Have you ever felt not worthy? Maybe, you knew you weren’t up to somebody else’s standard, and you knew it. Some of us live in there, don’t we?
Jesus loved much by a sinner needing to know peace (:36-39). In Luke 7.36-50, we meet another unlikely candidate to be a follower of Jesus. The account opens with Jesus being invited to the home of Simon the Pharisee. And, we picture them reclining together, some disciples and other Pharisees around, maybe. The front door of the Middle-eastern home opens on to a courtyard where servants work and mix with the locals.
Then, she enters. That woman whom everybody, except Jesus (it is assumed) knows to be a “sinner,” a”woman of the city”. Bringing a bottle of expensive oil, she anoints Jesus’s feet—weeping from gratitude, wiping Jesus’s feet with her hair, kissing his feet, and anointing his feet all over again.
The scene is an uncomfortable one. Simon responds, 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 (:39, ESV). Note that that Simon has now revealed his motive for having Jesus over: he wants to find out what Jesus is all about. Note also that Simon has assigned everybody a category: woman—sinner! Prophet—knows everything and condemns everybody! Jesus—can’t be a prophet, because He hasn’t cast the woman out.
Note also that Simon has only thought this. Jesus, accused of not knowing the woman, responds ironically by not only knowing the woman but knowing what Simon is thinking!
Jesus loved little by a sinner needing to know forgiveness (:40-50). Jesus interrupts Simon’s thoughts. Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered him, “Say it, Teacher” (:40).
Jesus then proceeds to tell a simple story about a man owed the equivalent of 2 months work by one man and 15 months work by another. After cancelling both debts, it is obvious that the man with the greater debt will love the debt-holder more. Simon must agree, and after pointing out Simon’s lack of civility in not offering to wash His feet or give Him the customary kiss of greeting, Jesus sums up the situation: Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little (:47).
The account ends with those around the table beginning to get the picture. If Jesus can forgive sins, then He is (at least) from God. The woman, long judged by others, receives assurance of her forgiveness and the peace that comes from leaving her burden behind. Your faith has saved you; go in peace, Jesus tells her (:50).
Forgiven much … love much … much peace and assurance.
Some of us relate to the woman. We recognize our sins that are many, grievous, secret and shameful. Yet, we cling to Jesus, knowing He offered Himself, the infinite payment for an infinite number of sins. We experience forgiveness, and we love Jesus … But, we’re yet afraid to enter the presence of those we think have sinned less than us.
Those of us who relate to the woman need to remember whom she looks at while she endured the scorn of those who judged her. Exclusively at Jesus, right?
And, some of us relate (or ought to relate) most to Simon. We’ve hedged our bets; we’ve dabbled in some grey areas, but we’ve never been over the line. We’ve thought of Jesus as a roadside assistant: a “nice, nice Savior who gives us a hand when we break down.” But, if that’s how we view Jesus, we won’t love Him very much. If that’s how we think of Jesus, our eyes won’t be on Jesus, they’ll be on other people, so we can measure ourselves against them.
The tragedy of Simon is that he was every bit the sinner the woman is, only he didn’t know it. The woman experience peace and the confidence that comes from assurance of acceptance by God.
- What is it about this true account that makes it such good drama? Where do you feel the tension? Where do you feel the discomfort and, finally, resolution?
- Which of the figures in the account proves to be the most unlikely follower for Jesus?
- Whom do you relate to in the account? The woman or Simon the Pharisee?
- How can we know that we are loving Jesus “little”? How does one remedy a Pharisee-heart like Simon’s?
- How should this account affect our fellowship as a church family? How does it change our picture of what the family of God is like?