Beauty for ashes

I want to start off by telling you a story. This is the story of a woman who was well know in her town but not in a good way. Her profession is one the oldest profession in town and men happen to be her main clientele. 

Open your Bibles to Luke 7:36-50

Luke 7:36–50 ESV 36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Like the Pharisee in the story we generally consider prostitutes, drug addicts/dealers, prostitute, beggars, robbers and murderer outcast to name a few. 

Luke 18:10–14 ESV 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. He came to give life, hope and a future. He came for all not only to the ones we consider outcasts. 

Big Idea of the Message: Jesus is not into renovation but TRANSFORMATION. 

Fours lesson we can draw from the woman’s encounter with Jesus. 

1. Everybody needs a  fresh start in life. 

We all need a fresh start whether you consider yourself an outcast or not.

Luke 7:37 ESV And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,

A woman - Who is this woman? A sinner, an immoral woman, a social outcast and a source of temporary pleasure for men - prostitute

The New International Version (1984) When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town

She is probably a town prostitute. Rejected by many, used and abused by men. No matter how she arrived in her situation, she needs a fresh start. Only her can fully understand the weight of guilt she is carrying. Only her can fully feel the full weight of pain and shame that she brought upon herself and the people is her life - family and friends. 

Her desperation for a fresh start brought her to a place that will give her more pain. She ventured in the house of the Pharisee. Of all the places she will go, the house of the Pharisee must be second only from the temple of the off limits place for her. She ventured in a place where she knows that she will be hurt, humiliated or rejected by men.  

In her desperation for a fresh start, she brought an alabaster flask of ointment. According to Mark 14:5, the alabaster cost more than 300 dinarii equivalent to a year's wage. The woman counted the cost emotionally, physically and financially just to get to Jesus.  

All of us need a fresh start in our life. Whether you consider yourself an outcast or not, we need the life of Christ. Are you desperate for the life of Christ? 

Are you desperate like the prodigal son, Zacchaeus, or the 4 friends of the paralytic man?

Jesus is the only source of real life

John 15:1–2 ESV 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Do you long for the life that only God can give?

Psalm 42:1 ESV 1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

Or are you content in your spiritual condition that you stop pursuing God?

1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Hebrews 3:12 ESV 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

Everyone needs a fresh start. For some of you, fresh start means being born again. For some of you, fresh start means returning to Lord, getting back at his word, start serving, connecting with a small group & being consistent in your weekly worship with your church family.

2. Christ is ready to give a  fresh start  

The woman was desperate for a fresh start, a new life and Jesus is ready to give it to her.

John 6:37 ESV 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

We need to come to Jesus on his own term not ours. 

Luke 5:32 ESV 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 15:7 ESV 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 24:7 ESV 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

          a. To those who come to him in  repentance

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains 41.52 μετανοέω; μετάνοια, ας

to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness—‘to repent, to change one’s way, repentance.’5

- Wet Jesus feet with her tears

How much tears she shed to wet Jesus' feet? A lot I think. Take note noone washed Jesus feet and we can only conclude that its dirty. She did not mind that because she is convinced that only Jesus can give her a fresh start in life. She must have heard or seen how Jesus gave a fresh start to others like her. 

Foot washing, when undertaken by anyone other than the lowest servant in the household, took on significant symbolic importance. Most authorities recognize this humble action as deliberate act of humility, a mark of respect or deliberate self-humiliation. Ceremonial feet washing often involved marking the toe with blood or oil to symbolize either consecration or the cleansing of the entire person. This type of ritual was considered important before entering God's house. Bathing feet in oil was also taken as a prospect of wealth. 

- Wiped them with her hair and -Kissed his feet

No mention of towel but she used her hair to wipe Jesus's feet and kissed his feet. Her doing that shows her willingness to submit under Jesus's Lordship. 

- Anointed them with the ointment

When Mary Magdalene washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair, she also anointed them with expensive ointment. For this token of devotion, Christ forgave her sins then proceeded to remind his host that he had not been extended the same courtesy as would be appropriate to a welcome guest. 

Jesus then subverted the symbolism by washing the feet of his disciple's feet at the Last Supper. Despite protestation he reminded his devotees the significance of foot washing, which is celebrated to this day. 'I have done this to give you an example of something that you should do.' 

Christ's action demonstrated that service rather than status represented greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven. This action prepared his disciples (and their converts) to walk in the path of righteousness. 

Christians adopted the Hebrew foot washing ceremony and in some religious faiths this is still considered as one of the three ordinances (sacrament) i.e. baptism, the Lord's Supper, and foot washing.

The Pharisee in this passage is shocked at the woman’s behavior. Jesus explains that she is willing to act that way because her life has been transformed.

Luke 7:47–48 ESV Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus made it clear that she did it not to gain favour or to pay something back but the outward evidence of a changed heart. 

            b. To those who exchange their  ashes for  forgiveness  

Ashes represent your life - dead without Christ’s LIFE. Finally she received what she was longing - a fresh start, new life. FORGIVENESS

Luke 7:48 ESV 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 1765 Trampled Fragrance
1765 Trampled Fragrance
A little boy, being asked what forgiveness is, gave the beautiful answer: “It is the odor that flowers breathe when they are trampled upon.”

Isaiah 53:5 ESV

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

Christ sacrifice - his death resulted forgiveness to all who come to him in repentance.

Isaiah 61:3 ESV to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
      to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
      the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
      the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
      that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
      the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Beauty For Ashes Lyrics
He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair
He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

Luke 7:48 ESV 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Psalm 32:1 ESV 1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

One of the reason why people stay away from God is they think they are not good enough to deserve God’s love. They think they need to straighten their life, smoothen their rough edges or they need to help God to deserve his love. Can you be good enough, better enough, strong enough, confident enough to deserve God’s love? NO!

Repent and turn to God for the forgiveness of your sins

3. To stay grounded, live a life of  gratitude  . 

Only those who see themselves broken, bankrupt or helpless can fully appreciate the love and forgiveness of God.

Matthew 5:3 ESV 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 19:10 ESV 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Forgiveness is a blessing
Psalm 32:1 ESV
 1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Forgiven much - love much

Luke 7:47 ESV Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

The woman was desperate for God’s forgiveness and when she received it she expressed great gratitude. Only her knows the gravity and the effect of her sins. 

1000 Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching Giving Money
Christian giving is always a response. The motivation for our giving is that we have received. This doesn’t mean we try to pay God back, for that is an impossibility. It does mean that our giving begins in gratitude.

Living a life of gratitude means that we don’t deserve anything we have. It is only by the grace of God that we have what we have. Living a life of gratitude keeps us humble. It keeps us grounded. 

My sins might not come close to the sins of the woman, but it is still sin in the eyes of God. I may not come from a life of crime or prostitution but I’m as guilty as that woman. We both sinned against God. 

Romans 3:23 ESV 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
I have nothing to boast
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Always gives thanks because of grace

1 Corinthians 1:4 ESV 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Guard your hear from the temptation of thinking that God owes you BLESSINGS. That you are deserving of his favour. That you are goodness is enough to please God. It is easy to overlook or forget the grace of God.  


4. From  outcast to main cast

Jesus not only wants a relationship with the outcast, but He wants to  usethem for His  kingdom. Jesus came not to seek and condemn people without giving hope. But he came to seek and to save the lost. Not only to save the lost from going to hell but to use them for his kingdom. A restored relationship with God is a life restored to meaning and purpose.

Jesus is using this woman as an illustration to show the Pharisee (and those around him) what the gospel can do to a life. She’s a billboard for the gospel. She’s a living infomercial.  

From Outcast to main cast

Mark 14:8–9 ESV She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

The outcast and the marginalized may feel their relationship with Jesus can only go so far because of their past. You might think that God is limited because of your past. For some, they may feel like the child who made the basketball team because the coach felt sorry for them, but are left to sit on the bench the entire season. Jesus can and will use the life of anyone who comes to Him no matter who they were before they met Him.

2 Corinthians 12:9–10 ESV 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (NLT) 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.         

Here is a short list of OUTCAST who later became MAIN CAST

•    Noah who got drunk. 
•    Abraham who lied about his wife.  
•    Jacob who was a deceiver. - 
•    Moses who murdered an Egyptian.
•    Rahab who was a harlot.
•    Samson who had serious problems with lust and anger.
•    David who was an adulterer.
•    Paul who persecuted the church.
•    Peter who denied Christ.
•    John Newton - slave trader (composer of Amazing Grace)

God chooses losers because that’s all he’s got to work with.
God chooses losers because that way he alone gets the credit for anything good we accomplish. Here is the good news. When splendid sinners and lovable outcast and miserable misfits and fantastic failures band together to seek the Lord, amazing things happen. The Red Sea parts, the walls come tumbling down, the enemy is routed, and the church rolls on for the glory of God. Amen.

Let’s pray

Discussion Questions:

1.    What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s message?

2.    What do you think this woman felt like when she showed up at this home full of religious leaders and Jesus’ disciples? What was at risk?

3.    What do you think of Jesus’ words in verse 47?

4.    What may be your “alabaster jar” that you can give to Jesus as a sign of devotion to Him? Have you already done so?

5.    Have you ever found yourself acting like the men in this story? Have you ever judged someone else’s extravagant worship? What is the remedy?

6.    How can I pray for you?


Living Hope