Saving the Righteous is Hard

Sean and Renee were sitting in church reading the bulletin and waiting for the end of the offertory. It bugged Renee to no end how many people showed up 15-20 minutes late to church. Doesn’t church start at the same time each week? Why can’t they just adjust their schedules? At least the ushers hold them back during the prayer time.

It seemed like a steady stream of late comers were coming in this morning. Renee wouldn’t notice them so much if it wasn’t for Sean wanting to sit so far from the front. He didn’t like to socialize after church so he insisted on sitting in the back for a quick escape when the service ended. He also wanted to get back home to watch the second half of whatever game was on TV. And this wasn’t easy either. It seemed like the back seats were the first seats to fill up. Renee was hoping to change this behavior in the near future.

As Denise left the choir to sing a special song before Pastor Tony got up to preach, Renee noticed that people kept coming into the service and seats were getting harder and harder to find. Ushers were asking people to move over to make room for the late-comers. This bugged Sean a little since he liked to sit on the end of the row near the aisle, that way he didn’t have to sit next to strangers. Mr. Unsociable!

Now it was getting so crowed the ushers were bringing in extra chairs. Poor Denise was being completely ignored by most of the church because of this. Sean was getting upset because he was getting up to let people in the row. Now the ushers were putting chairs next to Sean in the aisle so the overflow could sit there. Sean soon looked very uncomfortable and was squirming in his seat. This was going to be a long service.

Denise finished her song (Renee wished she could have heard it) and sat down with the choir. Fortunately the choir remained in their places for the remainder of the service. They had nowhere else to sit. Many worshipers were standing along the walls of the building. Why was it so crowded today?

Pastor Tony stood up to preach. He started off by stating that a small neighboring church had lost their building to a fire and he had invited them to join us this morning. Well that explained the crowd.

About ten minutes later Renee noticed a commotion to her left. It looked like someone else had showed up late for the service. This guy, however, didn’t look like he belonged here. In fact he didn’t look like he had been in a church ever before. To say he wasn’t dressed for a church service would be an understatement. He looked like he had just come from a frat party or something similar. His hair was stringy and unkempt. His jeans and t-shirt were dirty and sweaty. As he walked down the aisle Renee could smell the strong order of beer coming from him.

This guy was slowly walking down the aisle looking for a seat. No one moved to let him in their row. Well that just made sense since there was no room left to sit. But he kept at it. Looking and searching for an open seat but none was to be found. Each time he stopped to look down an aisle, however, people did move; they put their heads down and covered their noses and mouths with their hands due to the smell of this strange young man. Boy, he really should have cleaned up before showing up, as Renee’s mom used to say.

But nothing would stop the man. He just kept looking and moving to the front of the church. Now Pastor Tony was having trouble concentrating on his sermon due to the turmoil in the pews. Finally the young man gave a shrug and turned around. He didn’t walk to the back of the church, however. He looked down where he stood, just in front of the first pew. He stood there where Renee could see him. In fact, almost everyone in the church could see him as he thought about his next move.

Then the unexpected happened. He sat down! Not on a chair or in a pew but on the floor right in front of the stage, just a few yards away from Pastor Tony. The act alone was unsettling to Pastor Tony, so much so that he just stopped preaching! He tried not to look at the scraggly looking young man who just completely disturbed his message but he couldn’t help it. In time Pastor Tony continued speaking. The young man sat looking straight ahead. It was unclear to Renee if he was looking at Pastor Tony or just at the pulpit; or anywhere at all since he appeared to have a glazed look in his eyes. She wondered if he was hung-over.

If the last few minutes’ events hadn’t been enough, what happened next would shock the congregation even more than it already had been shocked. It almost gave Renee a heart attack.

Pastor Tony was just getting back to some point he had been trying to make when he looked up from his notes and stopped preaching – again. He looked in the direction of where Renee was sitting. In fact, he looked directly at Sean who had just stood up. Pastor Tony’s eyes followed Sean as he moved out of his pew, past the row of people sitting in the folding chairs that the ushers had placed next to Sean’s favorite seat. Sean slowly made his way into the aisle and then he began to walk forward toward the front of the church.

Pastor Tony was mesmerized by Sean’s movements. He had never seen Sean closer then the back row of the church building in all the years he had attended church, and here he was, walking down the aisle to the front of the church – in the middle of the service no less! But Pastor Tony wasn’t the only onlooker in the building. The entire congregation was transfixed by Sean’s actions as well. What was going on now?

Renee’s mouth opened and her jaw dropped as she watched her overly shy husband hold the attention of the stunned parishioners. As he approached the young man sitting on the floor in front of God and everyone, the dirty, beer stained young man looked up to see who was standing next to him. Then Sean sat down next to him and a small gasp could be heard in the church that broke the silence of that moment.

Sean had brought his Bible with him and he opened it up and leaned over to the young man on the floor next to him to share it with him. Both Sean and the young stranger looked up to Pastor Tony who still had not spoken since Sean had first stood up. Then Sean said his first words in church since the moment he joined it. “Anytime you’re ready, Pastor.”

Pastor Tony nodded his head and looked at his notes. He then looked at the congregation and smiled.

“I’ll finish my sermon now,” began Pastor Tony, “but I believe the sermon you’ll all remember is the one you just witnessed below the pulpit today.”

Then Pastor Tony asked everyone to put aside the sermon notes from the bulletin and to open their Bibles to the Gospel of Luke, chapter seven. Renee, wiping the tears from her eyes, read along with the rest of the congregation Luke 7:36-50.

Luke 7:36-50:  Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him [Jesus] to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.”

Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”

Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

What is so endearing about this event is how Jesus dealt with only two people. Yet these two people represent two types of individuals we find today. Jesus meets Simon, the Pharisee, while Jesus was doing his normal preaching circuit. Simon, realizing Jesus was a bit of a celebrity, asks him to dinner. At this point of the narrative, Luke leaves out some details, namely, who else is at this dinner party? There seems to be some others reclining at the table but the Holy Spirit is focusing on only two people who matter so stop worrying about the guest list. For all we know there are only three people at this dinner, Jesus, Simon and a prostitute. (The Bible uses the term “sinner” to describe prostitutes because these are women whose business is sin. The Bible also uses the term “sinner” for all of us but the context of the writing lets us know that Luke narrowed it down to this one person of this profession.)

Jesus meets this prostitute as she is crying at his feet. She knows she is a sinner, not just by profession but in her standing with God. But she shows up at Simon’s house (invited or party crasher?) and goes, not to Simon the Pharisee who is a student of God’s Word, but to Jesus, the Son of God. Even though she doesn’t say a word, it is plain to Jesus that she is requesting forgiveness and salvation. She knows she is lost and dead in her sins and that she needs a savior.

Simon, on the other hand, is going to rely on his good works and his standing as a Pharisee for his salvation. But Jesus points out some of his faults as a host thinking that Simon will get the message Jesus is making. What did Simon neglect? While Jesus is looking at the woman, he points out to Simon that he didn’t wash Jesus’ feet when he arrived, or kiss him when Simon greeted him, or anoint Jesus’ head with oil as a sign of Jesus’ position as the Christ. In fact it was the “sinner” who did these things because “she loved much”.

Simon’s love only reached as far as having Jesus over for dinner. And I wonder if Simon’s only motive for inviting Jesus to dinner was so that he could be seen with a celebrity, get his picture taken with him and have his face in the local newspaper the next day.

This woman’s love was great because she had much to be forgiven. She couldn’t stop showing Jesus this love as she stayed at Jesus’ feet the whole night. Oh what love we should be showing Jesus night and day for His grace and mercy for us!

Renee found Sean after the service and promptly gave him a huge hug. He introduced his new friend and said, “I hope we have enough supper for an extra plate.”

Currently on disability, Brian has been a pastor since graduating from San Diego Christian College in 1986 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies. In 1994, Brian earned a graduate level paralegal degree from the University of San Diego. Since 1984, he has been very active in the AWANA clubs serving as a commander, pastor and missionary advisory board member. Brian has worked on pastoral staffs of churches in Colorado and southern California. In 1997 he began a church in his home which currently meets in its own building located in Desert Hot Springs, California. A major hobby of Brian’s is cycling which includes two bike trips through Europe and a Canada to Mexico ride. Brian has been married to Beth, who he met in college, for over 26 years and they currently live in the Palm Springs area. They have two grown children.

 

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