Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

3 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



PROBLEMS OF LIFE. < THE WOMAN WHO WAS A SINNER." BY THE REV. Re J. CAMPBELL, D-D. [OaPTKIffHT.] v v Troubled desires to call attention to a statement made by me either in this column or a Lenten address, he cannot remember which. He says it was to the effect that Mary of Bethany was iden- tical with the woman that was a sinner— that is, was a woman of immoral life— and that our Lord was the means of delivering her from her desperate condi- tion and reuniting her to her family. He says that if this view of a favourite New Testament character could be established it would throw an entirely new light upon our Lord's relations with the home at Bethany, and incidentally, upon the whole mystery of redemption and sanctification. I have not given the entire substance of Troubled's letter, for in the greater, part thereof he quite muddles up the story in question, and also credits* me with saying some things about it which I neither said nor wish to say. Like him, I cannot remember whether I have previously referred to the subject in this ? column or not, but certainly I have done f so from the pulpit, for it is one which §-■ greatly, interests me, and is I think, as good an illustration as could be found in the New Testament of the larger impli- cations of Divine forgiveness. So far from being new, the theory that Mary of Bethany was the same person as the sinful woman who washed our Lord's feet with her tears and wiped them with the -iairs of her head in the house of Simon the Pharisee is quite old. It is the or- dinary Roman Catholic interpretation of the facts given about her in the Gos- pels. Perhaps on this account it may not commend itself to some of our mili- tant Protestant readers. Protestant exegetes, for the most part, repudiate it, though not all of them do so, and some high authorities accept it without question. As far as I can gather, the main, reason why Protestant readers of L the Bible generally object to the identifi- cation alluded to above is that they shrink from believing that a woman who had sunk so low as to become a common prostitute could afterwards attain to such close spiritual intimacy with Christ as that which was manifestly enjoyed by Mary of Bethany. I can remember how, many years ago during my ministry in Brighton, a scandalised and angry lady protested against a remark I had made to this effect in the course of an address to an adult Bible class. She said it was incredible, and would spoil the whole story of the home of Bethany for her if she were compelled to believe. it. To think that anyone so foul and degraded C", could for a moment be associated in our L minds with the pure and holy virgin whom Jesus commended for having chosen the good part which could not be taken from her, was nothing less than an insult both to our Lord Himself and to the quiet family circle He loved so well. Was it? That is the first thought that might occur to some people; but do they see what they are saying ? They are setting limits to the S,aviourhood of | Christ; they are practically declaring that there are some stains He cannot jv cleanse, some sins for which His atone- ment is insufficient, that The bird with a broken pinion v Never soars so high again. That is the way the world talks; but it is I not the way in which a Christian ought to talk. The vilest sinner may become I the brightest saint; there are no barriers on the heavenward road. There is no | reason whatever for thinking that a soul must have lived stainlessly in order to be worthy of theDiighest and sweetest fel- lowship with our Blessed Redeemer. We do no honour to Him by suggesting that there are moral problems to which His grace is unequal, or that any who have once been down in the mire of fleshly indulgence must for ever after stand afar off when they come into the presence of the King 'of Saints. On the contrary, Wé have His express authority for r believing the opposite. z Thus it is not because there is any dif- Jfioulty in holding. that the woman who was a sinner could in later days become a chosen friend of Jesus—last at the Cross, firsts at the tomb^that one may r y t. rjsafionaidy identify the two. But need Ye say that Mary.was a. sinner in the K sense usually understood in this instance ? That she was conventionally so described by those who knew her does not neces- sarily mean that she was a person of notoriously evil life. Tradition does not tell us that. What the ancient Catholic tradition, which pieces together the vari- ous new Testament allusions to this woman, tells us is that she had been ex- pelled from her home and circle for con- sorting with a foreign lover, perhaps a husband—a very different thing from wallowing in sensuality. If, Mary were the daughter of Simon the Pharisee she could not have done a more reprehen- sible thing in her father's eyes than to form a union with a Gentile, especially cine of the hated race of Israel's oppressors. She is said to have left her home with a young Greek centurion in the service of the Roman army of occu- pation in Palestine. For this she was solemnly cursed and excommunicated by her implacable parent, who in this was only acting according to his lights, and would do the same to-day in similar cir- cumstances. Later, either abandoned by the young man or left a widow, friendless and forlorn, she seems to have come under the influence of Jesus, per- haps at the gathering of publicans and sinners in Matthew's house. Certainly she would be among the weary and heavy laden to whom He promised rest. Did she follow Him to the neighbourhood of her old home in the south? Was our Lord's entrance into Simon's house no casual visit but the outcome of a tender purpose to restore this sorrowing wan- dered to her family? Was that why she went there in His company ? Well, so the tradition affirms or implies, and the New Testament narrative supports the supposition. Why did she weep but that she saw no sign of relenting in the stern countenance of her father ? She was to him as one dead; she had wrought folly in Israel and there could be no for- giveness for her. Why did the Pharisee condemn Jesus in his heart for allowing a sin f ul woman to touch His sacred feet? Was it not because he knew so well who the sinful woman was, his own daughter ? Jesus had brought her there, so the host did not thrust her from his doors, but he took no notice of her. Neither was he over courteous to the Master Himself. The usual amenities of an Oriental welcome were withheld. There was no kiss of greeting, no water for the ceremonial ablutions before the meal, no ointment for the weary limbs; the slight w,as intentional. At length the visitor's indignation broke forth. Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee," He declared. Then He vividly contrasted the two persons at His side, the proud Pharisee and the grief-stricken penitent. • There is a sequel to the story. Ap- parently the good brother and sister did what the father would not and made a home for Mary, that home in which Jesus was hereafter, and with good reason, the most beloved and welconje of friends. It was at Bethany that He chose to sojourn rather than in the capi- tal in those exciting and troublous days which began with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple. Every evening He went out there after His exacting day in the city. There no doubt, in Lazarus's garden, He was arrested, for of course Judas knew where to find Him. And who was the solitary watcher, wra-pped only in a single sleeping garment, who heard the words of agony that fell from His lips in Gethsemane and which the, slumbering Apostles heard not? Who but Lazarus? Was the tragedy deeper still?—the be- trayer is called "Simon's son." and was the only one of the apostolic band who came from the south., Did the bringing of Mary home, together with the raising of Lazarus, lead ultimately to the Master's death ? The Pharisees wefre evi- dently intimate with this family as is shown by their presence at Laza.rus's grave. When Judas originally joined himself to Jesus the Pharisees had been ready to approve the new Teacher. But from the day of the raising of Lazarus they were determined to destroy Him; Had the forming of the home at Bethany nothing to do with the final rupture ? Christ Church Vicarage, Westminster, S.W. 1.