Today we’ll take a look at the motivating power of the Gospel and what gets it going in the life of the believer. This is what I like to call “Gospel grease” and it is available to every child born of grace.
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. 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, 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. 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.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 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. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)
This story paints one of the Bible’s most powerful portraits of the supernatural power of the Gospel to motivate us to graciously respond to it. Jesus was invited to the home of Simon, a Pharisee, for dinner. In that culture, the diners did not sit at a table, as we do; they reclined at the table—leaning on their side with their feet stretched out. Suddenly a prostitute approached the table. It was not uncommon in those days for uninvited visitors to enter a home and sit along the wall to listen to the conversation. What was uncommon—unheard of, really—was for a woman of ill-repute, known in the community as a woman of the night, to walk into the home of a Pharisee.
Odder still, she had not come to listen to the conversation. Instead, she went straight to Jesus, stood behind Him, and began wetting His feet with her uncontrollable flood of tears. But then she did the unthinkable. She let down her hair—no big deal today, but a shameful act for women in public in biblical times, and all the more odious because this was what she did in the service of her sinful profession. She knelt at the feet of Jesus and began wiping His feet with her hair and even began to kiss His feet. In her final scandalous act before the shocked crowd, she anointed His feet with the expensive ointment that was an absolute necessity for those who were selling themselves in prostitution.
Simon could not believe that Jesus would allow such a person to come near Him, much less handle Him like that, which convinced him that Jesus could not be the prophet he claimed to be. Jesus quickly corrected his error and went on to explain what had just happened.
Jesus started with the parable of the moneylender and the two debtors. One owed a small amount and the other a much larger amount, but neither of them could pay their debt, yet the moneylender forgives both debts. Jesus asked Simon, “Which of them will love the moneylender more?” Simon answered, “The one who had the larger debt cancelled.” Jesus responded, “You have judged rightly.”
Now the holy hammer falls on the house of the Pharisee. Jesus compares the treatment he received from religious leader and the wretched woman.
- It was customary to wash the feet of those who entered your home because of the conditions of the unpaved and dusty roads. Simon offered no water but the sinful woman cleaned Christ’s feet with her tears.
- It was customary to greet others with a holy kiss. Simon offered no kiss, but the sinful woman did not stop kissing the Lord’s feet.
- It was customary to anoint the head of a guest with oil. Simon provided no oil, but the sinful woman anointed Jesus’ feet with an entire flask of expensive ointment, worth a year’s wages.
Why such a marked difference between the treatment given to Jesus by Simon and the sinful woman? Jesus answered this question with a single word: “Love!” Those who do not sense their great need of forgiveness love little, and those who understand their great need love much. The Pharisee believed he was in no need of forgiveness, because he was the one who was good, right, and holy. And yet he didn’t even show Jesus Christ what would be considered common courtesy in that day, let alone any sign of love. But the sinful woman, with a sense of overwhelming gratitude for having her countless sins forgiven, lavished her love, devotion, and worship on Jesus. And to do this she entered the home of a man whom she knew full well would not welcome her, but rather judge and condemn her.
It was “Gospel grease” that empowered this woman to overcome every obstacle that stood in her way and publically display her love and gratitude to Jesus because of what He had already done for her. Her love was not a means to receive forgiveness. It was a response, because she already had it! She knew how sinful she was, and having the assurance that her sins—all her sins—had been forgiven opened the way for her heart to beat for her Savior. May God grant that our hearts would beat just as hers did, until they beat no more.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!