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This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
If you are sharing this TB in a group, tell everyone about a time when what you planned didn’t actually go as intended. There you were, front and center, watching what you planned for go south… evaporate into thin air:
- Sometimes we set the agenda for our day, but never get to the first item
- In a small group, other issues can come up that see the group set aside the agenda for the more urgent issue
- Our long-term goals sometimes are set aside because of surprises that move us in a different direction
- As we enter into the Christmas season, I think of Joseph and Mary, who, if they did have an agenda, certainly saw it “interrupted” for other pressing issues - like Emanuel in Mary’s womb.
Look at the text (Luke 7:36-50)
The big idea that we looked at this past Sunday was that no matter how low we sink, grace flows to that lowest part.
Describe this scene. Note the strong fragrance and the strong emotion. What are the indicators that her heart is wide open to Jesus? Do not miss that her brokenness is connected with sexual sin. Something many live with today. Based on your own background would you be comfortable with such emotion being demonstrated, indicating this woman’s brokenness?
Robert Coles, a psychiatrist at Harvard who devoted much of his life to working with people in the margins of society, begins each class at Harvard by quoting James Agee: “Not one of these… persons is ever quite to be duplicated, nor replaced, nor has it ever quite had precedent: but each is a new and incommunicably tender life, wounded in every breath and almost as hardly killed as easily wounded: sustaining, for a while, without defence, the enormous assaults of the universe.” (In Yancey, What Good Is God, page 79.)
Talk about what it feels like to be without defence to “the enormous assaults of the universe.”
What must she have seen in Jesus at this point that brought her to do what she did in this story?
I think Simon represents some of the most difficult people to love in the whole world. Sometimes they are not “out there” but found in religious organizations. Does anybody reading this get angry at this point with Simon? Anybody feel like making him watch an eternity’s worth of Maple Leaf hockey games as a form of the eternal fires of hell?
These kinds of people can tell you what is wrong with the world but never come close to confessing what is wrong with themselves. As has been said, “it is easier to point the finger than to bend the knee.”
How do you think Simon would make this woman feel? Valued or worthless? Loved or blacklisted? Hope-filled or hopeless?
Imagine if she had tried to touch the Pharisee - what would have happened? Would he have represented one more assault of the universe… coming from the religious establishment? How many prostitutes in Kingston feel like the Church represents the assault of the universe? How many people with sexual sin or other sins would never speak to Christians, fearful of the response?
Simon’s heart is wide shut to this woman, but also to Jesus.
Read on to v.40-50
(Note: One denarius coin was worth a day’s wages)
Common hospitality included providing water for the feet – open sandals and dusty roads made for dirty feet. Oil for the dry skin on one’s head would also be a thoughtful act. A kiss was an affectionate or respectful form of greeting. Simon offers none of this - heart wide shut! I think this lack of attention to detail by Simon may indicate that the whole banquet was a trap for Jesus. In the end, Simon was the one trapped.
Some things to note
It was not the woman’s affections that saved her, but her faith (v.50). Faith was the cause of her works. See Gal. 5:6. Also note that the reason Jesus tells this man the parable is not because Simon is sinless, but to explain the woman’s actions. Strong fragrance and strong emotion are present because of a big debt reduction!
Jesus sees in her what he saw in the leper, the paralytic, the Centurion and his servant- infinite worth, value regardless of the assaults of the universe.
I love what C.S. Lewis says “ You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
It’s interesting that in this story we know the woman by what she did, however, we know the man by what he didn’t do. Sometimes what people don’t do speaks loudly…
… they don’t say “I am sorry”…
… they never take the initiative to call…
… they never (rarely) ask questions. When they speak, it tends to resemble… “Ok, enough about me, now what do you think about me?”…
… they never offer to help…
… they don’t let others go first…
You can know a lot about someone by what they don’t do. We know a lot about this man by what he doesn’t do. His heart is wide shut but a closed door often serves as an open window into someone’s soul.
No matter how low we sink, grace flows to that lowest part. Grace flows to this woman. She is the trophy of grace in this story. She enters weeping, she leaves in peace.
She comes in as nobody but leaves a somebody.
Some final questions
I don’t think that the lowest point in this story that grace flows to is the woman, but Simon. Jesus demonstrates a willingness to engage with Simon. The story never reveals if Simon responded to this flow of grace. What do you think?
For me, I think I must guard my heart when it comes to wanting to slap the Simons of the world. After all, people like this today who have the Scriptures, can read about the life of Christ and see God’s amazing grace from Genesis to Revelation should know better. Do you need to guard your heart in this matter?
Finally, who are you a conduit for the grace of God to flow to these days?
In John 14:12, Jesus said “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
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