Nothing to Offer Except Shameful Sin
In a country in which being a Christian is often made synonymous with wondering if your president was actually born in Hawaii, I submit to you two unlikely categories of people that ought to be dazzled by Jesus - if only us Jesus followers would correctly portray Him in our lives: people who like to buck the establishment and people who have committed societally shameful sins. This facet of the Savior comes alive in the story of Simon and the scandalous woman (Luke 7), as recently blogged about over at Desiring God.
If you don't know the story, a respected religious leader invites Jesus over to dinner. The undercurrent is likely that this man, Simon, is skeptical if not downright dismissive of the man from Nazareth; he doesn't even offer him the customary foot-washing for guests. And yet he knows the Nazarene is highly regarded among the people; perhaps Simon will win some points within the religious community for playing host.
Somehow, a woman whose reputation precedes her makes her way to Jesus, perfume jar in hand. Crying, she brazenly lets her tears fall on Jesus' feet, then washes those same feet with her tears, her perfume, and her hair. Forget inappropriate: this is bordering on erotic. Simon is probably instinctively offended, but perhaps a little smug: here is inconclusive proof that the man from Nazareth who is the flavor of the moment is nothing but an irreverent, uneducated, and unsophisticated hack.
Jesus proceeds to tell him a story about two people whose debts are cancelled. The one with the larger debt is more grateful, and in the same way, the woman loves much because she has been forgiven much; but, ominously, Jesus continues, he who has been forgiven little, loves little. Then he tells the woman, in front of Simon and all of his guests, that she is forgiven, that her faith has saved her, and that she can go in peace.
As Jon Bloom, the author of the blog post at Desiring God, puts it, the woman had nothing to offer Jesus but her shameful sin. Simon, on the other hand, did everything right in the eyes of the world, from the standpoint of religion and respectability. And yet, in his own home, he hears Jesus honor the scandalous woman instead. That day, the upstanding religious leader is taught a lesson, his indignation condemned; while the outcasted sinner woman is honored, her inappropriate behavior approved of.
What about us? Do we understand that we have been forgiven much? Do we invite Jesus into our figurative homes by washing His feet with our shameful sin? Or do we stand off to the side with our arms crossed, confident in our upstanding reputation and disdainful of others whose sins are more public and scandalous? Here in Philadelphia, and in communities around the world, we can find many Simons and many scandalous women. Which am I? Having been forgiven much, will I love much?
And, do I communicate to others that my Savior is like this? For the Simons and the scandalous women in my city need to know Him.