There once was a lovely, tender and talented actress. As she was walking through the streets in a major city she came across a sad sight. She saw a pale and sick girl lying on a couch through a half opened door. Desiring to be somewhat of a comfort, she entered in to speak to this girl. To her amazement, the actress discovered that this little girl was a devoted Christian and displayed amazing love for Christ. This actress gave serious thought to being a Christian and then was converted! She then told her father, who was in charge of the theatre, that she is a believer and has plans to abandon the stage. Her father not pleased by this tried to persuade her not to do this, as they would lose their good living and the business. Loving her father, she hesitantly followed his instructions. The time came for her performance on the stage. As the curtains were pulled back, an unexpected glowing beam shone from her face and she uttered the words,
"My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now."
In Luke 7:36-50 we are introduced to an unnamed woman. None of her words are recorded, but her actions speak volumes. Her life has been radically transformed by the forgiveness Jesus Christ provides. In this message we will walk through the drama of this passage by considering four scenes: the setting, the sinner, the scoffing, and the story.
1. The Setting (7:36)
The setting of this passage is in the house of a Pharisee. This Pharisee’s name is Simon (7:40, 43, 44). This is a different Simon that the one mentioned in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, and John 12:1-8. Outwardly, he would have been a very religious man with a respected reputation. As a Pharisee he knew the Law of Moses. He fasted twice a week (Monday and Thursday). He prayed. He would have been viewed as an upright man.
Simon has invited Jesus into his home to share in a meal. The purpose of this invitation was for Simon to be able to question and understand what Jesus was about. He wasn’t sure of what to make of Jesus, so he doesn’t offer Him the customary courtesies like being greeted with a kiss and having His feet washed. Jesus reclines at the table with the invited guests and conversations take place. In this setting, those at the table were invited guests, but it was not uncommon to have others surround the table and listen in on the conversation. This is the setting of the passage.
2. The Sinner (7:37-38)
The scene dramatically changes in verse 37 from the social setting to a scandalous situation. We are told “a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisees house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment” (7:37). This woman is unnamed, but she is described as “a sinner”. All of us are sinners (cf. Romans 3:23), but the word “sinner” here is used in a special way to describe a particular way of life. Her lifestyle was most likely one of immorality. So in this scene the focus goes from a pious Pharisee to a possible prostitute. What a huge contrast. She doesn’t speak a word but her actions say a lot!
For her to enter the house during the meal was a courageous act. Everyone in that room knew her past, and the comments and expressions on people’s faces would not have been pleasant. We can often conceal much in our lives, but imagine what it would have been like for her with everything being known. Add to this the fact that she entered a Pharisee’s house. Outsiders and outcasts were not invited. Also, many of the Pharisees rejected Jesus because He came in contact with such people. Despite all this, her focus was only on the Lord.
After entering the house, she expresses her deep heart-felt love for Christ. Luke wrote, “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” (7:38). In her affectionate expression toward Jesus, it is as if everyone in the room were not there. This is a display of lavish love and her fervent focus on Jesus is driven by what Christ has done for her. The tears flowing are from a heart that has been gripped by grace and released from the bondage of sin. Prior to this occasion she must have encountered the teaching of Jesus and experienced the forgiveness of her sins. When we make much of Christ, the things of this world fade into insignificance. Where did such love come from? The motivation of her love is the forgiveness she has received at an earlier time. But we will learn more about that later on.
3. The Scoffing (7:39)
We now come to the third scene and that is the scoffing. What did the host think of this display? Simon didn’t speak out loud, but 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” (7:39). Simon scoffed at what he considered to be a lack of knowledge in Jesus. Simon didn’t view Jesus to be the Messiah, and from his statement, Jesus doesn’t even qualify to be a prophet. We will always be wrong when we question and underestimate the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Not only that, the Lord will have ways of exposing our limited knowledge. Simon observed the woman, but he didn’t really see her. What do I mean by that? Simon only saw what his limited knowledge revealed, but he could not see what God’s saving work did to her soul. In his eyes she was a sinful woman, in God’s eyes she was a saved woman.
We need to guard ourselves from having a prideful and judgmental spirit. Simon simply looked at this woman, ignored what had happened in her life, and completely disregarded her. This was not only an arrogant thing to do, but also it revealed Simon’s ignorance. This is really devastating. This man thinks that he is righteous and will have a place in Heaven. But the truth is, the one that he saw as worthless was actually a citizen of God’s kingdom.
4. The Story (7:40-50)
We now arrive at the final scene, and that is the story. Jesus replies to Simon’s statement by telling a story that is a parable on the topic of forgiveness with an application concerning love. Jesus speaks about a moneylender that loaned money to two people, and they could not pay back their debt. The first person owed 500 denarii and the second owed fifty (a denarii was a days wage). Neither of them was able to pay back what they owed. Knowing this to be the case, the moneylender cancelled both of their debts. Jesus asked Simon, “Now which of them will love him more?” (7:42). Simon responds, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt”. His use of the word “suppose” reflects a hesitant agreement. Jesus acknowledges that this answer is correct.
Jesus now applies this story to the situation happening around them. He compares the actions of this woman to those of Simon. When Jesus entered the house, Simon didn’t provide any water for Jesus’ feet, but the woman wet His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Simon didn’t greet Him with a customary kiss, yet she repeatedly kissed His feet. Simon didn’t anoint Jesus’ head with oil, yet the woman poured expensive perfume on His feet. The point clearly is that she loved much because she had been forgiven much.
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (7:47). Jesus acknowledges her problem (“her sins, which are many”), her pardon (“are forgiven”), and her praise (“for she loved much”). The fountain of her forgiveness was Christ and the fruit of her forgiveness was love. She took hold of this gift of forgiveness by trusting in Jesus Christ and then expressed her heart-felt thankfulness by her lavish love.
Jesus then says, “Your sins are forgiven” (7:48). This statement by Jesus announces and affirms the condition she is in. In Simon’s sight, the woman was a sinner. In the Saviour sight, she was saved. Those who were at the table said among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (7:49). Jesus could say this and has the right to say this because He is the Sovereign Seeking Saviour of sinners. It does not matter what people think about us. What matters is what God sees, and He sees it all. The only way for us to experience the radical change this woman had, is to come to Christ with the empty hand of faith and cling to Him. Jesus confirmed the condition this woman was in by saying, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (7:50). Her faith in Christ was the means by which she took hold of the gift of salvation that produced peace and love. The same is true for us. Paul wrote, “For by grace have you been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift from God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). This woman entered the room with the people’s condemning criticism, but she left with the Lord’s comforting compassion.
This woman expressed lavish love for Christ in the midst of a really hard situation. This love was the fruit of forgiveness. If you are a believer, how can you increase in your love for Christ? There are times we drift along and it seems that we have left our first love. Among others things, there are three points we would do well to remember.
Remember Who You Were
Peeling off what you presented yourself to be to others, in God’s sight you were a lost sinner (by nature and by choice). You had a debt that could not be paid, and the wrath of God was upon you. Guilty and condemned you stood, without hope and God in this world, deserving of God’s judgment. Outside of God’s forgiveness, that is who you were. Not a pretty sight at all.
Remember Who You Are
By means of God’s sovereign grace in Jesus Christ, you are alive in Him. You have trusted Christ alone for your salvation and in Him you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. You are forgiven of all your sin. In Christ you are not condemned. In Christ you are a child of God. In Christ you have eternal life. In Christ you are eternally secure. That is who you are in Christ!
Remember Who Christ is
Jesus is the eternal Son of God and He came into this world, took upon Himself human flesh. He arrived as the Sovereign Seeking Saviour of sinners. He lived the life we failed to live. He died the death we deserved to die. He stood in our place at the cross. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the resurrected Saviour sitting at the right hand of Father. He is praying for His people. And He is coming back one day to issue retribution and He will reign with His saints. Jesus Christ alone can forgive us of our sins and give us peace. It does not matter who you are and what you have done. Come to Christ and you will find forgiveness.
By God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s stirring, I pray that these three memories will remind us of the reasons why we ought to display the fruit of forgiveness, a display of lavish love for Christ.