Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost based on Luke 7:36-8:3
Dear debtors with cancelled debts: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The entire city knew her sin. Of whatever shameful and disgraceful sin she was guilty, everyone knew it. The entire city looked down on her and she would have liked to do nothing more than crawl under a rock and disappear rather than face the disgusted expressions on the faces of those who saw her.
Whatever her sin was, society in general was agreed that it was horrible; something upsetting the very fabric of life in their city. Maybe something more common in some pagan city far away, but not there in a Jewish city. Maybe something they’d heard someone doing somewhere else, but not there in their midst. Yet there she was, guilty of this sin, right there in the house of Simon the Pharisee, a leader of the church of that time.
Despite what the city thought of her, the sinful woman of the city didn’t crawl under a rock and disappear. Despite what Simon the Pharisee thought of her, the sinful woman of the city entered uninvited into his house. Despite the disgusted expressions on the faces of those who saw her, the sinful woman of the city washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with expensive ointment.
The woman just had to do it out of love for Jesus. Jesus had forgiven her all of her sins, including the sin that everyone else knew about and talked about. In God’s eyes, her open shame was covered and her sins had been washed away. Jesus had rescued her from her life of sin and she now hated her sin as much as everyone else in the room. Her sin which had started small and then spiralled out of control; her sin which had grown larger and larger and enslaved her; her sin from which she was not able to escape had been taken away by Jesus and forgiven. She just had to show her love and devotion to her Saviour despite what other people thought about her and her actions. She loved much, because she was forgiven much.
We, on the other hand, tend to be more like Simon the Pharisee. We see the sins of others very easily, but we think that we ourselves are pretty good. We think forgiveness is for people like this woman of the city, but not so much for us. Oh, sure, we need forgiveness for this little thing or that little thing, but it’s really no big deal. We’re so blind to our own sins that we don’t think we even need all that much forgiveness.
God commands us to love Him with our whole heart (Luke 10:27). We think we’ve done it even though we cling to the things of this world and don’t want to lose them or even give them back to God, thus we break the First Commandment. We think we love God with our whole heart even though we’re more likely to misuse His name as an exclamation than call upon it in prayer, thus we break the Second Commandment. We think we love God with our whole heart but anything that comes up on Sunday morning is guaranteed to be more important than the Divine Service, and every family activity is more important that reading God’s Word together, thus we break the Third Commandment. No, we do not love God with our whole heart.
God commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10:27). We think we’ve done it if we haven’t physically murdered, committed adultery, or stolen. Yet we despise our authorities and speak evil of them, breaking the Fourth Commandment. We get angry at our neighbour who does evil against us and we don’t help our neighbour in need, breaking the Fifth Commandment. We do not love and honour our spouses as God commands or hold marriage to be God’s gift to us, breaking the Sixth Commandment. We do not give to everyone who begs of us, and we demand our goods to be returned to us if someone has taken them away, breaking the Seventh Commandment (Cf. Luke 6:30). We gossip about the sins of others and hurt their reputations instead of putting the best construction on everything, breaking the Eight Commandment. We are not content with what God has given us, but we want what our neighbour has, whether it’s his house or his wife, breaking the Ninth and Tenth Commandments. No, we do not love God with our whole heart, nor do we love our neighbours as ourselves.
To top it all off, even if we did all these things perfectly, Jesus says “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10) Even if we loved God with all our heart and our neighbours as ourselves, we still wouldn’t be doing anything great or grand, but only what we are supposed to do and have been commanded to do, and we would still be unworthy. If we are unworthy when we obey, how much more unworthy are we when we disobey?
Our sins are really the same as those of this sinful woman of the city. Maybe we hide them better so that the whole city doesn’t know them, but our sins are just as filthy in God’s eyes and require the same forgiveness that Jesus gives.
Just like this woman of the city, our sins are already forgiven. Jesus said that she was showing this love towards Him because she has already been forgiven so much. Even so, Jesus once again told her, “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Jesus once again absolved her of her sin.
She came to Jesus because she was forgiven. She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair because she was forgiven. She poured expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet and kissed them despite the thoughts of those in the house because her sin was forgiven. Yet Jesus once again absolved her of her sin.
So also we continuously need our sins forgiven. Even though our sins are already forgiven, we continuously need to hear God’s absolution. Even though your sins are already forgiven, if you need to hear it personally, confess your sins to your pastor and in the stead and by the command of Christ, he will give you Christ’s absolution. Even though your sins are already forgiven, continuously come to the Lord’s Altar and receive the true body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of all your sins and the strengthening of your faith.
There is no sin for which Jesus did not die. Regardless of what some self-righteous Pharisee thinks; regardless of what the town thinks; regardless of what onlookers think, Jesus died for your sins and they are forgiven through absolution and through receiving Jesus’ true body and blood. That is where you get the benefits of Jesus death on the cross in your place. That is where you receive forgiveness of sins whether or not society agrees that what you’ve done is horrible, and whether or not the whole town knows what you’ve done.
He who is forgiven much, loves much. The more we recognize our sin, the more we realize how much we have been forgiven, and the more our hearts are filled with love for Jesus and the salvation He has won for us. The more we realize that we are forgiven, the more we want to receive that forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper, and the more we want to hear, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.