June 13, 2010 — Third Sunday after Pentecost
“Being a Big Sinner” — Pastor Lassman
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My Fellow Redeemed in Christ,
On this third Sunday after Pentecost we have the joy of confirming Elisa Adams. Elisa has been a wonderful Catechism student. She has completed all her assignments and quizzes, a mid-term and a final. And all her required memory work. I am very proud of her. She has been baptized and taught that faith according to our Lord’s bidding. And this is all important. But what is it that will make Elisa a really devoted to Jesus Christ? What is it that will make anyone, you and me, devoted to Jesus Christ? It’s a good question because clearly some Christians are more devoted to Jesus Christ than other Christians. But why this difference? What is the difference? Perhaps there is more than one way to answer this question, but this morning we get our answer from our Gospel lesson where we learn about “Being a Big Sinner.”
I. It may seem strange but big sinners are more devoted to Jesus.
A. That’s the point of the parable that Jesus tells. In the parable, the money lender represents God and the two debtors represent two sinners, specifically, the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner and the “woman of the city who was a sinner.” In the parable the idea of sin is communicated with the word “debt.” In the Lord’s Prayer we commonly pray: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But the word translated as “trespass” literally means “debt” or “obligation.” Except we don’t owe God money. We owe him for our sin. God expects us to live for him. And to live for him means to be sinless. A second word used in our text for sin literally means “to miss the mark.” In archery and at a rifle range there are targets with bull’s eyes on them. The goal of course, is to hit the target right in the middle of the bull’s eye. Anything else is to “miss the mark.” And so it is with God. He expects us to hit the bull’s eye. To be perfect in our living for him. So when we are not perfect we have “missed the mark”, we have sinned. And this is how we become indebted to God. And the more we sin the more indebted to him we become and there’s nothing we can do about this debt. As Jesus says in the parable: “they could not pay.” “Could not pay.” In the parable, one debtor owed the money lender “five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.” The one with a debt of five hundred denarii was a bigger sinner than the one who owed only fifty. Which sinner are you? The big sinner or the little sinner? What do you think?
B. This is an important question. For how we answer this question will determine our love and devotion to Jesus as he said to the woman: “your sins are forgiven.” Your sins are forgiven? Who does Jesus think that he is? Can you imagine someone walking around today saying such a thing? That’s what Simon the Pharisee thought too: “who is this, who even forgives sin?” Jesus can forgive sin because he is God...God in human form. Just as there were two concepts for sin in our text, debt and missing the mark, so likewise, there are two concepts of forgiveness in our text: one is the idea of the cancelation of a debt: “when they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both.” When a debt is canceled there is nothing left to pay. That’s what Jesus did for us on the cross: He canceled our debt of sin as Paul says in his letter to the Colossians: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (2:13, 14, ESV) The sinless Jesus took our place and died to cancel our debt of sin to God as Paul says in our second lesson: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Gal. 3: 13, ESV) the other concept of forgiveness in our text is the idea of sending our sin far, far away from us as King David says in Psalm 103: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. As far as the East is from the West, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (vv.10, 12, ESV) We see this also in our Old Testament lesson where David was forgiven for adultery and murder by Nathan the prophet: “The Lord has put away your sin.” (2 Sam. 12: 13, ESV) Forgiveness is a promise from God in Jesus Christ. And they only way to receive a promise is to believe it. The woman believed it as Jesus said to her: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Faith saves us because it receives the promise of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Faith believes that sin is forgiven.
II. But how much a sin? Just a little? Or a lot?
A. In our Gospel lesson Simon the Pharisee saw himself as a “little sinner.” And that’s why he showed such little love and devotion to Jesus as Jesus points out to him. Simon didn’t extend him the common courtesy of washing his feet when he entered the house. Nor did he give him the customary greeting with a kiss on the cheek. And even though Simon knew that many considered Jesus to be a prophet. He didn’t extend Jesus the common courtesy of pouring oil on Jesus head of Jesus to refresh him. By his actions Simon showed how little he loved Jesus as he said to himself: “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And why did he think so little of Jesus? Because Simon the Pharisee saw himself as a “little sinner.” That’s what Jesus wanted to show Simon in the parable. And so at the end of the parable he asked Simon: “Now which of them will love him more?” And Simon condemned himself when he said: “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” Exactly. And so it is with us. If we think of ourselves as good people having only a little sin....then our love and devotion to Jesus will be little as he says: “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” For if we only have a little sin...then that’s all that Jesus did for us with his death on the cross...only a little. Are you a little sinner?
B. Or are you a big sinner like the woman? She loved Jesus greatly. And she showed this love in not only doing what Simon the Pharisee failed to do but by doing it in a dramatic fashion. She washed Jesus’ feet, not with water, but with her tears and wiped them not with a towel but with her hair. She kissed not his check, but his feet, not once, but many times. And she poured expensive oil not on his head...but on his feet. Why did she show Jesus such love and devotion? Because she knew that she was a big sinner. She knew she was a big sinner because so many people around her reminded her were constantly reminding her that she was a big sinner...like Simon the Pharisee. But she also knew from her own conscience that she was a big sinner. And yet, and yet...she believed that all of her sins...whatever they may have been...were forgiven...canceled...sent away. It was almost too good to be true. Despite her sins...as great as they were...God loved her. God accepted her because in Jesus Christ her big debt was canceled. And that’s why she loved Jesus so much as Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven. For she loved much.”
Conclusion: Today we have the joy of confirming Elisa Adams and we pray that she will be devoted to Jesus and love him. But we pray this prayer not only for Elisa but for ourselves as well. But our prayer will be answered only as we see ourselves, not as little sinners, but as big ones. For if we see ourselves as little sinners...well, that’s all that Jesus did for us on the cross: only a little. But as we see ourselves as big sinners. Well...what Jesus did for us on the cross can only move us to love him and be devoted to him. So how much did Jesus do for you on the cross? Amen.