This message shows us a different perspective of the breaking of alabaster jar. Normally, we see this passage in the home of Simon the leper, but here, this scene is in the home of Simon the Pharisee, which creates an interesting contrast.
We have the Pharisee, a religious teacher and leader and we have this woman, probably a prostitute. When we normally look at this message, we normally focus on the woman and her perspective, that perspective is still important, but we also get to see the perspective of this Pharisee. As we look at the perspective of the Pharisee, we can gain some insight into ourselves.
First of all, why was Jesus here at this house in the first place, why did the Pharisee invite him? Jesus had been preaching Galilee for about a year, growing in popularity while the common people loved Jesus, the Pharisees hated him. They tried so many things - ignoring him, opposing him, trying to entrap Jesus in doctrine, nothing worked and some biblical scholars think that Simon the Pharisee was trying get under Jesus' skin here. Jewish custom when a teacher like Jesus enters the house, kiss on the cheek, wash feet, oil in hair, but Pharisee in front of everyone, refused to do any of these things, trying to humiliate Jesus.
It seems like Simon the Pharisee was trying something like this to get under Jesus' skin, but Jesus doesn't take the bait at all. He doesn't say anything to the Pharisee about mistreatment, instead, Luke 7 records that Jesus reclines first off the table. This must have caught Simon and the others off guard. Jewish tradition is for the eldest teacher to do, instead, a woman comes by, someone who saw the mistreatment of Jesus here. Jesus is being publicly mistreated and this woman who is a prostitute and absolutely does not belong pours an alabaster jar of perfume over Jesus. Perfume in those days, was extremely expensive, often had to save up, something the rich only had.
More importantly, Luke records the pure emotion of this woman - v38.
She is in tears wiping Jesus' feet with her hair - that is how Luke records it - pure emotion by her. We can completely contrast this woman and the Pharisee right here in two verses. V39 - Here we see the cynical viewpoint of the Pharisee. He is sort of muttering to himself, in a way that everyone else around him can hear, he is trying to humiliate Jesus again saying if he were a real prophet, he would know what kind of a woman she was, a prostitute, a great sinner.
On one hand, we have this woman who is showing great love, and on the other hand we have this Pharisee who is muttering under his breath looking at this scene. You ever read a new article, something great happens, someone does something for another person, then look at the internet comments below it? Internet comments are so often very cynical, looking for some ulterior or political motive. The Pharisee muttering under his breath like this, reminds me cynical internet comments. But it makes you think, is our faith like this too? Does it fall into cynicism like this Pharisee? The fact is, the world is very cynical, easy for Christians to become cynical like the world is.
That is when Jesus tells a simple story - V40-43
2 people owe money, like $10K and $100K, both debts were forgiven. Jesus asks Simon the Pharisee, which one would love the person more? Obviously, as the Pharisee responds, the person will be more appreciative and have more love.
It's interesting that Jesus uses this kind of parable, he is speaking in a way the Pharisee understands. The Pharisee has a viewpoint of who has done more in faith, a quantitative way of thinking of faith. The Pharisee views himself as less of a sinner than this woman because he is more faithful. Everyone knows they are a sinner, but the Pharisee thinks himself a little more high class that this woman who is a prostitute is a quite a big more low class.
People of faith, we often get caught up in something like this also. We are all great sinners, maybe we think of forgiveness in quantitative way that some are greater sinners and need more forgiveness. In reality, forgiveness is not quantitative - It doesn't look at who is higher class sinner or lower class. We are all sinners under God and all need forgiveness. It's the Pharisee who has this arrogance of faith.
Forgiveness by Jesus Christ is given by grace and happens all at once when we accept him to our hearts. Whether we were a great sinner or just a little sinner, forgiveness is a completely new clean slate because Forgiveness is living, transformative, redemptive, and substitutionary, unconditional grace that Jesus Christ showed, dying for our sins on the cross. Whether we are this or that far away from God, forgiveness lifts us all up have a connection with Him.What we want to think about today is how do we react to this forgiveness?
Do we react as a living, transformative power in our lives? Or over time, do we start taking that forgiveness for granted? Jesus is really piercing here in his final response to Simon, the Pharisee - Luke 7:44-50
Have we become like a Pharisee, who forgets the grace and become lawful with forgiveness?
Are we stingy with the gospel - do we think some deserve the forgiveness but other do not? Or perhaps there is some condition before forgiveness given? We see the woman, who has reacted to forgiveness the way you should, love with the love you receive. She poured out everything she had, even the expensive alabaster jar, showed her love completely. Jesus came into our hearts, when we were the worst of sinners, gave us forgiveness. That is the grace and love of the cross that Jesus walked, that is what we should remember. When we remember that, we should show that love completely back with our whole lives to others.
We know the story of Paul's conversion to Christianity - he was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He persecuted the Christians relentlessly, was responsible for the first disciples martyred for his faith. During Paul's conversion, Ananias replied back to a vision of the Lord, the apprehension he had.
Acts 9:10-14 - Paul's reputation is well known - Ananias has doubts, will this work?
But Ananias obeys. He didn't think some people deserve forgiveness, others don't - something lawful.
Forgiveness is given even to the worst of sinners and God accepts them with open arms - that is love.
Paul becomes a great missionary to the gentile, open history of Christianity. Paul's "alabaster jar" is his complete transformative life of serving in his life. He reacted to the forgiveness he had been given by transforming his life completely for Christ. He became the greatest missionary in Christian history, spreading and preaching the gospel.
When it comes to missions there are two things that are definitely true.
#1 - no one comes into faith in Jesus Christ without someone of faith first introducing it to them
#2 - no one comes into faith in Jesus Christ unless Jesus enters their hearts, have personal relationship with him, accepting his love and sacrifice upon the cross
#2 is something completely by the power of God; #1 is the small part we can do. What does it mean to follow in path of the cross of Jesus? What is our alabaster jar? How are we returning the love and forgiveness that has been given to us? It's really about #1 - introducing people to Jesus.
When we introduce Jesus, it about not thinking about their past, looking people in a cynical way. We cannot treat forgiveness in a lawful way looking at what kind of person they are in the past, instead, we need to let the Holy Spirit work in their lives.Reading an interview today with man in Rwanda - 20 years ago, there was a mass genocide in country. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million Rwandans were slaughtered on the streets, ethnic wars. 20 years later, there is man, a pastor who is was part of the tribes that were slaughtered. He survived, over 50 of his relatives including his sister was slaughtered. But he is preaching to them now in prisons, even to 15 of the people responsible for his sister's murder.
It's a story of tremendous forgiveness, reconciliation that is helping in the healing. We need to open up our hearts, know Holy Spirit works in many people, give a chance. We who were given this transformative forgiveness, not like it stops, but it keeps going. Hope we can meditate on cross Jesus and the alabaster jar of our lives as well.