Everything’s Bigger in Texas
One day, a Texan died and went to heaven. St. Peter met him at the pearly gates and took him for a tour. The Texan, however, was not impressed. He told Peter that the rivers in Texas were longer, the mountains taller and the stars brighter than anything he’d seen in heaven. There was nothing Peter could do to overcome the man’s opinion of his home state.
Exasperated, Peter escorted the Texan to the edge of heaven, where they both looked down. From there one could see all the way into hell. Columns of acrid black smoke twisted up from the fiery abyss.
St. Peter confidently smirked, “What do you think about that? Bet you don’t have anything like THAT down in Texas!”
The Texan drawled, “No, sir, we don’t — but I know a couple ol’ boys down in Houston who will put that out fer ya.”
Everything’s bigger in Texas, from our hats to our fires. Our hospitality is big, too! Wherever I travel to preach in the Lone Star State, I can count on being treated to a meal. When I go to someone’s house, the host slips a tall glass of iced tea in my hand, whether I ask for it or not. In my revival visits, I’ve received gifts ranging from tender smoked brisket to a Jewish shofar.
In an incident recorded in Luke 7:36-50, Jesus was not offered the traditional Middle Eastern niceties that house visitors normally received. The host, Simon the Pharisee, did not greet His guest with the traditional kiss. He did not direct a servant to wash the Lord’s road-weary feet or anoint His head with sweet-smelling oil. No, Jesus was treated indifferently, even rudely by this Pharisee, whose formal religious observance was undoubtedly impeccable–but whose empathy and hospitality were glaringly absent.
Imagine Simon’s reaction when the town’s bad girl crashed the party. She ignored the scornful whispers of the crowd to get to Jesus, who was reclining at the dinner table. The woman had brought an alabaster box with perfumed ointment to anoint Jesus’ feet, but, in the presence of the sinless Son of God, her sense of sin bubbled to the surface and she began weeping. Her tears splashed like waterfalls onto Jesus’ feet and then, in an act considered inappropriate in her culture, she unbound her hair and used her thick locks as a towel to dry the tears.
Jesus addressed his grumbling dinner companions by telling a little parable about forgiveness, and then, in a shocking finale, He commends the penitent floozy while upbraiding His well-heeled host for having such a shriveled heart.
The woman came as a broken soul, but was made complete at the feet of Jesus. We, too, can find wholeness and blessings when we humble ourselves at the feet of the Lord.
Find Acceptance At the Feet of Jesus
The first blessing is ACCEPTANCE. No one wanted the woman at the dinner table—except Jesus. This was the same Man who said, ““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28 NASB) and “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). The Bible assures that even if our father and mother forsake us, the Lord will receive us; He will hold us close (Ps 27:10).
Jesus accepts the sinner. He welcomes those who have messed up and strayed off. The Sinless One even took in Sin at the cross–became sin for our sakes–absorbing it like a divine sponge so that we might become the righteousness of God.
The woman knew that this itinerant rabbi was the Friend of Sinners. When she heard that Jesus was in town, she fled to Him, for she knew He had healed lepers, refused to stone a woman caught in adultery, forgiven the sin of the paralytic. He would accept her when no one else would. This is the business of Jesus’ followers, too: to accept the unaccepted and thus imitate Christ. To do so might make more of a difference than we may ever know.
On October 31, 2003, while surfing with friends, a 14-foot tiger shark attacked 13-year old Bethany Hamilton near a Kauai beach, severing her left arm. In the movie bio, Soul Surfer, Bethany, as played by actress AnnaSophia Robb, is lying on her bed studying a Barbie doll. Her mother comes into her bedroom, prompting Bethany to ask who will love and accept her with her disability. Bethany’s mom walks over to her computer, pulling up a picture of the armless Venus de Milo statue. “For centuries, all around the world, she was considered the pinnacle of beauty,” Bethany’s mother says. “And she has one less arm than you.”
Bethany turns to her mom with a sly smile and says, “Yeah, but I can surf.”
Since her recovery, Bethany has won several surfing competitions, including the O’Neill Island Girl Junior Pro tournament and NSSA National Competition (NSSA stands for National Scholastic Surfing Association). On her blog, speaking of her fiancé Adam Dirks, Bethany writes, “Why would this man love me as much as he does? How can he accept me, flaws and all? Not to mention, ‘Will he accept my unique life and come along side of me in support? How can he love me and all that my life is made of? Will he love me life-long?’ But I know Adam’s love for me is unique – it comes from Christ, and that he will love me forever.”
Find Forgiveness at the Feet of Jesus
The second blessing the woman found at Jesus’ feet was FORGIVENESS. Simon and his guests were horrified when Jesus pronounced forgiveness over a harlot. Only God could forgive sin!
The woman knew this. She knew that Jesus carried God’s authority to forgive sin. The word for forgiveness in the Bible literally means to “send away.” Jesus still has the divine clout to “send away” our sins and give us a new start.
Ironically, the one in this story who thought he didn’t need forgiveness stood in dire need of forgiveness. After all, what did Simon need to be forgiven of? He was rich, religious and respected. Yet, as we discover, his greatest sin was thinking he had no sin. Inside, he was poor, pitiful and petty.
But Jesus didn’t preach at him. He told a parable about two debtors –one who owed the banker two years of wages and the other two months of wages. The banker graciously forgave both debts. Which one was more thankful? The one who owed more, of course. Yet both were in arrears to the creditor.
The Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 after an 86-year drought. It began with the “Curse of the Bambino” in 1918 and ended on October 27 with a four-game sweep over the Cardinals. In between were weeping and the gnashing of teeth. The much-hated Yankees often crushed their playoff hopes. In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, cheer turned into despair when first baseman Bill Buckner bobbled a routine grounder and lost the game after a two-run lead. The Sox went on to lose Game 7–and the Series–to the Mets.
Spiritually speaking, we are all the Red Sox. There is a curse over each of our heads. We have bungled the ball more than once. If you want it in Bible talk, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23.) We can smugly think that borrowing pens from the office that we never return is not the same as grand theft auto, but not in God’s eyes. Sin is sin, and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).
Let’s not “Simonize” our lives by comparing our socially-acceptable indiscretions like gossip and grudges to headline sins like murder and sordid affairs. Let’s get real and realize that little sins add up to a big problem. Let’s take a lesson from a nameless woman in the Bible who named her sins at the feet of Jesus—and there found forgiveness.
Find Salvation at the Feet of Jesus
The last blessing at Jesus’ feet is SALVATION. Jesus told the repentant woman that her faith had saved her. In the Bible, “salvation” is a gem of a word with many facets.
First, it means “to rescue.” Jesus is the Divine Lifeguard who wades into the sea of humanity to save us from drowning in our own sins. He can rescue us from hell when we die; He can save us from fear and condemnation while we live. In the movie Man on Fire, Denzel Washington plays an ex-commando who asks an old army buddy if he thinks God will forgive their sins. The friend quietly answers, “No.” But a Christian unequivocally says “Yes” –not by works of human atonement, but by the great work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Secondly, the word “save” can mean “to heal.” Christ is the Great Physician who is not afraid to touch our inner leprosies. His power to heal sin-sickness is as strong today as it was 2000 years ago. Years ago a woman, whom I met on a Mexico mission trip, told me she used to be an occultist who put curses on people. When she encountered Christ, she felt instant freedom and today serves the Lord gladly and fervently. Luke’s Gospel reports that the woman who crashed Simon’s party had been sinful all her life–but in one moment at the feet of Jesus, she found healing for her soul, a cure for her troubled heart.
Lastly, the word “save” can mean to “make whole.” We are complete at the feet of Jesus. Perhaps thinking of the weeping woman in Luke 7, Dave Wilkerson wrote in his blockbuster book, The Cross and the Switchblade, “What is it about tears that should be so terrifying? The touch of God is marked by tears…deep, soul-shaking tears…it comes when that last barrier is down and you surrender yourself to health and wholeness.”
Crying is optional if you crave healing for your soul…but kneeling at the feet of Jesus isn’t. Go there and you will find, like Mary, the “better part” (Luke 10:42).