As she walked along the dusty road to the market place, her eyes were fixed at the powdery soil which clung to her sandaled feet.
She scarcely noticed those bustling around her as they hurried to their respective duties. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she recalled his words. Could it really be true? Her heart burned within her. Dare she hope? Perhaps she wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes.
She was visiting in a neighboring city, when she noticed a crowd of people gathered near the temple. Drawing near to see what was happening, she saw him standing there in the center of a group of men who appeared by their dress to be religious leaders. A woman was standing in the middle of the circle with downcast face, staring at the ground.
With an air of self-righteousness that betrayed their sincerity, even to an unlearned bystander, they questioned him. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Moses’ law says to kill her. What do you say we should do?”
Kneeling down, he began writing in the sand with his finger, acting as though he did not hear their question. The men around him were persistent. They demanded that he answer.
As she continued to watch what was transpiring, the teacher stood up. It was then that she got the first glimpse of his face. There was a holiness about his countenance that she had never seen in any other man. As he fastened his gaze upon those questioning him, his eyes seemed to penetrate right through their soul. What was he going to say? What would he do?
“Let the man who is without sin among you be the first one to throw the stone at her,” he responded and knelt down again to write in the sand.
Suddenly the crowd grew silent as his words seemed to resound through the air. The men stood motionless for a moment. A strain appeared on some faces while others turned pale as they grappled with their conscience. Slowly one by one, beginning with the eldest man present, the men dropped their stones and quietly walked away.
When the teacher stood up, he saw that the woman remained alone standing before him. In a gentle and tender voice he said, “Woman, where are your accusers? – Has no man condemned you?”
Apprehensively the woman answered, still not knowing what his verdict would be, “No one, Lord.”
Unhesitantly, the teacher replied, “I do not condemn you either. Go on your way, and from now on, do not sin.”
Then he turned to the crowd and said, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life.”
Watching the scene in utter amazement she had asked the woman standing next to her who this man was. “Why, haven’t you heard? This man is Jesus. Some say he is a prophet. Others think he is the Messiah, the one whom all the prophets spoke about who would be the Savior of the world!”
All that had all happened a few months ago, and since she had returned home she had not been able to get this man Jesus out of her mind. Never had she seen such a one in whom absolute mercy and absolute truth so resided. She did not know then that she had encountered a love that was destined to break her heart.
After learning that Jesus had come to Bethany and was teaching the people she had made her way through the crowds to get one more glimpse of him. She had stayed and listened to his teaching throughout the morning. Her heart had been greatly stirred.
The crowds broke up and she had begun walking home. It was then that she became possessed by a thought that she could not shake. Perhaps he would extend the same mercy to her as he had to the woman she had seen in Jerusalem months earlier.
Hadn’t she heard that when John the Baptist first saw him, he prophesied, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” A Psalm of David she had learned as a child began to flood her memory. As she recalled it, a new understanding broke upon her soul:
“My eyes are ever looking to the Lord for help, for he alone can rescue me. Come, Lord, and show me your mercy, for I am helpless, overwhelmed, in deep distress; my problems go from bad to worse. Oh, save me from them all! See my sorrow; feel my pain; forgive my sins.“1
If only he would say the word, she knew her sins would be forgiven. But where was he now? She must find him and seek for this forgiveness.
Overhearing that he was eating lunch at the home of Simon the Pharisee, one of the religious leaders, her burning heart devised a plan. Gathering together her harlot wages, she headed toward the market place. Quietly she entered the shop selling the most exotic oils and perfumes. Counting out her last cent, she chose the most expensive perfume in the shop. The money she used she had sold her body to earn – money that, through His grace, she never intended to obtain in such a manner again. She was ashamed to use it, but it was all that she had.
She left the shop, took a deep breath and began to walk quickly toward Simon’s house. Were not these the same kind of men that wanted to kill women like her? What would they do when they saw her? What would be her fate? How could she go in uninvited?
Pushing all her fears aside, she felt she must see Jesus, even if it was the last thing she ever did. She knew she was unworthy to speak to him face to face. Agonizing over just how to approach him, she somewhere in that long walk from the market place decided what she must do. She would enter quickly before anyone realized she was there and throw herself at Jesus’ feet and beg for mercy.
Her walk broke into an uncontrollable run as she burst into Simon’s house. Quickly surveying the crowd she suddenly saw him sitting at the table next to Simon. At that moment he looked up. Their eyes met and for a moment time stood still.
Everything around her began to fade as those eyes pierced her soul. Oh the agony and the ecstasy! Tears began to well up in her eyes and roll down her cheeks as she saw herself in the light of One who was so altogether Holy. She longed for his forgiveness. And at the same time it seemed that waves of love and power began to roll across her soul. “Surely this is the Messiah!” she thought.
In total abandonment, she ran and flung herself at Jesus feet. As she knelt behind him weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Wiping His feet with her hair, she began kissing His feet and anointing them with the costly vial of perfume.
When the Pharisee, Simon, who had invited Him saw this he said to himself, “Now I know that Jesus is not a prophet because if he were, he would know what kind of woman this is who is touching him. He would know that she is immoral.”
But Jesus read his thoughts and he answered him: “Simon, a man lent money to two people – $5,000 to one and $500 to the other. But neither of them could pay him back, so he kindly forgave them both, letting them keep the money. Which one of them do you suppose loved him the most?”
“I suppose the one who owed him the most,” Simon answered.
“You are correct,” Jesus agreed.
“Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look! See this woman kneeling here! When I entered your home, you didn’t bother to offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
“You refused me the customary kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in. You neglected the usual courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has covered my feet with rare perfume. Therefore her sins – and they are many – are forgiven, for she loved me much; but one who is forgiven little, shows little love.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The men at the table said to themselves, “Who does this man think he is going around forgiving sins?”
Looking again upon her with that penetrating gaze, Jesus said to her,“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.“2
The God of Israel whom Simon claimed to worship and serve was seated right next to him at the table and he did not know it! He and his other religious friends sat in judgment of Jesus. Why was it that this immoral woman was able to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and Simon and the other Pharisees, men well versed in the Holy Scriptures who had served God faithfully for years were unable to recognize Him?
Jesus undoubtedly believed that Simon’s problem stemmed from a lack of repentance. Simon was in just as much need of repentance as the woman. But he trusted in himself – that he was righteous – and viewed others with contempt. He relied on his works for justification rather than God’s mercy. Therefore, Simon had repented of very little. He sought no mercy – being blind to his own sin – he therefore had no mercy to give.
But the woman saw her desperate need. She had no works to offer. Nothing to present as a reason why God should forgive her except a deep sorrow over wrong doing and an overwhelming desire for God’s mercy. She therefore repented of much. She was forgiven of much. She loved much.
Much repentance – much forgiveness. A little repentance – a little forgiveness. Much repentance – a soft heart which is responsive to His presence. A little repentance – a hard and calloused heart which is unresponsive and unmoved by His presence.
Luke, one of Jesus’ disciples, explains why the Pharisees were totally insensitive to Jesus and wound up fighting against God: “The Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.“3
Did God have a purpose for the Pharisees? From this passage we have to conclude that He did. What was it about John’s baptism that was so important that the Pharisees missed God’s purposes because they had refused to receive it?
The Bible teaches that John was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, to make ready a people who were prepared to receive the Lord. Luke states that John came preparing the way, “preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins.“4
To receive John’s baptism, these teachers of the Word of God and the Law of Moses were required to humble themselves, admit that they were sinners in need of forgiveness, and receive water baptism, just as the common Israelite and the Roman soldiers were doing. John taught that this change of heart, this repentance, would be seen in changes of behavior such as sharing, thankfulness, and honesty.
Since the Pharisees claimed to keep the law of Moses faithfully, as well as adhere to the tradition of the elders, they saw and felt no need for this repentance that John preached. After all – they were teachers of the law, instructors of the Israelite people. To accept any religious instruction from this wild eyed prophet who had grown up in the wilderness and had not sat under the elders teaching was a humiliation they were not ready to undergo.
Deliverance from a Pharisaical spirit
Ultimately, the Pharisees refused John’s baptism, rejected Jesus and the new move of God that was sent among them and thought that they were doing God a service. John’s baptism seemed to be an insignificant act of being doused in the dirty waters of the Jordan – but the rejection of that act of repentance was tragic beyond the telling.
Later, Jesus expressed God’s grief over the whole stiff-necked attitude. Weeping over Jerusalem he lamented: “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.“5
A prepared heart is as imperative today for those who would receive Jesus’ baptism in the fires of revival and awakening as it was for the Israelites of long ago. Repentance was – at the time of Jesus – and still is today – the key to being sensitive to God’s Spirit and His presence.
Repentance according to Webster’s original definition means: “Sorrow for anything done or said, the pain or grief which a person experiences in consequence of the injury produced by his own conduct, sorrow or deep contrition for sin as an offence or dishonor to God, a violation of his holy law, and the most base ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence. This is called evangelical repentance and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life.”
Just as there is no state of soil more satisfying to the gardener than soil which crumbles at his touch, likewise there is no state of the heart more satisfying to God than one which will break and crumble at His touch. As the scriptures teach, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart; O God, thou wilt not despise.” No other substitute will do.
There are burdens that God wants to share with us; there are secrets He would whisper, but these He only gives to hearts that are tender and responsive.
The prophet Hosea reminds us to break up the fallow ground of our heart: “It is time to seek the Lord until he reign righteousness upon us.” As God said, “He will revive the spirit of the humble, and revive the heart of the contrite.”
Contrite, according to Webster, means bruised and broken to pieces. When the words that God speaks affect us in such a way that it breaks us to pieces, then we are contrite.
Then we will have revival.
What is revival?
According to James Burns, in Revival, Their Laws and Leaders, written in l909: “To the church, a revival means humiliation, a bitter knowledge of unworthiness and an open humiliating confession of sin on the part of her ministers and people. It is not the easy and glorious thing many think it to be, who imagine it filled the pews and reinstated the church in power and authority. It comes to scorch before it heals; it comes to condemn ministers and people for their unfaithful witness, for their selfish living, for their neglect of the cross, and to call them to daily renunciation, to an evangelical poverty and to a deep and daily consecration. That is why a revival has ever been unpopular with large numbers within the church. Because it says nothing to them of power such as they have learned to love, or of ease, or of success; it accuses them of sin; it tells them they are dead; it calls them to awake to renounce the world and to follow Christ.“6
Frangipane writes in Holiness, Truth and the Presence of God: “The Holy Spirit reveals our sinfulness, not to condemn us, but to establish humility and deepen the knowledge of our personal need for grace. It is at this crossroad that both holy men and hypocrites are bred. Those who become holy see their need and fall prostrate before God for deliverance. Those who become hypocrites are they who, in seeing their sin excuse it and thus remain intact. Though all men must eventually stand at this junction, few are they who embrace the voice of truth; few are they indeed who will walk humbly toward true holiness. Sanctification starts not with rules, but with the forsaking of pride. Purity begins with our determined refusal to hide form the condition of our hearts. Out of self discovery comes forth humility.“7
To the casual observer, the Pharisees seemed to be the most likely candidates in all of Israel to recognize the new move of the Spirit of God and the Messiah who was among them. They were the most well versed in the Holy Scriptures, the Law and the Prophets. They fasted twice a week and gave tithes of all. Jesus called them white-washed sepulchres full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
What was it they needed to repent of? If we can understand what caused them to persecute the God whom they claimed to serve when He walked among them, then perhaps we can avoid the same mistakes they made. For it is possible to have a broad grasp of the scriptures, to pray and fast regularly, even cry out for revival, and still be removed from God’s purposes and persecute the move of God’s Spirit when it comes.
Hindrances to Revival
- Heart Attitudes
- The first major hindrances to revival are wrong and sinful heart attitudes. R. A. Torrey points out that among these are a selfish purpose in our prayers, sin in our heart and life, idols in the heart, an unforgiving spirit, and stinginess in giving.8
Our supreme motive in our prayers must be that God may be glorified, not that our selfish desires may be gratified. It is possible to be praying for a true revival and at the same time pray that prayer from an entirely selfish motive. For example, it is possible to be praying for revival so that you might become the largest church in your community and have enough money to finance your projects.
Why should we pray for revival? – Because we can no longer bear the thought that God should be so dishonored in His Church by its low level of Christian living – Because we can no longer bear the wickedness and perversion of a sin-sick world nor bear to see His Holy name blasphemed.
- The second stumbling block that will desensitize you to the Presence of God and disengage your discernment of the move of God’s spirit is sin in the heart and life. As Isaiah said, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save: neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you.“9
What must be done? I must judge my sin. I must ask God to search my heart and show me anything that displeases Him. Wait silently for Him to show you and to search you with His all seeing eyes. Then confess the sin and ask God to cleanse, forgive and deliver you.
- Another barrier to God’s presence, one that snares many Christians and ministers alike, is “idols of the heart”. Because we do not outwardly worship idols today made of wood and stone and bow down before images, this sin is not as easy to detect. Ezekiel writes: “Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, ‘Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them … they are estranged from Me through all their idols.’“10
What is an idol? Torrey writes, “An idol is anything that a man puts before God.” We can make an idol of our wife, husband, or children. Many make idols of social position. Torrey explains, “The temptation to make an idol of our reputation is peculiarly real with ministers of the Gospel. Many a man in the pulpit today has sacrificed his real power for God by cultivating an elaborate and highly polished rhetoric and oratorical methods of delivery that awaken the admiration and applause of shallow men and women, but rob him of real power for God. Such men have made an idol of their reputation.“11 We must ask God to bring out that idolatrous attitude, cast it down from its throne, repent of it, and worship God alone.
- Enmity in the heart towards another person makes it impossible for God to hear our prayers. Power in prayer can be hindered for not only days or months, but also for years simply because of some bitterness toward someone. Pray for God to cast out the bitterness. And when you pray – forgive.
Proverbs teaches, “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.“12 Simply said, if we stop our ears from the cry of the poor when we are asked for help then God will stop His ears when we cry to Him for help.
- Religious flesh may be most wiling and diligent in God’s service. It may devise all kinds of observances for making worshiping God pleasing to the senses. Yet all can be encased in man’s will and man’s efforts. We must never forget that religion was flourishing at the time when Jesus was on earth.
“This power of religious flesh,” says Andrew Murray, “is one of the great marks of the Old Covenant religion; it misses the deep humility and spirituality of the true worship of God – a heart and life entirely dependent on Him.“13
It is most especially seen in the religion of Cain. Abel offered to God the prescribed sacrifice – the sacrificial lamb. It was what God had asked for. Cain, on the other hand, brought God the works of his hands the fruit of his labor to offer unto God. God accepted Abel’s offering. But when God refused to accept Cain’s offering because it was not given from a heart of obedience to God, but rather out of Cain’s own work for God. Cain was so enraged at God’s preference of Abel’s sacrifice that he killed Abel.
It is impossible to obey God if sin in the heart and wrong motives are prohibiting us from hearing the voice of God and hiding his face from us. So it has ever been with the Pharisees. The flesh always persecutes the Spirit. Those who are in the flesh have a form of godliness but deny the very power thereof. Why? Because until the heart is repentant and cleansed of all the inward sin, the ways of God’s spirit cannot be known.
As the Psalmist reminds us, only those who have clean hands and a pure heart, who have not lifted up their soul to vanity nor sworn deceitfully can ascend the hill of the Lord or know God in His holy place. We can rend our garments all day long, but until we rend our hearts they will remain inflexible, hard, calloused and unresponsive to the touch of the Gardener. If we refuse the baptism of repentance, can we expect to be anything else but a Pharisee?
In times past, the old move of God has always persecuted the new move of God. It is possible to make the creed of the old move of God our jailer, to venerate the prophets of bygone eras in our hearts and instead of moving on with God’s spirit to light up the martyr fires ‘round the prophets of today.
For humanity sweeps onward:
Where today the martyr stands,
On the morrow crouches Judas with
the silver in his hands;
Far in front the cross stands ready
and the crackling fires burn,
While the hooting mob of yesterday
in silent awe return
To glean up the scattered ashes
into History’s golden urn.
‘Tis as easy to be heroes as to
sit the idle slaves
Of a legendary virtue carved upon
our father’s graves,
Worshippers of light ancestral make
the present light a crime;
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards,
steered by men behind their time?
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future,
that make Plymouth Rock sublime?
New occasions teach new duties;
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward,
who would keep abreast of Truth
Lo! Before us gleam her camp-fires!
We ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly
through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future’s portal
with the Past’s blood-rusted key.
The Present Crisis,
- James Russell Lowell
1. Psalms 25:15-18, Living Bible
2. Luke 7:24-30, Living Bible
3. Luke 9: 30 4. Luke 3:3 5. Matthew 23:37
6. Winkie Pratney, Revival, p. 22
7. Francis Frangipane, Holiness, Truth and the Presence of God, P.O. Box 46, Marion Iowa , pp. 4-5
8. R. A. Torrey, “Prayer Barriers”, Spirit of Revival, Life Action Ministries, Buchanan MI, Jan.1990
9. Isa. 59:1,2 10. Ezk.14:1-5 11.Torrey, p.16 12. Prov. 21:13
13. Andrew Murray, The Two Covenants, Christian Literature Crusade, p.40-41
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved