Secret Dirt or Extravagant Love

There were many people that had first-hand encounters with Jesus when He walked the earth, but the most profound encounters were not with socially accepted people. In fact, many of the significant “firsts” of Jesus’ intentional contacts involved the disenfranchised or marginal folks, people either on the fringe of society or blatant outcasts. Have you ever wondered why?

Have you ever visited a church and noticed a person worshipping in a highly animated way, maybe jumping, waving their arms, responding to the preacher with loud ‘Amen!’s or ‘Glory! Hallelujah’s? These folks are rarely the head elder or pastor’s wife. Some people find their behavior distracting. But no one can deny their exuberance for Jesus. Usually, they have an incredible story of how Jesus delivered and transformed them.  Their extravagant worship is an expression of their great thankfulness and love.

This is what we see with the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed Him with costly perfume. She was commonly known to be less than virtuous and probably wouldn’t have been welcome in the local synagogue. Yet her encounter with Jesus was so significant all four gospel accounts tell of it and Jesus Himself proclaimed her act would be memorialized with His story everywhere the gospel was told.  Her behavior was distracting. The host, a Jewish leader that Jesus had healed of leprosy, judged Jesus for allowing such a low-life woman to touch Him. The disciples criticized and condemned the woman’s behavior for ‘charitable’ reasons. This woman did indeed make a scene; she was a total spectacle. But Jesus was neither embarrassed of her or for her.  Why did Simon, the man liberated from an ostracizing life-sentence as a leper, prefer to simply acknowledge Jesus in a composed, conventional way? Why did Jesus allow and even memorialize this woman’s disruptive behavior?1

Three other interactions Jesus had with women reveal the answer. The woman at the well was despised by the Jews as a Samaritan—a person of mixed race who did not subscribe to the Jewish laws of worshiping at the Temple in Jerusalem--and even polite society in Samaria looked down on her as an adulteress with a lengthy track record. Yet this was the first person that Jesus openly revealed His Messianic identity and also taught how the true worship that God the Father desires is not in a place but an attitude of spirit.   And she whole-heartedly accepted Jesus at His Word and shamelessly--in spite of her self-induced low social position--evangelized her entire town.2

Mary Magdalene had a well-known reputation, being possessed by seven demons is a hard thing to hide. Her unabashed devotion to Jesus and financial support of His ministry after He delivered her is well documented.  She had been a public human ‘train-wreck’ at one time, but became an ardent public follower of Jesus, displaying her devotion without reservation even when His other followers were afraid to do so at the cross.  And it was to this devoted, shameless woman that the resurrected Savior first appeared.3

The Syro-Phoenician Canaanite woman was annoying, bold and brassy, crying out so loudly and continually, drawing unwanted attention to Jesus while He sought privacy. The disciples told Jesus to send her away. Jesus even indicated that He wouldn’t help her. But she would not be silenced and instead, fell at Jesus’ feet in worship and submission. He called her a dog, and she called Him by the Messianic title ‘Son of David’.  Even though she was a gentile, not a Jew, she recognized Jesus as the Messiah.  The disciples thought she was irritating and did not merit the LORD’s attention, but in the end, her willingness to be a brazen nuisance not only got her child delivered but she became one of only two people who Jesus attributed with “great” noteworthy faith.4

All four of these women were either already scandals or willing to create a public scene.  They weren’t guarding a social standing, good reputation or image. They risked everything, they had nothing they deemed worth saving to lose. Mary gave perfume worth over a year’s wages, caused a public spectacle in front of prominent citizens and probably caused her family some grief. The Samaritan woman got over her need to be discreetly invisible (going to the well only when no one else would be there) and her shame; suddenly she was telling everybody about the Man who told her ‘everything she ever did”.  Mary Magdalene gave of her money and risked her life, unashamedly displaying her discipleship even at the cross. The Canaanite woman was publicly insulted and humiliated for over-stepping the boundaries of civil society, yet she got her child back from the devil and received a commendation from Jesus as well.

She has been forgiven of all her many sins. This is why she has shown me such extravagant love.
But those who assume they have very little to be forgiven will love me very little.

• • • Luke 7:47 The Passion Translation • • •

Simon the Leper was offended by the “sinful” woman’s outrageous behavior toward Jesus. Simon, like everyone else, knew about this woman’s dirtiness. Her sins were public, she couldn’t hide them, she couldn’t lie to herself or anyone else about her past.  Every part of her world told her she was a dirty sinner and her condition was her own fault.  Simon, however, had hidden, secret, socially acceptable dirt, dirtiness that he could lie to himself and his peers about; he could pretend that he was clean, especially now that his leprosy was healed. Simon could deny blame for negative things like leprosy—after all, having a disease wasn’t a person’s fault—and he could take credit for anything good like having a prestigious position, affluence and influence. He was ‘better’, his ‘dirt’ wasn’t on public display. Not only did Simon mentally classify the woman as beneath him, he classified Jesus as beneath him. He doubted Jesus’ authority as a God-sent prophet (he didn’t even have a servant bring Jesus water to wash His feet), and certainly didn’t believe Him to be the Messiah. Simon did not believe Jesus deserved worship or honor from himself or anyone else.

But here is the truth. Jesus didn’t see Simon and the woman as different: neither could pay their debt, and both were pardoned. Simon took his pardon along with his healing and still judged others harshly –he judged Jesus as undeserving and the ‘sinful’ woman for her past sins and her present vulgar outburst of worship to Jesus. In Jesus’ story to Simon, one debt was small and the other was large; but neither debt could be repaid!  Jesus didn’t stress that the debt’s size doesn’t really matter if there is no possible way you could ever repay it, but that was the point. The woman understood this truth and she was beyond hiding her dirt; she was over herself and any self-pride.  Does the size of debt matter if you can’t pay it?  Simon wanted to think so, he was still pretending small unpayable debts were somehow different and secret unseen dirt wasn’t in the same category as public dirt.

Jesus’ story to Simon appears to offer two categories of debtor—those with a small (secret) debt or those with a large (obvious) debt. In reality, Jesus puts them both in one category—unpayable.  Most believers don’t readily identify with either Simon or the ‘sinful’ woman. However, we are each in one of the two attitudes toward our debt, and this attitude determines how we worship. If we allow our humanity to dictate our worship, it will never be the worship in spirit ant truth that God the Father is seeking. Jesus doesn’t offer us a third option. Jesus’ disciples even failed this, joining Simon in their criticism of the woman’s expression of her love and gratitude. Like Simon, they failed to recognize the enormity of what had been paid on their behalf.

Consider a similar story Jesus told about another debtor with an impossible debt. In this parable, not only the debtor but his entire family were to be sold as slaves.  While this parable is about forgiveness, it also reveals a pardoned debtor who showed little comprehension of the enormity of the gift that he had been given when he was pardoned--a gift that extended to his wife and children--and instead he chose to focus on someone else’s debt.5 We may be like Simon, allowing pride and fear of public opinion to smother our worship of Jesus, and we may be critical of those who, like King David, embarrass themselves publicly in their exuberant worship.6  But what if that release of extravagant worship is the very thing that frees our children or loved ones, like the Syro-Phoenician woman’s obnoxiously loud and relentless worship released her daughter from the demons? What if despising those who worship extravagantly makes us spiritually barren, like David’s wife Michal? Could our restricted worship be quenching the Holy Spirit and inhibiting our prodigal children or loved ones spiritually?  

People who don’t recognize the enormity of the pardon they have been freely given become lukewarm and critical, more concerned with appearances and public image than secret dirt. We have all missed the mark, whether by a little or by a lot doesn’t matter.  The price is still insurmountable.  Secret hidden dirt is just as costly as obvious public dirt (and there are no secrets with God anyway.)  Like the ‘sinful’ woman, we have all been forgiven extravagantly and should love extravagantly as a result. Don’t believe the lies about little debts and secret dirt. Get over yourself and give it all up to Jesus.

If you have been praying for someone and haven’t seen the answer, examine your attitude toward extravagant worship and those who worship exuberantly. Don’t judge or criticize them, join them!  Ponder the literal hell that Jesus endured so you and your children could have an abundant life here on earth and then heaven in eternity. Meditate on all the amazing promises made by Jesus and backed by God just for you!7 Jesus is worth the extravagance, worth any personal discomfort, worth making a fuss over, worth humiliating ourselves in worship to Him. Our God is truly worthy of slavish, public displays of devotion. Choose extravagant love over secret dirt every time.

From now on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with a right heart. For God is a Spirit, and he longs to have sincere worshipers who adore him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.

• • • John 4:23-24 The Passion Translation • • •

1. Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 11:2, 12:1-8
2. John 4:1-42
3. Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:1-3, 23:49; Mark 16:9; John 20:16
4. Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 8:10
5. Matthew 18:23-35 
6. 2 Samuel 6:16, 20-23; 1 Chronicles 15:29  
7. 2 Corinthians 1:20, 2 Peter 1:4

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