The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – Series C – Luke 7:36-8:3
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
The woman, weeping at the feet of Jesus, has no shame. She has no shame at all.
For really if she had any, then she would probably never show up in our Gospel lesson.
If she had shame, she would never have crashed the party at the house of Simon the Pharisee.
If she had shame, she would never have devised a plan on how to sneak in undetected, slip by the righteous religious leaders, and stalk right up to the feet of Jesus, Himself.
And if she had any shame at all, then she most certainly would not have washed the feet of Jesus in such an awkward and cringing kind of way.
For is this not, what the Gospel reading does to us when we hear it?
Is it not slightly awkward? Does it not cause us to cringe a bit? Even to feel some shame ourselves?
Whether we heard it clearly the first time or not, let us hear again these Words from St. Luke’s Gospel:
“And [the woman] standing behind [Jesus] at his feet, weeping, began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them.” (Lk. 7:38)
Truly this woman has no shame. She barges in, throws dinner etiquette to the wind, begins sobbing and washes the feet of the spotless Lamb of God.
It’s unexpected and unprecedented, and no one feels that more than Jesus’ dinner host, Simon the Pharisee.
For Simon knows who and what this woman is.
St. Luke kindly and mercifully calls her ‘a sinner’.
But that’s not what Simon’s concerned about. Rather, his concern are the specific sins of this particular woman.
Simon is disgusted not merely by this woman ‘the sinner’, but this woman the ‘prostitute’, this woman the ‘prostitute’ taking up space under his roof, this woman the ‘prostitute’ crying over the feet of one of his guests.
For this woman is one who knows no husband, and yet her ill-reputation is known by all.
She has been faithful to no one, but has been faithless to many. She is the very definition of unclean, of the undeserving, the unworthy, the rebellious and the sinner.
And so if Jesus is really worth His salt, if He has the Spirit of God, if He really is a prophet, then, as Simon thinks to himself, He’d send and banish this woman as far away from Him as possible. He’d cast her into the outer darkness.
But Jesus doesn’t do any of this.
He doesn’t banish the sinner, and He doesn’t shame the woman.
For His road to the cross is not about driving his people away, but rather drawing them in, and it’s not about adding guilt to our grief or shame to our sorrow…in truth, it’s about banishing and driving those very things away.
‘Forgiveness’ is a word that sounds nice in English, it’s comforting, it bubbles with love. And that’s true, forgiveness is all about God’s love, it’s all about the comfort that He has come to bring.
But in Greek, ‘Forgiveness’ is a not a nice word. In fact, it’s really quite violent, and it’s by no means a tame word.
Forgiveness, in Greek, is found as the word ‘Luo’, and it means to release, to let go, to send away, but not in a gentle and or casual kind of way.
In fact, it refers sometimes to the forceful sending away or banishing of a spouse in divorce, it’s a violent upheaval, and dramatic and permanent splitting of two things. It even refers to the process of death and decay in the stripping of flesh from the body in the grave.
Forgiveness, is indeed a good word, it’s loving word, it’s a comforting word, but it’s not a nice word…and that’s actually a very good thing.
For in Holy Baptism, your sin, death and bondage to the devil was not lightly removed.
It was not gently pulled away, the Lord did not slowly pull back the guilt of your sin, but rather He decisively and even violently, redeemed you and placed it upon the body and blood of His own Son.
Forgiveness is not nice, it is not gentle, but it is good, for it is the all-availing sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ Jesus nailed to the cross, it is the decisive, finished and permanent action of God in mercy, and in that, it is the very heart of God Who is love.
This is why the woman has no shame.
She has no shame, because she has been forgiven, her guilt has been taken away.
Her sins, though they are many, have been taken up by Christ and so go with Him.
And they go with Him, now under His own name, not hers, now to the hill outside of Jerusalem, and not to the death that she deserves.
She has no shame, for this what perfect and forgiving love does. And that is, that it calls and forces us away from staring into ourselves and the shame of our hidden sin, and instead, it fixes our eyes in faith, on Jesus, on the author and perfecter of faith itself.
Forgiveness produces love, it results in love, it responds with love. And that love is what binds us to Jesus and Jesus only, so that in true faith, we might then see Jesus, and Jesus only.
That we might see Jesus, and not Simon’s outburst. Not the Pharisees’ disgust. Not the whispers in the house. Not the insults from the table, but Jesus, and Jesus only.
The woman who weeps at the dinner table, sees the Lamb of God in faith for exactly who He is…and so she has no shame.
You, who approach this altar through this font, see in faith the Lamb of God for exactly who He is…the body and blood given, the forgiveness which is yours, the guilt that has been taken away, the fear that is no more. Yes, you, have no shame, you come in boldness and confidence for this God is for you.
Yet the same cannot be said of Simon the Pharisee.
Simon finds Jesus interesting, to be sure, but nothing more than that. He finds Jesus entertaining, perhaps even inspiring, but not forgiving, not the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of world.
To see that, would mean that Simon has a condition of sin that needs forgiving, to see that would mean that Simon must not simply be interested in Jesus, but in fact, be redeemed by Jesus.
And so Simon holds Jesus at a distance, he demands that Christ stay on safe topics, like the Law and the Commandments, the traditions and the elders, but nothing too serious, not sin, not the shame of Simon’s hidden heart, not redemption, and most certainly, not forgiveness that Simon can’t give himself.
In the same way, Simon’s interest and unbelief is our temptation every Sunday, each week, each passing year.
And that is that we would hold Jesus at a distance. That we would cover up our sin and demand that God deal with us on those safe topics, on those conversations that are fitting for the dinner table.
Our temptation is to see Jesus as simply interesting, but nothing more. To think of Church as perhaps inspiring, but nothing deeper, nothing more needful. To view our faith as therapeutic, as self-helping, as a few tips to take with us that week, but nothing more serious, nothing more life-giving.
And yet our Lord does leave us here, even if we would wish to leave ourselves here; no, he doesn’t leave us in our unbelief and the hiding of our sins.
He comes to us, He goes the whole way, He bridges the entire gap. He descends in body and blood, water and word, and with these gifts, he forgives…not casually, not nicely, but truly, with real comfort, and with perfect love.
For perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love plants and sustains true faith. Perfect love, calls us to expect from Christ good and gracious gifts.
That His mercy is for us. That His forgiveness has sent our sin and death running away, that His light exposes our hearts, washes them clean, and restores them in love.
And so this woman, and you and I, in faith, through forgiveness, and by the love of Christ Himself, have no shame.
There is no left to accuse you.
Your sins have been violently and decisively uprooted and graciously bound to the tree of His cross. You are free, and free by His love.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.