Radical Gratitude

How would you describe what it means to be saved by Jesus? What has being saved meant to you and how do you express your gratitude? As you look at the example of the woman in this passage, ask yourself, “What does my gratitude toward Jesus say to others about salvation?”

Passage: Luke 7:36-50 Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
The passage opens with an invitation. One of the Pharisees, despite open criticism and opposition to Jesus, invites Him to dinner. Jesus readily agrees and is reclined at his table, perhaps enjoying the meal and a casual dinner conversation. The Pharisee must have been at least curious to learn more about this man, Jesus, and His ministry which seemed to be gaining potency.  Dinner was a convenient way to get in front of Jesus or, maybe more to the point, to get Jesus in front of him…to watch Him, to listen, and to look for “signs” to answer the questions surrounding who He really was.

Dinner is disrupted by an unexpected visitor.  A mysterious, unnamed woman is standing behind Jesus and the group cannot help but notice the horrible sound of her anguished weeping. Imagine being known not by your name, but only as “a woman who had lived a sinful life” (7:37).  This was a title reserved for the worst of the worst. Only the grossly immoral outlaws of society deserved such a detestable label, “Sinner”. It must have taken courage on her part to come there to see Jesus. Tears of hot humiliation poured from her eyes, falling on Jesus’ feet. She instinctively, and without concern for others, stooped low to the ground to kiss them and wipe the tears away with her wild, unkempt hair. (7:38). She came with an express purpose – to anoint Jesus with perfume and, by doing so, declare her faith that He was the Messiah, the Anointed One sent from God.

The Pharisee took offense and secretly judged Jesus in his heart. He silently scoffed, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.” (7:39) Jesus, knowing his thoughts, asked to share a truth with him in an unassuming and respectful manner. (7:40). The Pharisee was aroused to listen, “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

Jesus told the story of two men who owed money. One owed 500 denarii and the other only 50, a tenfold difference in debt. One owed the equivalent of more than a year’s worth of work and wages, while the other barely owed a month. It was the difference between an annual salary and a month’s rent.  Regardless of the amount, neither man could pay, so the lender cancelled them both in full. Jesus asked, “Now which of them will love him more?” (7:42) to which the Pharisee reluctantly replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” (7:43)

Jesus is the One who has paid our debt in full. What kind of debt has He wiped clean for you? Have you had a few minor scrapes in a relatively “good” life or have you made a career out of wrong choices? When you consider the term “sinner”, are you more like the woman…known for her sin publicly, courageous and risking, radically spilling out the fruit of her gratitude for Jesus, or the Pharisee, neatly seated at his own table…curious, judging, and reluctant?

Jesus turns toward the woman in verse 7:44 and begins to compare and contrast her against the Pharisee. “Do you see this woman?” he asks.

“You did not give me water for my feet….she wet them with her tears and wiped them with her hair”. (7:44)

“You did not welcome me with a kiss…she has not stopped kissing my feet.” (7:45)

 “You did not pour oil on my head….she poured perfume on my feet.” (7:46)

Jesus boldly declares the woman’s many sins forgiven. “He who has been forgiven little, loves little”, He adds. (7:47) Then he beautifully turns to address the woman. Imagine Him gently stooping to reach for her hands and pulling her up to eye level, “Your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (7:48, 50)  Her heart must have swelled with joy as she departed…touched by Jesus, forgiven, at peace.

Jesus is turned toward you too. Have you felt his forgiving touch? He longs for us to put our faith in Him and receive forgiveness.  What do others see about you? Is your gratitude evident? In what ways and places can others tell you’ve been forgiven? What kind of commotion does your sense of indebtedness cause? Is your gratitude humble, unworthy to be at His table, yet by His great mercy lifted up to partake of it?

Let us give thanks to Jesus for what His salvation personally means to us! As we gather around the table in thanksgiving, may our gratitude spill out to those seated with us.

 Happy Thanksgiving!