Referee
Luke 7:36-8:3

According to the local politicians and the media we live in the sporting capital of the world (although the people of Johannesburg may disagree at the moment).  The front page of most of our papers usually includes some reference to sport; sometimes the story line is even about the umpires.  Have you ever noticed how important the role of the officials is for a successful game?  I can’t think of a single sport where there is not some form of official in place to ensure the competitors are doing the right thing.  So I couldn’t help but think that Simon was trying to adjudicate or officiate for Jesus as I was reading our gospel story.

First of all he seems to make decisions about Jesus by deciding whether or not he is doing the right thing as he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him.”  He did keep this little gem to himself though.  It was almost as though he had the whistle up to his mouth ready to call it and took it back out again.

Then it was Jesus who had something to say, he told the Pharisee and the others who were there a parable, a story to illustrate what he needed to explain.  He wanted the Pharisee Simon to make a call as to which person would respond in love more, the one who had a large debt cancelled or the one with just a little.

As we heard, Simon answered correctly, he made the right call in this particular scenario.  “You have judged rightly.”  I wish Jesus had added a little, “This time” at the end of that sentence though.  But he was about to set the judgemental one straight anyway.  He did it in an equally confronting way.  He pointed to the woman and compared the actions of the two of them.

Jesus told him, “you are the host, I came to your house and you didn’t give me anything to wash my feet, you didn’t anoint my head with oil, but this woman, she washed my feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and hasn’t stopped kissing my feet.”  She had many sins and so having been forgiven she is showing great love.  But someone who has been forgiven a little only loves a little.”

Jesus may as well have named Simon specifically in that little accusative sentence, but he didn’t.  It seems he backed off just slightly.  But you can imagine how a host might react when told in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t being a particularly good host. 

He was pretty much told, clean your glasses mate, are you blind, it was clearly a push in the back and you’ve called him for tripping.  We are of course tempted to lay the blame on Simon like we do umpires in our favourite sport, he misinterpreted what was going on so he is at fault.  We do the whole, look at you thing, but forget that we do a similar thing, pretty much every day of the week.

When we are walking down the street, through a shopping centre, driving our cars, watching TV, even sitting here in church, we look at someone else and automatically start judging them.  Whether it be the car they drive, the clothes they wear, the colour of their hair or skin, the things they are doing or the things they have failed to do, subconsciously even, we start to make judgements about people.

The simple fact of the matter is we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.  If we were to look into a mirror, perhaps through the lens of a concealed camera and see ourselves as others see us we may be surprised.  A bit like Simon the Pharisee, we might be embarrassed by being caught out, or to realise that we get up to some odd stuff ourselves.

You see in almost any situation in life we think there must be a right side and a wrong side, this may be a false dichotomy.  It could well be that there are two wrong sides, and as we know, since we were little kids we’ve been told that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Or there is the other side of the coin, where we are caught out and still profess our innocence.  I love the indignation on the faces of players as they are escorted to the penalty box in ice hockey when both of them are at fault in a situation.  “But I never touched him, or he hit me, not the other way around.”  We often think that we are the innocent party in a situation even when we have been a contributing factor in an argument or accident or sinful act.  We love to lay the blame on someone else. 

Have you noticed something else, except for when there is a video referee to make the final call, a referee or umpires decision is never overturned.  The decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.  That’s the kind of authority that Jesus had in the situation with the woman and Simon the Pharisee.  He explained the situation, set Simon straight, told the woman that her sins were forgiven, as simple as that.  Then of course we hear the crowd chime in, “Who is this that even forgives sins?”  Crowds can’t help themselves they have to make their feelings heard.

The marvellous thing is that Jesus didn’t worry about what the crowd said or did, (although that is what wound up getting him killed) Jesus stated the truth.  This is how it is, live with it people.  To the woman, he said, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”  Others would have to learn from witnessing this event.

So what does this mean for us, (to ask the standard Martin Luther question)?  I think we take forgiveness of sins very much for granted.  We think that we haven’t sinned very much, we haven’t murdered, or stolen or used the Lord’s name in vain, so when we hear that our sins are forgiven, we don’t think very much of it.  What if we were to daily realise just how far we fall short of the glory of God and just how much we sin.  Then like the woman in the gospel we would be responding to God’s love and grace in far more dramatic and passionate ways.  I have to be careful here not to be judgemental, all I want to do is point out the risk we face of not realising what a wonderful gift God gave to us. 

As the writer to the Hebrews stated: “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  Your sins are forgiven.  As a result of that forgiveness the ultimate judge, the umpire who calls the result of the game for each and every one of us has made the call already.  You are forgiven, you are made right in the eyes of God.  No human being can make that call for you, only God through the death and resurrection of his Son can make that call.  I hate to use the analogy of God as a giant video referee up in the sky but that’s probably not a bad way to think of this. 

Your sins are forgiven, the ones you’ve done, the ones you are going to do, God has viewed all of the game tapes already and he could probably call it a ‘try’ but what he calls instead is “SAVED”.

Amen.