Great Forgiveness and Great Love

Christ at Simon the Pharisee

Christ at Simon the Pharisee (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 7:36–50 (ESV)

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at 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.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus went to a Pharisee’s home to eat with him. While there, a “woman of the city, a sinner” arrives and wept at Jesus’ feet, wiped them with her hair, and anointed them with oil. This was a great show of love and honor by the woman. The problem, as expressed by the Pharisee, is the woman was a known prostitute! Why would Jesus allow such a woman to touch him? If he were really a prophet he would not allow such a sinner to come near him, right?

No so! Jesus responds to the Pharisee with a parable about a moneylender. He loaned two people money and forgave both of their debts. One had borrowed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. Who would love the moneylender more? Who would be the most thankful?  Well, of course it would be the one whose debt had been greater.

Jesus used the parable to speak of the woman prostitute’s and the Pharisee’s attitude towards Jesus. The woman knew her sin was great and that the forgiveness she had been granted through Jesus was great. She loved Jesus greatly. On the other hand, the Pharisee did not believe he needed forgiveness because he was already righteous on his own. He did not need Jesus and did not feel deep gratitude towards him.

When we are able to see our sinfulness and honestly admit the deep debt we owe as a result, our love for Christ will grow. Such understanding helps us better understand the great love Christ has shown for us by going to the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Think of John 3:16 and what it means about God’s love:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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I Came Not To Call the Righteous

The Meal in the House of Matthew

The Meal in the House of Matthew (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 2:13–17 (ESV)

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this passage we read that Jesus called a tax collector named Levi (aka Matthew) to come and follow him. This means that Jesus was calling him to be his disciple. Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish people because they collected taxes for the Roman authorities and often collected a dishonest amount. Tax collectors were thought of as traitors and the worst kind of sinners. It would have amazed many and offended others that Jesus would call a tax collector as a disciple and even share a meal with such a scoundrel!

The scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of the time, were especially ready to condemn such behavior. Jesus’ response to these religious folks is that he had come to save the sick, not the healthy. He had come to call sinners to himself, not the righteous.

What did Jesus mean with his response to the scribes and Pharisees? The religious leaders were self-righteous and looked down on the sins of others, while ignoring or denying their own sin. The tax collectors and sinners were listening to Jesus preach about repentance and forgiveness of sin and they were responding to Jesus’ message. The religious leaders did not feel a need for such a response of their own. They were righteous already, in their own minds. So, Jesus’ response is one of condemnation towards the scribes and Pharisees. They too needed to understand their own sinfulness and respond to the message of repentance that Jesus was preaching.

Jesus’ message is still the same today. All of us are sinners and need forgiveness. When we repent of our sin and call on Christ to forgive us, he will. Take a moment and call out to him now.

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