Luke 9:18-22, 18:31-34, 7:36-50
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
If you’ve read much of the Old Testament, you probably know that anointing a person with oil is an ancient tradition. Kings, prophets, and priests were all anointed to consecrate them to their sacred duties to country and to God. Some examples: the prophet Samuel anointed David as king, conferring on him the divine attributes of strength and wisdom. God instructed Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet to Israel, transferring his responsibilities and authority. Aaron and his sons were anointed by Moses as priests, sanctified and set apart for service to God. You might find it interesting that in the Middle East, as well as Egypt, Greece, and Rome, it was traditional also to anoint guests as a token of hospitality and honor.
Recently we saw that after Jesus was baptized and then tested in the desert, he went to the synagogue in Nazareth, where he read from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” Jesus received his anointing from God himself, not from an intermediary. No one else was qualified to consecrate God’s Son to his sacred duty, his ministry of teaching and healing and forgiving sins. When he announced to those around him that this scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing, they were amazed. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked each other. They were just beginning to get an inkling who Jesus was.
Not that Jesus needed anybody to confirm his identity. He knew exactly who he was and what his mission on earth was. But did anybody else? “Who do people say I am?” he asked his disciples. “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah,” they said, “or maybe one of the prophets brought back to life.” “But what about you?” Jesus countered. “Who do you say I am?” And Peter got it right: “You are the Christ. God’s Messiah.” But did Peter or any of the other disciples really understand who the Messiah was? What his purpose was? Many times Jesus warned his followers that he would suffer and die, only to rise again, but they never seemed to understand or, worse, believe him. As God’s anointed, his chosen One, Jesus would often confuse and disappoint his disciples because he didn’t meet their expectations. Still, where else would they go? He was their Lord. They were committed to him.
One evening, Jesus was having dinner at the home of a Pharisee. During the meal, as he reclined at the table with his feet extended away from it, a woman who was known by everyone in town to be a sinner approached him, sobbing. She wept onto his feet, then dried them with her hair, kissing them repeatedly. Finally, she broke open an alabaster jar of perfume and poured it on his feet, anointing them. Incensed, the Pharisee muttered to himself that if Jesus were any kind of prophet he would know the sort of woman who was touching him and be repulsed. Not that he’d say that out loud, of course.
But Jesus knew the man’s heart, and he told him a story about the relationship between the size of one’s debt and the magnitude of that person’s love toward the one who forgave the debt. Then, Jesus pointed out that the Pharisee had not been a very good host to him. He had not provided water to wash his feet or a towel to dry them, yet the woman washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. The host had not greeted him with a kiss, yet the woman had not stopped kissing his feet. The host had not anointed his guest with oil, yet the woman had poured out perfume on him. And there, in front of the astonished Pharisee, he forgave the woman’s sins and told her that her faith had saved her.
Who do we say Jesus is?
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available), then stay for Discovery Hour (classes for all ages, even adults).