“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47
I’ll never forget hearing the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir in concert. The sincerity and depth of feeling the singers brought to the music showed that it was more than a mere performance. When they sang “I’m Not Afraid Anymore,” you could tell that many of the singers identified with the experience of living in constant fear before they met Jesus—fear of violence, fear of not having enough money, fear of what might happen to their children, fear of not being able to get the drugs needed to feed their addictions, fear of every tomorrow. As the soloist, Calvin Hunt, sang, the spotlights showed tears flowing down his cheeks. No wonder—Calvin spent years as a crack cocaine addict on the streets of Brooklyn before being transformed by the life-saving power of the gospel. That’s why he could sing with such passion; each word of the song flowed from the heart of one who had been forgiven much.
It reminds me of the woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. The drama unfolds for us in Luke 7:36-50, when she crashed the dinner party at Simon the Pharisee’s home. She knew that Jesus was there. This was her chance to express adoring worship to her Savior. He was worth the risk for her, the town prostitute, to show up uninvited, worth the embarrassment to step from the crowd and approach Him, worth the price of the valuable perfume and the kisses and tears that she poured out at His feet.
But as moving a moment as that was, Simon the Pharisee was not impressed. He was indignant about the “waste” of perfume (Mark 14:4-5) and thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39). I suppose we shouldn’t expect the proud Simon, in bondage to his unbending tradition, to understand this kind of extravagant, self-effacing worship. But before we come down too hard on him, let’s consider the fact that there might just be a Pharisee in all of us.
Unfortunately, it seems that over time we grow accustomed to what we have been rescued from and what we really deserve. Without a continuing awareness of why grace is so necessary for us, we are lulled into forming an exaggerated perspective of our own worth before God. It’s no wonder, then, that our worship is often lacking the kind of passion that Calvin Hunt and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir display in their love for the Savior.
Jesus, knowing what Simon was thinking, rebuked him for his graceless, self-righteous attitude and for the pride that put his interests above the needs of others. In fact, Simon thought so well of himself that he felt it was too risky to honor Jesus as the guest of honor at his dinner. Yet Jesus commended this town prostitute for her extravagant worship. He told Simon, “I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:44-47).
Let’s take the lesson personally. True ongoing love for Jesus flows from a heart that is gripped by the awareness of how much we have been forgiven. When we grasp both the depth of our sin and the depth of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, then we’ll be looking for ways to join this woman at his feet to extravagantly express our love and gratitude to Him!
“The city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it.”
Yonder in the better world, the inhabitants are independent of all creature comforts. They have no need of raiment; their white robes never wear out, neither shall they ever be defiled. They need no medicine to heal diseases, “for the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick.” They need no sleep to recruit their frames–they rest not day nor night, but unweariedly praise him in his temple. They need no social relationship to minister comfort, and whatever happiness they may derive from association with their fellows is not essential to their bliss, for their Lord’s society is enough for their largest desires. They need no teachers there; they doubtless commune with one another concerning the things of God, but they do not require this by way of instruction; they shall all be taught of the Lord. Ours are the alms at the king’s gate, but they feast at the table itself. Here we lean upon the friendly arm, but there they lean upon their Beloved and upon him alone. Here we must have the help of our companions, but there they find all they want in Christ Jesus. Here we look to the meat which perisheth, and to the raiment which decays before the moth, but there they find everything in God. We use the bucket to fetch us water from the well, but there they drink from the fountain head, and put their lips down to the living water. Here the angels bring us blessings, but we shall want no messengers from heaven then. They shall need no Gabriels there to bring their love-notes from God, for there they shall see him face to face. Oh! what a blessed time shall that be when we shall have mounted above every second cause and shall rest upon the bare arm of God! What a glorious hour when God, and not his creatures; the Lord, and not his works, shall be our daily joy! Our souls shall then have attained the perfection of bliss.
“He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.”
Mary of Magdala was the victim of a fearful evil. She was possessed by not one devil only, but seven. These dreadful inmates caused much pain and pollution to the poor frame in which they had found a lodging. Hers was a hopeless, horrible case. She could not help herself, neither could any human succour avail. But Jesus passed that way, and unsought, and probably even resisted by the poor demoniac, he uttered the word of power, and Mary of Magdala became a trophy of the healing power of Jesus. All the seven demons left her, left her never to return, forcibly ejected by the Lord of all. What a blessed deliverance! What a happy change! From delirium to delight, from despair to peace, from hell to heaven! Straightway she became a constant follower of Jesus, catching his every word, following his devious steps, sharing his toilsome life; and withal she became his generous helper, first among that band of healed and grateful women who ministered unto him of their substance. When Jesus was lifted up in crucifixion, Mary remained the sharer of his shame: we find her first beholding from afar, and then drawing near to the foot of the cross. She could not die on the cross with Jesus, but she stood as near it as she could, and when his blessed body was taken down, she watched to see how and where it was laid. She was the faithful and watchful believer, last at the sepulchre where Jesus slept, first at the grave whence he arose. Her holy fidelity made her a favoured beholder of her beloved Rabboni, who deigned to call her by her name, and to make her his messenger of good news to the trembling disciples and Peter. Thus grace found her a maniac and made her a minister, cast out devils and gave her to behold angels, delivered her from Satan, and united her forever to the Lord Jesus. May I also be such a miracle of grace!