Monday, April 14, 2008

The Avon Lady and Jesus

I love the story in Luke about the sinful woman who annointed Jesus' feet with ointment and her own tears in the home of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). This story has three main characters: a religious host with an impeccable reputation; a woman with a reputation as bad as reputations come; and Jesus, with a reputation as a troublemaker or a teacher/prophet, depending on your perspective.

The woman--I like to call her the Avon Lady, because she arrives with perfume samples--behaves in a shocking and scandalous way toward Jesus, but Jesus accepts and defends her. Simon silently wonders how Jesus could allow her to have such intimate and inappropriate contact with him. Jesus takes this opportunity to tell a parable about faith, and to clearly claim divine authority to forgive sin.

The story is filled with irony, and as the vast readership of The Green Room knows, I heart irony.

Who is Simon?
Simon the Pharisee was a religious, temple-going guy. Maybe his dad was a Pharisee also, and his parents brought him up strictly, going to temple on Saturdays and Wednesday nights, and going on Pharisee youth group outings when he was in high school. They observed the feasts, fasts, and sacrifices; they tithed their dill and shekels precisely; they counted their steps on the Sabbath so as not to break the fourth commandment.

Simon's identity was wrapped up in his religious faith, and he took it very seriously. Maybe he invited Jesus to dinner so he could get to know him better, and decide for himself whether this controversial troublemaker was a real prophet, or a fraud. Either way, Simon would be the go-to guy with 411 on this crazy Jesus character.

Simon reminds me of me sometimes.

Who is the Avon Lady?
What about the woman who had lived a sinful life? Somewhere she had heard Jesus teaching about God's mercy and forgiveness. Maybe she followed him around for a few days or weeks, so she could hear more about God's willingness to forgive any who would come to him. She had never heard anything like this before, and only knew that everywhere she went, people knew her reputation.

I can imagine that she began to weep, standing on the edge of the crowd, hearing the parable of the prodigal son, and feeling forgiveness and acceptance for the first time.

When she heard where Jesus would be dining, she sought him out. The text doesn't indicate that anyone expressed surprise that the woman entered the Pharisee's house uninvited. The shocking scandal is that she goes right up to Jesus, and he allows it--in direct, ironic contradiction to the separation enjoined by Simon the Pharisee.

The Avon Lady anoints Jesus' dusty feet with her tears. She kisses them, pours perfume on them, and wipes his feet dry with her own hair. She is expressing a shockingly inappropriate intimacy, and the dinner guests were horrified. This woman was oblivious to what others thought, or else she didn't care. She had forgotten everyone except Jesus, and she was boldly compelled to show her love and gratitude to Jesus in the most lavish way she knew how.

Why? How did she reach this point of such deep love for and gratitude to Jesus?

Who is Jesus?
Simon doubts that Jesus is a prophet when he doesn't send the woman away. Ironically, Jesus reads his mind, and tells him a parable in response to his unspoken criticism. The parable is simple:

Two men owe a debt to a moneylender. One man owes about two months' income, the other owes ten times more. Repayment was possible, eventually, for the lesser debtor; but the second man knew he'd never be able to pay his debt. The moneylender freely forgives, or cancels, both debts.

Which debtor, Jesus asks Simon, will love the moneylender more?

Simon, who had been reluctant to give Jesus even the smallest and most common courtesies normally shown to a visitor, was also reluctant to believe that Jesus was a prophet. Now he's reluctant to give Jesus the correct and obvious answer to the question raised by the parable, and does so with indifference: "I suppose the one who was forgiven more."

He's also reluctant to acknowledge the depth of his own sin. He had shown very little love to Jesus, in comparison to the woman, who had shown great love--because he did not grasp the nature of his own debt, or the depth of his own sin.

It is a mistake to think that in telling this parable, Jesus was suggesting that the sinful woman was more sinful than Simon the Pharisee. It's a mistake to think that the sinful woman was sinning worse sins than Simon.

The point that Jesus wants Simon, and us, to understand, is that the woman showed
extravagant love to Jesus because she understood the depth of her own sin.

Jesus makes an astonishing statement to the woman: "Your sins are forgiven." Simon did not even believe that Jesus could possibly be a prophet--but now he's hearing that Jesus is claiming to be much more than just a prophet.

Don't let anyone tell you that Jesus never made a claim to be divine. By accepting worship and
reverence from his followers, and by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, he was announcing his
own divinity. You may choose to believe that Jesus was not God, but don't kid yourself that he didn't claim to BE God, as some false teachers will have you believe.

Do you see this woman?
This is what Jesus says to Simon. He wants Simon to take a closer look at this woman he had judged so harshly. When Simon looked at her, he saw a woman who was not only not as righteous as he, but who was much more of a sinner than most.

But what did Jesus see? He saw a sinner, for sure; he said, "...her sins, which are many..." He knew that her sins had separated her from God.

But he also saw a contrite heart, a forgiven woman whose freedom from guilt and shame compelled her to love lavishly. The irony is that Simon saw a sinful woman, but he himself was the one who still remained in his sin, unforgiven; and he loved little.

Her sins, which are many
I want to be known, like this woman, as a sinful woman. I want people to know that when I walk into a room, sin has entered that room--and not just a little bit of sin, but a great big steaming pile of sin.

And guess what? I don't have to be an embezzler, a prostitute, a child molester, a murderer, or even a Republican! I can just be me, with a deep and realistic understanding of my own capacity for idolatry, anger, selfishness, laziness, gluttony, and pride.

I don't need to go out and find new ways to be a sinner, because sin always finds me. But I want to be like this woman, who poured expensive ointment from an alabaster jar because she knew the depth of her own sin so intimately that she gained a deeper appreciation for forgiveness and an
unselfconscious, extravagant love for Jesus.

Believers--maybe we need to be more transparent about our dirty little secrets, because that's the basis for the Good News in our lives. God didn't choose us because we were already great
people. Rather, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

What a debt we owe! What a vast forgiveness we've been given! And what a price was paid. Where is our extravagant, unselfconscious love?

The Avon Lady is my hero.


Missy said...

Dear E. Peevie,

I wholeheartedly agree with you and the Avon Lady, and I am encouraged by what you write. Thanks for the blogminders to spill the beans, see our sin and unselfconsciously love Jesus. I need to be reminded of that every day.

You rock.
Crazy # 5

E. Peevie said...

Thanks, sistah crazy. It's hard sometimes to be transparent. You rock, too. E. P.

jeanie said...

Ok this one made me cry (and raise my hands :-) beautiful truth E. Peevie. WOW. I want to be the AVON lady and I want to love other AVON ladies (perhaps that is why I am quite fond of you).

Adam Pastor said...

Greetings E. Peevie

I very much enjoyed your post.
However, I must comment on your assertion, "Don't let anyone tell you that Jesus never made a claim to be divine. By accepting worship and reverence from his followers, and by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, he was announcing his own divinity. You may choose to believe that Jesus was not God, but don't kid yourself that he didn't claim to BE God, as some false teachers will have you believe."

The fact is, Jesus never ever claimed to BE GOD!
There is simply no verse or statement from the mouth of Jesus where he claims to be Almighty GOD!

What or Who Jesus claimed to be rather, was, the Messiah, the Son of the Living GOD.
Everything Jesus said and did backed up that claim; he was even crucified for claiming to be the Son of the ONE GOD.

Jesus identified his Father as the only true GOD.
[John 17.3]

Jesus identified himself as the Messiah, the one prophesied to be sent from GOD; the one that Moses spoke of!

Therefore AS Messiah; Jesus indeed received worship/reverence.

It is scriptural to give reverence/worship to dignitaries, prophets and kings.
(The same Hebrew/Greek word for "worship" is used in regards to both GOD and men; the majority of uses in regards to men!)

As Messiah, Jesus obviously qualifies. Thus, he was worshiped NOT AS Almighty GOD, but rather AS the Messiah of GOD
For more info, please see
The worship of Christ

In regards to the forgiveness of sins, AS Messiah, the ONE GOD gave Jesus authority to forgive sins.
In other words, Jesus did not forgive sins in & of himself; no, rather he forgave sins by the authority given him by GOD.
Thus it is GOD in actuality that forgive sins through His Servant/Messiah, Jesus.

That is why, Jesus said things such as:

(John 5:19) Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

(John 14:10) Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

Even the very people who believed on Jesus understood that Jesus did not forgive sins out of some inherent divinity, but rather forgave sins by the authority of the ONE GOD; so much so that the people gave thanks to GOD in this regard:

(Mat 9:6-8) But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power [authority/exousia] on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitude saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power [authority/exousia] unto men.

So in forgiving sins as "the Son of man", Jesus was indeed announcing that he was the promised Messiah, the one whom the ONE GOD promised to send!!

And let's never forget that GOD being GOD, cannot die or even lie.
And seeing that Christ died for us, then Christ cannot be himself, GOD; seeing that GOD cannot die.
(That is what "immortal" means,
1 Tim 6.16; incapable of death/dying)

For more info, E. Peevie, I recommend the video at

The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you in your quest for truth.

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor

E. Peevie said...

Welcome to the fray, Adam Pastor. Can I call you Adam?

So you are inviting a discussion of the doctrine of the trinity, ay? Well, I am not a pastor, theologian, or doctrinarian (is that a word?). I'm not seminary-trained; I didn't even go to Bible college.

But I accept your challenge. I believe in the doctrine of the trinity, and by extension, the deity of Jesus Christ, for these reasons:

1. Jesus accepted worship and reverence from his followers. He didn't instruct them to direct their worship to God, as John the Baptist did (John 3:30). A human messiah cannot receive the worship that is due only to God, unless he himself IS God.

2. Jesus could not qualify to be Messiah unless he were without sin. What human is without sin? This is the mystery of the incarnation: that Jesus is fully God and fully man--so he can bear the punishment for my sin because he does not have any sin of his own.

3. The early church struggled with the issue of the deity of Jesus from the very beginning. Even though the Nicene Creed, which defended doctrine of the Trinity, was not formed until AD 325, the doctrine had been defended during the time when the Apostles were still alive.

The Nicene Creed, and hence the doctrine of the Trinity, is as much a part of orthodox Christian belief as is the canon of the New Testament.

That's the best I can do, Adam; but I feel like I'm in good company since I'm standing with the historical Christian church on this issue.

E. Peevie

Adam Pastor said...

Yep, my name is Adam!
And like you, I am not a pastor, theologian, or doctrinarian or seminary-trained.

1) As I have already explained, it is scriptural to worship human beings for their GOD-given positions and titles.
Jesus received worship AS the human messiah.
(BTW, there is no other definition for a messiah! Messiah means anointed one. Humans are anointed. There is no one greater or better to anoint GOD Almighty.
[cp. Heb. 6.13, 7.7]
GOD Almighty isn't anointed!?!)

As the custom was in Biblical times, people would simply bow down with their face to the ground, before kings, prophets and dignitaries.
It was the custom of the day.

Sadly, the Bible translators would translate the Hebrew/Greek words for giving such reverence as "worship" in regards to Jesus, giving us English readers the false impression that they were worshiping him as GOD;
when rather they were simply giving him worship/reverence AS teacher, prophet and Messiah!
Please see The Worship of Christ for further details.

2) What human is without sin?
Think about that for a second?
Weren't Adam and Eve without sin??

That's the point! Where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded!!
Adam was without sin. However when he was tempted, he yielded to satan; and sin entered the world and death by sin.
[Rom. 5.12]

So because of the disobedience of one man sin entered the world.
Therefore, it took the obedience of one man to save us from sin and to bring about the righteousness & grace of Almighty GOD.
That man is Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah, the Last Adam!

Scripture therefore actually teaches that the Savior of the world had to be a man!

Romans Chapter 5 implies that ...
A man got us into trouble concerning sin and death, therefore it took A man to get us out!
(Remember, there was nothing wrong/sinful with Adam before he took the fruit!)

GOD therefore provided for mankind, a perfect sacrifice, a Lamb for the sin of the world [John 1.29];
namely ... The man Messiah Jesus, the Son of GOD, the Last Adam.

He is that perfect sacrifice, he is that Lamb, he is that man!
Like Adam, he was without sin.
Unlike Adam, when tempted by the devil, Jesus did not fail, he did not sin!
He overcame where the First Adam failed.

Romans 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Romans 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

There is absolute nothing in Paul's writings which imply Jesus must be "fully God", otherwise he cannot bear our sins. Rather, Paul presents him as a sinless man, a sinless, totally obedient Messiah; and therefore indeed qualifies to bear our sins.

Again Paul states,
(1 Cor 15:21-22) For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Notice again, how Paul compares and juxtaposes the two men, Adam and Christ!
It would be inconceivable for Paul to compare Adam with Almighty GOD?? Think about that! [Isa 40.18, 25; Rom 1.23]

No. He is comparing the actions and the consequences of two men, two human beings.
Through one man, one human being, came death; therefore through another man, another human being, came the resurrection of the dead - came life!!

3) Rather the 4th-century (I may even bend to 3rd-century) Hellenistic, Gentilized church struggled with an issue they introduced. Their own self-inflicted wound, i.e. the so-called deity of Jesus.

However, the early church of the Book of Acts and the Epistles, struggled with no such issue. Why? Because it was never an issue to begin with, seeing that they never believed nor taught such things.

To the early church, there was solely ONE GOD, the Father, who is the GOD and Father of Jesus the Messiah.
[Rom 15.6, 2 Cor 11.31, Eph 1.3,17; Col 1.3, 1 Pet 1.3]

The ONE GOD, in light of Jesus' total obedience even to the death of the cross; raised up Jesus from the dead, glorified him, made him both Lord and Christ, and set him at His own right hand;
thus the man Christ Jesus is
the "One Lord".

Hence the man Jesus of Nazareth is
the Lord Jesus Christ,
the one man who is the one mediator between the ONE GOD and mankind.
[Acts 2.32-36, 10.36; Phil 2.11, Luke 2.11, 1 Tim 2.5]

ONE GOD, the Father.
ONE Man, the Lord Jesus the Messiah.
[1 Cor 8.6]

It was (and is still) that simple!
No need for Councils, no need for anathemas, no need for emperors or the imperial sword to enforce doctrines.

Now let's be honest.
There is absolutely no proof, I say again, no proof, that the doctrine of the trinity was ever present much less defended during the time when the Apostles were still alive.

(E. Peevie, if you can indeed prove otherwise, please show your proof.)

One doesn't need to be a pastor or theologian to verify that.
One simply needs to do some homework and read up on church history; by doing so, it wouldn't be difficult to verify that no such doctrine existed in the time of the Apostles.

Here, for starters, have a read of
Is the Trinity in the Old Testament? &
Is the Trinity in the New Testament?

So according to 1 John 4.6;
a believer in this later doctrine of the trinity isn't in good company!
Because the apostles & the early church never taught it. Jesus never taught it. None of his disciples ever taught it!

One indeed ought to stand with the Christian church of the Book of Acts!
And stand within the same apostolic doctrines as taught by that church!

Again, E. Peevie; I encourage you to view the video at The Human Jesus
which goes into further detail about this fascinating subject.

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor
The Human Jesus

E. Peevie said...

Adam, I believe that you care deeply about truth and about your faith in God. I also believe that you are, unfortunately, misguided in your understanding of the nature of God and in your denial of the doctrine of the Trinity.

I'm pretty sure that this has salvific consequences for you.

I've read through some (not all) of the links you provided, and I am not convinced. I'm not going to replicate all the pro-Trinity arguments here, but rather I'll include links to articles in case anyone following our discussion cares to investigate further.

A link to a defense of the doctrine of the Trinity

A link to a site that lists many articles in defense of the doctrine of the Trinity:

A link to an article that specifically addresses the issue of whether the doctrine of the Trinity is a "late" doctrine:

A link to an article about why it's important to defend the doctrine of the Trinity:

(Disclaimer: I'm not necessarily on board with the entire set of doctrinal beliefs of the sponsors of these sites, but the material on the Trinity looks good to me.)

Adam, thank you for your thoughtful participation in this blog. BTW, my real name is Eve. No lie.

E. Peevie

E. Peevie said...

Two more thoughts have occurred to me in response to Adam's contention that Jesus is not divine:

1. If Jesus was merely human, why wasn't he saddled with the burden of original sin, as all humans are? Or are the doctrines of original sin and total depravity also going by the wayside in this non-Trinitarian theology?

2. Even if you take away the issue of original sin, how would a mere human be able to get through even one hour of his life, let alone his entire life, without sinning? If it's possible for one man, doesn't that mean it's possible for all humankind?

The more I think about this issue about whether or not Jesus is God, the more convinced I am of the traditional Church doctrine of the Trinity.