Scripture

Alabaster Tears (Part 6): What the Angels Meant

My sixth post on topics ranging from holidays to the glory of a woman’s hair (and a man’s if it looks good!) to the pregnant girl who sat in front of me in senior English class.

I think there are two approaches we take to worship. We can worship in an attempt to get forgiveness for sins. Or we can worship out of an awareness that we’ve already been forgiven.

I want to harp a little more on Simon the Pharisee. Why? Because Jesus did.

Killing 2 Birds

Around the turn of the millennium in Palestine (in Jesus’ time), there was a misconception about God. Many people believed that in order to obtain favor with God, you had to do certain things and not do other things. How you stacked up at the end of your life determined whether you’d spend eternity with God or apart from him. Certainly, the times have changed since then but not our concept of God.

10-commandmentsThe Pharisees were known for keeping strict laws. They kept (or tried to keep) the Old Testament laws like “Thou shalt not commit adultery”—they especially liked thou shalt not’s—and the various tabernacle/temple regiments. They also added some of their own. Honoring the Sabbath (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) as a day of rest became so perverted that no one could do anything. I think that’s why it was Jesus’ favorite day to heal people. He was certainly compassionate to the sick but couldn’t pass up an opportunity to unnerve the Pharisees. “I could wait till Sunday, but no, I think I’ll go ahead and heal this lame man today—kill two birds with one stone.”

These Pharisees had all their rules but missed the heart of the Law, which was meant to help people realize how much they needed a Savior. The Pharisees, though, became their own messiah. But while they looked like they had it all together on the outside, on the inside they were all messed up. (I wrote about this in Sunday Best.) Jesus would challenge them on their not committing adultery: “Sure, you haven’t physically slept with other women, but I’ve seen the way you look at them. You’ve fornicated in your heart, which is just the same in my book.” (See Matthew 5:27-28.)

“… and on earth peace to men”

With this in mind and in considering the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, we might think that her acts of worship secured for her the forgiveness of her “many sins”—just as three Our Father’s, ten Hail Mary’s and five Mother May I’s might suggest. In Jesus’ response to the woman, he didn’t indicate that her tears and perfume bought her penance but that her expressions revealed her heart. Whereas Simon’s lack of hospitality revealed his self-righteousness, the woman’s worship showed her dependence on Christ.

Jesus didn’t reject the woman’s tears or her gift of perfume, because her works were the evidence of her faith. One of Jesus’ disciples would later write (and I wonder if he had this scene in mind): “We are not saved by faith plus works; we are saved by a faith that leads to works” (see James 2:14-26). It wasn’t this woman’s humility that saved her but her faith—her complete trust in the only one who could forgive her sins and save her. She knew she couldn’t measure up to Simon, or so she thought.

Those who realize their own sin and the extent to which Jesus went to secure reconciliation with God become true worshipers like this woman and so experience peace with God. The last words Luke notes were spoken by Jesus to the woman: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Warren Wiersbe says that it literally reads “Go into peace,” for she moved from “enmity toward God” into peace with him. This same peace was what the angels proclaimed on the evening of Jesus’ arrival on earth.

What about you? How have you viewed serving others? Why do we revert to depending on our works for salvation?

I’d love to hear back from you, so click on the COMMENTS link near the title of this post. Comment using a profile or anonymously.

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