God’s Radical Hospitality

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

Luke 7:36–50 (NLT) One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.* 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver* to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Introduction:  Witness

This week we went to the North Texas Annual Conference.  The theme for Annual Conference this year was “Witness.”  We heard the witness of Scott Chrostek, the pastor of Church of the Resurrection Downtown, Kansas City, MO.  He shared about how he planted the church in the downtown of Kansas City as a daughter church of the Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS with only 9 people in 2012.  In his book, The Misfit Nation:  How to Change the World with Surprises, Interruptions, and All the Wrong People, he shared how God took these 9 people, started a church, and grew them to over 1,000 in regular attendance in 5 years.  He called himself and those first 9 people  the misfits, because from a worldly perspective, they were all the wrong people.  They are reaching people who formerly considered themselves non-religious or nominally religious.  He illustrated how people can discover their innate passion for knowing and serving Christ, and how a church can become an integral part of the community.

Scott Chrostek’s witness is an example of how God can use anyone, even a group of seeming misfits, to extend God’s radical hospitality and extravagant generosity to those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Excellent churches display the signs of growth and health.  They practice the strategies that produce fruitful ministry.  Bishop Robert Schnase of Missouri wrote a book, The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.  In it, he identifies five practices that are present in every fruitful church. Some fruitful congregations are large, and some are small, some in the city, and some in the country.  But whatever the context might be excellent, healthy churches display some common characteristics.  These 5 practices are radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity.

For the past 6 years, we have been studying, learning, and practicing these 5 practices in our ministry here at First United Methodist Church of Bells.  Bells First United Methodist Church is already great church, but we need to constantly remember our core values.  We need to remember who we are and what we are all about.  We need to think about ways we can improve and be an even better.

In this passage, Luke tells us about something that Jesus did that represents how we should treat people.  So today we are talking about hospitality. It’s such a friendly word. Hospitality is the ministry of inviting and welcoming people who might be a part of our fellowship and ministry.  Actually the Greek word for hospitality is literally, “stranger love,” that is showing love to people you do not know.  Partly it’s about evangelism—introducing people to Jesus.  Partly it’s about making people feel like they belong to the church family. Hospitality means caring for the outsiders and making them insiders. It’s more than entertaining. Hospitality is related to words like hospital and hospice. It’s a way we care for people who are hurting, people who need help, people who have sin-sick souls. It’s a way we offer rest and peace and comfort and love on behalf of Christ.

Key Point:  In this passage, Jesus demonstrates God’s radical hospitality and extravagant generosity.  In that, God has sent his Son to die upon the cross for our sins so that we might have eternal life.

Jesus was anointed by a woman.  It was quite common to invite a visiting rabbi or teacher to the Sabbath meal after he had taught in the synagogue.  If it was a banquet meal, Jesus may have been invited because of his reputation as a prophet.[1]  Maybe Simon felt that he was “honoring” Jesus by having Him in his home and perhaps felt a little proud of himself.  Jesus was a very popular teacher and Simon was curious about His teachings.

Luke 7:37 (NLT) When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume.  How did she get in? It was not uncommon for uninvited guests to be found at a banquet, and among them was a woman well known as an immoral woman[2]  Everyone knew who she was and her reputation.  Luke doesn’t give us her name.  The text says simply that she was a sinner.  She was known as a notorious sinner.

Luke 7:38 (NLT) Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

Jesus was reclining at the table. People reclined on low couches to eat, rather than sitting at a table like we do.  She washed his feet with her tears and wipes his feet with her unbound hair. She anoints him with her greatest treasure, an alabaster jar of perfume.  Probably this jar of perfume represented her entire life savings.

Luke 7:39 (NLT) When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”  Pastor Jesus, don’t you know who this is?  Can’t you see by the way she dresses what kind of woman she is?  She’s a sinner!  What kind of prophet is this who can’t tell a sinner from a saint?

Transition:       Secondly, Jesus welcomes sinners.  Then Jesus told a parable about 2 men who owed a man some money.

Luke 7:41–42 (NLT) “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver (a denarius was the price of a day’s work for a common laborer, so he owed about 2 years wages) to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts.  Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”  43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”  “That’s right,” Jesus said.

Love follows forgiveness.  Then Jesus turned to the woman, and speaks to Simon.  vv.  44–48 (NLT) “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

III.       Jesus friend of sinners (vv. 47-48)

47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

One of the accusations that the Pharisees made of Jesus is that he was the friend of sinners.  Yes.  Thank God, Jesus is a friend of sinners!

One of the images of the church is that of a hospital.  A hospital is place to take care of and heal sick people.  In one of his mission statements, Jesus characterized his mission as a ministry of healing for sinners:  “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.  I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”  (Luke 5:31, 32)

Love follows forgiveness.  Those who have been forgiven much, love much.  How much have we been forgiven?  How much do we love God?  How do we show Jesus that we love Him?

Do we love Jesus enough to extend his radical hospitality and extravagant grace to people who are different than we are?  Even to people who are notorious sinners?  Even to people we do not know?

But sadly, the Pharisees who sat around the table asked, “Who is this who forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49–50)  Only God can forgive sins.  But the very Son of God was sitting right there among them.  And he would have forgiven them of their sins also, but they were too comfortable in their own self-righteousness.

God’s Radical Hospitality and Extravagant Grace

Key Point:  In his response to the sinful woman, Jesus demonstrates God’s radical hospitality and extravagant grace.  “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  (Rom. 5:8)

Here is the challenge:  How can we reach out?  The focus of fruitful congregations is on the outsiders, just like Jesus, loving and welcoming people who are different from us, even notorious sinners.  The church is the only organization on the planet that exists for the sake of those who are not yet members.  Most churches don’t get that, and they struggle to be fruitful. But when they do get it, it’s awesome!

How is God calling us to respond to His call to radical hospitality?

Casting Crowns, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”

Jesus, friend of sinners
We have strayed so far away
We cut down people in Your name
But the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners
The truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You
But they’re tripping over me

Always looking around but never looking up
I’m so double minded
A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands
And a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world
At the end our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Break our hearts for what breaks Yours

[1] Robert H. Stein, vol. 24, Luke, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 235-36.

[2] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Lk 7:36–50.

 

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