6/14/98, P2C

“To Love Him More”
Luke 7: 36- 8:3

n this story we find Jesus in the home of a Pharisee, Simon. You remember the Pharisees, they took the ten commandments and developed a thousand more. Kind of like the early Methodists who thought it a sin for a young boy to play sandlot baseball on Sunday afternoon.

Simon’s hidden agenda in inviting Jesus was most likely to test him, to set him up. However, the plot turns when in comes an uninvited player in the story, “a sinful woman,” complete with expensive perfume to anoint his feet. She probably had not planned to break down in tears, but when she did she mingled them with her perfume to bathe Jesus’ feet, and to dry his feet with her hair.

This scene was too much for Simon. The Pharisees had clear laws against a Jewish man being touched by a sinful woman. Although the text does not exactly say that the silent woman was a prostitute, interpreters have generally agreed that it was implied. The sinful woman is never identified as Mary Magdalene, but the lectionary reading includes the first three verses of the next chapter, so that we can see how Dr. Luke developed the intimation.

Anyway, the prostitute is not the main point of the story: it’s found in the encounter between Jesus and Simon. Jesus told Simon a brief story about a creditor who had two overdue debtors. One owed a lot of money, and the other just a little. The creditor canceled both bills, and Jesus asked the question, “Now which of them will love him more? Simon answered, I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt. And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.” (v. 41-43, NRSV). Jesus went on to say, “...her sins which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves very little.” (v. 47-48).

Does this mean that since some of you were reared by Christian parents and never in your life ever rebelled and just got swept into the arms of Christ without any problem; that you do not have to be as grateful as someone like most of us who did rebel and came into the Kingdom through a dramatic spiritual new birth?

Maybe the answer is revealed in which of the players in this drama you personally identify with the most. Do you see yourself more in the Pharisee, or in the sinner?

One of our Internet preachers this week shared an impassioned personal story about how she rebelled as a youth and ended up in a bus station in a strange town sitting alone on a park bench crying and an unsavory man, who must have thought that she was a prostitute, was trying to proposition her. Her life was saved by a total stranger who assisted her in getting back home to her family. The last time she saw the woman she was talking to a man in a car that was pulled over to the curb. So, the preacher identified with the prostitute.

Some of you have had parents who successfully nurtured and loved you into grace. Ruth Bell Graham, the daughter of missionaries says that she can never remember not knowing that Christ was her Savior: Although she is the wife of the world’s foremost practitioner of instantaneous conversion. My predecessor in this pulpit, Bob Ozment, happened to teach a course at Emory entitled “Christian Nurture.” I took that course and Marilyn and I have tried our best, with the help of God, to rear our daughters by these principles, and are grateful that it seems to have worked. I am not comparing our daughters and Mrs. Billy Graham to the Pharisee Simon, but they just might have more sympathy for his chastisement by Jesus, than the chief of sinners who had a dramatic conversion. It is however true that folks who were nurtured into the Kingdom need to be reminded occasionally that they are sinners too, transformed however gently, by the Grace of God in Christ. Maybe your rebellion was not as obvious and you do not have as much to be thankful for; but you still must know deep down that except for the power at work within your life, and through your parents, teachers, relatives, and pastors, you would have not been able to avoid that bench in that far off bus station.

I am thinking today about a dear friend of mine who has always seemed so grateful for grace. Sam Gipson experienced the Lord early on, but truly came to know him as an adult, and he became on of those folks who just seemed to love Christ more than most. Sam and Janet joined our church a few months ago and came to love many of you. Friday night Sam and Janet gave a gala wedding reception dinner for their wonderful son Kent who was to marry Caroline Monty yesterday. Sam was a gracious host and seemed as happy as he could be there surrounded by family and friends. Tragically however, on the way home Sam was killed in a single car accident. Instead of a wedding yesterday, the family is preparing for a funeral here tomorrow. The Good News is that when Marilyn and I went by the house on Saturday morning this wonderful family, in the midst of shock and grief, were singing, “There’s A Sweet Sweet Spirit in This Place, and We Know That it’s the Spirit of the Lord.” We had prayer together and were greeted by the surprising joy of the Lord, that only the love of Christ can bring into such a devastating situation. Just as Jesus was at Simon’s house, he was in Spirit at the Gipson’s house yesterday, and today, and tomorrow. Why? Because Sam, by the grace of God Loved Him More!

When you really get right down to it, everyone of us has reason enough to love Jesus more that someone who has missed out on knowing him. Our text ends with a note about the women who walked with the Apostles in following Jesus. “Women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities.” (8:2). The story tells that Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her--- my what a reason to love him more. Her life had been transformed.

Your life can be similarly transformed. If you do not have an inner assurance of friendship, relationship, salvation, then you can get to know him as you open up your soul and allow the Son to come in. Then, you will have something to talk about, shout about, and a reason to love him more, and more, and more!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

6/14/98, P2C