Revisiting the dinner party scene of Luke 7, think for a moment about the religious onlookers and their response to Jesus’ display of mercy and grace towards the woman with her perfume.
The scene offended those who witnessed it.
It is pretty evident from the conversation recorded that Simon and his gang placed themselves in a different category morally than the intrusive guest. They also assumed Jesus must not be aware of her profession, or else, He too would have nothing to do with her.
Simon’s problem was that he thought he didn’t have a problem.
In reality, just noting, Jesus had to condescend to the same depth to enter his home as He did to receive the woman’s adoration, and doesn’t He have to do the same for every one of us?
It seems Simon’s mindset was much like the older brother in the prodigal parable. Remember his anger when his father showed compassion to his younger sibling? Simon was treating this woman the same way because in his own mind he believed he was earning God’s respect with his religious efforts in a very similar manner as the older son valued his personal worth to his father.
Grace is offensive to those who refuse to receive it, and those who refuse to receive it will always persecute its recipients.
But there is a nearer concern. Tullian Tchividjian writes, “Even those of us who have tasted the radical saving grace of God find it intuitively difficult not to put conditions on it when we try to communicate it to others – ‘Don’t take it too far; keep it balanced.’ As understandable as this hedging tendency may be, a ‘yes grace, but’ posture perpetuates slavery in our lives and in the church. Grace is radically unbalanced. It contains no but: it is unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated – or else it is not grace.”
The grace that flowed forth to a broken woman at a dinner table that day is the very same grace that we receive, and we ought proclaim. Doug Wilson says of this type of grace,
Grace is wild. Grace unsettles everything. Grace overflows the banks. Grace messes up your hair. Grace is not tame. In fact, unless we are making the devout nervous, we are not preaching grace as we ought.
Grace, when taught as Jesus gives it brings out the worst in the legalistic, but the attempts to restrain it is not limited there only, for don’t we all contend personally against grace’s enemies. Don’t we desperately try to prove that what we contribute has some added value.
Tullian continues, “There is no way around it: God’s one-way love is deeply offensive. Frightening even. So much so that if you’re not offended by it, you probably haven’t encountered the real thing.”
The grace Jesus gives has no bartering system attached.
This type of grace leaves us no longer needing to prove anything to anyone. The woman with the perfume knew perfectly well the hostile environment she was walking into. It leaves us secured, our actions no longer weighing our worth, fully justified in God’s sight… in Christ Jesus.
It seems this grace makes us free… free indeed.
I love the author’s question then, “What are you going to do now that you don’t have to do anything?”
…and his response,
“My suspicion is that once you realize that you don’t have to do anything for God, you may find you want to do everything for Him.”
Those nail-scarred hands stretch out to us in unlikely spaces and places and we marvel at the mystery of Grace. Marilyn Gardner, The Hard Questions