Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

5-4-2003

 A Woman Which Was a Sinner

(adapted from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon)

And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.  And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.  There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.  And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.  Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.  My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.  And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.  And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?  And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
  Luke 7:37-50 (KJV)

 

We are going to talk a lot about grace today, so let me give you a definition for grace; it is the unmerited favor of God which comes to all who by faith receive Jesus as Savior.  We are not only saved by grace, through faith, but through this grace we also receive the blessings of God and the fruits of the Spirit.  

Now let’s get to our story.

The woman in this story has been confused with Mary Magdalene.  I don’t know why this error is made, because there isn’t any evidence, that this woman, who was a sinner, has any connection to the Mary who had seven devils cast out of her.  What's more, the sinner in our story is not Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  That Mary, also anointed our Savior, but that happened previous to this anointing.  This woman, who was a sinner according to our text, should not be confused with Mary of Magdala or Mary of Bethany.

In the story that’s before us, there is the image of both grace and love.  Let’s begin first with grace, and then we will speak about love.

The first thing to say is, “GRACE IS AN EXPENSIVE OINTMENT.” This story is literally dripping with grace.  Here grace falls like a gentle due from heaven. 

First, grace is glorified in its object. 

She was a sinner, not in the every-day sense of the term, but a sinner in the filthier sense.  According to the parable, which our Lord told on this occasion, when He compared her to the Pharisee, she was a five-hundred-pence sinner, and he was only a fifty-pence sinner. 

She practiced what is termed, the oldest profession.  She sinned, and made others sin.  But, and this is a miracle, she was an object of exceptional grace, and she was destined for eternal life.  Why was this? 
On what grounds was she selected?  What was it that made her so special, that Jesus would bless her so greatly? 

Was this an extraordinary and isolated case?  Not at all, because God has frequently chosen the lowest of the low and the most degraded.  Look into the word of God, and study the genealogy of our Lord. 
Listed there among great saints, you will find shameless Tamar, the harlot Rahab, and the unfaithful Bathsheba, so the indication is that the savior will inter into a relationship with the most degraded and fallen of the human race.  Friends, I must say, "I am glad He does."

Jesus was known as “a friend of publicans and sinners,” but it was a title that was thrown at Him out of contempt.  I am glad that He was a friend to sinners and of the worst people, because now I know He will not refuse to associate with me. 

This was Jesus’ character, and He was not ashamed to bear it.  They said about Him, “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.”  The free grace of God doesn’t make a distinction among men on account of merit, because none of us are deserving of God’s gifts.  The law of God declares that we are all sinners, but the grace of God comes to the most unworthy of us in order to show itself to be grace.  It comes to live in the most unworthy hearts, so that its freeness can be better seen.  By the grace of God, some of the vulgarus blasphemers, persecutors, thieves, fornicators, and drunkards, have been forgiven, born again, and made to live sober, righteous, and godly lives.  The message that we have from this is that God is longsuffering, and He will save all those who believe in His Son, no matter how great their sin is.  Folks, there are no number of sins or a sin that is so great that it can stop His grace from doing its work.  And as proof, we have this wonderful example of undeserved grace here in the case of this woman. 

It’s a wonder that Jesus would save any of us, but to save her is even more astonishing.  No doubt, she may have said to herself, “Why me Lord, why me?”  If she was here this morning, perhaps she would sing this song for us:

      Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
      ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
      Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath bro’t me safe this far,
And grace will lead me home.
      When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
Now, picture the scene, which is before us; Simon the Pharisee is seated at one of the tables, and he is a
good respectable man, or rather, that’s how he thinks of himself, and yet, he is not saved.  This poor prostitute
has received the Lord’s salvation, but not Simon.  How can we explain this?  There are many in the city just like
her; some better, some worse, but she alone is saved. 
How about you; what was it that separated you from your former life and brought you to be the Lord’s?  Brothers and sisters, once you have discovered that God has chosen you and you feel His love, and He brings you close to Him, and He covers you with the perfect righteousness of His Son, it breaks your heart.  You want to cry out, “How could You have chosen me?  What am I, that You have blessed me so much?” 
And think about this precious thought, “God loved you before the world was created.  He saved you, when He could just as well leave you alone.  He chose you over thousands who were great and dignified, the wise and educated.”  This should fill you with reverence, wonder, and affectionate gratitude. 
Where sin once abounded, grace now abounds much more. 
The “woman which was a sinner,” is now kneeling at the Savior’s feet, and she is crying, because her sins are forgiven, and because she loves her Savior.  She was a public sinner, but now she openly follows Jesus.
Second, we can see from this story that grace is greatly magnified by what grows out of it. 
Who would have thought that a woman, who had lived such a shameful life, would come to honor the King of kings; and become one of His favorite servants?  Would you have imagined that she would offer Jesus better hospitality than the Pharisee?  And thatshe offered it with a better spirit and with more style than the Pharisee could have done, even if he had tried. 
Now let me speculate how this woman came to have faith in Jesus. 
I believe that the Holy Spirit brought this woman to a place where she could hear Jesus speak. 
Earlier in this chapter, it appears that Jesus had been preaching the gospel to the poor. 
Perhaps, she stood in the street, attracted by the crowd, and as she listened to our Savior’s talk, she couldn’t turn away.  She had never heard a man speak like that before, and when He spoke about God’s willingness to accept, anyone who would come to Him, she began to cry.  And she heard Him say that the Father in heaven would receive sinners who repent, and that He would love them.  Then her heart broke, she quit her evil trade, she became a new woman; she wanted better things for herself, and she was anxious to be freed from sin.  But she was very disturbed, because she questioned in her heart if she could really be forgiven.  But her faith and her love grew.  The Holy Spirit worked in her heart to form a feeble hope, and a small confidence; she believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, that He had come to earth to forgive sins, and she believed in Him.  Her sins were forgiven and she longed to worship Him, and to hear Him speak to her personally.  Then one day, Jesus came to the city where she lived, and she thought, “Here is my chance to come close to the Blessed Prophet; He has already done so much for me, that I love Him more than anyone; more than my own soul.  I will sneak into the Pharisee’s house, so that I can see Him one more time.”  Now, when she came to the door, she saw the Savior lying down with His head resting in one hand and His feet behind Him.  The food was placed where it could be reached with the free hand, and the servants stood in the area between the walls and the feet of the guests.  This was the customary way of dining at that time.  Jesus was reclining close to the door, because the Pharisee had little respect for Him and therefore had not given Him the best and innermost place at the feast.  The woman was not noticed as she came and stood at His feet.  She saw that the Pharisee had refused Him the ordinary courtesy of washing His feet.  She noticed that His feet were all stained and travel-worn, and she began to cry, and her tears fell like a showers on His feet.  Then, she removed the ribbon from her hair, so that it hung freely over her shoulders and back, and she wiped those sacred feet with it.  She must have thought that this was a poor way to honor the Son of God. 
Her hair had once been an object of vanity, but now it was humbled.  She made her eyes a fountain and her hair a towel.  Was anyone’s hair ever so exalted as hers to be able to touch those sacred feet?At that moment, she was over come by the temptation to kiss His feet, and so she humbly expressed her love in that way.  She didn’t say a word, but she didn’t have to, because her actions spoke volumes.  Could this act of devotion be even better than Psalms and Hymns?  Then she remembered that alabaster box containing perfumed oil.  She had bought it for her own use, since like all Eastern women she enjoyed the pleasant fragrance.  She opened it, and she poured it on His feet.  It was the most valuable thing she owned, but she poured it all on the feet of her Savior.  Still, she never said a word.  I am sure that Jesus preferred this silent woman, who loved Him, and who acted as she did, to ten thousand noisy talkers, who have no gifts, no love, and no tears.  As for the Master, he remained quietly accepting, saying nothing, but all the while drinking in her love, and letting His weary heart find sweet comfort in the gratitude of this woman, who had once been a sinner, but who was now a devoted disciple.
However, I believe this woman was courageous, because it took courage for her to enter the Pharisee’s house.  When the Pharisee saw her for the first time, he must have given her a look that could kill. 
Those Pharisees had an unbearable contempt for everybody who wasn’t part of their own group, who didn’t fast twice a week, and tithe off the vegetables in their garden; and who by every gesture they made said, “I am holier than thou.”  This Pharisee would go out of his way to show his contempt for her, and since she felt so unworthy, she would have been severely wounded by his bad manners.  Besides, her tears would have been out of place at a feast, and she would have been rudely scolded over them. 
But she was fearless, and bravely held her tongue when Simon criticized her.
The third thing to see in this story is how graciously our Lord accepted her gift.  
Jesus knew all about her sin.  The Pharisees wondered why he didn’t shrink back from her touch.  You and I may wonder too.  We sometimes find it hard to feel comfortable with certain people even though they claim to have repented and been saved: but our Lord is much more sensitive to the guilt of sin than we are, so he continued to rest on the couch, and quietly accepted her gift.  And He permtted her to kiss His feet, again and again, and to wash them with her tears.  Oh, I wish that He would always be willing to accept from me; my tears, my prayers, and my praises.  We are so unworthy to offer Jesus anything, and He is so very gracious to accept our offerings.
The forth thing to see in this story is that grace is on display, when Jesus defends this woman. 
Simon objected to this sinful woman approaching Jesus and touching Him.  He would prefer to throw her out in the street or to have her arrested.  Perhaps, he thought to himself, “How can He permit a woman like this to get so close to him.”  There would even be those today, who would ask, “How could Jesus be so receptive to the attention of a woman like this, and to allow her such privileges?”   But our Lord took it upon Himself to defend her, so she held her tongue.  And we should do the same.  If Satan accuses you, or if your enemies accuse you, remember, you have an advocate with the Father; Jesus Christ will plead your case and clear your name. 
The parable, which He uses to defend her, shows that He was justified in letting the woman approach, because she was prompted to do so by her great love.  There was no sin in her actions, and she should be commended, because she had good motives, and motive is the true measure of anything we do for Him. 
She was grateful for forgiveness, and she loved the person, who had forgiven her, therefore her actions were commended. 
The fifth and last point I want to make on this topic, is that this story shows the Lord’s grace, when He assured her that her sins were forgiven. 
The proof of her forgiveness was that she loved Jesus very much, but she had not yet been assured of her forgiveness.  She was a hopeful believer, but she wasn’t a confident believer.  But when the Master said, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” from that moment, she was assured of her forgiveness.  And then when He dismissed her, he said, “Go in peace,” and the peace of God which passed all understanding filled her heart and mind. 
How I wish that everyone knew what God’s grace and mercy can do.  The grace and mercy, which flows from God to all who have been born again is not rare, but is abundant.  He can do more than lift you out of the miry clay; He can set you upon a rock. 
I don’t believe that anyone knows the extent of God’s grace which will be ours someday, because we cannot fathom His goodness.  So, go out into the world, and enjoy the covenant of grace, which belongs to you. 
It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that you will be able to comprehend what are the heights and depths, and know the love of Christ which passes all understanding.
The second thing to talk about today is LOVE.
Love comes to us from our God, who gives us grace.  The woman loved so very much, but it was because she was forgiven very much.  There is no one who naturally loves God.  The only true love which can burn in the human heart towards the Lord is the love which the Holy Spirit Himself kindles. 
If you truly love God, you can be sure you are a child of God, because only His children love Him.
But love is inferior to faith. 
The fifteenth verse tells us, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” 
Our souls do not begin with loving Christ, but the first lesson is to trust Him.  The first thing to do is to trust Jesus for the pardon from sin: when you have done that, your sins are forgiven, and then love will grow in your heart for what He has done for you. 
The elements which cause love to grow are a sense of your sin, and gratitude for being forgiven.  If we felt more deeply the guilt of our past lives, we would love Jesus even more.  If we could have a deeper understanding of how much our sins deserve that we be delivered to hell, that Christ suffered what we should have suffered in order to redeem us from our sin, we would probably act differently than we do. 
If only our love could feed continually on our remembering what Jesus has done for all of us?
Love, in the case of this woman is even more amazing, because what she did was completely voluntary.  No one suggested it, much less forced her to do it.  Shouldn’t we be more like her?
Notice also, that it was a personal service which she performed for Jesus.  She did it all by herself, and she only did it for Him.  She didn’t serve Peter, or James, or John; and she didn’t serve the sick of the city either.  When we are active in our love for Jesus, our goodness will be directed toward Jesus; we will sing to Him, pray to Him, teach for Him, preach for Him, and live for Him.  How much better will you do your work, if you do it for Him?  We must never court anyone’s approval; it can be enough for us if the Master accepts what we do.
The woman’s service showed her love, because it was passionate.  There was a lot of affection in her act.  Why did she kiss His feet?  She didn’t care how it looked to others; she knew what it meant.  She couldn’t do anything else.  Her whole soul went out in love to Him.  If only we could have her honest faithfulness, which would ignore good manners.  Let’s put our heart and soul into service for Christ; give your body and soul to Him. 
If I could ask for one thing this morning, it would be that love for Jesus would grow in every heart here.
Just one more thought and then we are done. 
This woman was just recently saved, but she had already decided to serve Him.  This then is a lesson for us. 
We can no longer say, “We will do something for Jesus in the future, after we are retired and have more time.”  No, serve Him now.  The very day you’re saved, begin to serve Him.  If there is anything you can do for Him, do it.  Jesus will accept what you do, and He will reward you.  And if you ever do too much for Jesus, come and tell me, but I don’t believe you ever will. 
I beg all of you who love Jesus, do not hide the light you have under a bushel, but come and show it. 
Do what ever you can do, and the Lord will bless your work, and just like this woman you will be a highly favored servant of the Master.
May the Lord give every one of you His blessing, for Jesus sake?
 

Contact Tom with your questions and comments

 

 

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