Sunday, June 13, 2010

Do You Know Who You Are?

Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 13, 2010
Luke 7:36—8:3

The Pharisee knows himself. He is worthy. He is a good man and rests assured in his worthiness and therefore is confident of his salvation. But he also knows who this woman is, or at least what kind of woman she is. She was obviously not a person of moral character.

So he assumes that Jesus obviously does not know what kind of woman she is. So He obviously cannot be a prophet. And here Simon the Pharisee was so willing to give Jesus a chance, inviting Him to his home and everything!

The woman also knows who she is, and she knows as well who the Pharisee is. He’s, well, a Pharisee. It took a lot of guts to come into the situation, knowing that the upstanding Pharisee, a spiritual leader of her people, would disapprove of her kind of people. But he allowed this charade to go on so that everyone could see what kind of man Jesus really was. That He obviously was putting on a charade, giving props to this sinner and disrespecting him, Simon, a Pharisee and leader of the people of God.

Jesus, as well, knows who He is and He knows who the Pharisee is and who the woman is.

We are able to see that the Pharisee didn’t know who he was after all. He didn’t know who the woman was. He saw himself only as he wanted to see himself. He judged the woman to be unworthy rather than realizing that he stood under his own condemnation of her. Consequently, he didn’t know who Jesus was.

The woman knew exactly who she was. She was a sinner. She was unworthy. She didn’t deserve favor from Jesus but He gave it to her anyway. That’s why she loved Him. She was grateful. She knew she stood under His condemnation but He gave her instead forgiveness. Her response was worship and gratitude.

Jesus’ favor and forgiveness is never like, It’s okay, don’t worry about your sins. We’re sinners, how can we ever be sure we don’t have to worry about our sins when we keep doing them? He says of the woman that her sins are many. In other words, Simon, you’re right, she’s a sinner, and quite a sinner at that. But where there is much sin there is much forgiveness. In fact, where there is sin, there is forgiveness. Jesus forgives sinners, great sinners or small. The little story he tells shows that both men who had a debt, one huge, the other not as much, both debts were cancelled.

The Pharisee was a sinner, just as the woman was. And yet, in his own eyes, he was right with God. After all, he was a morally upright person, unlike the woman. The woman was a sinner, just as the Pharisee was. She very well could have condemned him as a hypocrite. Did he live a more morally outward life than she did? Yeah, probably. But was he without sin? No way. So he was a hypocrite. But the woman doesn’t get caught up in that. She is caught up in her own sinfulness. Her own unworthiness is what she needs to deal with.

Do you know who you are? Are you like the Pharisee? Are you like the woman? If you will see it, you are like the Pharisee. And you are like the woman. If you will hear it from Jesus, you are just like them, because you, too, are a sinner. His hope for you is that you will see yourself through His eyes. You are a sinner. It is only then that you can see that what He does is forgive you. He cancels your debt.

You know you are a sinner. That’s what Jesus says, anyway. What does it mean that you are a sinner? King David was the king. He could do whatever he wanted. That’s who he was in his own mind, anyway. Much like the Pharisee, casting judgment on others—those sinners!—while merrily going on his own pristine way that actually carried with it the stench of death. Nathan called him on it. You are the one you have accused. You are the sinner. You are the one who deserves the very punishment you have declared on the one who has sinned.

And like the woman who came to Jesus David repented. He confessed his sin. He threw himself at the mercy of the court. No, he threw himself at the mercy of God. If David could fall into grievous sin you and I can. And we do and we will. King David and the woman who was the dregs of society were leveled, at the same plane. They were both sinners in need of grace.

What does it mean that you are a sinner, right along with them? It means that if you approach your life and your standing before God as the Pharisee then you stand condemned, even as you may convince yourself that your sin really can’t hurt you that much. After all, you’re the only one who is aware of the thoughts you have toward others: lust, envy, judging others in your heart. You hold on to your grudges and it doesn’t seem to cause you any harm. God still loves you, right?

Paul had successfully convinced himself he was a good man, even believing he was serving God by trying to wipe out the Christians who were popping up all over the place. He soon found out he stood on level ground right along with those Christians. He was no more righteous than they were, even as they were no less sinners than he was. And so he knew a thing or two about how the Law of God affects a person who thinks he is just fine continuing in his present course of ignoring God and what He expects of us. He knew that those who are under the Law are under a curse. The Law of God catches you in your sin. You cannot escape the reaches of God. You can attempt to go into the inner recesses of your mind and your desires and seek safe haven in your sins but God’s Law comes crashing down on you like a crumbling wall. You are under a curse. You are sinful to your core and if you convince yourself otherwise your words will be your condemnation.

Look to Christ. He is pure. He alone is without sin. But He is also something else that He wants you to see. He too is under the Law. Not because He is within its reach, because He submits to it. He not only comes under the Law, He is under its curse. He has become the sinner. He sat before Simon the Pharisee calling him to repentance so that Simon could see that Jesus, the one who sat before him, the one who was without sin, took upon Himself his own, Simon’s, sin. Simon couldn’t see that, he was too caught up in himself.

If only we could take our eyes off ourselves. If we could wake up each morning and say, today I will not seek what I want but who Christ is and what He has accomplished for the world. That as He has come to deliver the world from sin, He has delivered me from sin so that I may serve Him. So that I may see that being a servant of others is more fulfilling than relying on the fleeting nature of my desires, my wants, my sins that I hold on to.

This is who you are. Jesus knows who you are. He has Baptized you. He knows who you are, He forgives you your sin and gives you His Body and Blood in His Holy Supper. A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him. The man only wanted to confirm himself in his own fantasy world of being able to live and be saved according to his own law. Jesus invites you to dine with Him, where there is no Law, no hidden agenda, no strings attached, no holding your sin over your head. Only grace. Only pure mercy and forgiveness. His favor upon you not for who you are or what you have accomplished, but because He was cursed in your place, His body delivered over, His blood shed for you.

The Pharisee woke up that day not knowing that in justifying himself by inviting Jesus to his home he would actually be condemning himself. The woman who was an outcast and a scourge on decent society woke up that morning not knowing that she would have an opportunity to give thanks to the one who had released her from the burden of living a life that was all about herself. David never saw it coming that when he abused his office as king of God’s people that he would be held accountable to the King of Kings, the Lord Himself, and would be declared guilty of his sin against a man and his wife.

Do you know what will happen to you tomorrow? You’ll wake up and your thoughts may immediately gravitate toward yourself. You may give no thought to how you can help someone who is struggling and could use some comfort. You may, in fact, not wake up at all. Today may be your last day. No matter who you are, it could happen to any of us. You may be thinking about all the things you want and need and wish for and never see any of it because you won’t be breathing anymore. Now is the time for you to hear what you need to hear. And if you do wake up tomorrow that will be the time to hear it as well. Each day we live out the life God has given to us we need what God gives to us, not what we so often consider is of importance, and certainly not of our selfish and sinful desires.

Each day we have the opportunity to look not to ourselves but to Christ, to others whom we can serve. Where’s the compassion when the Pharisee looked on that woman? He had only disdain for her. He looked only to himself, not to helping her. Where is our compassion when we do not seek out others to help them, when we judge them in our hearts rather than seeking to share the love of Christ with them? May we see ourselves as the woman saw herself. A sinner in need of mercy. A sinner who gives thanks to their Lord for His unfailing mercy. God gives us the opportunity to look outside of ourselves and to others who are in need of mercy.

Know who you are. You are one who is known by God. You worship Him because He has given His Son as the Sinner in your place, His righteousness for your sin. You may go in peace. Amen.


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