(Second of a Series)
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)
With examples from Holy Scripture we are trying to learn ways and attitudes which will better enable us to witness to our Lord. These examples, drawn from the four Gospels and from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, are by no means exhaustive.
As with the basketball strategy of one-on-one, we are looking at examples of one Christian witnessing to another individual. We are not considering what was said to individuals already in the faith, though that is also applicable. We are not considering what was said to groups, though that also is applicable as a witnessing technique. We will be considering various situations where it was one-on-one, and the one being witnessed to was living in unbelief….
The ultimate goal in all witnessing is to be like John the baptizer and point to Christ as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. While we want to try earnestly to develop our skills in this area, we don’t want to forget John’s motto, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
No matter what spiritual gifts we have and how we develop them, we are not looking for glory for ourselves. We are looking to have another soul join us in glorifying our Savior-God.
Many in this life may respect our Christian religion and yet not believe in our Lord. This Pharisee showed respect for our Lord. He invited Him to his house and provided food. There it ended. There was no saving faith. Simon, the Pharisee, even doubted if Jesus were much of a prophet.
The Lord told the story of a creditor and two debtors and applied it to Simon and the woman. Simon had the typical self-righteous attitude of a Pharisee, which inevitably leads to a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. He showed it when he said to himself, “who and what sort of woman this is…a sinner.” Our Lord did not tear into Simon.
He had his ear. Though Simon was self-righteous, yet
he listened to the Lord.
The Lord used what might be called the oblique [indirect—ed.] approach. He did not confront Simon directly with his sin and demand repentance. Instead, our Lord told a story in which Simon must answer a question: Which of them will love him more: the one forgiven fifty denarii or the one forgiven five hundred?
Simon was bound to answer “the one forgiven five hundred.”
This brings to mind the prophet Nathan’s story to David, by which he showed David his sin (2 Samuel 12). The response of David was immediate, and it was repentance. In the case of Simon we do not have the response recorded. Whether or not Simon at this time repented and believed, he did have a very simple, clear story by which the Spirit could show him the point. (If our Lord had used a more confrontational approach and demanded repentance, Simon would likely have bristled and balked.)
When a prospect is willing to listen and has respect for our beliefs, we might learn to use this less direct approach. It is very true that the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the Pharisee was and is disgusting. Yet why alienate a willing listener by “stomping on his toes” so that he rejects listening to us before we get our point across?
The Lord further got His point across by turning to the woman and making a comparison—between Simon’s lack, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the woman’s tears together with her wiping His feet with her hair, kissing His feet, and anointing His head with oil. The lesson was well taught—namely, that true love emanates from forgiveness of sins.
As Simon was left with something to think about, we also want to leave others with something to think about. In Simon’s case he was left with what was necessary for the Spirit to convict him of sin. He was also left with the gospel in his ears—as it was spoken to the woman.
We want to try to be clear in our witnessing message. As our Lord used His story, we also want to give something simple for a prospect to remember. Besides just thinking up illustrations out of daily life geared to different situations, any number of scriptural illustrations could be used as well.
Finally, it is also true here that practice makes perfect. As the Lord grants us opportunity for spiritual encounters, the more we witness, the more we will feel comfortable in doing so, and the more will be the Bible passages and illustrations that the Holy Spirit will call to our minds. God grant it!