Weekly Reading Portion for 4/9/11
“Go and sin no more”
No one understood what Jesus was talking about when the woman came in. They didn’t understand why he tolerated her. She was an outcast, shunned from the community because of what she did. Then she had the audacity to bring her garbage before the presence of the elders, uninvited. She bogarted her way through and sought an audience with Jesus.
Nothing had changed, so they thought. She was still trying to be the center of attention. She was still trying to captivate him with her sweet smelling perfume and her wild mane draping across her body. Nothing had changed.
They didn’t notice the tears that fell from her cheeks and dripped humiliatingly upon his feet. They didn’t notice that she broke her own life savings to anoint him. They didn’t notice that she was a woman accustomed to having men kneel to her, and here she was kneeling to him. They said that nothing had changed.
The one who is forgiven of much, loves much
The woman was a leper. No, she may not have had scales raising on her skin. No she may not have been banished to the outskirts of the country. No, she didn’t cry out her condition every time she walked down the street. The truth is that she didn’t have to. Everyone knew who she was, and everyone knew what she did. There was no escaping her ostracism.
But there is a way that seems right to a man that leads to death, and there is a way that seems foolish to a human that captures that heart of God. This woman was a leper, but she wanted more than anything to be holy. I didn’t say that she wanted to be forgiven, that came in the package. She wanted to be more than forgiven. She wanted to be holy. I didn’t say that she wanted to be clean, of course being clean would be necessary, but I said she wanted to be holy.
The woman wanted something that was not going to be an option for her. She wanted something that God had every right to deny. She wanted to be a disciple of Jesus’. She wanted to follow him wherever he went. She wanted to support his ministry. She wanted to be there when he died, and she wanted to be the first person that he revealed himself to when he rose again. This woman wanted it all, though the invitation should have been closed to her.
When Jesus loves you, you’ve done well
Yes, God does love the world. He has unconditional love for his creation. But I’m not talking about the love that God has for his creation. I’m talking about the love that God has for you as an individual once you’ve made up your mind to follow him. I’m talking about that one on one relationship with Jesus Christ– yes, the hard, hard, work of taking all of his constructive criticism that nearly kills you, and using it to build something worthy to God, in the midst of great tribulation. That is the kind of love that the woman had for Jesus, and so in return, that is the kind of love that Jesus had for her.
Many people will sell you bargain basement religion. Many people will tell you that all you have to do to be saved is to profess the sinners prayer…and they are right. But what they don’t tell you is the work that requires your attention once you’ve gained salvation. What they don’t tell you is that a holy life is a hard life. It is hard work, and you have never been more challenged than you will be once you’ve decided to go all the way with God.
Salvation is not for sissies. It will take everything out of you. It will strip you to the very core and make you wonder why you ever signed on for this ride in the first place. It will require things of you that you didn’t even know you had the strength to give. It will leave you broken-hearted, confused, bitter, and angry– if the saints dare tell you the truth. But, there is more. There is so much more. Once you’ve walked with Jesus, nothing else in this world compares. And so the mystery is unveiled. Holiness is a hard life; and fools rush into it thinking that they can handle the challenge on their own, and they cannot.
But when God invites you into this life, the hard life, you find out that it is also the protected life. It is the place where you are allowed to develop and grow into the you that God always intended you to be. In this place, there is protection. There is rest. There is reward. There is forgiveness. It’s a holy place, a place like none you’ve even been in before. A place where sinning actually makes you sick, and where producing good is all you know how to do.
Fools who stumble there without permission call it freedom, and they soon find out that they are oppressed by judgment; but those of us who know better wait patiently for the call. The call goes out to lepers and prostitutes, and anyone else who is willing to trade it all in order to be holy before the Most High God. Is it worth it? Yes, it is worth the wait! It is worth the preparation. In preparation the foolish learn how to be wise. But those who rush in, without waiting for the call, are not foolish, they are fools. They go into something that is clearly over their head, before finding out that no one sent them, and no one is walking with them. The call is worth waiting for, because holiness is a hard life and you don’t want to walk through it…alone.