November 17, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 7:37-38 (NRSV)
And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.
In Luke 7 a woman expresses love for Jesus in an extravagant, vulnerable, and even scandalous way. Why? Why did she wash Jesus’s feet with her tears? Because, Jesus explains, she had experienced the gracious forgiveness of God. Today, the more we experience God’s amazing grace and know we are truly and fully forgiven, the more we will love Jesus. And the more we will be moved to love others in his name.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
People respond to Jesus in many different ways. In Luke 7, we catch a glimpse of how various people reacted to Jesus as he exercised his extraordinary authority to heal and forgive. In an earlier Life for Leaders devotion, we saw how Simon invited Jesus to a dinner party at his home, but then did not welcome him warmly as an honored guest. He responded with hesitation and then with criticism. In yesterday’s devotion, we noted how others at Simon’s party responded to Jesus by wondering. They asked questions, not to condemn Jesus, but rather to try and figure out who he was and why he was doing such extraordinary things.
Today we see a very different kind of response to Jesus and his authority. This response comes from an unnamed woman in Luke 7. She is identified as a “sinner,” the sort of woman with whom a typical Jewish holy man would not have contact (Luke 7:39). This woman was boldly courageous as she crashed Simon’s dinner party and began to weep, bathing Jesus’s feet with her tears. She was kissing his feet and anointing him with precious ointment. Simon regarded such behavior as truly scandalous, which led him to question Jesus’s prophetic powers. Surely a true prophet would not have allowed such a woman to touch him in this way, Simon reasoned.
But Jesus both received and defended the woman’s behavior. He told a parable about two people who had owed money to a creditor. One owed a lot while the other owed a little. When the creditor forgave the debts of both, Jesus asked Simon, “Now, which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:42). Simon rightly pointed to the one who had the greatest debt. Then Jesus explained that the woman who had so lavishly served him had been forgiven for “her sins, which were many” (Luke 7:47). Therefore, according to Jesus, she showed “great love” (Luke 7:47).
The woman in this story exemplifies a powerful and moving response to Jesus. She expressed her adoration in a shockingly intimate way. Why did she love Jesus so extravagantly? Because she had received extravagant forgiveness from Jesus. Thus, her adoration flowed from her gratitude. Loving Jesus in such a personal, risky way was an expression of devotion based on thanksgiving.
As I reflect on my own life in light of this story, I recognize that grateful adoration of Jesus did not come naturally to me at first. I remember as a boy in Sunday School learning the ACTS of prayer, in which Adoration came first (followed by Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). I was encouraged to begin my prayers by adoring the Lord. I knew I should do this, but didn’t really know how. I could say the right words, but my heart wasn’t engaged. My ability to adore the Lord came later, after I had come to experience much more of his forgiveness and grace because, well, I had many more sins needing forgiveness. (Even today, to be completely honest, I’m better at the CTAS model of prayer, where adoration follows thanksgiving. Of course, I realize that ACTS is much more memorable than CTAS.)
As I think about so many people I have known as a pastor, I am convinced that we can indeed respond to Jesus with grateful, even extravagant adoration, much like the woman in our story. We won’t be able to wash Jesus’s feet in a literal sense. But we can adore him by offering our love in words and other deeds of worship or by serving others in his name. We will be drawn into acts of adoration by our experience of God’s grace offered through Jesus. Like the debtors in his parable, the more recognize our great need for his forgiveness, the more we will love the Lord. Like the woman in Luke’s story, the more we know the love of Jesus for us, the more we will love him in return.
Would you say that you adore the Lord? If so, why? If not, why not?
As you think about your relationship with Jesus, have there been times you have felt and expressed strong adoration for him. What was going on to explain this experience?
How aware are you of how much Jesus has forgiven you?
In what ways might you express your adoration for Jesus, both to him and to others in his name? Remember Jesus’s statement in Matthew, in which he says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
I would suggest a couple of actions you might take in response to today’s Scripture. First, if you tend not to be aware of how much God has forgiven you in Christ, set aside a good chunk of time for prayer and ask God to help you see just how much he has forgiven you. Alternatively, if you feel grateful love for Jesus in a strong way, find a way to express this love with intentionality. This may be something you do in prayer. Or you might choose to love another person in Jesus’s name.
Lord Jesus, thank you for this wonderful story in Luke. I thank you, in particular, for the woman in this story, for her bold and vulnerable expression of love for you. I am moved by her example. And I am reminded that love for you follows from the experience of your grace.
Lord, I have indeed been forgiven much by you, and therefore should find it easy to love much. But I confess that I can forget all that you have done for me. I can take your forgiveness for granted. Forgive me for this, Lord! But, even more, give me a new awareness of just how much you have forgiven me. Let me experience your amazing grace once again. As this happens, may my adoration for you be stirred. May I be bold, like the woman in the story, to express my love for you.
All praise, glory, and honor be to you, gracious, forgiving, loving Lord! Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus Forgives Sins