Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God

We know that Jesus hates hypocrites, and we're afraid that He'll deal with us in the same harsh manner that He dealt with the Pharisees. But as we saw yesterday, most of us aren't hypocrites in the same way that the Pharisees are.

Most of us are just sinners.

So if we want to know how Jesus will truly deal with us in the public sphere, if we want to know how He'll respond when we stand before God and everybody as sinners, then we have to look in the Gospels not at how Jesus deals with Pharisees, but how He handles sinners. And the news here is much more humbling.

Jesus has a few well-told encounters with sinners. There is, of course, the woman who comes into Simon's house to pour out expensive oil on His feet. She's a sinner. Everyone there knows it. There are whispers among the crowd. If Jesus knew what kind of woman was touching Him, He'd put a stop to it right now. The woman, too, knows she's a sinner. Maybe she has the same hesitation we all have - she's dared come to Jesus in front of all these other people. What is He going to do to her?

Maybe her voice catches in her throat and that's why she doesn't say anything. Maybe she uses her hair to dry His feet so that she can hide her face a little. Her eyes would betray her nervousness. Maybe she walks carefully through the room, taking great care not to touch anything or anyone, not to make eye contact, not to make a spectacle of herself, hoping that maybe the others won't notice the sinner sitting as His feet. Hoping to come quietly and leave quietly, this one beautiful sacred moment in between. 

I'll admit that I've had that moment. There have been times in my life when, usually at an altar call, I have dragged my sin-ridden body forward toward the Cross. I have kept my eyes low, trying to avoid looking at anyone else or knowing they're looking at me. I have walked carefully through sanctuaries, trying to not touch anything or anyone, trying not to make a spectacle of myself, even though every other person in the room just heard the same call for sinners that I heard. Hoping to come forward quietly, maybe even unnoticed, and leave quietly, this one beautiful sacred moment in between. 

But the men in the house notice the woman, and they call her out. This sinner! This horrible, dirty, sinful woman! How dare she! And she lowers her head because she knows it's coming. This Lord, too, will make a spectacle of her. He, too, will call her out. This sinner, this wretch. 

Then Jesus does something amazing: grace. He quiets the crowd and makes the spectacle of them, calling out their hypocrisy (for the same reason He calls out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees - they're snakes). As the men recount the woman's flaws, Jesus turns and begins to list the men's own shortcomings. Then He turns to the woman and gives her the very thing she seeks - one beautiful sacred, quiet, moment. For that split second when their eyes meet, it feels like it's just the two of them. And in that sacred space, it is. 

Or think about the time that the woman caught in adultery is dragged out to Jesus. She's either naked or haphazardly closed, being just caught in an intimate act with a man who is not her husband. She's embarrassed already. Ashamed. She keeps her eyes locked to the ground, afraid to look around. Afraid to catch anyone's eye. But she can feel all of the eyes on her.

All of the eyes except two.

Jesus pays little attention to either the woman or the crowd. Yesterday, we saw that He draws His lines hard, and in this case, quite literally. He stoops down and begins doodling in the dirt. Drawing lines, maybe. Some have speculated that He's scrawling the sins of the crowd across the ground. He says few simple words: If you're not a sinner yourself, you may stay. Slowly, the crowd leaves.

It's not until they have all gone and the woman, the accused, is standing there all alone that Jesus finally looks up and makes eye contact with her. He's made no public statement on her sin, no condemnation, no spectacle. Again, the spectacle He's made is of the condemners; they have become the condemned. The so-called sinner in all of this now stands in her quiet moment, just her and Jesus. Did none of these men condemn you? He asks. Not one, she says. Not one. Daring, finally, to look around and see that it's just the two of them. Daring, finally, to look into someone's eyes. His eyes. 

Then Jesus does something amazing: grace. Then neither do I condemn you. And just like that, it's over. All the sounds of the world around them start to creep back into her ears, softly at first and then louder until the world is at full volume. The dust Jesus kicked up from all His doodling starts to stir again in the wind. The clouds move overhead. A bird calls. And the woman, the sinner, turns, a tear in her eye, and walks away. One beautiful sacred, quiet, moment.

That's how Jesus deals with sinners. With amazing grace.

No comments:

Post a Comment