Pride and Promiscuity
In today’s text, we have before us a tale of two sinners. Luke paints a wonderful portrait to true repentance and sinful pride. What would bring these two very opposite people together in the same room? What was going on behind the scene? How does Jesus handle this very odd situation?
We are introduced to the first sinner, proud Simon the Pharisee and the second, a former promiscuous prostitute. The setting is in Simon’s house. He had invited Jesus to his house for a meal. Simon’s intentions were not to honor Jesus but instead were a plan to trap Jesus in saying something that could be used against Him later. When this prostitute enters Simon’s house and heads straight for Jesus, Simon believes his scheme is working out perfectly…but something happens that Simon doesn’t expect. In this scene we also see two very opposite attitudes toward Jesus Christ: one is coldness born out of a works religion the other a deep warm affection born out of saving grace. Luke shows us that one is a result of unforgiven sin and the other a result of sins forgiven.
Let’s turn to God’s Word:
Luke 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 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, 38 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. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “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.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
1. A Portrait of Two Sinners (7:36-40)
Jesus’ mission was to seek out and save lost sinners. As a faithful shepherd goes out looking for the lost sheep for the purpose of restoring them to the sheep fold, so Jesus is on mission to go out and find sinners and restore them to the Father. Because this is His mission, He takes every opportunity to be with sinners. His company is sinners of all types. Here Jesus takes the invitation to eat a meal at Simon the Pharisee’s house because Simon is also a sinner.
Simon’s invitation comes with strings attached. He has an agenda. His purpose for inviting Jesus to his house was not to fellowship with Christ but to try and trap Him in His words. Jesus knows all this and because He loves Simon, still accepts his invitation.
Simon is portrayed as cold and unloving. He doesn’t extend to Jesus even the most common courtesies of the day. Providing a bowl of water to wash dusty feet and oil to anoint one’s head were two common courtesies of the day that any guest could expect from his host. Simon wasn’t loving toward Christ even in the most basic ways.
Simon was proud. He felt because of his position he was superior to Jesus. By his actions, he was demonstrating the fact that he was setting himself up as the judge over Christ. He was judgmental and unfriendly.
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.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
Simon’s syllogism was correct but his conclusion was faulty. His logic flowed that a prophet should know things about people. A prophet would know that this woman is a great sinner. A prophet would know that she is a prostitute. A prophet of God would have nothing to do with this woman because she is a sinner. His conclusion was faulty. Jesus is a prophet and He did know this woman and everything about her. He knew her past profession. He knew her sin. But instead of avoiding her, she was exactly the type of person the Father had sent Him to. She was one of the lost sheep. She had been found by Jesus the Great Shepherd days before and had been restored to the sheep fold of God through faith and repentance.
Simon’s thinking was right to a point but then ended with a wrong deduction.
Jesus quickly shows Simon that He is a prophet and He knows sinners when He sees them. Simon was thinking these things to himself as Luke tells us and Jesus answers thus showing Simon He does know the innermost thoughts and He does know what sort of woman is before Him and He also knows what sort of person Simon is as well. Our Lord quickly turns the tables on Simon.
Although Simon, the Pharisee, gives no utterance to his thoughts, the Lord knows what is going on in his heart and asks him which person would out of gratitude show the greatest love—one to whom much has been forgiven or one to whom little has been forgiven? Simon doubted the genuineness of Jesus’ calling because he regarded Him as unable to read the woman’s character. By His question to him, however, the Savior shows that not only could he read her character but that He could even fathom Simon’s innermost thoughts.—Norval Geldenhuys (NICNT Luke)
The next sinner we’re introduced to is the woman who surprises everyone with her entrance into Simon’s house. The ancient style home would be one with an open floor plan to allow cooler evening air into the living and dining area. This also allowed entrance by this woman.
The picture is one of extravagant love and devotion. Jesus, probably days before, had forgiven her sin and changed her heart. She met Jesus and now she runs to Him to show her love and affection for Him when she learns that He is at Simon’s house.
She shows her devotion to Christ as she performs what a slave would be assigned…washing the feet of a guest in the house. She is humble. She understands what Christ has done for her. Jesus, as His practice was, didn’t sweep her sin under the rug or act like it didn’t exist but rather dealt with it. Her sin had been forgiven and her life changed.
How do we know her lifestyle was now different?
One indication was that the tool of her trade, the flask of perfume was no longer needed. Rather than putting it on herself to make herself more attractive and desirable, she shows her repentance by pouring it on the feet of Jesus. She takes what days before was used to help her sin and lavishes it on Christ and a token of a changed heart and life.
2. A Parable of Two Sinners (7:41-43)
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Jesus begins, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
Then Jesus starts His story…Simon was about to discover that Jesus really is a prophet. He did know what kind of woman was touching Him and He also knew what kind of man was sitting across from Him as well. Both were sinners.
How does this parable relate to the woman? What point is Jesus making by telling it?
The debtor who owed the very large amount is the woman. The first debtor owed 500 denarii which is equal to nearly 2 years wages in the ancient world…a very large sum of money. This was a picture of the woman’s sin. She was a great sinner and when forgiven loved Jesus very much for canceling her very large sin debt.
The second debtor owed the creditor 50 denarii a much smaller debt. This debtor really doesn’t represent Simon but is placed in the story to show that one who understands their sin debt is very great and there is no way to pay God back will in fact be blessed in the end.
I think Simon was beginning to see the point and yet was not willing to admit that as great a sinner as this woman was, he too was a sinner in need of forgiveness of sin debt as well. 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”
Simon’s heart was still very hard. His religion was a roadblock that resisted grace.
He is the picture of one working for salvation and the woman is the picture of one saved by grace. It’s so very hard for a worker to love sinners because they get for free what the worker sweats to try to earn. Workers resent grace.
Notice how Jesus explains the difference between Simon and this woman…
3. Forgiveness of Sin Produces Great Love for Christ (Luke 7:44-47)
44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus says to Simon, Look at this woman again, what do you really see?
Notice the difference between Simon and the woman…
Simon, you did not even give me the basic courtesy that any common visitor would receive. You gave Me no water to wash the dust off My feet, however, this woman that you so despise has not stopped crying tears of joy and tears of gratefulness and is washing My feet with those tears. Simon, you did not give Me a washcloth and she is using her hair. Simon, you did not give Me the customary welcome kiss on the cheek, she has not stopped kissing My feet. Simon, you did not give Me the customary anointing with oil that your other guests receive, but she has poured out her jar of perfumed oil and anointed me extravagantly.
Simon did not show Jesus even the most basic forms of hospitality. The bottom line was that Simon had about as much contempt for Jesus as he had for the woman. Rather than honoring Jesus as his guest with the customary common courtesies he treated Him with contempt. Simon was religious but had no love for Jesus.
The woman loved Jesus very much and crossed all socially acceptable lines to show Him.
What made the difference?
Her sins had been forgiven. I’m guessing a day or two before she had heard Jesus or perhaps even spoken with Him and her heart and life was transformed by the Gospel. She believed Jesus concerning her sin and trusted Him alone as Savior. Now she comes as an act to thanksgiving and love. She also comes in an act of true repentance. The flask of perfume would anoint her Savior not herself.
Jesus then confirms her and speaks words that she so longed to hear…
48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
She believed Jesus and trusted in Him. As an act of faith and trust goes to Him and expresses her love for Him.
Jesus tells her that her faith has saved her. Her gratitude was proof that her large sin debt had been canceled.
This woman’s love for Christ began when He first showed love to her. This is always how it works. God’s love for us in salvation generates love within us for Him.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
We are either like Simon or the woman. Either we have a cold uncaring concern for Christ because we either are still in our sin or we have not ever grasped the wonder of forgiveness. Or we’re like the woman who understood that her case was hopeless and her life miserable and hell was her final destination, until she met Jesus.
If your love for Christ is not what it should be, contemplate just what great lengths He went to forgive your many sins. Contemplate His love for you. Then, that love will begin to generate love within your heart as well.