Simon the Pharisee was a gracious host and Jesus was his guest. But for this self-righteous Pharisee, the otherwise pleasant evening meal turned into a nightmare: a prostitute crashed the party.
In oriental fashion, Jesus and the Pharisee would have been reclining on divans on three sides of a low table. Jesus was no doubt given a cushion and lay on his left arm with his head towards the table, his feet, unsandalled, stretched out behind. This left His right arm free with which to eat and made it possible for servants to rinse His feet during the banquet.
At some point during the banquet, the lady sneaked into the dining room. Leaning over Jesus’ feet, she washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. And then, in an act of remarkable sacrifice, she broke open the alabaster jar, worth a year’s salary for a common laborer, and anointed His feet.
We have no record the woman ever talked with Jesus. She did not admit to her life of sin and she did not ask for God’s forgiveness. But in her act of love, she indicated the place Jesus occupied in her life and that was enough. “Your faith has saved you,” Jesus said. “Go in peace.”
And she was not alone. On another occasion, a group of self-righteous Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been “caught in the very act of adultery.” Presuming He would “read her from the book” they were astounded when He said, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”
No one raised a hand against her, and shortly Jesus said to her, in my words, “Sweetheart, where are your accusers? Look … I don’t condemn you either. Go … and just don’t sin anymore, OK?”
That’s God, and the marvel of His love is that no one is beyond His reach. When God intervenes, depravity does not determine one’s destiny. Indeed, ours is a God of second chances.
I still recall the evening a teenager, new to our congregation, whom I shall call Jennifer, came by invitation as a special guest to our Church’s teen group. Perhaps fourteen years of age, her eyes were glazed over and she was staggering as if in a drunken stupor. She was hooked on Quaaludes (which she was getting by ripping off her grandmother) and claimed that evening to having taken thirteen — as in 13. Perhaps … but if true, it should have killed her.
But Jennifer found a group of people who cared and within months committed her life to Jesus Christ. To detox and put her life back together she enrolled in a Texas Bible School sponsored by David Wilkerson and Teen Challenge.
You can imagine my surprise and delight when, perhaps a year later, Jennifer phoned me, ecstatic beyond words. Despite severe brain damage brought on by the Quaaludes, she had just excelled on a test that called for the memorization of a large number of Bible verses. She was on the road to recovery, as thrilled as she was surprised!
It is amazing to see what God can do with a willing heart. A penitent prostitute, a brain-damaged teenager, and countless others have discovered there is no limit to the change that comes to a life open to His love. Our God is more than willing to take us from where we are and transform us into what we might have been. But He does so only by invitation.
You want to talk about it? Hit me up at [email protected]