In an earlier post, I made some observations on Luke 7:36-50, which tells the story of a sinful woman who worshiped Jesus by anointing his feet while he was eating at the home of Simon the pharisee. In that post, I focused on the fact that an experience of forgiveness is key to having a right heart in worship.
Now you may be thinking, If I need to have an experience of forgiveness in order to worship with a right heart, how does that happen? Do I need to go out and do something wrong so that I can come to Jesus for forgiveness in order to be a true worshiper? Or do I just keep looking back to that day when I became a Christian and received the forgiveness of my sins?
Well, lets examine the case of this sinful woman. How did she experience the forgiveness of Jesus that filled her with such love and enabled her to be a true worshiper.
I think the answer is in v. 48. After speaking to Simon, Jesus turns to the woman and simply says, “Your sins are forgiven.” The woman experienced forgiveness as she came into Jesus’ presence and worshiped him. If she had not been there at his feet worshiping, she would not have heard him turn to her and say: Your sins are forgiven.
Now think about this: Jesus has just explained to Simon that the reason this woman has honored him so beautifully is because she has had a deep experience of his forgiveness. And then he turns to her and says, “your sins are forgiven.”
Doesn’t that seem strange and out of place to you? Aren’t we caught in some circular reasoning here? If she had already been forgiven and this was the source of her worshipful heart, why does Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven.”
It may sound convoluted, but not only is an experience of forgiveness the SOURCE of a right heart in worship, it is also the RESULT of a right heart in worship. We can only worship the Lord with a right heart as we experience his forgiveness, causing us to overflow with gratitude and worship. And it is when we worship the Lord and focus on the forgiveness that he has objectively given us that we experience subjectively that forgiveness.
Here is what I believe is happening: The woman had come to Jesus to worship him, to honor him and to show her love to him. She came because she knew who he was. She knew he was the friend of sinners. We don’t have any details of how she knew who Jesus was, but she knew that she was forgiven.
Her actions go beyond just repentance and seeking forgiveness. They are the actions (as Jesus himself pointed out) of someone who had been forgiven much. And yet it is as she worships him that she experiences that forgiveness.
You and I as Christians have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus. We know what it is to be forgiven. I’m sure that if I were to ask any solid christian he or she would say, “I know that my sins are forgiven” We know that Jesus died as our substitute. He was punished for our sins. He paid the price for our sins out of his great love for us.
But what a difference between having your sins forgiven, and being in Jesus’ presence, worshiping him, and hearing him say (and say often), “I paid for your sins because I love you. Your sins are forgiven, Bryan!” If we are never in his presence in worship, we’ll never hear those words. If this woman had not come to Jesus in worship, her heart filled with love because of his forgiveness, she would have never heard, “Your sins are forgiven!”
When we experience Jesus and his forgiveness for the first time, that should cause us to want to get back in his presence again. And when we are back in his presence again, we will be in the presence of the Holy Son of God. As we meditate on him and who he is and his holiness, we will experience all over again that forgiveness that he is constantly pouring out on us because of his cross.
It is when you are in his presence in true worship that you experience his forgiveness. You are already forgiven, but to be a true worshiper, you must experience that forgiveness in his presence.
Why do we struggle with being true worshipers? It isn’t because we haven’t been forgiven. And it isn’t because we haven’t been forgiven a great enough debt. Our sin debt is every bit as great as this woman’s.
I believe we struggle with being true worshipers of Jesus because unlike this woman, we do not come often enough into the presence of the friend of sinners. We are so busy with other things, we have no time for worship. Or we come as Simon did, trying to impress him with who we are or what we’ve done. We try to come across as such great worshipers. Instead of just waiting in his presence, meditating on the tremendous privilege that is ours to even be there at all.