Sermon on Luke 7:36-50 for Thanksgiving, November 27 & 28, 2019
Gratitude is all about attitude. If your attitude is “What do I deserve?” (Really, “What do I think I deserve?”) your life is not going to be a happy one, and not a very grateful one. Every day, you will be looking for the reward you think you deserve. Most of the time, it will never be enough. “What do I deserve?” “I did all this hard work, and look at the miserable things I get in return!” If your attitude is “What have I been given?” your life will probably be much happier. You will look at everything you have as a gift from God. You will remember people, parents, teachers, friends, and see them as God’s instruments and channels of his blessings to you. You will even look at your own hard work and see it as a gift from God. He gave you your abilities. He also gives you opportunities to be useful in home, church and society. In that way, God’s many gifts to you also become gifts to others.
I. Thankfulness Motivates
- In Luke chapter 7, we some gratitude, and we see some attitude. Luke begins by telling us about “a sinful woman.” What a description! How would you like to have a title like that? “There goes that sinful person!” That is how she was known in that town. We can only guess why people called her that. She comes to Jesus and expresses her gratitude in a very unique way. Gratitude, thankfulness for what? We don’t know. A safe guess would be that Jesus treated her differently than anyone else she knew. Maybe some act of kindness or some word of forgiveness. (We do hear such a word of forgiveness at the end of this lesson.) She comes to Jesus and weeps. Sometimes people cry because they are sad. Sometimes they cry tears of joy. Sometimes when people have been carrying some heavy burden in their hearts and minds, and then all of a sudden it’s lifted—then the tears come—in a degree that is beyond tears of sadness or joy. I think that’s what we see here.
- She does more than express her gratitude with emotion. She expresses her thanks with action. She brings an alabaster jar of perfume. This is probably not the equivalent of the four dollar bottle you’d see on the shelf at Wal-mart or the forty dollar bottle you’d find at the counter at Kohl’s. It’s more likely the equivalent of a $4,000 bottle, or maybe even a $40,000 bottle. On the day before Palm Sunday, someone anointed Jesus with perfume, and the disciples were amazed and exclaimed, “Why has this perfume been wasted? Certainly this perfume could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor!” (Mark 14:3-5). Nearly a year’s wages. She gave her all emotionally, and she gave her all physically by giving her best, giving what was most precious to her. Thankfulness motivates!
II. Unthankfulness Desecrates!
- We see gratitude. We also see attitude. Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to be a guest at his home, and most of the time, an invitation is an honor, much like a gift… but not this time. Simon invited Jesus, not to honor him, but to watch him. And as you know, if people are set on looking for faults, they are going to find You have to love the way Luke phrases this. Simon thought to himself: “If this man were a prophet, he would realize who is touching him and what kind of woman she is, because she is a sinner.” And then Luke writes, “Jesus answered him.” That’s the amazing Savior we have. Simon is thinking critical thoughts to himself, and Jesus answers him. He answers with a parable about forgiveness, but then he puts the focus on the “sinful woman” and the contrast between her actions and Simon’s.
- We have some gaps in culture and time here that need some explanation. Jesus told Simon, “I entered your house, but you did not give me water for my feet. Yet she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.” In dry and dusty Israel, at a time when some people went barefoot. If they had footwear it was sandals—not Birkenstock’s that are form-fitted to the feet for maximum comfort, but a leather sole with thongs or cords to tie it to your foot, and at a time before cars when people walked long distances—cool water for the feet would have been a common thing for a host to offer a guest. (Think of the Jesus and his disciples on Holy (Maundy) Thursday—Jesus washed his disciples feet.) Simon offered Jesus nothing. The woman wet his feet with her tears. “You did not give me a kiss, but she, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.” Maybe you’ve seen French or Middle Eastern people greet each other and they have this double nod and peck on each cheek they do as a greeting. Our equivalent would probably be a handshake. Simon gave him no greeting like that at all. The woman couldn’t stop kissing his feet. “You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume.” In the second half of Psalm 23, David describes being a guest at a royal banquet. “You set a table before me… You anoint my head with oil. You fill my cup to overflowing.” Again in dry and dusty Israel, olive oil, used like a lotion—think Vaseline Intensive Care or Jergens, would also be refreshing after a long, hot, dry day. Simon showed Jesus little hospitality, other than the invitation. The woman gave her very best because she knew what she had been given—pardon and peace from Jesus himself. To her that meant everything! Simon didn’t think he needed forgiveness for anything. To him, Jesus was hardly a prophet because he let the sinful woman touch him.
- Thankfulness motivates. Unthankfulness desecrates. It treats the holy as unholy. It treats the precious as worthless. This is not just a lesson about what happened at the home of Simon the Pharisee long ago, it’s a lesson for you and me about attitude, gratitude, thankfulness and unthankfulness. Something I haven’t heard in a long time—this is something people would probably not tell the preacher because it might end up in a sermon—is “I have little or nothing to be thankful for!!” The very fact that you and I are here means that God has answered the prayer that most of us pray every day, “Give us our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11). We have learned that means that God gives us all we need for body and life. If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be here. We have that to be thankful for. And don’t we really have everything in abundance? What are on your shelves or in your refrigerator at home? And if you don’t have it at home, the local stores have plenty for you. We do not live with famine like many in the world do. The last real plague in this country was the influenza epidemic of 1918. God gives us daily bread and delivers us from evil.
- He also feeds us with the Bread of Life, his holy Word, so that we know what this sinful woman knew, that her sins were forgiven. In Psalm 103, King David says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul. All that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul,and do not forget all his benefits—who pardons all your guilt…” Without God’s forgiveness, we would not know who we are as forgiven children of God. We would live under a cloud of gloom, wondering if the hardships of life are punishment for something we did. We know our Savior Jesus Christ, who took our guilt so there is no condemnation for us (Romans 8:1). In fact, we also have God’s promise that all things, even the bad things, have to serve his good purpose for us (Romans 8:28). Sometimes the hardships are God’s blessings in disguise as he uses the hard times to get our attention, to lift our eyes above all our worldly stuff, or to prepare us to let go of the earthly for the heavenly. Most of the time, this “working all things (especially the bad things) for our good” is beyond our understanding, but God knows what he’s doing. He knows and has experienced the bad for a good purpose himself. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him? (Romans 8:32).
Conclusion: And so we pray that God will continue to bless us in good times and in bad. We pray that he will open our eyes to see all things as gifts from him. We pray that he will open our hearts to express our thankfulness and gratitude with a good attitude: with hearts, hands and voices, declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9), who has given us each day our daily bread, who has blessed us and kept us.
Luke 7:36-50 (EHV)
A certain one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him. Jesus entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 Just then a sinful woman from that town learned that he was reclining in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 stood behind him near his feet weeping, and began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she began to wipe them with her hair while also kissing his feet and anointing them with the perfume. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would realize who is touching him and what kind of woman she is, because she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” He said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. The one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the larger debt forgiven.” Then he told him, “You have judged correctly.” 44 Turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, but you did not give me water for my feet. Yet she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but she, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. 47 Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that is why she loved so much. But the one who is forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49 Those reclining at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”