Monday, May 18, 2009

Ulterior Motives

I have to share something I gained from my devotional reading this weekend. I don't want to offend anyone with what I have to say, so if I do, I apologize, but this is a truth that God gave me that has deepened my faith and love for Him.

I'm still reading through Passionate Prayer by Catherine Martin, and I can't say enough good things about this book. I will honestly cry tears of sadness when I finish it, because my prayer life has grown so much while reading it. The lesson was about offering thanksgiving to God, and this was the passage I read Luke 7:36-50. One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silveri]">[i] to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

I was supposed to write out how the woman showed Jesus her devotion, but I got hung up on the last half of verse 38. As Christians, we like to pretty up Jesus; we often have a hard time dealing with him being fully human while he was on earth. Paintings of him depict a handsome man, usually with European features wearing clean robes. But Isaiah 53:2 tells us differently: He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

Did you catch that? He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was not a handsome man, and living in the times along with the nomadic lifestyle he lived, his clothes were probably not all that clean, so then neither were his feet.

When my children were babies, one of my favorite things to do was to kiss their feet, and I had no qualms about doing so. Their feet rarely touched the ground, and they certainly didn't sweat or have hair on them. I'll still occasionally drop a kiss on Mia's feet after her shower, but you couldn't get me near Doogie's feet! Those size 12 feet are nasty! (Love you honey!)

If you read earlier in Luke 7, Jesus had recently come to Simon the Pharisee's house from Nain, a village near Nazareth, about 90 miles away! So Jesus walked 90 miles from Nain to Jerusalem to have a meal with Simon. He probably made several stops along the way, I think 15-20 miles a day was considered an average day's walk. Jesus reproves Simon for not washing his feet when He entered the house, so His feet had not been washed after His long walk. His feet were dusty and dirty from the day's walk in sandals, and they were probably hairy and sweaty. Now, if you're saying, "But He's the Savior!"well, yes He is! But He was also completely human! He suffered aches and pains just like we do, and he got dirty and sweaty. He probably suffered from heartburn and felt the ache in his muscles after a long day's walk. That's why He came here, to be like us so He could suffer for us.

Now this woman comes into a strange man's home. She kneels at Jesus' feet and begins anointing them with expensive perfume, and she's crying so hard, that she's washing his feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. And she's kissing them. Now women, for a moment, imagine this with me: kneeling at a man's dirty feet, washing them with your tears, drying them with your hair and kissing them because of your heart full of love. When I think about doing this for Jesus, it's easy to imagine, but when I place Him in reality: dirty, sweaty, smelly, it's harder for me to contemplate what this woman did for Him. She completely and utterly abased herself in an extravagant show of devotion to Jesus.

Just thinking about her makes me wonder what happened before she walked into the house. How did she hear about Jesus? What did she hear that made her so sure He was her Savior? Did she go out and buy the perfume for this purpose or had she been saving it for something else? I think her tears were tears of pure joy, because she had found the Man who would change her life, take her away from the life of sin she was living in. She was washing Him clean, because she knew that He would wash her clean, and He did! Jesus scolded Simon for his lack of hospitality, and lifted her up for her service to Him. He didn't ignore her sins, in fact He called her out on them, but He did it in a loving manner, and immediately forgave her.

I am awed by this nameless woman's act of love that has been remembered for 2000 years, because I understand her tears. I know that the story focuses on the expense of the perfume, but I think that to Jesus it was her tears and kisses that were far more precious. It's easy for us to give materially, but it's far more difficult to give of ourselves, to give to the point that we are brought to tears. I am so thankful that Jesus is my Savior, and that while He doesn't pretend that I am perfect, He loves me anyway. It fills my heart to overflowing, and I know that I would gladly kiss His sandy, sweaty feet and wash them with my tears, wiping them with my hair. Serving Jesus isn't always easy, sometimes it's dirtier and smellier than we want it to be. We want our faith to be clean and tidy, but Jesus calls us to do and be so much more.

Would you do it? Could you do what she did? Are you ready to serve the Lord, no matter how messy it might get? I'm ready, Lord, here I am.

Ulterior Motives by Mark Andrew Olsen is an intriguing and timely look at how the US handles terrorists. Greg Cahill is trying to reclaim his life from the disaster it became after an accidental shooting brought his career with the FBI to an end. He's lost his son and his wife, but found Jesus and uses his faith to bring those in jail to salvation. Omar Nirubi is on America's Most Wanted list as the successor to Osama bin Laden. When the US captures Nirubi and finds information about an impending terrorist attack, they need information out of him, but when regular torture techniques fail, something wildly different, unorthodox even, needs to be used to get the details about the plot before millions of Americans are killed. Greg and Omar are brought together, and their collaboration will determine the fate of the nation. Olsen's suspenseful novel took about 50 pages to really get moving. Initially the dialogue is a bit stilted and the action clunks, but once Nirubi is captured, the story quickly takes off and becomes a compelling read. Just recently waterboarding and black sites have been all over the news, and Olsen handles the issues fairly with an even hand. The ending was a bit too pat; the behind the scenes maneuvering that makes so many of these books fascinating is missing at the climax, leaving the reader feel a bit left out of the action.

I think I'll have a winner today for the 15,000 viewer contest! So I'm starting another contest today. I'm giving away a copy of Fred & Jasen Stoeker's Hero. If you have a teenage son, this is THE book for him! Jasen Stoeker has lived his life as a hero of God, he refused to have premarital sex or even kiss a girl before he was married, and while that may sound extreme in our society of anything goes, God's word calls us to flee from any sign of sexual immorality. The Stoeker's offer a guide to young men on how to live as a true man of God. If you are interested in signing up, drop me an email before 10 pm on Thursday, May 21st. I'll announce the winner here on Friday. Good luck!