Forgiveness   -  Simon or Mary?        

A Sermon preached at Gweek on 11/6/89

Simon was a Pharisee and Jesus had been giving him some sleepless nights.
There were so many questions:
The people flocked around him.
They said that he had performed many miracles.
Some from Bethany even said that he had raised Lazarus from the dead.
He had caused quite a stir among his colleagues, but they were mostly critical.
Some of them had gone to listen to his teaching. It was most unusual.
He seemed to understand so much - like Solomon.
So Simon had the good idea of inviting Jesus to supper.
A low key affair, nothing too lavish, don't want too many to know ...

Jesus agreed.
He ignored the insult of not being able to wash his feet.
And not being greeted when he arrived.
Simon was just about to start asking questions, when a woman entered.
Not a nice quiet little woman, but an emotional, weeping woman;
      and that wasn't all - she was a well known prostitute!
In Simon's house! He is horrified.
Just wait till all his friends hear about this; he'll be teased for years.
What ever was he thinking of when he invited Jesus?

But Jesus was not concerned about his own reputation;
      He cared about Mary (for that was her name).

Simon thought, if Jesus knew what sort of woman she was he would reject her immediately.
But Jesus did know.
He did not see Mary as dirt to be rejected in public but sought and used by others in private.
There was some commotion.
Her weeping was not a silent sniffle, but a river of tears.
She washed his feet with them.
Not only did Jesus accept her, but now she was letting her hair down.
      (This was only done with the husband in private, never in public)
And she dried his feet with her hair.
Jesus, well, he almost seemed to be enjoying it!
Simon was now regretting his idea of inviting Jesus.
No man of God would allow this.
But worse was to follow!
Simon hadn't seen that she had a whole jar of costly perfume -
      (nard was the very best from far away N.India)
She used to use it to 'attract' her customers.
And now she poured a whole pint of it over Jesus' head and feet.
This was the end. The smell would be in his house for months.
He was so embarrassed. So was everyone else.
All except Jesus and Mary, that is.
His invitation was not just a mistake, but a total disaster. The last straw.

Jesus saw it.
He was aware of how he felt.
And he did not reject Simon either, but carefully explained the truth.
This incident was not about reputation or sex, as Simon thought.
It was about forgiveness and free pardon,
      the relief and extravagant gratitude upon receiving it.
Simon, is that what you are looking for?
Do you know what it is for God to forgive all your sin?

Simon classified sins.
Some were much worse than others. e.g. the ones he didn't commit! Murder, rape, prostitution.
Gluttony, falsehood and anger however, were hardly sins at all, everyone did them!
But to God sins are only the result of sin.
      And sin is rebellion against God and unbelief.
Jesus said,
Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe stands condemned already
because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
   John 318
It is not he who has or hasn't done x, y, or z,
      but he who does not believe that is condemned.
Simon had to appear 'good'. He tried very hard - and failed.
He could see nothing good about Mary.
She was an obvious sinner, and therefore rejected by God.
He had much to learn. And Jesus desired to teach him.

He began by telling a story about two men who were both forgiven a debt of money.
One had a small debt and the other a large one.
Who would be most grateful? Obvious, isn't it.
Simon, you gave me nothing, but this woman could not give enough.
      (A year's wages is say £8,000 in today's values)
Why was that do you think?
Simon was unable to see the connection.
So Jesus told him the answer. Simon, the truth is so simple,
      she gave much because she has been forgiven much.

You gave me no water to wash.
There were no tears of repentance on your face.
You never asked, "Lord, how may I be forgiven?"
Mary knew she was a sinner, she admitted it; but Simon didn't.
You gave me no greeting, no welcome.
You have only criticised the Son of God and deeply regretted asking him into your home.
Mary has shown no such reticence.
You gave me no anointing. In fact you deliberately gave me nothing.
Mary has given extravagantly.
And what she has done will be told wherever the 'Good News' is preached.
For that is what the 'Good News' is all about. Forgiveness.

Judas, and all the disciples who were there, also criticised the woman's extravagant 'waste'.
But Jesus did not. He praised it.
It just shows how different are the thoughts of God and man.
Jesus told her to go in peace, in the assurance of God's forgiveness.
He saw her now as a lady, pure and altogether lovely. Like an Arum lily.
And all heaven rejoiced together.

Furthermore, Jesus told them that this anointing by Mary
      would be the anointing for his burial - in just two days time!
She did not realise that. None of them did. But it was true.
They all had so much to learn.

In this event, there is no forgiveness for Simon the respectable, no joy;
      only anger, frustration and acute embarrassment.
For Mary, well, she was on 'cloud nine'. She felt clean and loved.
She knew that the Son of God had forgiven and accepted her.

I wonder which of the two you would now associate yourself with?

If it is Mary, then you can say with confidence say,
"I am covered over with the precious blood of Jesus, and he lives in me.
When he looks at me he sees not what I used to be, but he sees Jesus."


Repentance   by Paula Worth

I kneel as the woman long ago
Knelt at Jesus' feet.
Silently my spirit weeps ...
With my tears I would wash the feet of Jesus.
Repentance flows from my heart,
The fragrance of my broken spirit
Rises to Him as sweet perfume;
The vessel emptied, poured out to Him,
The good and bad together,
My offering ...
With my tears I would wash the feet of Jesus.
Gently He lifts me up,
Forgiveness is in His touch
"Those who have been forgiven much, love much ..."
With my tears I have washed the feet of Jesus.

A Hymn

Arise, my soul, arise,
Shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears:
Before the throne my Surety stands;
My name is written on his hands.

He ever lives above,
For me to intercede,
His all redeeming love,
His precious blood, to plead;
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds he bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They strongly speak for me:
"Forgive him, O forgive", they cry,
"Nor let that ransomed sinner die!"

The Father hears him pray,
His dear Anointed One;
He cannot turn away
The presence of his Son:
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear,
He owns me for his child,
I can no longer fear,
With confidence, I now draw nigh,
And, Father, Abba, Father, cry!