MESSAGE DELIVERED: OCTOBER 23, 2016
In this one single episode from the life of Jesus we can see at least three truths that we can use to guide our daily lives. And the more of those truths we have, the better our lives are going to be. Here they are:
(1)…our need for forgiveness occurs on a daily basis,
(2)…God is willing and able to forgive anyone,
(3)…Jesus Christ, God’s Son, knows the intents of your heart! (scary!)
So here’s the story, with all its warts: a Pharisee has invited Jesus to a dinner at his home. And right away we have to assume that he had an ulterior motive for doing so. But even if that is true, he doesn’t get the chance to pull whatever it was he had planned.
It is always possible that this was a legitimate invitation and this man just wanted to get to know this Jesus that everyone was talking about. That’s not really likely, but there is that possibility. But from his treatment of the Lord, it is obvious that he didn’t treat Jesus as an honored guest. We’ll see more of that a little later.
When all are seated at the table and the dinner has begun, this prostitute somehow learns that Jesus is there, and uninvited, she enters the house. She makes her way to behind where Jesus is seated. And you may remember they dined at low tables, seated on the cushions and leaning on one arm. So she comes up behind Jesus and begins to wash His feet with a precious ointment and wipes them with her long hair.
And Simon, the host Pharisee who invited Jesus, allows this to happen. In fact, this may have even been the “set-up” that he had planned, to embarrass the Lord. But notice in verse 39, he doesn’t say anything, he just thinks it in his mind.
And that is where the Lord tells the parable about the two debtors and asked which was the most grateful. And when Simon gives the obvious answer to the Lord’s question, he sets himself up for the first point I want you to see.
The ancient city of Jerusalem was a beautiful city, or at least it contained some beautiful places, and some spectacular buildings. Herod’s summer palace was there, sitting high on a hill overlooking the heart of the city, and it was said to be a place of opulent splendor.
Pontius Pilate’s headquarters was there, known as the Fortress Antonia. It was built in classic Roman style but still was an impressive building. And of course the Jewish Temple was there, at the top of ‘Temple Mount’. It was said to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, and it probably was. It was faced with brilliant white limestone and columns and capped by a dome covered with shining gold. On the front of the Temple was depicted a huge clump of grapes, of burnished gold to recall the fruitfulness of the land.
So it certainly was a beautiful building, from a distance. But when you got closer you would see that those inviting, shaded porches had been taken over by greedy money-changers, involved in cheating the pilgrims who came there to worship when they exchanged their foreign coins for the official Temple coinage.
And those who sold animals and birds for sacrifice had also been allowed to set up stalls on those porches, and had turned the outer courts of the Holy Temple into little more than a barn.
And if you went deeper into the temple, past the Court of the Gentiles, where anyone could go…and past the Women’s Court, where any Jew could go…and past the Court of Israel where only adult male Jews could go…where any gentile who entered there would be subject to death…and then beyond the Brazen Sea for the purifying of the priests…you would come to the Altar itself.
There, you would see a squad of priests who were, from morning to evening, continuously busy, slaughtering animals! Ritual sacrifices for praise offerings; sin offerings; thank offerings! And the blood of those sacrifices ran constantly from the Altar, where it drained, in a series of channels, out of the Temple, to eventually drain into the Kidron Valley.
And I told you all that to tell you this: that was the only drainage system in the city! Wealthy people had slaves to take their waste products away, but poor people simply threw them into the streets. Those waste products are sometimes referred to as ‘night soil’, so you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
Camels were led through those streets. Horses and donkeys were led through those streets. And their waste products would simply lie there, trodden underfoot, until a rare rainstorm might wash them away.
So here’s the point I’m making: A person leaving his or her home, freshly bathed and dressed, would be force to walk ON those streets. And that was the reason for the custom, when a person would enter the home of another, of having a lowly slave wash their feet, to remove the filth they had to walk on by necessity, as they traveled through the city.
So even though they had been thoroughly washed, their FEET had become soiled by contact with those streets. And THAT is the first point: even though you are completely clean, having been washed in the soul-cleansing Blood of Calvary…you will still find your feet dirtied, by contact with the world.
All you have to do is turn on a TV…open a newspaper…and you’ll be bombarded by filth…smut…lust…violence! You can’t avoid it! You can sell your TV, or give it away…cancel your subscription to the paper, and the world will find some other way of throwing filth at you.
Some have even tried hiding away in monasteries, which you’d think would help…but those who do still complain of sin besetting them. You may be able to hide from the world, but you cannot hide from your own sin nature!
Well, Jesus offered the solution, at the Last Supper, when He put a towel around His waist, took a basin of water, got down on His knees, and washed the feet of the disciples.
He did that, to give us an example of servitude, and a promise of forgiveness. Those men, those eleven, were the first real followers of Jesus, chosen by Him, for that purpose. And by His teachings, they were clean! But with this example, He was telling them of their need to come back to Him, continuously, back to the source of their cleansing, to have stains of their contact with the world; taken away. Again and again!
That continuous cleansing is free. And it’s easy. Just simple confession: “Lord, I went to that all-you-can-eat buffet and made a glutton of myself. Please forgive me.”
Listen there may be someone hearing this who will disagree with me. I’ve had people tell me that when they first came to the Lord, their sins were forgiven, and they now have no need of further forgiveness, but they are wrong! We will constantly come up short in our walk with the Lord.
We are human, and we’re going to fail in our Christian walk, again and again. And the Lord knows that.
But He still wants us to strive for His perfection, even though we will never achieve it. He still wants us to try! But know that sins will come. So wash them away. Every time you go out in the world you’re going to “step in something”. And you will need to go back to the Lord, and have your feet washed. Again!
You have to live in the world, but not as a part of the world. As Martin Luther put it: you can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from building a nest in your hair.
Do not let unconfessed sin destroy your testimony as a Christian. Seek forgiveness. Get your feet washed. Every day! That’s the first point.
Then in verses 41 and 42, Jesus told the parable of the two men who were forgiven, because He wanted to point out to Simon, his own unforgiving spirit. Jesus asked Simon which of the two debtors should be the most grateful, and he answered correctly. But I really wonder if he got the point.
So in verse 44 Jesus made the statement that should have made ol’ Simon feel lower than a rattlesnake’s bellybutton. But still, we have to wonder if Simon really felt any shame yet or not.
The custom of the time was, remembering the conditions of those streets, that your guests should have their feet washed when they entered your home. And also, if that guest was invited to dine, then additional water was to be suppled for hand-washing. An honored guest would be welcomed by a kiss on the cheek, and have his head anointed with fragrant oil.
None of this had been done for Jesus, and He now points out to Simon that He was aware of that neglect. But then, Simon was a Pharisee, one of the ‘exalted religious leaders’ of the city. He was a man who would be pointed out as he walked the streets; a man who received the praises of those people as he went to the Temple to make his donations to the treasury; to pay his tithes, with a servant going ahead of him, blowing a horn or beating a drum, so everyone would know what he was doing.
Simon was a very special person, but this Jesus, well HE certainly was no Pharisee. In fact, Jesus would often attack the righteous Pharisees in His sermons.
So there was no way Simon was going to treat Jesus as an equal! He was just a poorly-dressed itinerate preacher from Galilee! And he said some of the strangest things. Why, He actually claimed to be the Son of God! And some of the people that followed Him, even believed that, and claimed that Jesus WAS the long-awaited Messiah, God’s Anointed!
That would be a real laugh…except, some of the things He does, and some of the things He says…well, how could He do them, unless God was with Him?
So, Simon invited Him to this dinner, thinking maybe he could get Jesus to ‘change their water into wine’ or something. That would be more fun than a trained monkey!
But, treat Him as an honored guest? No way! Jesus was here to provide entertainment!
But then, all of a sudden, there’s a prostitute in the room! And they are thinking that IF Jesus had the powers they SAID He had, or even HALF those powers, He would surely KNOW that she was a hooker! But He was letting her TOUCH Him!
But obviously, Jesus was aware of all that was going on in Simon’s mind, as well as knowing the occupation of this woman. And He was aware of Simon’s lack of ministering to Him, and Simon’s unforgiving spirit.
And Jesus pointed out both of these faults, by telling Simon; the greater the amount of the debt you have been forgiven of, the more grateful you should be, to the One Who forgives you!
The woman from the streets, who is kissing the feet of Jesus, she knows that. But Simon, the big shot Pharisee, DOESN’T! And he has an attitude that is all too common today.
IF Simon were to confess ANY sin at all, he MIGHT confess to the sin of PRIDE! He might say something like “Well maybe I’ve got a TEENY bit of pride, but can you BLAME me? I’ve got so much to BE proud of. I’m a Pharisee, after all! And I look so GOOD in my fancy ROBES. And my PHILACTERIES are pure GOLD! People point me out to each other in the market place, call me ‘RABBI’! Who wouldn’t be proud?”
But that woman there, SHE is nothing but a common PROSTITUTE! A filthy HOOKER! How disgusting is THAT?
Have you ever felt like that? And be honest. Have you ever had the thought…”Well maybe I tell a little white fib now and then, but at least I’ve never KILLED anybody.”
Or maybe “OK, I fudge on my taxes a little, but I’ve never STOLEN anything.” You know the attitude! “Maybe I’ve got itty-bitty sins but YOU’ve got MAJOR LEAGUE, BIG-TIME sins! Yours are SERIOUS, not mine.
But do you know what GOD thinks of that attitude? “PPPPFFFFBBBBTTTT!” There are no little sins and big sins. There is just sin! To God, the murderer is no worse than the liar. We are ALL just SINNERS, and in need of forgiveness! And the more you are forgiven, the more grateful you should be, to the One Who forgives you.
And that is the SECOND point I want you to see…God is willing and able to forgive ANYone. Nothing can ever erase the past. What’s done is done. But it CAN be forgiven, IF you will only ASK!
And that brings up my THIRD and FINAL point…HOW, do you suppose, did Jesus KNOW what Simon was thinking? I mean, he didn’t say anything, he just thought it, in his mind. You saw that in verse 39.
Well, are YOU aware that God knows your every thought? That there is nothing you can hide from Him? That YOUR very thought-life is open to Him? That is a very sobering prospect! And I know there is going to be someone listening to this right now, pretending to be SO holy, like Simon…but with FILTH hidden in your heart, and Jesus KNOWS that!
So if you understand that Jesus knows your every thought, and we are all aware of how often those unhidden thoughts pop into our minds, those UNKIND or IMPURE thoughts…WHAT do you suppose we ought to DO with them?
Say with those self-righteous…”I confessed ONCE, and now ALL my sins are forgiven, and I have no sins!”? Or do you think when those thoughts pop up, for whatever reason; you SEE something you shouldn’t have seen…or you HEAR something you shouldn’t have heard…when those UNWELCOME thoughts enter your mind…then, “for HEAVEN’S sake, don’t ENTERTAIN them”!
Get RID of them, QUICKLY! PLEAD the Name of JESUS…get your FEET washed! As often as necessary! A hundred times a day…a thousand times if necessary. It doesn’t matter. God’s capacity to forgive is ENDLESS…it’s only LIMITED by YOUR willingness to ASK for it. We have the PROMISE that, as often as we ASK, HE will FORGIVE!
And as you get into HABIT of confessing your faults and sins, of bringing EVERY thought into submission, those unWANTED thoughts won’t COME as often. That’s the BONUS of constant confession.
We used to have a little song we taught our kids…”Be careful little eye what you see…little ear what you hear…little hand what you do…for the Father up above is looking down with love, so be careful little eye…”
We used to teach our kids about the dangers of seeing, or hearing, things that might cause them to stray. But now it seems as the means of temptations have grown so enormously, the warnings ABOUT those temptations have fallen silent. And that is not a good thing!
If only we realized what a kind and loving Father we have…and how He only wants what is best for us!
I was reminded of this the other day. I don’t recall exactly where we were, but Dawn and I were on our way somewhere, and stopped at one of those ‘tourist traps’ to pick up a snack and they had one of those big ol’ glass-fronted candy counters inside, with every kind of goodie imaginable in it.
And there were three little boys, maybe 8 or 10 years old, and from the way they were dressed…not vacation clothes, you know what I mean…these were local kids…and they were lined up at that candy counter, and each had a DIME in their hands, and were trying to figure out how to get as much as possible out of that dime…
…so I walked up to those kids and told them to get anything they liked, and I would pay for it. Well, at first they didn’t believe me…but I assured them…get as much as you want, and I’ll pay for it. Then they didn’t trust me…weren’t sure how far they could go…they kept pointing at stuff and looking at me, and I’d nod, and they’d look at something else.
And the clerk kept filling their bags…until they decided they’d pushed their luck as far as they could, and they grabbed their bags and split.
It ended up costing me 6 or 7 dollars, if I remember right…but those KIDS not only got a huge treat, they got a STORY they’ll remember the rest of their lives.
And you know what? God is just like that. He loves us…He wants us to receive His BLESSINGS…and all we have to do, is ASK!
He wants to forgive EVERY sin. And all you have to do is ASK. When YOU see a kid with his face pressed up against a candy counter, you KNOW what he wants, right? Well, when God looks at US, He knows what we NEED, and all we have to DO, is ASK! Why DON’T we? Why do we try to pretend that we don’t HAVE any sins? Or pretend our sins are TOO BIG to be forgiven?
Some are like those kids in the candy store, and don’t believe…or some don’t trust…and as a result, blessings are lost. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus said “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ASK Him?”
So knowing that God can and will forgive every sin, when you ask Him…and knowing the Lord already knows what is on your heart…and He is just waiting to give wonderful things to those who ask…what will you do this evening, as we go into a time of invitation?