Summer 2006 Magazine: The Greatest Sinner
Author: Victor Gill
Publish date:
Does our gift of love for Jesus expose us?

If I were to ask you who is the greatest sinner, I would probably get a variety of answers. Maybe you would say Hitler or Osama Bin Laden. Maybe you would say someone else.

We are not here to point fingers at anyone, but when asked for a definition of sin, we as Seventh-day Adventists are quick say that sin is the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4). This is a familiar verse to all of us and we know it is true. So in light of this knowledge, would you not agree with me that the greatest sin would be the violation of the greatest command?

In Matthew 22, we read the experience of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus. A young, energetic soul, he was probably quite proud of himself and his education. He poses a question to Jesus to try to trick Him.

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment (Matthew 22:35-38).

Does anyone feel guilty about violating that commandment? Can we all say that we have always loved the Lord with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul? Have we always put God first in everything?

I think every one of us must admit we have been guilty of violating that commandment. We as Seventh-day Adventists place a great emphasis on the Sabbath, but we must remember that we are to keep the Sabbath out of love for Christ, and because we wish to honor our Creator.

The Pharisees crucified the Saviour, because their obedience did not stem from love for God and His truth. So often when we think of sin, we think of the horrible tragedies out there in the world. But we forget that unless we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, above anything else, we could be called the greatest sinner. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all love Jesus the way that commandment says to we love Him?

There is an interesting story in the Bible about a man who did not know that this was the greatest commandment. We are going to look at Matthew, Luke, and John, and piece this story together.

In Luke 7:36, we read of a very wealthy Pharisee who threw a large party and invited many guests to his home. One of his guests was Jesus, which was very unusual, considering that the Pharisees were always trying to find fault with Him. They constantly tried to ridicule Him, or straighten Him out. But here the Scriptures say that a Pharisee desired Jesus to come at eat with Him, “And he went into the Pharisees house and sat down to meat” (Luke 7:36).

Why is this man having a banquet, and why is he inviting Jesus? What is causing this man to do such a thing? “And while Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper.” Here we find out that the Pharisee wants to pay Jesus tribute because Jesus healed him from leprosy. He is grateful that now he is free. He is whole again.

No we go to John 12 and find another guest that was present there. John 12:1-2 says this:

Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom He raised from dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him.

Here’s the picture. A large table where a special banquet is to take place. Jesus is seated in the middle. Simon whom Jesus cleansed from leprosy is seated on the one hand, maybe on His right, and Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead is seated on the left.

Simon is having this feast because he wants to give honor to Jesus. In those days, lepers were sent to isolation. People would have to carry food and lay it out somewhere, for lepers to retrieve because they didn’t want to get contaminated by the leprosy. So Simon—whom Jesus healed from living death—and Lazarus—whom Jesus raised from literal death—are sitting next to Jesus at the banquet.

There is somebody else at this party. Luke 7:37 says, “And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment.”

This is really something. You can be sure that this woman was not invited to this party. She was a sinner. No Pharisee would invite a sinner to his home. Her brother and sister were there, but they had been invited.

It says in verse 38 that she sat at Jesus’ feet. So how did she get there if she was not invited? We are told that when she heard that Jesus was going to be in this home, she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from getting in. She snuck in. She hoped that she would not be noticed or recognized in the crowd.

So here is Mary, a sinner, uninvited, with all these honored guests. If she had not openly expressed her love for Jesus, she may not have been recognized in the crowd. But it was when she opened the alabaster box, the smell of the perfume went everywhere, and she was recognized.

All she wanted was to sneak in and humbly sit at the feet of Jesus. This woman was going to bathe Jesus feet with her ointment, but before she could get the box open, her heart of love burst forth with tears, because she was so thankful for what Jesus had done for her. She began to weep, and she washed His feet with her tears. Can you imagine? She had never expressed her love like this before. It was a gift of love that exposed her.

Does your gift of love for Jesus expose you?

Pure, sanctified love expressed by Christ’s life work is as sacred perfume. Like an open box of perfume, it fills the whole house with fragrance, eloquence…Outward devotion mingled with sacred humble love will become as fragrance as the open box of ointment but gifts alone, endowments alone cannot take the place of love (Bible Commentary volume 5, 1137).

We can have all the head knowledge we want, but unless it is accompanied with Christ’s love in our hearts for sinners, there is something missing. This woman loved much and the fragrance of her love permeated the whole house. She disrupted the whole party because of her love for Jesus.

Look at John 12:3-6: “the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?”

Can you see the attitude here? One man is offended because of the love of this woman for Jesus. He says, what is this woman doing wasting this ointment on Jesus’ feet? 

This pride and selfishness began with Judas, and then spread to all the others, as we see in Matthew 26:8: “But when His disciples saw it they had indignation, saying, to what purpose is this waste?”

Luke 7:39 says, “Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself saying, This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner.” Can you imagine? Here is the man that was healed of leprosy, criticizing Jesus, his Healer. He is questioning if Jesus really is the Messiah or not. Apparently he had forgotten the reason he had invited Jesus to this banquet in the first place. He had forgotten what it feels like to be considered an outcast. He had forgotten that Jesus had made him whole.

Notice what Jesus says in reply to Simon:

Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owes five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much (Luke 7:40-47).

Who is the greatest sinner? Is it Mary, or it is Simon?

Who thought that they were the greatest sinner? Mary thought she was. But there was something good in her heart that Simon did not have.

When Mary hears that Jesus is at the Pharisee’s house, she rushes there, willing to endure the scorn of the guests, all to get near to the One who has loosed her bonds. Silently she kneels behind Him with ointment in her hands. She means to pour it on His feet, but before she can open the box her heart opens and tears of thankfulness wet His feet, inflicting an indignity that she had never meant. She has nothing at hand to repair the fault. Loosening her hair, which is shameful for her to let down in public, she humbly makes her hair into a towel.

Forgiveness comes first to those who have nothing, to the humble, and to the meek. It unlocks the floodgates of the heart as nothing else will. May Christ’s love break our hearts today and cause us to walk in His steps.

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