Luke 7:50: “Go!”
Sunday morning worship, November 4, 2018
“Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’’ (Luke 7:50).
Last week we talked about a “sinful woman” who came to the home of a Pharisee named Simon seeking Jesus. She came up behind Jesus and began washing his feet with an alabaster jar of perfume, her tears, and her hair. In the course of that evening Jesus would tell her that her “many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown” (v47). Reading this story from the perspective of being your pastor now for over 20 years, I’ve speculated all week, “What happened next? Where did she go in peace? What happened to her next? Was there anyone to whom she could, now forgiven, turn? Did she live out the rest of her days alone? Did she survive, live long and prosper, or did she fall away?”
When I put myself into this story based upon what I’ve heard, experienced, read, seen, and learned, I don’t think this lady became a “sinful woman” because she woke up one day from a beautiful life and said, “I think I’m going to throw all of this away and start living the life of a sinful woman.” My mind tells me there has to be some kind of a back story that drove her into this lifestyle.
If I turned on the television and watched Luke 7:36-50 without some context, if I hadn’t been introduced to Jesus, Simon the Pharisee, and this woman and saw only these 15 verses acted out, I would be very disappointed. My mind can accept a Disney ending, the “and they lived happily ever after” ending, only after some kind of a struggle that has been overcome. But even after watching a Disney movie my mind wanders, projecting various futures the happy couple now live. Doing some browsing online for this message, I came across this video, a compilation of the artwork of an artist who also projected various futures for Disney’s “happily ever after couples.” Watch this with me.
All of us have the ability and regularly practice projecting various futures. Whether it’s on your phone, your laptop or tablet, or written in a daily planner or on a calendar, all of us make plans. If you’re like me, you divide the year into segments. Right now, I’m looking forward to Harvest Home next week, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then not looking forward to winter. Your outlook may be shorter or longer, it may not run past where and what to eat after this message or it you might be focused on retirement or a vacation. It might be on how to pay bills, the health of a loved one, a television program, a football game, a party, or seeing a loved one. There are nearly an infinite number of forward-looking dreams, events, plans, or activities that keep us looking forward.
But I ask again, where did this sinful woman go in peace? The Pharisees and the Sadducees controlled the synagogue. Simon had just been humiliated by this woman’s actions so I doubt he, unrepentant as he appears in the Scriptures, welcomed her into the church of that day. Jesus was going to continue His movements elsewhere. I speculate if she had a loving family and group of friend she wouldn’t have lived a “sinful” life. My best guess is that to this point she had lived alone and survived as a “sinful woman.” But Jesus gave her hope. Jesus’ life, ministry, words, and ways gave her hope of forgiveness, of a different future.
She was honest enough to look in a mirror and acknowledge her sin. In the depth of her sin, she saw Jesus as different from all of the other rabbi’s of her day. In humility and loss, she approached Jesus and found what had been lacking to that point in her life. Jesus acknowledged and accepted her hopes and returned His love. Jesus saw her for who she was and let her touch Him. Jesus even lifted her love above that of a wealthy Pharisee. But now to whom could she turn? Who, other than Jesus, would now love her and let her into their lives? Did she live “happily ever after” or did her life turn dark like our artist’s renditions?
It’s not only this sinful woman who Jesus told to “go” somewhere without us knowing how their lives turned out. The paralyzed man in Luke 5:17-26 was told by Jesus, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” But the paralyzed man had friends who loved and cared for him. They were the ones who brought him to Jesus and even cared enough not to be deterred by the crowds. They found a way, through the roof, to bring the paralyzed man to Jesus.
In Luke 8:26-39 Jesus refused to let a man from whom a legion of demons had been sent into a herd of pigs go with Jesus and instead sent the newly-freed man back into the same town that had begged Jesus to leave them. This man was to be constant reminder of both what Jesus could do in the lives of those who believed and a constant irritant, a prod to the consciences of those who sent Jesus away. I doubt that was a fun life. Isn’t at least our initial reaction to want to forget our painful failures rather than be constantly reminded of them?
In Luke 8:43-48 a woman whose ceremonial uncleanness had kept her isolated from people for 12 years, once healed, was simply told by Jesus, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Where did she go? Did those who kept her isolated for 12 years now warmly welcome her? Did those who had learned to ignore her now go out of their way to include her?
How about the expert in the law who questioned Jesus in Luke 10:26-37: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” That question led Jesus to tell the story we now call the parable of the Good Samaritan. After telling that story, Jesus told this lawyer to “go” and have mercy even on the Samaritans. Did this expert in the law now break the law just because Jesus told him to “do likewise?”
Or how about the man born blind in John 9 who was told by Jesus to “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” The blind man “went and washed, and came home seeing.” But the now-seeing man was shunned by his parents
“because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.” He’d been a beggar all his life. Without the support of his parents, how would he survive?
Or what about the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus told her to “go and leave your life of sin.” But where could she go? Her husband was ready to let others stone her. Did he now welcome her back into their home just because Jesus would not condemn her? Would her current lover or maybe even any of the men who paid her for sexual favors welcome her into their homes?
So many similar stories populate the Gospels. Jesus touched people’s lives and told them to go somewhere or do something specific but we never hear the rest of the story. We are introduced to the Gospel message being implanted into their lives but what happened next? Luke follows the story of the sinful woman and Simon with the parable of the sower and the different kinds of soil upon which the seed fell. We know these people who responded to Jesus are not like the hard, compacted soil. But were they like the seed that fell on the “rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture” (8:6)? Were they like the seed that “fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants” (v7)? Were they like the “seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown” (v8)? The pastor in me, the humanness in me, wants everyone touched by Jesus, really everyone, to be like the seed that fell on good soil.
Over the years of watching people I’ve seen all four kinds of responses to the touch of Jesus. My greatest heartbreaks have come as I’ve watched people open themselves to the touch of Jesus and seen us fail to surround them.
The words of Jesus that haunt me as I witness this phenomenon are these: “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).
As I’ve prepared message after message I’ve sat up late into the night wondering should I even preach what is in my heart? If people respond to the call of Jesus, if we ask them to give up their former life and go in a different direction, will we come alongside them? If we ask them to give up their former friends because that lifestyle is counterproductive to good health, will we become their friends? (story of a kind at camp from Kenmore).
When I think of all the tremendous gifts, talents, and abilities God has brought into this church over my time as your pastor, I know we should be in a different place today. I’ve had a dream for years that we would each realize what we have to offer other people, come together in the way the Holy Spirit directs, and work together to help everyone find their calling in Christ Jesus. We have the knowledge and the skills to help people live Godly lives from birth to God’s calling into eternity.
Blended together, working together, sharing together there is no one we can’t help, guide, teach, show, model, love, care, offer compassion and mercy, even ourselves so that we are all so much better off. I felt compelled to write a book so those who come to Christ can learn to think Biblically. Now I feel called to help us learn to hear not only the written but the living word of God and walk with God every step of every day. Each of you has a unique gift and a unique calling. If we ever work together no one will ever go from this place without a friend to go with them and a place to go. If we ever believe in and commit to this dream, God will abundantly supply all we lack.