Forgiven at Jesus’ Feet
Just this last week I came across someone who emphasized all of the good they’ve done in life. It was a conversation about them trying to tell me that they were good enough to make it through the pearly gates. I sat, I listened, and I offered some thoughts on the matter. Eventually, he ended up going his own way.
Moments later, I found myself in a conversation with someone else who was the exact opposite. He had done so much wrong in life that he considered himself unforgivable. He had been in prison for many years and as far as he was concerned, he didn’t deserve forgiveness. He was quite and reserved about it and you could sense the shame he felt inside.
I asked him what he knew about the Bible and he said not much. He had an idea of who Jesus is and what the Bible is about but hadn’t really given it much thought in his life. I ended up telling him that several places in the New Testament were actually written by a murderer–Saul who became Paul–and he was shocked by that. After all, how could God allow someone who had murdered others to help write the Good Book.
I think for the first time in his life he had a moment where whatever idea of God he had wasn’t matching up with what I had just told him. After a short prayer with him, I asked if I could tell him a story. It’s actually the story for this week from the Narrative Lectionary. He sorta grinned and said sure.
The story is that of Jesus, Simon a Pharisee, and a sinful woman in Luke 7:36–50. The sinful woman was known for just how sinful she was. Even Jesus makes a remark about her in the story–he says her sins are many. It wasn’t a secret that she was living the bad life and it seemed everyone in town knew about it. Simon questions why Jesus is even paying attention to her because of what sort of person she is.
She finds herself at the feet of Jesus weeping. I think she was probably like the guy I found myself in front of. Someone who felt unforgivable. Jesus told this woman that no matter what she had done and how she had sinned, she was forgiven. She didn’t have to lay awake at night worrying about the many sins she had committed. She could go and live a new life. Jesus ends his conversation with her by saying, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”
Those forgiven much, love much –Luke 7:47
I went on to tell this guy that he could have that sort of peace too if he wanted it. There’s a lot said about Jesus these days that just seems to miss the mark. Jesus isn’t out to get you, at least not in the sense of seeing you pay for your sins. He’s already taken care of that for us. He want’s us to experience peace that only he can give. A peace that covers even the most well known sinners.
I finished my conversation with him and let him know he didn’t have to lay awake at night grieving over everything he had done wrong. He could have that same peace and that same new start if he wanted it. The truth is that there’s none of us too good for hell and perhaps more importantly, there’s none of us who are too bad for heaven either. That’s the power of Jesus through the cross. All it takes is faith and the willingness to turn it over to Jesus.