When you think about evangelism, when you think about missions, when you think about reaching lost people, what is it that makes the most impact? Is it a logical argument? Is it faith? What is it that can impact a person to embrace Jesus Christ?
While the Holy Spirit is the ultimate answer, I have learned over the years that, in the end, what really is powerful is the testimony of a transformed life. The message is more believable when it transforms lives. Jesus had no need to be transformed, but He often used somebody who was transformed as an instrument to give the power of the gospel to somebody else. And that’s exactly what happens in one of my favorite stories in the Bible. In Luke 7, Jesus uses the transformed life of a woman as the testimony to one man and all those within earshot.
The three players in the story are a Pharisee – a religious leader, Jesus and an immoral woman that people assume was a prostitute. The story picks up in Luke 7:36-37. “When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.”
She kneels behind Jesus and kneels at His feet. And she is crying and wiping the tears off of his feet with her hair. Then she kisses his feet. Her hair is supposed to be up and covered. To let down her hair like this would be shameful before others in public. This would be a really awkward moment back in those days.
The Pharisee is skeptical of who Jesus is because he lets this woman do these things. He thinks to himself that a prophet would have known what kind of woman this was and would not let himself become unclean by letting her touch him.
Jesus answers the man’s thoughts. He tells the Pharisee his view in a story. Jesus tells the story of canceling the debt of two debtors. One is forgiven a debt 10 times the other’s debt. Jesus asks which one will love him more? Jesus explains, by turning to the woman, but still speaks to the man. He wants the Pharisee and those around to see three things:
Her Service: Jesus says you did not offer water to wash my feet but she washed my feet with her tears and hair. Her Affection – Jesus says: You did not greet me with a kiss but she has not stopped kissing my feet. Her Sacrifice – Jesus says: You would not provide oil for my face but she gave expensive ointment.
Why do we have this story? The sin that has separated her from God is now her pathway to God because it created a humility and desperation in her to realize her need of forgiveness. She throws herself at the feet of Jesus.
Jesus shows Simon that he shows little love for Jesus because he has not been forgiven much. He has not been humbled because he does not think he has much for which to be forgiven. He thinks he is a pretty good guy. His heart is as much wicked as hers, but he can’t see it. Her faith has saved her. It tells us that we all are in need of repentance, no matter how good we may think we are.
Each of us who are followers of Jesus must never forget how much Jesus has given to us, served us, and forgiven us. When we look down on others, we are saying we are like God. Rather, we should be excited and rejoice when God works in others lives as well as in our own.