In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It’s all a little embarrassing. This woman comes into a house that’s not hers, into a house to which she has not been invited or welcomed, looking for Jesus. She brings a bottle of perfume that she has to break, pours the whole thing over Jesus’ feet; all the while she’s weeping, and her tears are mixing with the perfume and dust on Jesus’ feet; she’s kissing His feet, and she wipes up the whole mess with her hair. It’s all a little much, don’t you think? A little too much drama. A little too much show. Just a little much. I mean, you’ve known this woman your whole life. You know who she is and what’s she done. You have to wonder what she’s really after. I admit, I question her motives. I question the motives of those who come into the house. What are they after? What do they really want? What are they really looking for? Jesus? Forgiveness? Or something else? But the more suspicious I am of other people’s motivations, the more I learn to be suspicious of my own. What am I doing here? What am I looking for? Am I here looking for Jesus, or for something else?
Have you ever thought of church as a place you go to get away from the sinners? A place to go to get away from those whose sin has clearly ruined their lives? I have. But, in fact, the house where the Lord is exists for exactly the opposite reason: it is a place for every sinner, for you and me, to go to get away from self-righteousness—to get away from public righteousness, external righteousness—and to be where Jesus is. We must stop thinking that there are people who have more or less sin than some other people. It’s true that there are people whose sin is more apparent, more public, more visible. But I think all that really means is that other people haven’t been sucked in to visible sins, or haven’t yet been caught. Maybe the others are simply better at hiding it, or have more resources to do so, or their sin is only inside the walls of their own houses, or inside the walls of their minds. There is no one who is less sinful than another: we are all alike shot through with sin, corrupted, infected, all the way down. Therefore, none of us has room to be Simons in this house; we must all be sinners here.
It’s a little embarrassing, isn’t it, if the house where the Lord is has no room for sinners. Because Luke is very clear throughout his Gospel why Jesus has come. He has come to call sinners to repentance (5:32). He has come to seek and save the lost (19:10). The accusation against Jesus is true: He is indeed a friend to sinners (7:34); and He does indeed receive sinners with welcome and eat with them (15:2). If we will not be sinners before Him, then He will not be a Savior for us. This woman comes because she has this conviction about Jesus: that she ought to seek the forgiveness of sins from Him. She knows she’s not getting any forgiveness from her lovers. She’s not getting any forgiveness from Simon. Maybe she’s not getting any forgiveness from her family, and maybe not even from the disciples of Jesus. But she seeks it from Jesus. She knows that if He is not her forgiveness, then there’s none to be had. She is like Peter when he says, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Lord, to whom would we go? You are the only forgiveness that there is or could be. She does what Psalm 2 says, “Kiss the Son…blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” She knows she must seek forgiveness from Him, and this is the highest worship she can give to Him. To seek forgiveness in Him is to acknowledge Him as the Messiah. To worship Him in this way, to take hold of Him in this way, is truly to believe. Seeking forgiveness in Christ, which is the only place it can be found, is the highest worship and true faith in Jesus. And so He says to her, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
You’ve known this woman your whole life. Because she is you. She is me. She is even Simon, whether he knows it or not. We have come to this house, and Jesus is here. We can’t come looking at all the other people around us, because then our eyes will not be on Jesus. But if we who know ourselves, who know what we have done, come seeking forgiveness from Him, then, and only then, will we be able to embrace the sinners around us. Infinite room for sinners; no room at all for Simons. Perhaps our embarrassment is not so much at the public display by this woman, because we know that people express the emotion that goes with repentance in different ways; we know that people express the emotion that comes with joy in different ways. Perhaps our embarrassment is really about what might happen if people knew our sin like they know her sin. If our sin were public knowledge as hers is. But whether your sin is public or not; whether it’s apparent or hidden; the Jesus who is here is here for sinners. Real ones, with real, physical, concrete sins, sins that harm ourselves and others, and sin that is against God. For real sinners, there is a real Savior. And for those real, actual sinners, Jesus gives out real, actual forgiveness. Here is where we kiss the feet of Jesus—not in the house of Simon the Pharisee; not at the cross; not in our minds or imaginations, but precisely, exactly where Jesus is. Here at the font; here at His words of absolution; here at the altar. Here is the real Jesus, crucified and resurrected, who delivers real forgiveness to real sinners. Kiss His feet and take refuge in Him. That is true faith and the highest worship. And to you He says: Your sins are forgiven. Your faith in Me has saved you. Go in peace. To Him be the glory, and on us be His mercy, at all times.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 6/11/16