36 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.
A little over 300 years after Jesus’s death and resurrection, there was a misbehaving boy on the streets of Madaurus, which was a small city located in what is now Algeria in Northern Africa. His mom was a devote Christian who, according to Christian legends, wept and prayed for her son every night. As a youth, he led a hedonistic lifestyle, seeking pleasures of sex and hanging around with those who did. But, by the grace of God, he met God at the age of 31 and not only became a devout Christian, but also a Christian theologian, whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity. He was St. Augustine of Hippo.
In his autobiographical work called Confessions, Augustine confesses how he identified the sin in him since as early as when he was 11 years old. He writes:
Your law, O Lord, punishes theft; and this law is so written in the hearts of men that not even the breaking of it blots it out. … Yet I chose to steal, and not because want drove me to it. … I stole things which I already had in plenty and of better quality. Nor had I any desire to enjoy the things I stole, but only the stealing of them and the sin. There was a pear tree near our vineyard, heavy with fruit, but fruit that was not particularly tempting either to look at or to taste. A group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went out to knock down the pears and carry them off late one night, for it was our bad habit to carry on our games in the streets till very late. We carried off an immense load of pears, not to eat – for we barely tasted them before throwing them to the pigs. Our only pleasure in doing it was that it was forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart. … My soul was depraved, and hurled itself down from security in You into utter destruction, seeking no profit from wickedness but only to be wicked. (Confessions 2:4)
Augustine was one of the early church fathers who developed the concept of “original sin.” It is a Christian doctrine of humanity’s state of sin resulting from the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As Dr. Wayne Grudem puts it, the result of this is that we are counted guilty because of Adam’s sin and that we have a sinful nature because of Adam’s sin. Augustine recognized this sinful nature in humanity, not only from his own experience, but also from the Scripture that declared it. In Genesis 6:5, it reads, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” In Psalm 51:5, David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” In Romans 5:12, Paul said “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” These are just a few of the many biblical evidences that support the idea of original sin. This doctrine continued to be of great importance in the Reformation era in the 1500’s by Martin Luther and John Calvin, and it is still a foundational Christian doctrine today.
Unfortunately, many Christians today have tuned out of the issues of sin. They have forgotten about the original sin altogether, and their view of sin has been diluted by the current liberal worldviews. That is why we see gay marriage and abortion being legalized. That is why some Christians avoid talking about sin and claim to be generally good people. Even our President, who calls himself a proud Presbyterian, said that he never asked God for forgiveness. He said that he likes to do the right thing where he doesn’t actually have to ask God for forgiveness. He obviously forgot about the passage in Isaiah 64:6 that says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” He must’ve also forgotten about 1 John 1:8, that says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Admitting sin for forgiveness is the very first step toward becoming a Christian.
We have to be very sensitive to sin. God hates sin and the wages of sin is death! Paul cried out in Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” To diminish the reality of sin is to diminish the need of a savior. To reduce the seriousness of sin is to reduce the need for God’s grace. And, to live a life of sin is to provoke the wrath of God. God’s forgiveness is only available to those who recognize their sin, ask for forgiveness in the name of Jesus, and turn to God.
Church, are you forgiven? Do you acknowledge how wretched we all are in light of God’s absolute holiness? Can you fathom the amount of debt that God has forgiven you?
The Bible says that those who acknowledge their sinfulness before God will be forgiven. In Psalm 32:5, it reads, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD." And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” In order to be forgiven, we must first acknowledge that we are sinners.
So, if you acknowledge that you are a sinner and believe that Jesus forgave your debt, do you realize how much you’ve been forgiven? Jesus said that the way to find out how much you’ve been forgiven is by examining how much love you express to God. There was an incident during Jesus’s ministry where He taught this principle, and it is recorded in the latter part of Luke 7.
36 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 (presumably a prostitute) from that city heard that 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.
The woman was overwhelmed with emotions because she knew how sinful she was. She knew that there was no way she could be saved unless God graciously forgave her. So when she heard that Jesus, the Son of God, who has the authority to forgive sins, was at the Pharisee’s house, she didn’t miss the chance. She took her expensive perfume, which was probably her most valued possession, and ran to where Jesus was. She knelt at his feet weeping, and while her tears were pouring out of eyes onto Jesus’s dusty feet, she wiped His feet with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. She didn’t hold anything back, but gave it all to Jesus.
But, of course, if there are those who are crazy for God, there are also those who sit back and criticize those who are crazy for God.
39 When the Pharisee, who had invited Jesus, 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!” (As if he’s not!)
40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” (And this is not the fisherman and Apostle, Simon Peter, but a Pharisee with the same name) he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
Simon replied, “Go ahead, Teacher.” (Probably thinking, “uh oh, I’m in trouble.”)
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.”
Did you hear what Jesus said? Jesus said that her many sins have been forgiven, and that’s why she has shown Him much love. In other words, if we know that we have been forgiven much, then we would express much love to our Lord Jesus. Some would cry out their tears to Jesus, and some would fast and pray to Jesus. Some would kneel down and wash his feet, and some would serve His church in a heartbeat. Some would pour out the best they’ve got, and some would really give up a lot.
The opposite is also true. A person who is forgiven little shows only little love, and in the worst case, a person who is not forgiven shows no love. Some won’t even serve water to Jesus, and some won’t even say His name on campus. Some won’t even honor Jesus with a kiss on His cheek, and some won’t even worship Him every week. Some won’t even open a jar of olive oil for Him, and some won’t even give Him 10% out all that He has given them. It is because they have forgotten how much they’ve been forgiven.
To be clear, Jesus is NOT teaching us to sin more so that we may experience more of His forgiveness. Paul made it unequivocally clear in Romans 6:1-2 that we should NOT go on sinning so that grace may increase. Instead, Jesus is teaching us to acknowledge the magnitude of the sin that we already have. We have been forgiven the debt of not only 50 pieces of silver. We have been forgiven 500, 5,000, 5 million, no 5 billion pieces of silver. We are eternally indebted to Christ. And when we realize this, we can’t help but love God with all we got just like the woman in the story.
Church, we are sinners. We are sinners by nature and by nurture. We were bound for hell. But thankfully, God stepped in. It wasn't cheap for God to pardon our sin. He had to give up His son's precious life for ours. Knowing this, how can we sit back and not do anything to express our love to Him? How can we neglect loving the needy if we know that to love them is to love Jesus? How can we turn our eyes away from fundraisings like Walk with Compassion? When we consider Jesus's blood that covers our entire sin, it should compel us to go out and love others like crazy.
So, why don’t we do that starting today? Let’s remember how much we’ve been forgiven, and love God back with all we've got. Let's love Him with our worship, dedication, and works of charity. And let us continue to lead a life of gratitude expressed through such love toward our God and Lord, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah.
Pastor Daniel Kim