, read the Bible, etc. This woman is free of that. She is focused on Christ.
She shows up unexpectedly at this meal. At certain meals doors were left open so uninvited guest could enter, sit by the walls, hear the conversation. Some would come for the leftovers. It is not her presence that cause a stir but it was her action. It seems that is was OK for her to be there. Her actions caused a stir; not her presence. The Pharisees started posting on facebook and sending tweets out. They were astonished at what she did and even more what Jesus allowed.
People know who she is. She is notorious, a sinner. Her every move is presented here. You are brought into the tension in the room. The adoration she had for Christ. . You are brought into the action. She says nothing.
She demonstrates great humility and devotion. V38 her tears began to wet his feet. It rained.
- She takes her hair and wipes his feet with it. Anointed him with myre. I have been married 15 years. Hair is very important. Don’t mess with the hair! You don't mess with it. You certainly don't wipe off a mans feet with it. CAn you imagine that. She has no regard for conviction or maintaining her own dignity. She is at the feet of Jesus.
I hear Kim Kardashian takes over 1200 selfies of herself each day to get the one or two picture she can post on social media. That is some serious concern for yourself, for your looks. The woman in the Bible is freed of peer pressure. Do you ever feel like you have to have things just right? Be freed of that. We come to Jesus broken and needy because he is the only one that can fix us. You don’t fix yourself in order to come to Jesus.
Many times you can be scared to admit things, scared to say your marriage is struggling, you’ re depressed, or whatever is going on. When you focus on Christ you are freed from those bondages. You find grace! You keep trying to keep it together and it is killing you. Focusing on Christ frees you from that.
She is consumed with who Jesus is and she sees nothing other than worshipping him. She went all in! Jesus frees us from constraints of other people. We live for him and him alone. Jesus also brings...
Simon scoffs at this woman and at Jesus for allowing such a woman to touch him. But this brings a great twist to the story. Simon questions Jesus person because he doesn’t know this woman. In fact Jesus knows her far better than Simon. He also knows Simon far better than Simon perceives. He asks a question to draw out Simon’s hypocrisy. v40 “And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you."
Jesus tells a parable and connects forgiveness and love. One person owed 50 denari and the other 500 denari. A day’s wage. Both are forgiven. Who will love him more. Simon answers correctly, “I suppose the one with the larger debt.” He is right. His answer “I suppose” shows an indifferent or condescending tone.
This now puts the woman’s actions in perspective. Her actions are because she has been forgiven. She is a woman “known in the town.” Jesus forgives her. Perhaps she had an earlier encounter with Jesus and it culminates here. And her story is now told for all. Her actions were the product of her love. Jesus forgave her. He loved her. Many would not talk to her. Jesus did, and he offered her forgiveness.
She was ridiculed for her sin. Probably ridiculed for things that led her to take refuge in sin. People cut her off for it. The one person who is right to judge her forgives her. *To the repentant, instead of a scorning look of disapproval he gives the loving look of a father.* That’s how he looks at you.
But here is a twist. Simon’s lack of love is not connected to his morally upright life. The thing is that Simon needed forgiveness too. She needed forgiveness for her promiscuous living. He needed forgiveness for his religious judgmentalism. Simon knew law, he knew to love others, to show mercy. But he has shown none of these in this passage. He needed forgiveness as much as anyone. Socially esteemed for his religious knowledge, he is spiritually broken.
Simon was in as much need of the grace of God as she was. He should have loved much too! If he really knew his Bible this pharisee would remember he had to offer sacrifices for his sin just like she did. He would remember that great men of the faith committed sin just like this woman. Simon loves little because he is blinded by his own self righteousness. The wonder of grace is lost on Simon.
This woman is in awe of Christ because he has forgiven her. Christ brings forgiveness.
Part of loving is forgiving. Forgiveness is an act of love. Forgiveness also produces love. If you are in a stalemate with another consider forgiving the wrongs to move forward.
Simon didn’t kiss. Didn’t anoint. Not sure if these were expected for such a dinner. It is debated. If it was expected he didn’t do it. At a minimum, Simon did no more than he had to. This woman pours herself out to Jesus. Simon is in the presence of Jesus, dining with him, sitting face to face, and yet he is far from him.
He showed outward civility but there was no love from the heart! Simon respected Jesus. Invited him over, but his proud heart rebelled against the sight of a poor, contrite sinner being allowed to wash our Lord’s feet. It is fully possible to have the outward acts of religion but be totally ignorant of the grace of God. To behave with correctness and propriety, but be cold to Jesus. Does your heart break over your sin and what Christ has done for you, or are you like Simon?
Sadly, I think many people in many churches are comfortable with the Simons in their midst, and uncomfortable with broken sinners. *Are you more comfortable with the Simons or sinners in your midst.* Luke 7:36-50
What is the takeaway of this passage? Some passages you come away with information. “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9 ESV). Those propositions help you see what love is. This woman models a response to Jesus. It should be one of great love. A love you have not known before. Are you affected by your sin, are you moved that Jesus would let you in the room, let you touch his feet. Are you moved by that or are you Simon.
You may say her actions are extreme and are not meant to be for each of us. I disagree, Scripture repeatedly makes mention of extreme emotions in response to God.
- Psalm 119:136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law. (Psa 119:136 ESV)
- Acts 20:18 And when they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; (Act 20:19 ESV)
- Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. (Act 20:31 ESV)
- For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. (2Co 2:4 ESV)
- I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. (2Ti 1:4 ESV)
Love must act. She went all in. She is saved by faith, by a living faith, an uncomfortable faith. When you love someone you don’t mind getting dirty for them. You don’t mind being inconvenienced. You do hard things for them. Love compels you. Where are you in serving Christ. Are you like the woman or Simon?
There never will be more done for Christ until there is love from the heart toward Christ himself. The fear of punishment, the desire for reward, the sense of duty are all useful arguments to persuade people. But they are all weak and powerlessness until a person loves Christ. Once that love takes root then watch out!
She said nothing, but her acts spoke loudly. If you are quiet sharing your faith, are you at least living life loudly? The actions of a silent sinful woman speak a loud message. We see what sort of person she is in the end. It cannot and will not remain hidden. When you know this nothing else matters. When you know this you’ ll sing any song there is. Love makes a way. You find a way to tell others. You find a way to express it. If we get this as a church we get everything else. If you miss this you miss everything.
Does your heart break for what Christ has done for you? Where is your heart in this, is it changed, is it affected by Christ? Is it like hearing someone tell you that you should exercise more. You know you should but you’ re not going to do that. Their words are not going to change you one bit. Jesus died for you. Do you utter a “praise God’ and just go on with your life. Does it stop you and give you reason to pause at all? You are Simon, unmoved by Christ’s work.
Does your faith ever well up into great acts of sacrifice? Does it move you? When was the last time you laid everything on the line, gave until it really hurt? When was the last time you shared the gospel to your embarrassment? When was the last time you wept at the feet of Jesus? Maybe you’ re beyond taking it easy in your faith, maybe you aren’t even following Jesus at all.
The silver dome explosion. Its supports were blown out with dynamite. But it didnt immediately fall like it was expected to do. Instead it lingered on for a full day before finally falling. Many are like that in their faith, their love for God has grown cold, it has collapsed upon itself, and they walk around with the lingering of facade of faith. Remember what you have in Christ. Look at what he brings. Freedom, forgiveness, love. Remember your mistakes. All that has been forgiven.
That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little above a state of indifference: God, in his word, greatly insists upon it, that we be in good earnest, “fervent in spirit,” and our hearts vigorously engaged... in religion: Rom 12:11 (Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Rom 12:11 ESV)), Deut 10:12 “"And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, (Deu 10:12 ESV)”
How do we move forward as a church? How do we rebuild? We need people giving more. We have financial needs, we have serving needs, the community is needy. In the last year there has been little change in the church. Are we broken for him, or are you more concerned with the shoes people wear, ministry programs, the style of music, getting that next surgery. If so your love will grow cold. When you know Christ and what he has done for you, you learn to love. It set you free to love the way he has loved.
Lastly, Christ brings peace. And there is an ironic twist here too. The woman who came in on her knees broken and crying leaves in peace. She finds peace she is forgiven. Simon is at peace the whole time, it is a peace of ignorance. He is ignorant of his sin and wrong. His peace is the result of not knowing Christ. Her peace is experiential; it comes after discovering her brokenness and finding forgiveness.
If you are aware of your sin, your faults, your failures you need to know that Jesus offers you deliverance from those. He promises salvation if you come to him with your whole heart. Not in lip service but true devotion.
Simon scoffed at Jesus allowing this woman to touch his feet. Saying, he didn’t know “what kind of woman this was.” Simon probably thought her touching him would make him unclean. Simon didn’t know what kind of man this was before him. Jesus is the one that can make the unclean clean. He is the one who can take away disgrace.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mat 11:28 ESV). Are you burdened and weary. Jesus promises to give you rest and peace. But you have to come to him fully.
For those who are troubled and come to him in humility and faith, they receive peace and salvation. Those who reject him with indifference have many reason to be troubled. Does our life look more like Simon’s or the woman?
ConclusionAs we observe Christmas this year, are you celebrating the popular Jesus or the real Jesus. The Jesus that sits on par with elves and reindeer, or the Jesus who made people tremble in his presence, who knows the thoughts of skeptics, forgave sinners and extended peace, and disced the uptight religious people who wanted to be near him but not adore him.
Are you aware that this is the greatest gift you could receive, the greatest gift you could give to others? It is not a playstation, a doll, or new jewelry, but a greater understanding of Christ. Is this in your heart, on your lips, in your actions? If not then you are treating Jesus like Simon did and not as the woman did.
- What is the best Christmas gift you have ever received? How is Christ greater than that gift and all others?
- What does this passage teach you about freedom, forgiveness, love, and peace?
- How do you identify with the 1) woman and 2) Simon? How do you change to be more like her?
- How do you make Christ prominent during the Christmas season? What about every other season?