Thursday, December 11, 2008

A story of love and the heart (Luke 7:36-50)

I love the story of the incident at Simon’s house.

I love the raw emotion of it, the way it shakes me from my academic and theoretical analysis and makes it personal, the way it forces me to ask myself, ‘do I love him?’

I love the way it reveals my sinful, self-righteous heart. I see the woman, her hair uncovered, kissing his feet and I respond as Simon does. I am embarrassed, squirming in my seat. I don’t know where to look! Like Simon, I have become a judge with evil thoughts, judging not just the woman but also the one who will not send her away. Like Simon, I think they are unclean, but I, the one who judges, am clean. I am like Simon, in danger of rejecting God’s purpose for myself (7:30).

I love the way it gently but unmistakably rebukes Simon, and me. Jesus says, ‘He who is forgiven little loves little’ (7:47); or she who does not think she needs to be forgiven, loves little. And he gently reminds me of all the hidden thoughts and desires that no-one else sees. He gently reminds me of my sin.

I love the way it reveals the Saviour’s heart. The saviour, the friend of sinners (7:34) who will not send away the sinful woman, but accepts and affirms her love and assures her of her forgiveness. Jesus, the friend of sinners, the one who forgives sin (7:49), the one who came to seek and save what was lost (19:10).

I love the way it shows me a truly repentant heart; a heart so full of sin and sorrow that it has burst open with love upon being forgiven. A heart that recognises its sin, and being truly sorrowful, turns to the saviour in faith for forgiveness. A heart that, in recognising and loving the saviour, is greater than John (7:28). A heart that, by God’s grace, is also mine.

I love this story. But do I love him?

And how would I demonstrate such love? What do you think?

Pic: 'Mary Magdalene Anointing Jesus' Feet' (the incident in John 12, not the one here in Luke 7), Artist: Nicolas Poussin, at


Gordon Cheng said...

Of course one needs to understand the historical and cultural context of this passage to get the true meaning.

Feet were cleaner in those days.


(Good post!)

EQUIP Book Club said...

Alison Blake said...

Hi Rachael,

I was so pleased to read your thoughts & reflections on this passage.

A couple of years ago I was reading through John
I was enormously struck by the parallel passage in John, ch12v1-10.

It was the extravagant love of Mary that struck me - over the top, totally inappropriate according to some of those who saw what she did - but thoroughly appropriate according to Jesus. I think it's significant that John places the incident between the resurrection of Lazarus & the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The uncomfortableness of Mary's actions struck a chord with me too - I was rebuked for my mediocrity & half heartedness towards Jesus. And I was reminded of his extravagant love for us, which John hints of in v7-8 & speaks clearly about in the second half of ch12.

I do think you've picked up on something very significant in the gospel accounts!

Unknown said...

Good question, Rachael. How do I love Jesus like this woman did?

Is it calling a friend that missed bible study? Taking a meal to a struggling family? is it helping out that homeless person that hangs around during morning tea after church?

Or is it the repentant tears over God's word as I realise I have wronged a friend or the neglect i have shown to my Lord?

How often do I sit and reflect on my depravity and long for the physical presence of Jesus, to kiss those beautiful feet and weep for the suffering he faced for me? Not often enough. Sometimes it feels easier to just cook the meal.

How do I love Jesus like this woman did?

Rachael said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Alison, I think many of us could be described as mediocre and half-hearted. I also found it very challenging.

Katie, I think it's a good question too, which is why I asked it! I'm not sure I have all the answers yet. I've been thinking about it for a while and have some ideas. I'd appreciate your thoughts!

Like Alison said, it's love that is extravagant and may appear inappropriate to others. So maybe it is helping out that homeless person... extravagant and inappropriate (and we're good at pointing out how inappropriate that is...).

But what is it? Here are some ideas. Some very similar to what you said.

First, it is repentant tears as we realise we have wronged someone (and Him), or as we remember afresh his suffering on our behalf, the tears we shed in joy for the forgiveness he has won for us. And I think the tears come as we meet Jesus in his word. So it is, as you said, 'the repentant tears over God's word...' because we meet Jesus in the word... he is the word. Whether it is as we are sitting reading the bible or those same words that we have stored in our heart and we remember while going about our daily lives or that we hear spoken by someone else or in song; when we meet him it is appropriate respond in tears. Not every time, but if we never shed tears like this, I would worry that we either don't realise the magnitude of our sin or the depth of his love for us.

This love that we feel for him is more than the love that we feel for other characters we read about in novels. He is alive and he is a real person. We ought to feel real love for a real person and long for the time when we will be able to see him and kiss those beautiful feet. And I think this experience of him comes by spirit and word together, not an experience of him apart from his word.

Second, it is loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is calling that friend and cooking that meal. When Jesus speaks to Simon Peter after his resurrection (after Peter had betrayed him) he says three times,
"Simon, do you love me."
And three times he replies yes. Then three timesJesus says,
"Feed my sheep."
There is a direct link between loving Jesus and looking after his sheep, our brothers and sisters. This also seems to be a big part of the message of 1 John; In response to the love and forgiveness we have in Christ, we love each other.

Third, loving God involves keeping his commands. And his commands are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love each other. So, loving each other is really important.

Fourth, it's a whole re-aligning of the way we live. When you love someone, you do what is good for them, you put them first. That's how we should be treating Jesus. I shouldn't make decisions about where I live, how I work, who I marry etc etc based on what is good for me or even what is good for my family, but according to what is good for Him. How is this demonstrated? Another good question.

But that's enough for now...

And Gordon, thanks for kicking things off for us...