Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Sinful Woman

From Luke 7:36-50

The context of the story of the sinful woman comes after Jesus defends his ministry before those whom John the Baptist sent to Him, and right before Jesus begins to travel again. Jesus is invited to eat at the home of the Pharisees somewhere in Palestine, not because they wanted to learn from him, but rather to entrap Him. And all of sudden, out of no where comes the quote unquote sinful woman to their home. The first question one might have is: where did this woman come from and who was she? We can probably say with confidence that she heard Jesus preach, knew that He was a prophet, and knew that He would not turn her away or judge her because of her public sin. The Concordia Self Study Bible says that she was a prostitute, which is likely, but does not want us to confuse her with Mary Magdalene who is mentioned in the next chapter, or Mary of Bethany who was Lazarus’ brother. Mary of Bethany acted similar to the sinful woman later in Jesus’ ministry by pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiping it with her hair. But there are some who insist this was Mary Magdalene, who later became a devout follower of Christ. Whether or not she was Mary Magdalene or not is an interesting question – but it really makes no difference.

The “sinful” woman brings an alabaster jar of perfume, is sorry for her sin, and desires to receive the forgiveness of her sins through Jesus Christ. This alabaster jar back in that time was a carved, long-necked, globular, expensive, beautiful jar. This showed her adoration and worship of Christ as she came to receive forgiveness.


The thing that stands out about this text is the contrition, sorrow and remorse that this woman has over her sin. David said: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:18). She has been hit with the law. She has been hit with judgment and the pride of the religious leaders. She has been told that she is a sinner, but she comes to see Jesus who was publicly and lovingly a friend of sinners. St. John says: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). To receive the forgiveness of sins we must confess our sins to Jesus.

If you have ever lusted over another person who was not your spouse according to God’s covenant of marriage then you have transgressed His law and are an adulterer. If you have ever lost your temper and called another person an evil name unjustly, then you are a murderer. Romans 3:23 says: All of us have sinned against God’s law and fall short of His glory. James 2:10 says: If we have broken one part of God’s law, we are guilty of breaking all of it. If you are prideful and don’t think you are living in sin, and don’t feel guilty over your sin then Jesus will have nothing to do with you. If you don’t think that you have sinned against God by transgressing His commandments, then you will not receive forgiveness. If you do not admit that you have not loved God with your whole heart, and your neighbors as yourselves then Jesus will not forgive you.

Forgiveness through Christ

But if you agree with God’s law that you are a sinner and desire to receive His forgiveness then He will give it to you. It is that simple, and it is that real. For God sent His Son into the world not to condemn it, but to save it through Him (John 3:17). The person who comes into the light, and is willing to confess their sin to God will receive His forgiveness. Even while we were spending our money unwisely, and being selfish towards our spouses, and gossiping about others, God died for us. It is by His unconditional grace that you are saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is God’s gift. God gives it to you freely, and all you have to do is receive it through faith. Now even faith is God’s gift. But that faith is continuously exercised through continuous confession/absolution in which we receive continuous grace and mercy. God says through the Prophet Isaiah: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (57:15). For Jesus Christ lived the perfect life in your place, died on the cross as your substitute so you would not live in spiritual death, and was raised from the dead and gives you new life through His resurrection. Through His obedience and blood, your sins are forgiven. Yes, it is true: God does not count your sins against you. He has forgotten them, and now only sees Christ. All he asks is that you want forgiveness. David writes: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Ps. 32:1, 2). Your debt has been cancelled by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Pride of the Pharisees

The Pharisees are examples of those who may have known theoretically about God’s forgiveness since they too had the writings of David and Isaiah but they were prideful. They were not contrite. They did not receive God’s forgiveness. And more then that, they did not even treat Jesus with the minimum ordinary gestures because they thought they were too good for this self-proclaimed prophet. And when they see Jesus act with compassion and love towards the woman, they continue not only with their judgment of her sin, but also in judgment towards him and his compassion. How often do we judge others who we don’t see fit for God’s kingdom? When those who use drugs and are alcoholics walk into our church, do we act with compassion? When we see homosexuals or those living outside of marriage do we judge them? Do we judge those churches that act with compassion towards former homosexuals or do we rejoice that they have been added to God’s family?

No matter where we are at in our lives, and no matter how big or small our sin is. If we confess our sin, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God has cancelled your debt in Christ Jesus!

In the story Jesus tells the Pharisees, he gives them the impression that since she has so much sin in her life, she loves God all the much for His forgiveness. And this is true. But don’t think for a moment that the Pharisees were not more sinful then this woman. They suffered from the worst sin of them all: pride. And pride is the worst because that was the sin of Lucifer who fell from heaven. Pride is the reason that people do not seek out who God is or His will. They think they’re fine the way they are. But Jesus, knowing the Pharisees are self-righteous gives them a parable their dull and heard hearts can understand.

The woman on the other hand, doesn’t think she’s fine the way she is. She is sorrowful and extremely emotional over the grace that comes through Jesus Christ. She wept at Jesus’ feet, wet his feet with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. She knew how sinful she was.

Do you know how sinful you are? Why do you not act in emotion with contrition and faith over the grace that comes through Jesus Christ? Do you understand just how sinful you are? Do you understand how great, high, deep, and wide the love of God is through Jesus Christ? I want you to know just how deep your sin is against Christ Jesus. And I want you to know how deep the love of God is through Christ Jesus.


Psalm 130 says: “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.” At Cornelius’ house the Apostle Peter declared: “All the prophets testify about Christ that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name” (Acts 10:43). And in Antioch, the Apostle Paul said: “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38). And I want you to know that your sins are forgiven. And as Jesus told the woman: “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” I tell you now, your faith has saved you. Go in peace. Amen.


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