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Monday, April 8, 2013

A Passion for Jesus – Part 2

“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” – Mark 14:9

In the opening part of this series we defined passion as a driving force, a deep emotion in the heart, a fire in the belly, a heart aflame. People have a passion for many things, but how many have a passion for Jesus? We also said that passion for Jesus based on popularity, politics, provision, self-promotion, or pride will not stand the test of time; it will only be a Palm Sunday passion.

But where does a persevering passion for Jesus start? It starts when we fall at the feet of Jesus aware of our depth and debt of sin and receive His deeper forgiveness by faith. This is exemplified in the account of a notoriously sinful woman who came to Jesus one day. The account is given in Luke 7:36-50.  Let’s look at this passage verse by verse.

 36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat.

Jesus was willing to eat with just about anyone. He didn’t see it as an endorsement of that person’s lifestyle or doctrine. Something to note here (and that Jesus will bring to the Pharisee’s attention later) is that Jesus received none of the normal acts of hospitality to be expected by a guest. The Pharisee had no servant wash Jesus’ feet upon entering the home.  People wore sandals which opened the feet to the debris and refuse on the dirt roads. It was culturally acceptable and expected that a hose would make provisions to wash a guest’s feet. The Pharisee offered Jesus no kiss of welcome. It was customary for a host to kiss both checks of their guest as a sign of welcome. The Pharisee offered no anointing oil poured on his guests head to refresh his guest and welcome him. This was a rude host.
37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner,

The woman’s identity is anonymous and unknown. In a later part of this series we will consider a possible identity for this woman of the night. She was well known though, and not for good.
The word “sinner” here implies this woman was a notorious sinner, one known for her sin in the community, likely a prostitute. Pastor Chuck Smith states in his note in the Word for Today Bible, “The Greek language indicates that this woman was a prostitute. The Pharisees were scandalized that Jesus would allow such a woman to even touch Him. But Jesus’ message to her was, ‘Your sins are forgiven . . . Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’ And that is His message for any sinner who will come to Him, no matter how vile.”

when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil,
Here is the first evidence of her faith. She was more concerned with being in Jesus’ presence than what religious people thought of her. Second, she brought something to Jesus that was valuable. Recognize that this is God working in her heart and life. She could not come to Jesus without the Holy Spirit convicting her of her sin and drawing her (cp. John 6:44; 16:8-11).

38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.
Further evidence of her faith is seen in her humility. She was humble and passionate enough about Jesus to weep at His feet, wipe His feet with her tear soaked hair, and kiss his feet while anointing them with the fragrant oil. This was an act of humble worship; an expression of her faith.  Would you worship Jesus like this?

I propose that this sinful woman was at a place where we all need to go. Oswald Chambers once wrote, “It is not a question of our equipment, but of our poverty; not what we bring with us, but what He puts in us; not our natural virtues, our strength of character, our knowledge, our experience; all that is of no avail. . . . God can do nothing with people who think they will be of use to him.”  Certainly this woman thought she was less than nothing. The missionary David Brainerd who literally burned himself out for the Lord at a very young age wrote in his diary, "It is sweet to be nothing and less than nothing that Christ may be all in all." That seems contrary to message from the church we often hear in our day. Charles Finney, the great revivalist of the 19th century said, “Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God. It is giving up one's will to God in deep humility.” If we are ever to experience revival, we need some humility and heart conviction, brokenness like this woman had.

I would contend that the Spirit was moving in this house as the woman wept at Jesus feet. This brokenness of the woman is a product of the conviction of the Spirit. This is the stuff of revival. Martyn Lloyd Jones makes this connection when he writes, “What is the test of a Christian? It is the presence of a grief and a sorrow in the heart, because of the way in which men are not glorifying God. . . . To what extent do we feel a longing and a desire for the manifestation of God in his glory?  . . . Is it God-centered, is it grief for God’s sake, is it a desire that he may manifest his glory again? That is what always appears in times of revival. Not that the Church may be benefitted, not even that the people may come crowding into the Church. No, the primary thing is that God and his glory may be made known. That is the primary concern.”[1] This woman cared more about the glory of Jesus than this religious Pharisee did!
39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

The religious Pharisee preferred to keep his distance from such a vile sinner. Under the law, to touch a sinner made one unclean; defiled. Religion distances the minister from the sinner. Jesus allowed the sinner to minister to Him and have contact with Him. How will sinners get saved if we fear touching them where they are? (cf. Romans 10:14-17).
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

Jesus is teaching the righteously indignant Pharisee a lesson about himself. The point here is that this woman knows she is a sinner and has come to Jesus in humility. She will find forgiveness. The “righteous” Pharisee is too proud and hard to humble himself before Jesus and will find only rebuke. He was repulsed by this public display. He was t proud for anything like that. How about you? Are you too proud to even raise your hand in church to admit your sinfulness and need of a Savior?

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

A passion for Jesus begins in faith produced humility at the feet of Jesus. This is really the only way to come to Jesus – humbly. She humbled herself before Jesus and ministered to Him. The Pharisee did nothing for Jesus. This woman knew she was a sinner and was humbled by it. The Pharisee proudly thought he was better than her, had no true understanding of his own sinfulness, and gave nothing of significance to Jesus. In reality this religious prelate blasphemed God by rejecting the Spirit’s conviction of sin. The Pharisee was hardened against the Spirit. He was further from God than this woman was. She had great love because she was forgiven much. The Pharisee had no love because he didn’t experience the forgiveness of God. Which of these person’s best describes you? Are you passionate for Jesus? Or are you passionless toward Jesus?

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The woman found forgiveness. The Pharisee was still in his sin.

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Here and in Luke 18:42 are the only places where we find the words, “Your faith has saved you.” There is something extremely important to understand here. We are not saved by passion or emotion. We are saved from and forgiven our sins BY FAITH. Luke was a companion of Paul who emphasized the importance of salvation as a gift of God’s grace received by faith (e.g. Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). Now I mention that not to insinuate that Luke inserted something into Jesus’ mouth that He did not actually say, but to show that Luke would have been particularly tuned into such words of Jesus and their significance. “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” We receive forgiveness for our sins by faith. And that places us in a peaceful relationship with God in Christ (cf. Romans 5:1ff.).

The woman’s faith was the driving force in all her humility and coming to Jesus. What was the nature of her faith that saved her?

Her faith was in Jesus alone. Her entire focus was on Jesus. She came to see Him. She wept behind Him, at His feet. She washed His feet with her tear soaked hair. She anointed His feet with oil. She looked for Jesus and Jesus only.

Her faith brought her close to Jesus. She came up behind Jesus; close to Him.

Her faith was humble with a sense of unworthiness. She stood behind Jesus; unworthy to come face to face with Him. She came on His terms, not her own.

Her faith was courageous, overcoming opposition. She had to know, that as a notorious sinner (a prostitute) that she was unwelcome in the Pharisee’s home. But she came to Jesus anyway.

Her faith was demonstrated in a loving act of devotion to Him. Washing His feet with her tears and anointing Jesus with costly oil were expressions of her faith produce loving devotion to Jesus. She was laying her life down before Him. She was making a life altering decision.
Her faith spoke not a word. Actions speak louder than words. There are some who verbally claim Jesus as their Savior and Lord but their life actions speak otherwise; there is no spiritual fruit.  Sometimes we insist a person say the “Four Spiritual Laws,” or the ABCs of salvation in a prayer. But salvation takes place in the heart (Rom. 10:9-10). Sometimes what goes on in the heart defies verbal expression. Don’t fear or resist this.  What counts and is most important is that a person surrenders in heart to Jesus and receive God’s gospel of grace. This woman didn’t have to say a word; her actions spoke for her. Her actions revealed her heart toward Jesus.

Her faith in Jesus saved her. Jesus told her she was saved by faith. His words “Go in peace” were a promise of a new life. This woman left with forgiveness of her sins and peace. The Pharisee was left with nothing.

This woman had a faith-full passion for Jesus that exalted Him at all costs. She didn’t care about anything except Jesus. Jesus was first and foremost to her. She cared more about Jesus than what others thought about her. She was humbled in His presence. All she wanted was to pour herself out at Jesus’ feet. That is what having a passion for Jesus is all about. That is where a passion for Jesus begins. Does that describe your passion for Jesus?

[1] Martin Lloyd Jones, Revival, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1987) p. 89

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