And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.…
I. We find here an illustration of THE RECOGNIZED VALUE OF ALL ACTS OF SIMPLE-HEARTED DEVOTION TO CHRIST. In the act of justification God is entirely sovereign, and man is entirely passive; but in the work of sanctification which succeeds it we are permitted to co-operate with the Holy Spirit. And all along in our career, as the forgiven children of the Highest, we are welcomed in the ministries of affection which evidence our appreciation of Divine grace. The early reformers had no confusion in regard to this point. Their notion as to the proper blending of faith and works may be seen in the two seals which Martin Luther used indiscriminately in his correspondence. On one was cut his family coat-of-arms — two hammers laid crosswise, with a blunt head and a sharp head, his father's tools at the time when he was a miner; and Martin used often, in connection with this, to quote the saying of Achilles: "Let others have wealth who will; my portion is work." Upon the second seal was cut the device of a heart, with wings on each side of it spread out as if soaring, and underneath this was the Latin motto: "Petimus astra."
II. Our second lesson is concerning THE ACTIVE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH ZEAL PROCEEDS, AND FROM WHICH COMES ITS VALUE.
1. Many men feel the superior power and dignity of a Christian life, and so seek something like conformity to its maxims. They move on in a correct living of outward morality, because it brings a reputation with others and satisfaction in their own minds: they are wont to speak pleasantly of themselves as " outsiders, with a great respect for religion, you know I " No value whatever in this. The instincts of an honest heart make us claim, as the very first characteristic of friendship, its disinterestedness. We "will not suffer ourselves to be used or patronized; can we suppose God will endure it?
2. Another motive, which gives to many a life a sort of religious cast, is found in conscientiousness. We are all by nature devout; something draws us, and keeps drawing, to God; we grow uneasy under its tension. We seek a kind of temporary relief by yielding a little, without at all intending to yield the whole; just as the foolish fish is said to run up towards the fisherman for a moment, to ease off the stress of the hook, and yet without purposing ever to leave the water. Such a service of God we call "duty." Now there is no value either in the surrender we make, or in the acceptance we profess. When we give up sin from mere pressure of pain, we are apt to choose those which will be missed the least, and have grown the weariest in indulgence. Nor is our obedience any better; we go on with a round of duty-doing as senseless as the whirling of a Japanese praying-machine in the market-place. Our motive is the refinement of selfishness, for we work like a galley-slave who is afraid of the lash. Because we mean to cheat on the "principal" by and by, we scrupulously keep paying the regular "interest" now. And all this is mere hypocrisy.
3. The true motive for all Christian zeal is found in love — simple, honest affection for Christ as the Lord of grace and glory. A good deed is measured by the temper and feeling which underlies it.
III. THE RECOLLECTION BY WHICH TRUE ZEAL IS STIMULATED. "To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." The one great matter of notice here is that alabaster box. It becomes the symbol of a heart full of experience, which no possible language could describe. It would have been more properly named a phial or a jar. It was one of those small vessels, wont to be cherished in that day by vain and silly women, containing rare and curiously-perfumed cosmetics, used by the fastidious Orientals for a meretricious and luxurious toilet. Two things, therefore, were exhibited in the act of this woman — penitence and faith.
1. Her penitence appears in the surrender of the unguent; it was one of the tools of her trade. By this act she avowed her definite and final relinquishment of that old, gay life she had been living.
2. Observe, also, the faith in this action. She ventured much when she came to that feast unbidden. If Jesus should rebuke her, she would be excluded with contumely and contempt. But she trusted Him with all her heart; she believed in her forgiveness in the very moment of asking for it. So she offered her Saviour the highest of all she had. She gave Jesus her last glory; He gave her His full pardon of her sins as His reward and benediction in return.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.