Grace to You Resources
Grace to You - Resource

Luke chapter 7 and we're going to be looking at verse 36 through verse 50, right to the end of the chapter.  We can cover all of this because it's one story and it needs to be dealt with as a unit.

When you think about witnessing, when you think about evangelism, when you think about missions, when you think about reaching lost people, what is it that makes the most impact?  Is it a logical argument?  Is it reasonableness?  Is it the promise of prosperity, or the promise of eternal life itself?  What is it that can impact a person to embrace Jesus Christ?

Well obviously you have to proclaim the truth.  Obviously you want to articulate the promises.  But in the end, what really is powerful is the testimony of a transformed life.  I think you can go down through the history of the Christian church and know that the church had a message that was believable when it demonstrated transformed lives.  Jesus knew this.  Jesus knew that in His own personal evangelism, in His own seeking the lost, it was powerful to present a transformed life.

Now obviously He couldn't do that because He didn't need to be transformed.  But He on occasion used somebody who was transformed as an instrument to give the power of the gospel to somebody else.  And that's exactly what happens in the account before us.  Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost, Luke writes in chapter 19 verse 10, is here seeking a lost man.  And He uses the transformed life of a woman as the testimony to this man and all around the table at this occasion to whom He spoke.

Most people when they read this account identify it as the story of the immoral woman.  It isn't really that.  She is, in a sense, only an element of the story.  It is the story of Jesus evangelizing a Pharisee.  He came to seek and to save the lost.  They accused Him of being only interested in drunkards and tax collectors and being the friend of sinners.  And He was, but He wasn't just a friend of the outcast sinners, the riff-raff, the low life, He was even the friend of religious sinners like the Pharisee.  In fact, on a number of occasions in the book of Luke He has some meal with a Pharisee; right here in this chapter, then again in chapter 11 verse 37, and then again in chapter 14 verse 1, we see Him sitting down for a prolonged conversation obviously intended to expose the Pharisee to the reality of who He was and why He came.  And the other gospels record some of those events as well.  Jesus was committed to evangelizing and presenting a gospel offer to all sinners, whether they were the low-life sinners, or whether they were the high-life sinners, whether they were the outcasts, and irreligious, or the very religious.  And on this occasion, in an act of irony, He reaches out to demonstrate His power to forgive sins to a hypocritical, self-righteous Pharisee by using the very person that the Pharisee despised the most, the low-life, reprobate, wretched, immoral prostitute whose transformation was very clear and inarguable.  This He uses as evidence of His power to transform even the Pharisee.

The story begins in verse 36.  And here the narrative starts and it must be treated as a narrative. It's a story.  We don't need an outline. We just flow with the story.  Here Jesus identified in verse 34 as "the friend of sinners," demonstrates that He is the friend even of a sinning Pharisee, who, by the way, is the worst of sinners.  You say, "You mean worse than a prostitute?"  Yes.  The worst possible sinner, the most unredeemable of all is the one who thinks he's not a sinner and doesn't need redemption, who thinks that God is pleased with him the way he is.  This is the worst of sinners.  Paul was one of these and that's why he called himself "the chief of sinners."  The worst kind of sin is the sin of self-righteousness, the assumption that you on your own by your own religious activities and moral merit can somehow earn a place in the kingdom of God.  That is the most heinous crime of all for it treats the sacrifice of Christ with utter disdain, as being unnecessary and foolish.  This then is a story of Jesus using a wretched sinner to reach an even worse sinner.

Now the story is not to be confused with another story that has some similarity.  There is a story of a woman anointing Jesus' head.  That story is recorded in Matthew 26.  It is recorded also in Mark 14.  It is recorded in John 12.  Those three writers record that same story.  That's not this story. This is another place, another time and different people.  The differences are clear.  The story the other three gospels record happened in Judea in the south.  This happened in Galilee.  In fact, it happened in the town of Bethany.  And it happened much later.  It happened right before Jesus went to the cross.  The host in this story, in Luke, is a Pharisee.  The host in the other account, later on, is a leper.  In this story the perfume is poured out by the woman on the feet of Jesus.  In that story it's poured out on the head of Jesus.  Different place, different time, different people, different circumstances and yet there are some people who want to blend these stories together and the reason is because the host of this story is a Pharisee named Simon and the host of the other one is a leper named Simon.  And so some people conclude because you have the name Simon, it has to be the same story.  Not at all; different place, different time, different people, different circumstances and Simon is the commonest of names.  Simon Peter, one of the apostles, Simon the Zealot, one of the apostles, Simon the father of Judas, Simon of Cyrene, Simon the tanner, Simon the leper, Simon the Pharisee, and on we go.  It's like Joe in English, plenty of Joes and Johns.  So don't necessarily equate these two accounts.  They can't be equated even though the name was the same.

Let's look at the story, verse 36, "One of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him."  We don't know where this is except that it's in Galilee during His Galilean ministry, in the north and He was obviously in a town or a village.  He was probably teaching and preaching regularly and perhaps even spoke in the synagogue.  And it may well have been that this was an invitation to an afternoon meal, after a Sabbath synagogue meeting in which Jesus was the teacher.  That was customary to take home the rabbi as it has been in other places, to take home a preacher after a Sunday sermon.  And so, whatever the occasion, it might have been that, it might have been a special banquet called in the evening.  It might have been some part of the Jewish feast schedule.  We don't know anything about the specifics of the event because they aren't really important to the story.  But this Pharisee was requesting Jesus to dine with him.  On the surface, that might seem like a good thing, like he had some personal interest in Jesus, like he was open to Jesus.  Well that's really not the case, as the story makes it very clear.  This was a man who belonged to a very close-knit group.  There weren't that many of them, a few thousand Pharisees. That's all.  They were the fastidious guardians of the law.  They were the law-keepers, they were the people who set the standard to which everybody had to adhere and be measured.  They were the legalists.  They were self-righteous.  They were tightly knit and they knew internally what they were all about.  They had close and intense communication.

And the Pharisees had already rendered a verdict on Jesus.  The scribes and the Pharisees had already collectively determined that the man was a blasphemer.  He was a blasphemer because He forgave sin.  And so, He acted as if He was God, forgiving sins.  You read about that back in the 5th chapter, as you remember.  They hated Him because of His message.  They hated Him because He preached against self-righteousness.  And He also spent His time with outcasts, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the low-life sinners of all kinds, the drunkards, etc.  And so they saw Him as somebody who belonged as an outcast.  He had stepped on sacred ground, claiming to be able to forgive sin.  That was open and outright blasphemy.  He had continually defiled Himself by hanging around defiling people the Pharisees would never hang around.

Furthermore, His message irritated them because it was a message that assaulted their self-righteousness.  He was very much like John the Baptist, whom they also hated.  And you remember earlier in Luke's gospel, Luke tells us that they wanted nothing to do with John.  That's just in the same chapter where in the earlier account they were unwilling to acknowledge John.  Verse 29, the tax gatherers...the people and the tax gatherers heard this, they acknowledged God's justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees, verse 30, and the lawyers, or scribes, rejected God's purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.  They rejected John, they hated His message.  You know, he called them snakes.  He warned them of the wrath to come.  He said they lacked the fruit of repentance.  He unmasked their hypocrisy in a public way.  They hated him.  And because they rejected John, they never accepted Jesus whom John identified as the Messiah.

They hated Jesus' message.  And so they had already made their conclusion.  They were in the process of accumulating incriminating evidence against Him.  Now this is part of that fact finding.  This Pharisee has in mind getting Jesus in a situation whereby His own words He can incriminate Himself.  He's going to get some more evidence against Jesus.  So he invites Him to his house.  He is no friend of Jesus at all, though he may have feigned a measure of friendship.  He is a hypocritical enemy, along with the rest of the self-appointed guardians of external righteousness.  He hated everything Jesus said and was.  But the full hostility hasn't yet broken out.  They’re still accumulating their material against Jesus.  It is down in chapter 11 verse 53 that when Jesus left an occasion there, having a meal with a Pharisee, scribes and Pharisees began to be very hostile and questioned Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.  By that time the thing has really mounted and it's crystallized.  They want Him dead.  Now there are serious plots. Trapping Him in His words is their intent so that they can then accuse Him of some crime of bringing about His own execution.

So, all of that is mounting.  And this Pharisee is part of the accumulating force trying to get the evidence on Jesus.  He's in his town. He takes the advantage of having him over in order that he might accumulate more confirming evidence that this man is a blasphemer.  So he invites Him to a meal.  And they don't do fast-food meals in the ancient Near East.  There are some meals that are maybe more on the fly than this one, but when they have a dinner like this and they recline, they're going to be there a while.  And that's the kind of occasion it was.  He requested Him to dine with him and He entered the Pharisee's house and reclined, the original says.  He reclined.  They took a posture of reclining.

Now here Jesus was willing to go into the house of a man that He knew was a hypocrite.  He knew the man had evil intentions toward Him.  He knew the man was going to do everything he could to get some incriminating evidence against Jesus by something that Jesus did or said.  He knew he was looking to mount the case for Him.  But nonetheless, Jesus, gracious as He always is and coming to seek and to save that which was lost, is willing to expose this wicked, hypocritical Pharisee to the power that He has to transform.  And so He entered the Pharisee's house.  As I said, there’re a couple of other occasions that Luke records He did the same thing, reaching out even to these lost legalists.

Now the reclining feature is, I think, probably familiar to most of us.  They might have had a round table or sort of an oblong table or even a square table and they had pushed up against the table long couches without a back or sides.  It was sort of like a lounge, like a chaise lounge, or something elevated at one end and you sort of leaned up on your elbow at one end with your head at the table and your feet away from the table.  You didn't sit in a chair.  You reclined and you ate with sort of an elbow propping up your head and that was how you had your conversation.  The idea in that part of the world at that time was to keep feet as far away as was humanly possible.  And I suppose the taller the person, the better.  Since sanitation wasn't what it is today, and since the roads were either muddy or dusty, feet were an issue, particularly at a prolonged meal.  I've even sat at meals where children were fully clothed and a parent said, "Go and wash your feet and then come back," because feet represented certain activities that didn't need to be brought to the table.  They took a normal approach toward what would make a pleasant meal and so they designed that kind of thing.

It also made for a more comfortable posture, for prolonged conversation.  And that's typically the way things would go.  It was common to invite a visiting rabbi to a Sabbath meal, as I said, or a special banquet in order to bring some measure of honor, or in order to discuss theological issues and issues of the society and the culture and that was what this was all about.  This became a kind of form of local entertainment.  You know, they had their important people, they had their celebrities in every little town and village, as the world has always had.  And people always wanted information. That's why there are newspapers, that's why there are tabloids, that's why there are gossip columnists, that's why there are programs on radio and television that tell us what prominent people are thinking.  There's a certain level of curiosity about that.  After all, they're recognized as the movers and shakers and shapers of thought.  And so in ancient times what they would do would be have a dinner like this, invite a celebrity, somebody who was known, somebody who was perhaps unusual who had something to say that was unique.  And then they would throw the doors open and though the population of the town were not invited to the meal, they were allowed to come in, if they wanted to and stand around the perimeter of the room.  They would stand around the walls, perhaps in a somewhat darkened place, just unobtrusively enjoying the conversation and the dialogue as a form of local entertainment, amusement and information.  And that is, no doubt, what occurred on this occasion.

The table is in the middle.  Everybody who is around the table is leaning in to the table.  And around the perimeter walls there's space for the local people to come in and experience the event itself and to hear the discussion and learn from it.  Also, typically in that kind of environment poor people would come in the hopes that they would be able to pick some of the scraps off the table and therefore be able to eat and to feed their family.  Some of the day laborers who perhaps hadn't had work, some of those who were indigent and couldn't work and needed help would then benefit by either begging around the perimeter when the time was appropriate after the meal was over, or even being offered some of the scraps from the meal to take for themselves.  So it was not unusual to have people around.  It was not unusual to have people of a lower class or a lower station in life than would normally be invited to a Pharisee's house.  That's the scenario.

Verse 37 says, "And behold." Now the "behold" indicates something startling, or something shocking is taking place here.  It wasn't shocking for a stranger to come in and it wasn't even shocking for a poor person to come in, a local neighbor to come in, but behold, it was shocking that there was a woman in the city who was a sinner.  Now there was certainly opportunity for some people to come in there, but not a woman who was a sinner.  That is to say in most likelihood a prostitute.  There was a woman in the city, she lived there.  Everybody knew her.  She plied her trade in that town.  She was known to all.  And by the way, it's not Mary Magdalene, although some have tried to say that.  There is nothing in the text to indicate that.  In fact, she is first introduced in chapter 8 verse 2, and if this were her, she would be named here, not there.  This is just a woman we don't know.  Mary Magdalene comes into account later.  But this is a sinful woman.  She's got a reputation for that as a prostitute would have in a town.  They would know who she was.  She's not the only sinner.  Sinner is a term used in the gospel of Luke many, many times, by the way.  Luke uses it in, I suppose, seven or eight of his chapters multiple times.  And it is a term to designate an unregenerate person, a person who is marked by their sinfulness.  It is used that way in the New Testament.  Even James 4, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners."  “Sinners” is a term to describe reprobate people.

But it's even more than that.  It... It's not just lost people that are described as sinners.  It is a term that has some disdain in it.  It refers to those who were sort of the low life.  For example, the Pharisee would have had a catalog of sinners. It would have included tax collectors and the thugs and thieves that works...worked for tax collectors to extract the taxes, drunkards, tanners, interestingly enough, camel drivers because they were dealing with unclean animals and so forth.  And there would have been a list of those who would be categorized as unacceptable, outcast sinners.  But certainly when it came to the distaff side, when it came to the feminine side, “sinner” was a synonym for a prostitute, a woman who chose to be a professional adulteress, immoral, filthy, impure, perverse and living a flagrantly sinful life at a public level.

This is the kind of woman that we are here introduced to and she learned, verse 37, that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house.  Obviously it would go through town. She may have known that He was even speaking at the synagogue, if, in fact, that occurred.  But she gets the information that He's going to be at the Pharisee's house, she knows the general protocol that the doors will be opened, and access will be available.  It's not like you would think of today, any time they have a very special dinner with very important people they lock the door, bar the door, bar the gate and put the security guard out.  Different world.  She knows that Jesus is going to be there and she has a plan.  She brought an alabaster vial of perfume.

Now perfume was part of the trade of being a prostitute, obviously.  And it was also a part of just being a woman.  Many Jewish women had around their neck a vial of perfume on a cord or a leather thong which they kept with them all the time.  It was a sort of deodorizing agent in a very different kind of world than we're used to today.  It was not uncommon for women to spend a lot of money on perfume.  I read one account of a woman who was allowed by her husband 400 gold coins annually for perfume.  I don't know what he was trying to cover up, but 400 gold coins of perfume is a lot of perfume in ancient times.  The kind of perfume that's indicated here is not a cheap oil but a costly perfume.  It's in an alabaster container.  An alabaster container specifically was quarried and carved in Egypt.  It was a kind of marble, a very fine refined kind of marble that would be made into this alabaster container and filled with a very costly perfume and then plugged shut so that when it was ultimately used, the neck which was very thin it was a sort of a...sort of a cylindrical base and globular, in a sense, and then it went to a small neck and they could snap the neck and pour out the contents.  But the reason it was sealed was, of course, to keep any of the fragrance from escaping, or evaporating.  And this is the kind of thing the woman had.

By the way, thousands of such vials have been found by archeologists. That's why we know it was such a common thing.  It was a concession among the rabbis. They even allowed the women to bring their perfume and to wear it to the synagogue.  Of course, if you've ever been in a synagogue, I've even been in a modern synagogue where you're glad that women have perfume because the people get so crushed and pressed together in that kind of place.

It was also common that men wore some kind of oil fragrance for deodorizing purposes as well.  And apparently this woman comes to the event with a view to anointing Jesus' head with this costly perfume, indicating to us that she was somewhat successful as a prostitute.  Most of them make a lot of money and apparently she made enough to be able to purchase a costly alabaster flask of perfume which she wanted to pour out on the head of Jesus.  That was her objective and her goal.

Now we find in verse 38 she comes in, let's just for illustration sake say it's an evening event, it's perhaps lighted with candles and in the middle of the room and in the perimeter around the walls maybe a little darker.  She slips in there.  People are welcome, but not her.  She shouldn't be there.  This is a violent outrage of the purity of the home of a Pharisee for a prostitute to come in there.  And so she slips in anyway and perhaps looking around the room identifies where Jesus is and it says, verse 38, "She was taking her place, standing behind Him at His feet."  So when she came in she went to the feet of Jesus, probably in her mind wondering how and when she would get an opportunity to anoint His head with this costly perfume, which she so much wanted to do.  Shocking that she's even there.  It doesn't tell us anything about a response to that effect, but obviously she was in a place where she shouldn't have been, but perhaps in a dim light she wasn't immediately noticed by the people who would have known her.  She stayed out of the way.  She stayed back in the background near the feet of Jesus, standing there, no doubt, pondering what to do.  How was she going to get to the place where she could anoint His head.  This was what was in her heart.  This is what she wanted to do with a sacrificial profuse expression of love and generosity toward Him.

As she stands there amazingly, she begins weeping.  She begins weeping.  She is just flooded with the reality of the kind of woman that she is.  And she is just weeping, overwhelmed with emotion.  She lets loose with what Luther called "heart water," and it bursts out of her eyes as if the emotional damn has broken into pieces and the flood begins.  And as she weeps, because of where she is, she began to wet his feet with her tears.  She's weeping and naturally she looks down and she sees of all things that the host has never provided a servant to wash the feet of Jesus.  She notices that His feet are dirty.  And this is...this is really a social disgrace.  And so since the tears are profusely running down her face and she has no water, other than those, she allows them to fall on the feet of Jesus.  And this outburst of emotion is gaining momentum.

Then it says she began to wet, it's the Greek word brechō, which means rain, literally she rained tears on His feet.  She had no water but her heart water.  But it was enough to wash His feet.  Her emotion is so strong.  There she is before she thinks any further about how can she anoint His head, caught up in the fact that nobody has given the simplest dignity to the man by washing His feet, and so her tears are a sufficient supply of liquid to do that.

And then it says, "She kept wiping them with the hair of her head."  She had no towel either. So she took her hair down because all Jewish women in public were required to wear their hair up. Not to do that was a sign of shame and looseness.  But she had no choice except to use her hair to clean and dry His dirty feet.  Some of the rabbis said if a woman did this in public, she would be divorced.  This was grounds for divorce.  But she was manifesting a kind of non-self-conscious, shameless emotion and affection in doing this.  Once His feet were clean, it says she was kissing His feet, kataphileō, that's an intense word.  It's used in Luke 15:20 of the father's kisses when the prodigal came home and he fell on his neck and kept embracing and embracing and embracing, kissing.  It isn't necessarily limited to the lips, it's that clinging, that tight embrace.  We might even include with it the idea of a hug.  She's there at His feet and first the tears start falling on His feet and then she realizes that she can use the tears to clean His feet, a courtesy that hasn't been given to Him.  And then she can take her hair down and use her hair to dry His feet.  And meanwhile, we don't know how the table is reacting.  It may have been that she's still in the background a little bit.  Jesus obviously knows what's going on. Actually He's planned for this.  She's doing this still maybe in the background and once the feet are clean, then she's so completely swept away with emotion that she embraces His feet and it tells us she continues to do it.  She is kissing His feet in continual expression of affection.

And then comes the final act of generosity, anointing them with the perfume.  She decides that she can't wait any longer and there's maybe not going to be any opportunity to move any further toward the table.  And so swept away in the emotion she snaps the alabaster bottle and she pours perfume out on His feet.

I mean, this could be a very, very difficult situation for Jesus.  In the first place, she's a known prostitute.  She's shamefully taken down her hair, certainly in the view of the Pharisee.  She's touching Him.  Not only is she touching Him, but she's washing His feet with her hair.  Not only that but she continues to embrace His feet to hold on to Him, as if she didn't want to let Him go, expressing this emotion.  And then she's pouring out this perfume.  This could be a very serious breach of propriety.  It would be very easy to say, "How in the world does this prostitute feel so familiar with Jesus?  She must know Him.  How did He have any relationship with such a shameless woman?"  Well somebody might make an obvious connection.

Then in verse 39, Simon the Pharisee picks up on it.  "Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself,” this is inside, nobody heard this, “'If this man were a prophet, He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.'"

You know, that fascinates me.  This is an enemy of Jesus.  This is a man who is looking to incriminate Him.  But as much as he wanted incriminating proof that Jesus was not the Messiah and not a prophet of God, he couldn't bring himself to say, "Here's a man who has familiarity with a prostitute."  No one ever accused Jesus of that.  No one ever accused Him of that.  No one could ever get that far.  There was just nothing in His life, nothing.  And even His worst enemies wouldn't go there, couldn't.  And that shows a measure of real respect of Jesus and a true understanding of His goodness and His purity so that the worst the man can say is, "He just doesn't know who or what kind of person she is."  And he chalks it up to ignorance rather than evil.  That's as far as he could go.  And that's...that's a measure of respect.  He could have, I suppose, theoretically said, "No, this is bad, boy, this is really incriminating stuff, this familiarity between Jesus and this prostitute."  But he says, "It's ignorance.  He just doesn't know, He doesn't know and that proves that He's not a prophet because if He was a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him.  He would know she's a sinner.  We all know she's a sinner and aren't prophets supposed to come from God to tell you what you don't know?  How is He going to tell us what we don't know when He doesn't even know what we know?  He doesn't have any spiritual insight.  He doesn't have any divine wisdom.  No sensible religious teacher, no one trying to be accepted as a prophet from God, no one trying to be accepted as the Messiah would ever allow a woman like this to touch Him, so He must not know who she is and if He doesn't know who she is, then He's not special." This just strengthens the convict....this is no prophet from God.  That's a satisfied kind of attitude.

So he was disgusted by the scene.  He was disgusted by what the woman did.  He was disgusted by what Jesus let her do.  But it was a satisfied disgust because it vindicated in his mind that Jesus was no prophet or He would have had some divine insight into who or what this woman was and never allowed her to defile or touch Him.  She was well known in the city.

Well it's time for Jesus now to talk to Simon.  So verse 40, "Jesus answered and said to him," what did He answer?  He didn't ask Him anything.  Oh, He answered what he was thinking.  Huh, what irony is that?  Simon concluded He didn't know who the woman was, therefore He's not a prophet, but He knew Simon was thinking that.  He knew who that woman was. He knew what she was thinking and what Simon was thinking.  He said, "Simon, I have something to say to you," interrupted whatever conversation was going...  "Simon, I have something to say to you."  And he replied, "Say it, teacher, say it.  Speak on, say what You have to say," respectfully polite, but cold.  "He says, ‘A certain money lender...’" and, you know, they love to talk in analogies, we call them parables, illustrations, "A certain money lender had two debtors.  One owed 500 denarii, the other fifty.  When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both."  Simple story.  Money lender, a guy comes and says I need 500 denarii, that's 500 day’s wages, a year and a half or so.  And he loaned him a year and a half’s wages. And another person came and they needed, you know, two months wages or so, fifty denarii, loaned him.  They couldn't pay, couldn't repay the debt.  So he graciously forgave them both.  That's a nice story, isn't it?

Can you imagine... Can you imagine the people that hold the lien on your car calling up one day and saying, "Where's your payment?"  Well, I couldn't pay it this month.  "Oh, we'll forgive it, we'll send you the pink slip, don't worry about it."  This is a significant event in your life, wouldn't it be?  Or if the bank that holds the mortgage on your house called one say and said, "You’re late on your payment, it must mean you don't have enough to pay.  Forget it, it's covered."  That doesn't happen.  That doesn't happen.  And the word there, “graciously forgave,” charizomai, includes the word charis, grace, is a business term used for forgiving a debt as well as a theological term used by Paul of the forgiveness that God gives us in Christ.  So He's just using a very familiar term and he simply says they couldn't pay.  They had a debt they couldn't pay.  And so the money lender graciously forgave them both.  This is a magnanimous and generous thing.  And you know what makes it so generous?

This is something to keep in mind.  What makes it so generous is anytime somebody forgives a debt they themselves incur that debt in full.  If I lend you 500 denarii and you can't pay and I say, "I forgive that," then now I've incurred that debt completely.  That debt is now mine.  The cost is transferred to me.  I pay.  And that's... To understand that is to get an insight into the forgiveness of God.  And when God forgave your sins, He then incurred the debt and Jesus Christ died to pay it.  The debt doesn't go away.  It still has to be paid, but the forgiver incurs it and pays it.  So it's not just forgiveness and it's done. It's forgiveness and then the debt is transferred to the forgiver.

So this is a magnanimous story.  Like Paul when he's writing to Philemon, you remember?  And he was talking about Onesimus and Philemon, verses 18 and 19, or right in there, he says, "Whatever he owes you, put on my account.  Whatever he owes you, transfer to my account, I will repay."  The debt just doesn't disappear.  The forgiver incurs it.  That's true of God who incurred the full debt when He forgave you and Jesus paid it.

So He tells the little story and then He asks Simon at the end of verse 42, "Which of them will love him more?”  Who's going to have the greater love for the money lender, the greater love for the forgiver?  Who's going to have the greater love?

Oh, that's simple.  Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more."  Why does he say "I suppose"?  It could be sarcasm, like it's almost insulting His intelligence.  I mean, are you kidding?  You've got one 500 and one fifty, isn't it obvious?  And is he's saying, "I suppose," you know, sarcastically, "I suppose."  Or he might be even saying, "Well I suppose it's the one whom he forgave more," wondering whether Jesus has something up His sleeve that's going to put a twist on this story and embarrass him if he gives the wrong answer.  So he's just a little shy of giving a complete and straightforward answer.  And Jesus said to him, "Hey, you judge correctly."  That's the right answer. You got it.  That's it.  Whoever got forgiven the most is going to be showing the most love.  Pretty simple, isn't it?  Very simple.

And then in verse 44 it starts to make sense.  He turns toward the woman. Now we've established a principle here. What's the principle?  Great love comes from great forgiveness.  Is that the principle?  Great love comes from great forgiveness.  We've established that.  You said it. It came out of your brain and your mouth, Simon, right?  You just said where you see great love you have seen great forgiveness.  The greater the forgiveness, the greater the love.  So He says, verse 44, He looks to the woman, turns to the woman who is at His feet and everybody else turns there too and then He says to Simon, "See that woman?"  Well of course he saw her. Back in verse 39 it says he saw her.  "See that woman? I'm seeing great love out of that woman.  I'm seeing great love."  What do you mean?  "I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet.  She has wet My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, she since the time I came in hasn't ceased to kiss My feet.  She hasn't stopped.  You didn't anoint My head with oil, she anointed My feet with perfume.  You didn't even put common olive oil on My feet, she gave Me perfume.  For this reason I say to you, her sins which are many have been forgiven because she loved much and somebody who has forgiven little, loves little."

That's really true.  That is really true.  That's true in the church today.  You show me somebody who is a third generation Christian, second generation Christian, some kid raised in a Christian family, it's all they've ever known.  Don't have some sordid life of sin to look back to.  And their level of thanks and gratitude and forgiveness is little.  There’s some, it's little.  And then you show me somebody who lived a sordid, wicked, hell-bent, Godless, Christless life and were rescued in adulthood and totally transformed and there's a whole different level of love.  That's the principle.  So, He says you just saw love like you've never seen it.  Nobody had ever seen anybody do things like that, that's absolutely unheard of that someone would do that.  What would make somebody so loving?  What would make somebody so lavish, so grateful?  I mean, this woman, this is... This is almost over the top, right?  This is almost bizarre.  I mean, weeping all over somebody, wiping their feet with their hair, holding on and never letting go and pouring out...I mean, this is...this is extravagant behavior.  Why is this so much love being poured out?  And His simple answer is, "You said it. Because somebody who has been forgiven much, loves much and this woman whose sins were many have been forgiven, for she loved much.  He who has been forgiven little, loves little."

Notice that little statement, "I say to you, her sins which are many have been forgiven." That's perfect tense.  It didn't happen right there then.  That's past.  Perfect tense, something happened in the past with continuing effect.  She had already been forgiven.  She had been forgiven some other place, some other day, some other time.  She came there already forgiven, in a state of forgiveness, to find Jesus to thank Him.  Maybe it was the day before that she encountered Him.  Maybe it was in the week some time that she encountered Him.  We don't know that.  But since He had come to her town, she had been redeemed.  She had been forgiven.  And the guilt was gone and the shame was gone and the life was different and longings after holy things and righteous things began to occupy her heart and she was swept away with gratitude, swept away with affection and love for the One who had forgiven her.  So much so that she couldn't even contain herself and the Pharisee himself said, "When somebody has forgiven much, they love much."  And so He says, "There you see much love. What can you assume from that?”  Much what? Forgiveness.  This is a transformed life.  You can't explain this woman's behavior any other way.  She's been forgiven.  She's grateful because all the bondage of her sin is gone, all the depth of guilt is gone.  You didn't do anything for Me.  You showed Me no honor, you showed Me no respect, you showed Me no affection, you gave Me no sacrifice, you showed Me nothing.  You insulted Me with your lack of respect, your lack of love, your lack of tribute.

You can go all the way back to Genesis, Genesis 18, Genesis 29, Genesis 45, and you'll find on occasions when people came together there were feet washing ceremonies done in order to make sure that that appropriately was done.  There was an embrace, Genesis 29:13, Genesis 45, a kiss of affection and love.  This was part of what you did when you received a guest.  That's what she did.  The host gave no water, she gave her tears.  The host gave no towel, she gave her hair.  The host gave no kiss, she repeatedly kissed His feet.  The host gave no...not even cheap oil, she poured out expensive perfume.  And for this reason, I'm telling you, she did this because she's been forgiven much.  This is what it looks like when you're really forgiven.  And he had said it when he explained who would love the most.

She was that 500 denarii debtor who couldn't pay, but was graciously and completely forgiven.  She is in a state of forgiveness and has been.  Verse 48, Jesus affirms it, speaks to her, "Your sins have been forgiven."  Again it's the perfect tense, have been in the past with continuing result.  He's just affirming that, confirming that.  The evidence is there from her love.  She had come to Christ on some other day, she had been convicted of her sin, she had repented, she had believed, she had been graced with forgiveness and eternal life.  And she loved much because she was forgiven much.  Lavish love comes from lavish forgiveness.

And so, Jesus is showing this self-righteous Pharisee what real transformation looks like.  And there is no other explanation.  The people saw it, verse 49, they all got it.  Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this man who even forgives sins?"  I mean, they knew He could teach and preach, probably could heal and all of that, and cast out demons. He could even forgive sins.  They knew He had done it.  He didn't say in verse 48, "God has forgiven your sins."  He said, "Your sins have been forgiven," and she knew it was He who had done that.  He affirms her condition of forgiveness.  And the people all said, "This man forgives sins." That's as far as they would go.  Always asking questions: "Who is this man who even forgives sins?"  They should have been able to answer that, shouldn't they?  Who can forgive sins alone?  God.  But they never get that far.  Every meal ever had with Pharisees ended up in obstinate unbelief. It all ended up the same way.  Self-righteousness is such a terrible, terrible kind of blindness.

So, her lavish love was tied to His lavish forgiveness.  And they understood it.  The people said, "This man forgives sins.  We can see this woman is forgiven."  How can you see?  You can't see forgiveness. You can see the transformation that it makes: joy, gratitude, love, affection.  So Jesus then used that woman as clear testimony to His power to transform a life, this to witness to the Pharisee of the transforming power of His truth.

Her salvation was evident, not by something she said, she didn't say anything, but by her love to her Savior, so profuse and so passionate. "You have been and continue to be forgiven."  And then in verse 50, He said to her, "Your faith has saved you." It's not your love that saved you. It was your faith that saved you, that produced your love.  It was your faith that saved you, always, "For by grace are you saved through faith," Ephesians 2:8 and 9, "that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God not of works lest any man should boast."  It was your faith that saved you. It's always faith that saves, always, always, always.  And because your faith saved you, your love is manifest because your sins are forgiven.  "Go in peace," literally, "Go into peace, Go into God's Shalom and live there forever."

Now what level is your love for God, your love for Christ?  Does this seem so bizarre to you that you can't even fathom yourself doing this?  Have you come to Christ in faith and embraced Him and experienced this powerful and total transformation of forgiveness so that you're literally filled with joy and gratitude and love?  We should be marked by that.  It is that profuse love for Christ that is the single greatest proof visible to people of the power of the gospel.  An ungrateful, loveless Christian undercuts the testimony of the gospel.  Let us put on display our gratitude, our lavish love to our Christ and the world will take note that our sins have truly been forgiven.  Let's pray.

Father, we thank You for again Your Word to us. So many more things that we could have said about this account and yet it's enough for us to get the story and to know that even Jesus knew how important a transformed life is to evangelism and how important the transformed life manifest in joy, gratitude, overwhelming love toward Christ is.  It isn't just that we do different things. It's that we're marked by this consuming love for Christ that desires to humble ourselves to demonstrate an undying affection and lavish self-sacrifice on His behalf.  May we live those kinds of lives, filled with gratitude, filled with love for the Savior so that people will know that we too have been forgiven and this is what a forgiven person is like.  May that become attractive to those who are burdened by the weight of their sin and may you use us as you used that woman that day to be a living testimony to Your forgiving, transforming power.  In Christ's name.  Amen.

This sermon series includes the following messages:

Please contact the publisher to obtain copies of this resource.

Publisher Information
Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time
Since 1969


Enter your email address and we will send you instructions on how to reset your password.

Back to Log In

Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time
Since 1969
View Wishlist


Cart is empty.

Subject to Import Tax

Please be aware that these items are sent out from our office in the UK. Since the UK is now no longer a member of the EU, you may be charged an import tax on this item by the customs authorities in your country of residence, which is beyond our control.

Because we don’t want you to incur expenditure for which you are not prepared, could you please confirm whether you are willing to pay this charge, if necessary?

ECFA Accredited
Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time
Since 1969
Back to Cart

Checkout as:

Not ? Log out

Log in to speed up the checkout process.

Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time
Since 1969