She slips into the party knowing she is unwanted. Feeling their scornful stares and hearing their weak attempts to whisper, she moves undaunted toward her objective. They watch with disgust as she falls at the Prophet’s feet. Overwhelmed by remorse, tears of brokenness begin to stream down her face. His feet are thick with dust, the remnants of His journey still clinging heavily to them. Her tears pour out upon them, cleansing them, her hair then wipes them dry. She adorns His feet with kisses and anoints them with perfume.
How beautiful are these feet that have carried the Gospel! How worthy they are of praise, she tells herself. Her act of worship does not go unnoticed. Soon the Teacher speaks the words she has longed to hear. “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
This account is found in Luke 7:36-50 and is a truly beautiful story of how a hopeless sinner met a grace-filled Savior. No longer did the woman’s identity rest on the things she had done but on what Jesus had done for her. Yet there were many who were present that did not see it that way. Simon the Pharisee could not see past the woman’s sins and apparently didn’t think Jesus should either. His thoughts recorded in Luke 7:39 show his hard-heartedness, “If this man were a prophet he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is- that she is a sinner.” It seems this woman must have had a reputation that preceded her, and Simon, being a “religious” man, wanted nothing to do with her.
I cringe to think how often similar scenes play out in churches across our nation. People with less-than-stellar reputations enter places of worship seeking redemption, but instead find only contempt and condemnation. How many times have we looked down on those in search of reprieve and offered only religion, forgetting that we also were once dead in our sins?
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ” (Colossians 3:13)
Simon, however, was not the only one with a distorted view, for there were other guests present who said among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49) They knew that only God could forgive sins, and yet this Man from Nazareth was claiming to be able to do so! Their perception of who Jesus was and what He could do was totally wrong.
“Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has served you; go in peace.”
Sadly, we live in a world where this is still the case. Many (including some Christians) believe there is no forgiveness for them or certain others, that they have strayed too far and are beyond redemption. They fail to realize that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39). God does not measure us on what we have done. Rather, He desires for us to respond to His invitation to follow Him. If you are struggling to offer or accept forgiveness it is likely that you, too, have a distorted view of who Christ is.
Much like the two men in the parable Jesus shares with those gathered in Simon’s house, we all owe a debt we cannot afford to pay (Luke 7:41-42). God’s standard is perfection and none of us measure up. But instead of giving us our due punishment, He came and lived the perfect life we couldn’t live and died the death our sins have warranted. He did this not because we earned or deserved such salvation, but because that is what true love does, for “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
It is this same love shown to you that God is calling you to show others: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). When we reflect on how much grace we have been shown, we are encouraged to share it with others.
I am aware that some will insist on self-reproach in stating, “But you don’t know what they did to me,” or “You don’t know what I have done.” In the midst of feeling worthless, you may feel there is no chance of forgiveness, and I would have to agree in some measure. For in our own strength we don’t possess the power to receive or grant forgiveness. That kind of power can only be found in Christ. And so, like the woman in the passage above, we must come whole-heartedly and broken to the feet of Jesus. That is the true picture of worship and the only place to find forgiveness.
Kyle Hubbard is a follower of Jesus Christ, who has a heart for the hurting and the father of a precious 3 year old little girl.