05/09/2009

Sermon The Penitent

Luke 7:38 And she stood at Jesus' feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
This history begins at the 37th verse, and furnishes us with this useful hint of instruction - that the greatest sinners may be the objects of distinguishing love and the trophies of divine mercy. We have an instance of this in Manasseh. ... A similar instance we have now before us. The woman here spoken of is in the foregoing verse called a sinner; that is, one of a profligate and infamous character so that the Pharisee, in whose house Christ now was, wondered that he should suffer her to approach him. Yet her present conduct bespeaks her a sincere convert, a real Christian. Those members which had been instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, are now used to express the ardour of her love and the sincerity of her repentance.
In the conduct of this penitent we may observe the following particulars
1. Her deep humility She stood at the feet of Jesus
Mary, the sister of Martha, sat at the feet of Jesus, which might signify the calm, settled, and composed state of her mind. But this woman stood; a posture which denote humility, reverence and fear. She stood like a servant in waiting, ready to put in practice what she had designed for his honour. A sense of his excellency, and her own unworthiness, deeply humbled her: she never before saw Christ so amiable, nor herself so odious. The greatest sinners, when called by divine grace, often become the humblest saints.
2. Observe the holy shame of this penitent She stood at Jesus' feet behind him
Such was the beauty of his holiness that she was ashamed, and such the glory of his majesty that she was afraid to look him in the face. She did not turn her back upon him but intimated by the whole of her conduct that she deserved that he should turn his back upon her.
3. Her unfeigned sorrow She stood behind him weeping
Those eyes which had been the inlets of temptation and sin now become the outlets of godly sorrow. Those eyes which had been full of adultery were now full of tears and flow with penitential grief. She wept to think what she had done against Christ and what Christ had done for her. These were not hypocritical or fictitious tears. ... Though the shedding of tears is not always an evidence of grace, nor the want of them a sign of a graceless state, yet particular notice is taken of weeping saints in Scripture.
4. Her sorrow was not only sincere but abundant She stood weeping and washed his feet with tears
It was not a sudden gust but a continual flow. ... Such was the abundance of her tears that she washed her Lord's feet with them. She who had grieved and provoked him by her sins was now ready to submit to the meanest office to do him honour. ... Christ had cleansed the soul of this poor sinner and she is now allowed to wash his feet; nor could her tears be applied to a better purpose.
5. Witness the ardour of her love to Christ She kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment
Her soul was melted under a sense of the mercy she enjoyed, she loved much, because much had been forgiven her. Her affection was in some measure proportioned to the greatness of that compassion which had been shewn her. The branch of the Lord was now beautiful and glorious in the eyes of this pardoned sinner. She could do or suffer anything so that Christ might be glorified. She had been delivered from great wrath and purged from great sins; and tears of grief could ne'er repay the debt of love she owed. No sacrifice is now too great. The ointment, though very precious and perhaps might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, is now poured out, not on the Saviour's head, but on his feet. He whom the Father had anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows is now anointed with the rich perfumes of the penitent. A pardoned sinner will think no expense too great whereby he may honour Christ or testify his love to him. Being precious to his own soul he wishes to render him so to the souls of others.
6. Her contempt of the world
To see a woman of such a character in such a situation, might have an unfavourable aspect, and give occasion for evil surmisings but we see she did not regard the censures and reproaches of Simon the Pharisee. She was as ready to own herself a great sinner as he was to call her so. She did not mind the things of the world any more than the men of the world. The box of precious ointment was of little value to one who had found the pearl of great price. What she parted with was esteemed as worthless, in comparison of what she had obtained - precious faith and a precious Saviour made ample amends for all.
7. Her gratitude and joy
All her grief was mingled with love and thankfulness; her tears were tears of joy for sin pardoned as well as of sorrow for sin committed. Her ointment became a thank-offering to her Saviour. Filled with adoring thoughts of divine grace, she could join in that triumphant song Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, ...
From this instructive history we may learn, that the displays of divine mercy have always a practical tendency. The encouragement afforded to humble enquirers by opening a door of hope to the vilest of sinners should excite the pardoned soul to the most ardent love and the deepest abasement, as well as to abounding thankfulness and persevering obedience. Who would not prefer the situation of this penitent at the feet of Jesus to that of a prince upon his throne! Yet there is something more blessed than even this. To lie at his feet is very desirable but it is more so to behold him face to face!
After all, remember, that though our tears may wash Christ's feet; yet rivers, nay, an ocean of them cannot cleanse our own hearts. He himself must wash us or we have no part in him. The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, and that only, cleanseth us from all sin. ... If thou diest a martyr for Christ it will be of little service, unless he died as a sacrifice for thee. Thou shall never be saved for thy repentance; and yet thou shall not be saved without it. Art thou tempted to despair; to think thy sins so great, and thy case so singular, that there is no mercy for thee? Remember the case of this woman; and the Lord grant that her experience may be thine!
The hymn that follows does not seem to appear elsewhere
See that poor penitent,
To wash Christ's feet repair;
Her flowing tears prepare the bath -
She wipes them with her hair.

Her love she now imparts.
Her precious ointment pours:
Let her unfeign'd humility,
And fervent zeal be ours!
Though he's ascended up,
Unto his throne on high,
Far from the ken of human sight -
Yet faith will bring him nigh.
By faith we may on earth,
This act of her's repeat;
Approach the Saviour of our souls,
And wash and kiss his feet.

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