Forgiven (Luke 7.36-50)
He who is forgiven little, loves little (47)
Luke has just noted that the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the purposes of God for themselves, not having been baptized by John (30), and that they rejected Jesus as a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (34). Today’s narrative illustrates both points.
In this context, it is clear that the invitation to dine is not a friendly one. It can only be a set-up. The fact that the host does not afford Jesus the common courtesies (44) confirms that Jesus has walked into a lion’s den. Those at table (49) were undoubtedly other Pharisees.
However he is not completely isolated. A woman of the city, i.e. a prostitute, is anointing and kissing his feet! What gave her the nerve to enter the house of a Pharisee? It can only have been the words of v.34: this man is a friend of sinners. She felt safe at Jesus’ feet.
The tension must have been palpable. Jesus knows exactly what is going on and goes onto the offensive. He tells the shortest of all his parables, then asks Simon a question (cf. 10.36) about something he knows too little of (love), couched in a currency with which he was too familiar (money/debt).
There can be only one answer, which Simon begrudgingly gives. Jesus damns him with faint praise (43) before rounding on him for his complete lack of love, concluding by forgiving the sinful woman all her sins. This raises the eyebrows, and no doubt the hackles of the Pharisees, who ask one another (they don’t dare ask Jesus!) who he thinks he is.
Jesus ignores their hostile response, having regard only for the woman. Her trust in his protection has been well placed and even better rewarded. She will leave saved from her sins, which were many (47), and at peace with herself and God. The Pharisees, on the other hand, have again condemned themselves by rejecting God’s purposes for them. Their sin remains, their hearts hardened further towards Jesus, and therefore God.
How do you express your love for God?
Loving God, thank you for your infinite love for me. Help me to know its height, length and depth, and to respond with the love and worship that is your due. I ask it in the name of Jesus, who paid the full price for my sins. Amen
Michael Hewat is currently serving as the Senior Minister at West Hamilton Community Church, New Zealand
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash