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Party Crasher

• Greg Boyd

We continue our short series on Women on the Outside this week by looking at the moving story of a prostitute who anoints the feet of Jesus with perfume and how we can learn much from how Jesus saw and responded to that woman.

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Our Women on the Outside series has focused on the importance of taking the perspective of the outsider as most of the Bible focuses on the perspective of the loser, loner and outsider. In this story in the Gospel of Luke we find Jesus at a dinner with Pharisees and He is lying down on the floor, as was the dining custom in the ancient world. The context makes it clear that Jesus is invited to this dinner so the religious leaders of the day can try and trap him.

A woman who has “lived a sinful life” (most commentators believe this is a euphemism for this woman being a prostitute) approaches Jesus with, most likely, one of the tools of her trade of prostitution, an alabaster jar of perfume. This is, in all likelihood, one of the most expensive things this woman owns and the odor of the perfume would have been used to allure men to her. In her love for Jesus she anoints his feet and mops of his feet with her hair (the hair of a woman was her glory in the ancient world).

In the context of a meal with Pharisees, this act would be seen as a scandal. In the 1st century no woman was supposed to have anything to do with a man that was not her husband (no talking, touching, etc.). This is what gets Simon the Pharisee so incensed. This woman has now just performed, what could be construed as a sensual act, on Jesus and raises questions about Jesus’ character but also raises questions about the reputations of the Pharisees (known as the guardians of truth and righteousness). The Pharisees now move into damage control to make sure their own reputation are not sullied.

Jesus interacts with this woman in very unexpected ways that teach us how to interact with the rest of the world. Greg made three points that are critical: 1) In contrast to the Pharisees, Jesus looked at this woman made in the image of God and saw someone he was willing to give his life for. The way Jesus, and God (Hebrews 1:3) looks at us communicates love, worth and significance. God’s love for us infinitely outruns any ethical opinions he has about our behavior. 2) Jesus isn’t just our model of how God sees us, we are to IMITATE how Jesus looked at this prostitute. And this should apply to how we see ALL people. The same religious spirit that would cause us to see God as the cosmic Pharisee also conditions us to see others with Pharisee eyes. We see categories rather than people and we just evaluate people. Jesus calls us to throw off all the chains of religion. 3) Your love for God will never outrun your appreciation for being forgiven. The degree to which you think you have less to be forgiven than anyone else who has ever existed, so the true love of God will be cut off from you since you won’t be able to experience that love. The only way to come to God is to come to God as the worst of the sinners. We need to show up to God as the prostitute (1 Timothy 1:15).

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Topics: Gratitude, Identity in Christ, Role of Women

Sermon Series: Women on the Outside


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 7:36-50

    36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus 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 bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing 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 were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the 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.”

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6 thoughts on “Party Crasher

  1. Joann James says:

    I love and enjoyed the first 2 parts of this sermon. It was the last point that messed with me. I have always believe that sins have no value. A sin is a sin is a sin!!! The is no worse sin that is done. Being that we are all sinners, that should put us all on the same level. So how do I say “I am the worst of sinners”. I am so grateful for Jesus’s love even though I am a sinner. It’s a thing that I truly cherish and what keeps my precious relationship with Jesus precious.

    The other thing that bothered me is that I thought I had (past tense) the maximum forgiveness on the cross. All past, present and future sins have been forgiven. Yes this doesn’t mean I can do anything I want. But I understand the love Christ had for me when he died for me, just as I am now.

    Did I miss something?

  2. Dave Pritchard says:

    Fascinating message! Greg is great at opening doors to scripture that others often leave locked. A while back, I came across references to “The Book of Margery Kempe” (1373 – 1438) This is a very mysterious Medieval oeuvre that is considered by some to be one of the first autobiographies in the English language. Margery is a very enigmatic figure who was considered to be a Christian Mystic and not unlike the woman mentioned in all four Gospels (John says it was Mary of Bethany, some scholars say Mary Magdalene or another person altogether) was greatly misunderstood and judged unfairly by her contemporaries. Margery’s journey in one of intense passion and an unquenchable desire to have an enduring union with God. At one point she
    states –

    “I wept and sobbed so violently that many people were struck with amazement that God had given me so much grace”.

    Apparently Margery had 14 children and was able to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Italy and Campostella during her lifetime – Wow!

    Claire Miller Skriletz was written a brief and insightful piece on Kempe on the FSR website entitled – “Growing into Feminism with the Book of Margery Kempe” …

    http://www.fsrinc.org/blog/growing-feminism-book-margery-kempe

  3. Peter says:

    Hi Joann, briefly touching on your issues. In relation to the first aspect of being the ‘worst of sinners’ in line with Paul’s comment about himself; the issue here is that if you consider yourself as less of a sinner than another brother or sister in Christ, you may end up amongst other things with an element of pride.

    The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector told by Jesus further illustrates the point in Luke 18:9-14,

    “9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    A story related to this was told where a Sunday School teacher was explaining this parable to her class and concluded, ‘Thank goodness we are not like the Pharisee’…and was thus caught up with the same problem of thinking herself better than another….hence Greg’s ‘remedy’ of thinking yourself as the worst of sinners so that you always value others more than yourself.

    While you are correct that all sins are sin and any sin excludes a person from the Kingdom, there are measures of sinfulness that may be for the nature of the sin or, its persistence in a person’s life. To some extent this is evidenced by the different sacrifices and sin offerings made in the Old Testament for different sins…before Christ there was not a single offering that covered/cleansed a person’s sins forever.

    In the second part of your post, in a sense, God doesn’t give maximum forgiveness….He gives total forgiveness. If not, we would forever wonder ‘Does maximum forgiveness really cover everyone of my sins?….or, are there other sins that still require redemption?’ Having total forgiveness, places you in an Edenic relationship with God, where, in Christ, we are both driven and constrained in our actions by His love. And like total forgiveness, God does not love by measure or favourites but also loves us totally. And yes, this involves chastening those whom He loves when we displease Him with our actions….just as a loving parent corrects their child.

    Hopefully some of this may have assisted your thinking.

  4. JUSTIN JAMES says:

    One minor point of clarity that I may have missed; who is Simon in this scripture lesson? Apostle, Pharisee, the host of the dinner?

  5. Peter says:

    Justin, he is described in the ‘Focus Scripture’, with the relevant section being Luke 6:36-40,

    “36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak………”

  6. David W says:

    I like what Joseph Prince says about forgiveness of sins in this short “daily grace.”

    Partial quote (cut/paste):
    Unless you are more than 2,000 years old, all your sins were future then! Jesus took them all upon Himself, nailed them to the cross and declared, “It is finished!”

    http://www.josephprince.org/daily-grace/grace-inspirations/single/total-and-complete-forgiveness/

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