Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Party Crashers

We have invested a great deal of our theological energies in figuring out more of the details of the Gospel sinners than we are given in the Gospel stories. There is no greater example of this than what we have done with the sinful woman in Luke 7, who we have concluded not only is a prostitute, but is a prostitute named Mary, who later traveled with Jesus.

Jesus Himself told us that this woman's story would be told everywhere, that everyone would know what she had done. When He said it, He wasn't talking about her sin, but that's what we can't stop talking about. When He said it, He meant it would be her story of devotion, her act of faith, her broken heart - not her broken life - that would be on display. He intended us to tell the story the way it's given, with the emphasis on repentance. There was a sinful woman, and she could not hold herself back from Jesus. To all social shame and embarrassment, she walked into a place she wasn't invited, among people who condemned her, and she collapsed into a puddle of tears and ache at the feet of Jesus himself. She wept as she anointed Him, her tears and her hair washing over His feet, and He looked tenderly at her, waiting for her to lift her eyes. Waiting for her to see His. When the two finally looked at each other, she knew....

That's not how we tell the story. See, we worked really hard to fill in the details that seem to matter most to us, and so when we tell the story, it goes something like this: There was a sinful woman in the area, a prostitute. Her name was Mary, you know...one of the Marys who we hear about in other places. Well, everyone had heard about this Mary. She was a whore. The town whore. Most of the men in the room had probably either slept with her or knew someone who had. And she was not invited to this party. She was not invited, and she was not welcome. But she came anyway. AndshedidsomethingtotallyaudaciousoutofherloveforJesuswithsomeperfumeorsomething. And Jesus forgave her for her sins.

It loses something in our translation. Something beautiful. Something called...heart. It's a very pragmatic theological story, but it's no longer a human story. It's a business transaction, not a relationship of redemption.

And we like it that way. That's how we like to see our sin. Not as some human thing, but as some business thing. Not as a heart thing, but as just a common thing. We love the idea that we're sinners and God forgives us, forget that mess in the middle about us being a mess. Forget that part about our pleading.

The truth is it's easier for us to be party crashers than puddles of tears. It's easier for us to break down the door than to fall at His feet. It's easier for us to consider ourselves mild sinners than passionate lovers.

So we tell the story of the sinful woman, and we tell the story of forgiveness, but we skip right past the part in the middle, the part where her heart aches in the tension between forsaken and forgiven, between too many lovers (if, in fact, she is the prostitute) and being the beloved. We skip right over the part where she actually cares about what's happening here, where she actually loves Jesus.

That's just too messy for most of us.

But that's the story. That's what makes this scene so beautiful. That's what calls us out of our complacency and demands more from us. It is what calls us to the same kind of wild, shameless, spectacle of a love affair with our Savior.

Maybe we're confused because all the voices at the party said this was not okay. Maybe we're confused because all the voices at our parties say the same thing. This is not appropriate behavior. It's social taboo. The overwhelming consensus is that the woman should never have done this - she should not have come to the party, she should not have pushed her way through the crowd, she should not have fallen at His feet, she should not have cried (Lord, what is with women crying?), she should not have poured out such an expensive perfume, she should not have let her hair down, she should not have dared look up, she should not.... They are the same voices we hear, all the time. We should not....

Yet none of those voices matter. There is only one voice in this story that matters, and it is the voice of the anointed one, the one whose feet now reek of expensive perfume and whose toes are tickled by the fallen hair of the fallen woman, the sinner. Not once does Jesus say she shouldn't have.

He says this is beautiful.

And He's right.

(Of course.) 

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