What Would You Do?
4th Sunday after Pentecost
What Would You Do?
Text: Luke 7:36-50
What Would You Do? What Would You Do if you had a big debt to pay? Most of us have debt. It’s a very American thing to do. We have debts of all kinds. We have mortgage debt. We have car loan debt. We have college loan debt. We have credit card debt. We have debt to banks, debt to family, and debt to friends. Some have a few of those kinds of debt. Some have all of those kinds of debt.
But What Would You Do if you had a really big, really bad debt to pay? I’m not talking about overextending yourself on a house or a car. I’m not talking about getting stuck at a 10% interest rate when the market is at 5%. I’m not talking about getting hit with late fees or interest.
What if you had made a number of bad choices and really put yourself out there. You got yourself in a bit of trouble and racked up a huge debt. Suddenly you realize that this debt was $7,500, and it was due immediately. Uh oh!
But What Would You Do if your debt was even larger? What if you got yourself in a bit of trouble, racked up a $7,500 debt, but then kept going? You continued to make bad choices. You continued to get yourself in trouble. You increased your debt. Suddenly you realize that this debt is not $7,500 but $75,000. It’s a debt that might cost you 500 working days—perhaps two years—to pay off if 100% of your wages were garnished. (If you make more money or have more money, imagine the numbers are higher. Maybe $75,000 and $750,000.)
Then What Would You Do if you found out how bad this debt really was. This $75,000 debt isn’t a 0% loan. It isn’t a five year car loan. It isn’t a 30 year mortgage. This $75,000 is due now—immediately. You must pay it back in full right away. And the penalty for non-payment is not higher interest or late payment fees. The penalty for non-payment is that you are going to be “sleeping wit’ da fishes.” The collector is coming and if you don’t pay, you die. What Would You Do?
So What Would You Do when you realize that this debt is not to Bank of America or Sun Trust? This debt is not to Best Buy or Target. This debt is not to Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac. This debt is to God.
What Would You Do when you realize you have been racking up the debt. You haven’t really been thinking about it. You’ve been living your life as if it is no big deal. What’s a few bad choices going to cost? What’s a few mistakes going to add up to? But then you see the bill. Every sin is itemized.
“Oh yeah. I did that. And that. And that. I said that? Yeah. Now I remember. I guess I say that a lot. A whole lot. He knows I thought that? He knows I thought that, too? He knows what I said to that person? He knows how I treated that person? He knows how empty my heart is? He knows lazy I am? He knows how loveless I am? I didn’t realize how big my debt is!”
But it is. Your debt isn’t just big. It’s huge. What you have done in your life hasn’t gone unnoticed. You maybe think you have gotten away with it. You maybe think that you can “forget” and “move on.” But you can’t. This whole time the ticker has been running. Every action, every thought, every word—all of it has been invoiced and is on your bill.
For once you finally stop to take a look. Normally you go about your life like it’s no big deal. You know you’ve probably racked up a bit of debt, but you try not to think about it. You know you’ve made a few bad choices, but hopefully it will go unnoticed. But now you take a look. You’re smacked in the face with a cold dose of reality. Your face goes ghost white. Your stomach turns sick. Your heart starts racing. You owe that much? Your debt is that big? Yes. It is.
What Would You Do then when you realize that your debt to God is due immediately? This is not a 0% interest loan. This is not a 30 year mortgage. There is no government program to help. There is no bail out. The debt is due now.
The penalties are huge as well. Not higher interest. Not late fees. Not even uncle Vito knocking on your door to make you “sleep wit’ da fishes.” What Would You Do when you realize that penalty for non-payment of this insurmountable debt called sin is eternity in hell?
Imagine that you had that impossible financial debt of $75,000. If you are wealthier, call it $750,000 or $7.5 million. Uncle Vito is knocking at your door. He’s collecting the payment in full, now or else. What Would You Do if suddenly someone came to your house to help? It’s someone you didn’t really know, but someone you heard about. This someone comes quickly, but just in the nick of time. He hands you an envelope and then quickly and quietly returns to wherever he came from.
You open up the envelope. How could this be? $75,000! (Or $750,000 or $7.5 million!) What? I don’t deserve this! Why would he do that? I hardly even know the guy! I’ve been making all these bad decisions, racking up all this bad debt. I was in huge trouble and had my life on the line. But this man came and paid my entire bill! I’m debt free!
What Would You Do when you realize this guy is not a nice banker? He’s not a good friend. He’s not a rich grandfather. He’s your God. His name is Jesus Christ.
What Would You Do when you realize that Jesus Christ knows all that you have done? He knows all your choices. He knows all the debt you have racked up. He even knows that the debt you owe is a debt to him because he was the one you sinned against.
He also knew the penalty for your debt. He knew that it wasn’t higher interest or a late fee or slap on the wrist. The penalty—which he established—was death and hell.
What Would You Do when you realize that Jesus Christ paid off your debt. Not just some of it. All of it. Not one penny was left unaccounted for. He paid all of it. It was impossible for you to pay for your debt. But he did.
Oh the price was certainly high. The cost was still death and hell. But he came just in time. In fact, he came at just the right time. And at just the right time he hung from a cross to pay for all of your debt. There he bellowed out as he experienced the bowels of hell, “It is finished!” And it was. The penalty was paid. The debt was cancelled. So he bowed his head in death to finish the payment. Then, almost just as quickly as he came, he left. He returned to the place from which he came, leaving us with a book.
You open up the book. (It’s called the Bible.) You look inside. How can this be? Not $75,000. Not $750,000. Not $7.5 million. Death and hell. The book is stamped: “Paid in full.” What? I don’t deserve this! Why would he do that? I hardly even know him or understand him! I’ve been making all these bad decisions, racking up all this bad debt which I owed to him. I was in huge trouble and had my life on the line with death and hell to pay. But Jesus came and paid my entire bill! I’m debt free!
So What Would You Do if you actually had the opportunity to see Jesus? What if you could meet Jesus, could touch Jesus, could talk to Jesus? What Would You Do?
Would you be like the woman in the gospel today? Simon the Pharisee couldn’t figure it out. He had Jesus over for dinner. Perhaps this was a status move to show off how good his life was. Perhaps he wanted to grill Jesus and catch him in some mistake or sin.
Yet suddenly a woman barged in on the dinner party. Not just any woman either. She was known as a “sinner” around town. Now everyone is a sinner. But if you are known as a “sinner” by everyone else, you must be doing something bad. We don’t know exactly what she had done, but clearly her life had been quite sinful.
This woman had a huge debt. She’s the one in Jesus’ illustration who owed 500 denarius. A denarius was worth a day’s wage, so she owed about 500 days’ wages. Maybe $75,000 in today’s economy. Maybe more if you make more.
She was a sinner. She had done a lot. She had owed a lot. But this she also did—she knew who Jesus was. She knew what Jesus came to do. She knew her debt would be paid in full.
Lo and behold, this Jesus, this Messiah, was in town! He was at the house of the reputable Simon the Pharisee. Who cares what her reputation was! Who cares what others think! She had to see him!
She barged into the room. There he was! The Savior. She fell at his feet and wept. Oh the many things she had done! Oh the awful sins she had committed! But he had forgiven them all. She drenched his feet with tears and humbly washed his feet with her own hair, kissing them profusely.
Then she set down an alabaster jar. It was a precious jar made of whitish, yellowish stone Egypt. It was filled with a fragrant perfume. Carefully she anointed his feet with this costly possession.
You might think this was wasteful. Certainly Simon the Pharisee and the others did. Why would this “sinner” barge into this gathering of “normal” people and why would she waste such an expensive possession?
But she wasn’t wasting one drop. Jesus had given her everything! He cancelled her debt. He was soon to give his life and die for her sins. He had given her eternal life. Expensive perfume couldn’t come close to thanking him enough. But mixed with her tears and kisses, it was the best she had to offer.
Jesus recognized her faith and trust. He declared what the woman already trusted reassuring her yet again of who he is and what he would do: “Your sins are forgiven,” he said, “Go in peace.”
What Would You Do? What Would You Do with the opportunity to see your Savior face to face? What Would You Do with the privilege to be allowed to enter God’s house? Oh most surely, we don’t deserve to be in this holy sanctuary. Not in the least bit. But we are allowed in.
God doesn’t only let us in though. We fall at his feet each and every week and confess, “Lord of life I confess that I am by nature dead in sin . . . You should cast me away from your presence forever. Oh Lord, I am sorry for my sins.” We confess these sins with tears flowing down our cheeks and knees knocking and trembling in sorrow. Oh what I have done! Oh how sorry I am!
And every time—every time, every week—God responds through the minister saying, “I forgive you all your sins.” But our God knows we are weak and feeble. He knows our faith falters. So he comes to us again. He comes to us with his own body and blood—the blood that was shed and the body that was dead for us. He gives them to us in his holy Supper and he declares to us a second time what our faith already trusts, words you will shortly here from Jesus through me: “Your sins are forgiven . . . go in peace.”
What Would You Do? What Would You Do with such a gift? What Would You Do with all your sins paid for, with all your debt cancelled? If only Jesus were here, that I could drench his feet with my tears of sorrow and wipe his feet with my hair! If only I could pour the costliest perfume on his holy, nail-marked feet!
But here’s what I can do. I can come here to this holy house every single week to be reassured of the news that seems impossible—my debt is paid in full. I can hear of my forgiveness declared by my Savior and sing my heart out in praise and thanks. I can bring him my very best offerings. How could I ever repay Jesus for his life and death and my salvation? I can’t. But I can bring him my finest, most fragrant offerings. I can give him the best I have in thanks. I can give to him my first and finest dollars of thanks. I can reflect his love in my daily life. I can let my light shine into this dark world. I can tell others who need to know that their debt is cancelled. I can make my life center around the most important news ever—Jesus has paid my debt in full. My sins are forgiven. I can go in peace.
That’s what the sinful woman did.
What Would You Do?
Posted on June 16, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Alabaster, Bailout, Bank, Church, Credit Card, Debt, Debt Relief, Interest, It Is Finished, Jesus, Loan, Luke, Luke 7, Mortgage, Paid in Full, Payment, Perfume, Sermons, Sinful, Sinner. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.