Description / Transcription
Lord, drops of grief flow as they might could never repay the debt that we owe to Your grace and Your lavish, complete, sufficient forgiveness. We pause just to pray once again this evening that we would see that, that we would see Christ. So soften our hearts and open up our eyes and empower Your Word for our good and for Your glory. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Well, that didn’t go like we planned. Wonder if you’ve ever said something like that to yourself or somebody else. Maybe after an evening, had an evening that you planned to go a certain way and it just didn’t come off like you expected, or ever found yourself at the end of an evening sitting on the couch, exhausted. Maybe you’re there by yourself, saying something to yourself or you’re turning to a roommate or maybe to a spouse and just saying, “What just happened? That did not go like we had planned.” I wonder if you’ve ever had a moment like that.
I imagine that this fellow in our passage, Simon, tonight probably had something like that to say after the evening we’re going to be looking at here in just a moment. We’re going to look at just that kind of evening for a man named Simon.
As we do that, I’m sure as we cover some of this ground, we’ll find some really less overlap between even our sermon this morning. Sweet how the Lord arranges things like that.
But before we get there, I want to just mention as Kevin mentioned this morning and you might be well aware of, but we’re starting a new series this evening, having finished up a look at some of the wisdom literature. We’re turning now to a series on the parables. We’re looking specifically at parables of Jesus as we find them in the Gospel of Luke. Of course, the Gospel of Luke is not the only gospel where Jesus’ parables, these little stories He would tell in His communications and teachings are found. We’re going to be looking over the next couple of months focusing specifically on those that we see in Luke.
I don’t know if you’ve got these little bookmarks, if you get them or if you keep them, if you’ve got them around. If you don’t, you might could still find one, I don’t know, in our hallways or our lobbies, but if you do and you happen to see them, you might notice that the series title, there’s a series title, for these sermons, and the series title is “The Parables of the King and His Kingdom.” So that’s kind of the theme, the overarching thing we’re looking at over these next weeks together.
It’s fitting because actually if we were reading through Luke’s Gospel together, beginning at the beginning, we would come not far into it, the end of chapter 4, and we would find Jesus saying something like this. There were some folks in a town who saw some pretty incredible things that Jesus did, and understandably wanted Him to stick around. Yet, He says I can’t do it. I’ve got to go on. He says I must, end of chapter 4, I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to these other towns as well for I was sent for this purpose.
So there’s a kingdom that Jesus came to preach about. There’s actually a kingdom that Jesus came to bring. Jesus is actually the king of that kingdom. As we look at Jesus as king and we look at this kingdom He came to bring and to preach about, there are surprises for us as we do so. So part of what we hope to see over these weeks together is Jesus revealing to us just the kind of king that He is and the kind of kingdom that He came to bring, the kind of kingdom He is ruling over and what life is like within that kingdom. It’s much of what Jesus is wanting to do as He shared these little stories, these little parables with those around Him.
So we’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us in the weeks ahead. I hope that you will be here to join us for them, just to consider together Jesus and His kingdom as we work through these parables.
Tonight we’re looking at one of these parables, specifically the parable of the two debtors in Luke chapter 7. As we do that we’ll see the parable itself is not terribly complicated. It’s a rather simple parable. It’s also not long. It’s short and relatively simple. But it is a parable that comes to us kind of packaged, if you will, in a context, in a setting. Actually, it’s a dinner party.
It’s important to give attention to that as well. Both as this dinner party that takes place sort of sets the occasion, the reason for this story, this parable, and in showing us Jesus’ application of it.
So we’re going to look at this whole passage tonight, Luke 7:36-50, as we walk through what turns out to be quite a surprising evening. As we go we’ll see first of all a surprising dinner. We’ll see a surprising dinner, we’ll see a simple story, and then we’ll see some searching questions.
So we’ll see first of all as this curtain kind of opens on the story, a surprising dinner that leads to a simple story that prompts some searching questions from Jesus. We’re just going to read through, kind of as we walk through those three pieces of the story tonight and comment as we go. But look with me, if you haven’t turned there already, Luke chapter 7, verse 36, as we enter into this surprising dinner scene which is actually surprising in a couple of ways we’re going to see in just a moment. We want to see here a surprising dinner, verse 36.
“One of the Pharisees asked Him,” that’s Jesus, “to come eat with him, and He went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.”
Now I want to stop there just for a moment. I know we haven’t gotten very far yet and we’re getting concerned, like, “Are we going to stop this much?” We will not stop at every single verse. We will get through the passage.
But let’s stop there for just a moment. There’s a more obvious surprise coming, we want to get there and see that, but first we need to see another surprise, maybe one that’s a little less obvious, and that’s this. What is Jesus actually doing at this Pharisee’s house for dinner to begin with? We’re jumping right into this story tonight, but it might be more surprising to us if we had started back at the beginning of Luke and we were reading our way through and we were coming to this story that way, because along the way we would have been hitting these speed bumps of these conversations and confrontations even between Jesus and the Pharisees, kind of recognizing this growing tension between the two.
You might remember how we just said a moment ago that Jesus said back at the end of chapter 4, “I must go and preach the good news of this kingdom of God.” Then we turned the page to chapter 5, He begins to call His first disciples, His first followers, together. In fact, do turn back there for just a second. Turn back just a couple pages, back to chapter 5, because I want to walk just briefly together through these passages just to get a sense of how it leads up to our passage tonight. This growing sense of contention between Jesus and the Pharisees as His public ministry continued and grew.
Look there, if you’ve turned back to chapter 5 then at verses 27 through 30.
“After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow Me.” And leaving everything, he did. He rose and followed Him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house.” So there’s lots of dinner parties going on. “And there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.””
Look just a couple of verses further on in chapter 6, verses 1 and 2: “On a Sabbath, while He was going through the grainfields, His disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?””
Or just a couple of more verses, verses 6 and 7: “On another Sabbath, He entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched Him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse Him.”
Flip on just a little further to chapter 7, verses 29 through 30. You’ll see there it says: “(When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by Him.)”
So you get the sense there. You see, right? There’s this growing sense of tension between Jesus and the Pharisees, questions that the Pharisees are asking, concerns that Jesus seems to be provoking. Yet given all that, there He is at this Pharisee’s house for dinner. It’s good for us to notice that, that Jesus went to the Pharisees, too.
Just above our passage in verse 34, Jesus is repeating one of the number of critiques about His ministry, that He dines with tax collectors and sinners, that He rubs shoulders with them, He shares table fellowship with them, gets a little too close. He could fairly be called a friend of theirs. That was shocking to most of the Pharisaical sensibilities. A holy man of God, a man of God, obviously well-versed in God’s Word, a recognized teacher of God’s law, sharing a meal, getting close, having contact like that with reputable sinners such as those.
Of course, many of us maybe tonight we’ve gotten kind of used to that idea. We know what Jesus was doing, that He was on a mission. He came to seek and to save the lost. That’s why He was eating with them, why He was willing to join them for dinner, to get up close, to share table with them.
Here we see Jesus doing the same thing with a Pharisee named Simon. Maybe we should stop and ask ourselves is that surprising to us, Jesus there at Simon’s table.
Listen to what Dale Ralph Davis has to say about that: “If Jesus has come to seek and save the lost, and if the Pharisees by and large are lost, then why shouldn’t Jesus spend time at Simon’s dinner table? If Jesus didn’t ever associate with moral living religiously arrogant Pharisees, why a good number of us would not be in the kingdom of God.”
Certainly, that’s true and it’s an important reminder right off the top as we’ll see as we get to this parable when we come to it as Jesus explains it. There’s two debtors, not only in the parable but there in the room. Two debtors, and actually more when we include the other guests, we come to discover are there by the end of the story.
There are two debtors. One maybe externally a little more obvious than the other, but it doesn’t change the fact. It’s a great reminder to us right here that Jesus, the friend of sinners, those who knew their brokenness and their sinfulness, was also seeking the lost among the self-righteous, those who seemed, to themselves and perhaps to others as well, to be less needy of such a salvation. Yet there He was, seeking both, and He still is.
So there’s a sense here, maybe this should be something of a surprise that this dinner’s happening in the first place, that Jesus is there. Of course, Simon’s probably not surprised that Jesus is at his house, but he sure was surprised by what happened next, because this woman walks in. Look how Luke records it there in verse 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, 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.”
Luke doesn’t give us her name here, and while this description as a woman of the city or a sinner is perhaps suggestive of a particular pattern of sin, he doesn’t get fully explicit with us, articulate all the details of this woman’s sin. But what is clear that this woman had a reputation. Her sins were public knowledge, maybe even public scandal of a sort. It’s the kind of thing that would usually keep somebody like this from entering into an environment like that, a gathering of religious elites of sorts. But it seems like there’s just something about Jesus.
Luke says when she learned that He, that Jesus, was reclining at table in Simon’s house, she came. You notice the repetition there by Jesus, reclining at table. Commentators point out that that helps us to understand a little bit about what kind of dinner party this actually was and why this woman was actually able to enter in the first place in the way that she did. This was more of a formal kind of dinner party and these kinds of dinners in those days were left a bit more open, the doors were left open perhaps, so that even if you didn’t receive a direct invitation to attend the dinner, you could still make your way in, find your way to the edge of the room and just listen in, look on, observe the conversation and discussion that was taking place.
Of course, this woman’s going well beyond that. She enters the house with an expensive perfume. She goes directly to Jesus and because He would have been reclining on one side, kind of up close to the table with His feet stretched out behind Him, she was able to, as Luke tells us, approach Jesus and standing there behind Him, kneeling down at His feet, it says that she began to weep. She began to weep. Clearly not just, you know, one of those social situations where you don’t want to weep so you just sniffling back a couple of tears or kind of wiping them away, not that kind. This was a flood of tears. She is making no effort to restrain it. The tears are flowing fast and free, enough so that she could fully wet His feet with them.
Then she starts to take down her hair, which would have been a very humbling, self-humbling gesture in that context because that’s the only thing, she was willing to do it because that’s the only thing she had available to her with which she could actually wipe His feet and then she’s kissing His feet. Then she’s spending this expensive, precious perfume all over them, to anoint them. It’s quite a scene.
We could easily think about the kind of courage it would take simply to enter a room like that for this woman.
Maybe you’re here tonight and you can identify with that kind of feeling, or maybe you have been sometime in the past. If you are here tonight like that, I would just hope that you will be encouraged by the kind of response that this woman receives from Jesus, as we’ll see it. I hope you receive that kind of response from the folks here. I just want to say for sure we are very glad that you’re here.
But here we are. It’s quite a scene. It took courage for sure just to enter the room. Again, this woman, she’s gone way beyond that. Because of what Jesus goes on to explain, it’s not too much speculation to say that more than simple courage was involved here. It’s not too much to say this woman was overcome. She’s overcome with Jesus. Overcome with love and gratitude for Jesus, such that she’s become unconcerned with those who are looking on in the scene. It doesn’t matter anymore who else is in the room, what they might think about her.
You know, it’s worth noting here as well that this woman doesn’t come into the room on an agenda with some kind of protest to make. This is not a self-asserted defiance of social norms. That’s not what’s happening. This is not a self-asserted defiance of social norms. This is a Jesus empowered diminishment of social pressures. Social pressures just kind of fading away in the receiving presence of Jesus.
Isn’t that a good word for us tonight? For us who might deal with those kinds of same pressures in our lives? Kids, listen to this. Adults. Do you want to be free from being controlled by what others might think? The road to that kind of freedom from the opinions of others comes not through clenching our fists, digging inside ourselves, finding confidence in ourselves and self-assertion. No, let yourself be overwhelmed by Jesus. That is the path to true freedom, from the opinions of others, the fear of man.
That’s what happened for this woman, and it led to quite a scene. A moving scene. What stands out as we look at it is not only what she was doing but the fact that Jesus was receiving it, that He was actually receiving her. That’s apparently what stood out to Simon. Notice how he responds. Look at verse 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.””
Now Simon is thinking here that if Jesus really is some kind of prophet, certainly He would know who this is, what this woman is, what she’s done, what she’s like. If He truly was also a holy man, then He would not let her get close to Him like that. So, no, He must not be a prophet. At which point Jesus actually turns to him and says, ironically, “Simon, I know what you’re saying to yourself. I have something to say to you.” And He proceeds to share the parable at the center of our story, this simple story about two debtors and a money lender.
That’s where we turn next, this simple story. Look at verse 40:
“And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.””
So Jesus is now telling a little story here.
““A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both.””
It’s a short parable. And it’s fairly simple. So we don’t want to overthink this, we don’t want to overcomplicate it, we don’t want to try to draw out more than Jesus means to say here, but we should notice a couple of things. First of all, again the story is about two debtors and a money lender, so we’ve got two debtors here. Both people are in debt and while it may seem obvious, debt here is a reference that represents sin. It represents sin.
But the obvious situation in the parable is that the amount of debt actually differs. One debtor owes 500 denarii, the other owes 50. Now a denarius, I think Kevin may have mentioned this this morning, was kind of, it was basically the amount of wage that a common day laborer might earn for just a regular day’s work. So what we have here is something along the lines of maybe a couple, something shy of just a couple of years’ worth of wages versus a couple of months. But here’s the really crazy thing is you don’t actually have to be an expert in ancient currencies to figure out that one of these people owed a whole lot more money than the other one. 500 versus 50, 10 times as much.
Now clearly Jesus means to connect Simon with the one who owed less and this woman with the one whose debt’s greater. But Jesus isn’t intending to give us a theological lesson here, a deep dive on the comparative nature of sin. No, the real point here is not to compare their actual debt but rather the perception of it. The focus really is on how the more you know that you are forgiven, the more grateful you will be.
It’s not to say that, it’s not to say that we will or must feel things with the same kind of intensity that this woman clearly felt or that we will express our love necessarily in the exact same kind of ways. We all have different emotional registers and context, but really this is the point of the parable – The greater your debt and the greater your awareness of your forgiveness, the greater will be your love for the one who has provided it.
Or to put it another way, if we have a low estimation of our sin, and therefore our need, if we have a low estimation of our sin, and therefore our need, we will have a low appreciation for our savior.
Craig Blomberg has written a book about interpreting parables where he interprets parables and he’s saying about this parable, he comments: “As with the 99 sheep and the nine coins that were not lost, Jesus simply takes the Pharisees’ estimation of themselves at face value for the sake of the argument. Jesus is looking to highlight differences in the awareness of our need for forgiveness and therefore our responses to it.”
And to address Simon’s initial question how can this guy receive this woman like that?
So the two debtors have significantly different amounts of debt. That’s where they differ. But here’s where they are the same – neither one can actually pay it. Did you notice that here? Both need their debts to be dealt with in some other kind of way. Neither one can pay their debts. They need somebody else to pay for them, or they need their debts to be forgiven. The good news of this story is that they are. Both debts are canceled. That’s where Daryl Box says this is the twist in the story. It’s the twist. It’s the turn.
Though honestly again maybe for some of us, we’ve read this story before or we’ve read stories like it, and it doesn’t come off quite with the surprise or the shock that it might land. The words like forgiveness and grace are familiar. Perhaps we can get a little bit of the shock value back if like Dale Ralph Davis suggests, ask the question if you’ve got a mortgage, would it surprise you tonight if on the way home from this service or maybe in the morning when you wake up, you get a call from your mortgage lender who says to you, “Hey, friend, we’ve been reviewing our books and going through our loans. We’ve got quite a bit, but good news for you. We came to yours and noticed while you’ve got quite a big debt and it doesn’t look like you’re able to pay, we just wanted to call and let you know that we are actually letting you off the hook. We’ve canceled your debt. It’s done. Over. You don’t owe us anything anymore.” Would that be a surprise? For any of you with a mortgage, I think you would agree, yes, that would be some surprise. A surprise that we would certainly welcome.
But lenders and collectors just usually don’t call with that kind of message. Maybe some of you have actually worked in that industry. Even if you’re a Christian, I doubt you’ve made many phone calls like that one.
But here the lender graciously says, “Your debts are forgiven. They’re canceled. All of it. You don’t owe anything anymore.”
That’s the story. That’s the end of the story.
Now the one thing we don’t actually see in this parable, the one thing Jesus doesn’t show to us, is the reaction, the response to this canceling of debt. In this story we don’t see how the two debtors react to the news. Why? Why doesn’t Jesus give us that reaction? Why does He leave that off?
Well, I think in part because the story isn’t intended to show us the response to that kind of forgiveness. Rather, it’s intended to explain it. It’s not intended to show us the response but to explain it because the response is already being shown. The response is already being illustrated right there in that room.
That’s the parable. Short and simple. But Jesus is using it to really set up some very searching questions for Simon.
Look again at verse 42. When they could not pay, he canceled the debt of both, and then the question, this one for Simon: ““Now which one of them will love him more?””
Which one will love him more? You know, that question isn’t searching so much because the answer is hard to figure out. It’s not. It’s searching in part because the answer is so unbelievably obvious, and clearly that lands on Simon. He doesn’t like the question or perhaps doesn’t seem to. Despite the obviousness of the answer, he gives this kind of begrudging response. He says, “Well, I suppose” and he gets the answer right. Jesus says as much. But “I suppose, you know, the one who was forgiven more.”
Now to be fair, maybe Simon hesitates because he’s concerned that it could be a trick question. Maybe you’ve gotten into that kind of situation yourself. Maybe you’ve been in that situation in a Sunday school class. I feel like I’ve asked questions like this in a Sunday school class. I thought it was a softball, put it on the tee, all you got to do is swing and make contact, but maybe it’s too easy and people are sitting there staring at me with blank stares. Maybe some of you have been staring at me with blank stares. “What? Does he really mean for us to answer that question? It’s way too obvious. It’s got to be a trick. I’m not going to get caught. I’m not answering that question.”
That wasn’t the case here. But maybe that was Simon’s sense of things.
Or maybe he wasn’t hesitating over what the answer was but over its implication. Wonder if you’ve ever been in that kind of situation. Maybe, kids, with your parents. Do you know how the mud got on the carpet? Do you know who did this? And a shoe print is a certain size. Or maybe it’s us with a police officer – Sir, do you know how fast you were going? Or could be at the dentist – Have you been flossing?
Those kinds of situations, it’s not the difficulty of the question that makes it hard to answer, it’s the implication of the answer that makes it hard to say.
So maybe Simon doesn’t like the implication of what is a very obvious answer. We can’t know for sure, but it sure seems to be a begrudging answer on his part. It’s certainly a leading question on Jesus’ part because it’s the explanation to what’s happening in that room and the response to Simon’s objection. It’s showing the reason for the woman’s actions and for Jesus’ reception. It so offended Simon and it’s searching out the heart behind his own actions and his reception of Jesus.
That woman loves Jesus greatly because she’s so struck by the reality, the gravity, the true extent of her forgiveness, which points us to the second searching question that Jesus puts to Simon. Look at the remaining verses, 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. You gave Me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But He who is forgiven little, loves little.” And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And then Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; so go in peace.””
Do you see this woman? In one sense it’s another very obvious question. I mean, how could you not see this woman? She’s right there in the middle of the room and she’s making quite a scene. No one could ignore the obvious social blunders that are taking place with the perfuse expressions of emotions and affections going on right there in front of them. But that’s not what Jesus is asking, not can you see her, He’s asking how do see her, or what do you see in her?
Simon, Simon primarily sees this woman according to her past. Notice that Jesus does not overlook that here. Her sins, He says, which are many are forgiven.
By the way, don’t miss that little fact right there, that little tidbit, where Jesus sort of just correcting Simon a bit on the fact that his earlier impression that Jesus was unaware of who it was that was touching Him. Jesus knew.
But while Simon is preoccupied with the implications of this woman’s past failures, Jesus wants to focus on her present response to Him and on Simon’s as well. In fact, Simon is so concerned with the way that Jesus receives this woman, Jesus wants to highlight the contrast between the way this woman and Simon received Him. Three contrasts He points out. You can see them there, verse 44, 45, and 46.
Verse 44. Simon, you didn’t provide any water to rinse My dusty feet but she’s provided the rinsing with her own tears and used her hair for the towel. You had time to prepare and didn’t. She’s improvising from the overflow of her love for Me.
Verse 45. You gave Me no standard kiss of greeting on the cheek, but since I came in she has not stopped adorning My feet with kisses of gratitude.
Verse 46. You didn’t anoint My head as your guest, even with just your standard, ordinary, garden variety, pick it up at the corner shop olive oil. That’s what that word means. Yet she has emptied out this expensive, precious perfumed ointment for My anointment on My feet.
The contrast couldn’t be more clear and therefore Jesus says, “I tell you her sins, which are many, are forgiven because she loves much. But he who has forgiven little,” or to get better what Jesus is saying, “He who sees little need for forgiveness loves little.”
Now before we close, it’s important to be clear here that it’s not this woman’s acts of love, not her actions or deeds of love, her affections or emotions that achieved or led to her forgiveness, but her receiving forgiveness is made evident in that response. That’s what the parable explains. These actions of love follow the free gift of forgiveness. They don’t force it. That’s the clear, consistent message of all the Bible – forgiveness is never earned, it cannot be earned, it’s always freely given and only received through faith in Jesus.
It’s actually possible, though we certainly can’t know for sure, that this woman had interacted with Jesus at some point prior to this dinner, or maybe she just heard His message before and come to trust in Him, to believe in Him, to receive His offer of forgiveness for herself. What we know for certain is that she certainly did know of Him. She knew what He was like. She knew what He was saying. That’s why she was there. When she learned that He was there, she came.
Or again maybe, we don’t know, maybe that moment of faith and forgiveness actually came right there in that very room.
Either way, the demonstrations of love are not the means by which she receives forgiveness but simply the external evidence that she has. In essence, Jesus is saying you can tell that she’s been forgiven because she loves Me so much. But in case, but in case you don’t have the eyes to see that, I’m telling you right now that’s the case.
See, this woman doesn’t have, she does not have a speaking part in this story. We don’t even actually know her name. She’s got no recorded lines. Maybe that’s because she wasn’t even able to say something in the state that she was, but her actions are certainly speaking. Then Jesus is speaking. Jesus is speaking. Jesus is interpreting. And Jesus is proclaim, which is actually how this little story ends, with a pronouncement. It’s an unbelievable pronouncement, that this woman whose sins are many and flagrant, and public, who wasn’t welcomed in this room by anybody but Jesus, leaves that room with the only assurance that she really needs. It’s an assurance that cuts through all the glares in the room. It’s an assurance that calms a trembling conscience, It’s an assurance that sets her free.
We need to see that. Do you see how Jesus gives a new public word about this woman? A new public declaration for her. People can think what they want. People can say what they want, but now Jesus has spoken – you’re forgiven, dear sister. Your faith has saved you, so go in peace.
We can just imagine how this woman might have felt leaving that room.
You know, as Kevin said this morning, this really is how we should deal with our sins. Jesus wants us to deal with our sins. Jesus doesn’t want to overlook our sins. He doesn’t overlook our sins. He wants us to feel conviction for our sins when we need to, but He doesn’t want us living continually in some kind of morose, morbid, self-defeated, wallowing in our sins. He wants us rather when we and as we become aware of our sins to get up, to come to Him, and to give them to Him and to receive His forgiveness to leave confident in forgiveness and free.
But this pronouncement from Jesus, it actually leads to one more question as we move to a close. Not from Jesus, but the other guests. It’s their questions actually that make us suddenly aware they’ve been in the room the whole time. It’s a bit of a surprise, but who is this, they say, who is this that forgives sins?
Now maybe it’s a scoffing question. Maybe it’s in that tone. Maybe it’s genuine confusion and bewilderment. Maybe the arms are crossed. Or maybe the eyelids are genuinely raised in surprise. Either way, the reason would have been the same – they know, they know that there is only One who has the prerogative, not simply to forgive sins committed against Himself, but to forgive all sins. Only One who has the prerogative not simply to pronounce forgiveness in God’s name, but to declare forgiveness Himself. Only One, only God. It is the divine prerogative and it provokes this kind of question – Just who is this with feet that could get dusty? Just who is this with a stomach that could get hungry? Just who is this with an elbow to lean on? Just who is this who has entered the room with us?
Another gospel writer says it this way – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and it dwelt among us, not just so that He could make that dinner party that night, not just so that He could pronounce forgiveness with human lungs through human lips, but to offer that very flesh, to offer that very life, that very body, that very blood on the cross to provide for that very forgiveness. That’s why Jesus could say to that woman that night, “Your sins are forgiven” because later on He is going to offer Himself to secure that forgiveness for her, and for all who come to Him for it.
Who is this who forgives sins? The question didn’t come from Jesus, but it’s a searching question for us, too. One that Luke means to land with us then leave us with. He wants us to leave seeing this Jesus for who He is, to reckon with Jesus. He wants us to be moved that we would walk away the way this woman did.
No, we may not actually know what Simon had intended for this evening. We don’t have an agenda for the night that was preserved for us. We know this for sure – he didn’t plan for it to go the way that it did. But here’s the thing. There was actually a different master of ceremonies in charge of the evening that night with a different purpose. Simon’s plans weren’t the prevailing ones because Jesus’ were and Jesus had a kingdom to proclaim, and Jesus had citizens of that kingdom to gather, citizens of that kingdom to comfort, to encourage, to assure. The truth is tonight that He still does.
So there’s no better way for us, actually, for us to leave this dinner party, or to leave this passage tonight, than to do so just as this woman did – forgiven and overcome with love and gratitude for Jesus. Maybe there’s someone here for whom that would be the very first time tonight. Maybe many of us just remembering, but that every single person here tonight would leave the way this woman did, grateful, loving, that my sins, which are many, are forgiven in Christ.
Let’s pray. Father, thank You so much for Your Word, Your Word of forgiveness, Your Word of encouragement, Your Word of comfort, Your Word of correction. Lord, we want to leave as this woman as we want to leave knowing, rejoicing, celebrating that our sins which are many are forgiven. Thank You, Jesus, for providing all that is needed. We give You praise and glory as we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.