We are often embarrassed by our stories. We feel awkward or ashamed around the ones who witnessed our children going astray, our marriages falling apart, our personal sins being discovered, our car getting repossessed, or our caving to that addiction once again. When we find ourselves removed from those situations, we don’t always want to be around the ones who knew us “when.”
This leads us to the story of Lazarus. It’s a well-known story and a favorite of many. Who doesn’t love a good man-raised-from-the-dead story? You can just sense the drama as Jesus stands before the tomb and instructs Martha to remove the stone (John 11:39.) Jesus calls Lazarus’ name and the dead man came walking out. There’s no doubt that the crowd was amazed by this miracle, but what did Lazarus think about it all?
We’re usually okay with folks knowing our success stories, but how do we feel about the ones who witness our failures? We are happy to emerge from the wreckage to the cheers of the crowd, but how do we feel around the ones who watched us crash and burn? We want the pomp of the resurrection without the pain of the death. The problem with that is that it’s all part of our story. We minimize the grace we’ve received when we don’t acknowledge the grave from which we were raised.
We see a similarity between Lazarus’ story and the story of the woman with the issue of blood. Her story didn’t end with her healing and his story didn’t end with his resurrection. John 11 tells us all about Lazarus’ illness, death, and return to life. The really good part, however, comes in chapter 12.
Some time after the raising of Lazarus, Jesus returns to Bethany to visit him and his sisters again. Scripture tells us that, when people heard that Jesus was going to be there, huge crowds showed up to see Him and the dead man who came back to life. This angered the chief priests (John 12:10.) Why were they so upset?
Because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. John 12:11 ESV
People were placing their faith in Jesus because of Lazarus’ story and guess who was spreading the word. It wasn’t the people who only knew the present, healed and resurrected Lazarus. It wasn’t the ones who could never imagine him being weak, frail and desperate. No, Lazarus’ story was being told by the ones who knew him “when.”
The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. John 12:17 ESV
Do you see who continued to bear witness to what Jesus had done in Lazarus’ life? It was the ones who had seen Jesus call him out of the grave and into grace. People followed Jesus because these individuals shared the story of Lazarus stepping into the daylight with the stench of death still lingering.
Lazarus’ story didn’t end when he walked out of the grave. It continues even today because people who knew his story shared what they had seen God do in his life.
It’s one thing to deal with a person who knew a former version of us but also knows the person we have become. They’re aware of our past but they also accept our present. But what about the people who only know part of our story? This is the situation the woman in Luke 7 found herself.
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, 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. Luke 7:37-38 ESV
The Pharisee knew this woman. Likely, everyone in town knew this woman. I can almost hear the gasps and see the shocked faces as she walked into the home and approached Jesus. The man of the house was quick to point out that Jesus must not have known this woman’s story or he would never have allowed her to touch him.
For she is a sinner. Luke 7:39
Have you ever had someone attempt to reduce your entire life story down to one sentence?
She had an affair.
He’s an alcoholic.
She had a baby out of wedlock.
He spent time in prison.
Often, people want our sin and our shame to be our story. The Pharisee looked at this woman and said, “She is a sinner.” He said this is what she is, present tense, end of story. Except it wasn’t! Just like the woman with the issue of blood, this woman’s story was her history plus her healing. In this passage, Luke sets it up and Jesus wraps it up.
And behold, a woman of the city who was a sinner… Luke 7:37
Do you see how Luke described this woman? She was a sinner. Past tense. This is her history but, by itself, it is not her story.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven… Luke 7:47 ESV
Luke says she was a sinner and Jesus says that she is forgiven. She loved much because she had been forgiven much. I believe this woman was a Christ follower when she walked in the door. Her love was in response to the healing that she had experienced. When she heard that Jesus was reclining in that home, she came prepared with her ointment to honor Him. Her tears were not of shame but of sheer joy.
From sinful woman to forgiven woman. History plus healing. The Pharisee knew her history but he was ignorant regarding her story.