I love Parties! Let’s journey together to a famous party that happened years ago. Come on in. Your invitation is in Luke 7:36-50 in the Scriptures. Let me set the stage for you. Two participants in this party are the center of attention. They are opposites and both very needy.
One participant is a high-performance religious leader. He’s respected, revered, and admired by his followers. Meet Simon the Pharisee, everyone’s favorite teacher and the host of the party. The party tonight is for his guest of honor, Jesus of Nazareth. There’s a buzz in the place.
But tonight, the other participant crashes Simon’s party. She was not invited. She is a prostitute. She bursts into the party and falls on the floor at the feet of Jesus. She is sobbing. She washes Jesus’ feet with her hair. She anoints his feet with expensive perfume. She breaks every protocol of the day to find what she really needed, real forgiveness.
The crowd is hushed in shock. A prostitute in the house of Simon? May it never be! Author Max Lucado describes this awkward moment for us.
“He is looked up to. She is looked down on. He is a church leader. She is a streetwalker. He makes a living promoting standards. She makes a living breaking them. He is pious. She is a sinner. He is a student of the word. She is a student of the world. He invited Jesus to advance his status. She crashed the party because of her need. He didn’t offer Jesus water to wash His feet. She washed his feet with her tears.
"He didn’t give Jesus a kiss of greeting. She kissed Jesus' feet, over and over. He neglected the traveling courtesy of olive oil to anoint Jesus's head. She anointed His feet with rare perfume. He is concerned about what others might think. She didn’t care what others thought. He used Jesus. She loved Jesus. He is a type of 'the law.' She is a type of someone who needs grace because she knows she has broken the law.”
Imagine what Simon is thinking. “Just look at her, groveling at Jesus’ feet, kissing them none the less. If Jesus was who He says He is, He would have nothing to do with this woman.” Essentially, Simon was thinking, “It’s my party and I’ll judge if I want to, you would have judged too if it happened to you.”
Why did Simon and the prostitute respond to Jesus so differently? Simon was light years ahead of the prostitute in stature and education. Yet she was light years ahead of Simon in one very important area. She knew she desperately needed God’s love and forgiveness. Simon didn’t. The depth of her need determined the depth of her response to Jesus. The depth of Simon’s need determined the depth of his response to Jesus.
That’s the problem with the law. It puffs you up. It makes you feel holier than others in your own eyes. Often, the law makes churches and people religious. Max Lucado says, “People like Simon don’t need grace, they analyze it. They don’t need mercy, they debate it. They have trouble knowing God because they know too much about God.” You see, judging and arrogance are sins too.
Meanwhile, Jesus uses the occasion as a teachable moment for Simon…and us. “Simon, I tell you, her sins - and they are many - have been forgiven. So, she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows little love.”
When we realize our need of forgiveness is great and receive it, our response will be love, much love. If we realize our need for forgiveness little, our love for Jesus and others will be little. Simon felt he was beyond his need for forgiveness, causing him to love little. Simon types don’t comprehend that every sinner has a future; every saint has a past.
Jesus said that in the last days, people’s love would grow cold. Why? Because few people these days, whether churched or unchurched, comprehend their need for forgiveness. As a result, many become judgmental of others, loving very few and then only conditionally and hesitantly.
Christians, if we understood our need for forgiveness, before and after our salvation, it would silence the Simon inside of us who often is us. It might even open the hearts and minds of others to Christ, who consider Christians to be too judgmental.
Here’s a better approach I suggest to everyone today. It’s from an article entitled I Am a Christian:
When I say, “I am a Christian,” I am not shouting, “I am clean living.” I am whispering “I was lost, but now I’m found and forgiven.”
When I say, “I am a Christian,” I don’t speak of this with condescending pride. I’m confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide.
When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not bragging of success. I’m admitting I have failed and need God to clean up my mess.
When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not claiming to be perfect. My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am worth it.
When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not holier than thou. I’m just a sinner who received God’s grace somehow.”
Did you notice how Jesus changed the climate of the party by singing; “It’s MY party and I’ll love if I want to?”