Being Made Right
We have all felt the uncomfortable sensation of being in a place we don’t belong. Maybe you remember being the new kid at school who couldn’t find a seat in the lunchroom, or showing up to a party completely under dressed. Suddenly, you realize (and worse yet, those around you realize) something isn’t right, and that something is you.
Seeing Jesus extend grace to others, or experiencing his grace in our own lives, can have the same effect on us. It can make us uncomfortable.
In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, the religious elite used meals as a way to show their elevated social status. This is the scenario described in Luke 7:36-50. Jesus was invited to dine with a Pharisee named Simon. But dinner is interrupted when “a woman of the city, a sinner” crashes the party in order to worship Jesus. Shocked by this interruption, Simon expects Jesus to pull way from the woman and have her removed from the gathering. Instead, Jesus allows the woman to worship at his feet. Jesus’ unexpected response creates visible discomfort among those gathered. It was so contrary to their understanding of God’s grace and ‘acceptable behavior’ that they did not know how to react.
In a similar situation, we would likely be equally confused. But why?
We Misunderstand Sin
Jesus makes it clear as he interacts with both the woman and Simon that they are both sinners. The woman is aware of her sin, and winds up close to Jesus. Simon denies his sin, and ends up far from Him.
We often do the same thing. We think we are alright. We don’t see our sin or, if we do, we don’t see it is being ‘that’ offensive to God. When we fail to understand our status as sinners, we fail to understand our need for Jesus as our Savior.
We Misunderstand Our Need for a Savior
Although, Simon knew his need was right standing before God, he misunderstood how to obtain it. He attached himself to the wrong savior, self-righteousness. Simon believed he could repay his debt through good works.
We do the same thing. Despite recognizing our sin (our need to be made right with God), we pick the wrong savior, ourselves. In contrast, the ‘outcast’ woman understood she couldn’t repay her debt herself. She came to Jesus and received forgiveness for her sin and complete acceptance by her Savior.
So, how should we respond?
In Luke’s story, Jesus shows himself to be the true and only Savior of sinners — both those who recognize their need, and those who (like many of us) struggle with self-reliance and self-righteousness.
In one simple interaction, Jesus demonstrates he not only accepts ‘outcasts and sinners,’ but he also has the authority to forgive sins. Jesus is not repulsed or shocked by our sin. Instead, he invites us to draw near to him to experience friendship and forgiveness. Like a creditor owed an enormous sum, our sin against God is too great for us to repay through our own good deeds. Our only hope is for God to forgive our debts (sin) by paying the balance himself. Thankfully, this is exactly what He did through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus can forgive sinners, because He is the God we owe; and because of His extravagant grace, He paid our debt of sin. Accept His grace.
To hear more about how Jesus is a friend to outcasts and a gracious Savior of sinners, listen to Jesus’ Meal With Sinners.
Bobby Kazanski is a ministry intern at East Campus and a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He and his wife, Rachel, have been attending Vintage 21 since June 2011.