How Much Forgiveness Did I Need?

To begin, I want to start with an encounter that Jesus had with a Pharisee and a sinful woman in Luke 7.

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisees house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisees house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner. (Luke 7:36-39 NKJV)

There are some things in this story that stand out to me.
1. Despite of the reputation of the Pharisees of being holy men, this “sinner” was not hesitant to go right into this one’s home. There is no indication that the servants had tried to resist her entry. Why is that? Could it be that they were used to seeing her there?
2. Extravagant forgiveness provokes extravagant love in response. No one had to tell this woman that she was a sinner. The knowledge she had of her sinfulness and her desperate spiritual bankruptcy is what motivated her to seek out Jesus in the first place! Only a deep sense of gratitude for the magnitude of what has been blotted out of our account would cause such a spontaneous outpouring of worshipful adoration! Jesus had spoken about this in Matthew 5 when he said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NKJV) Only when we comprehend our spiritual poverty will we run to Christ for rescue from our helpless estate.
3. Yes, Jesus knew EXACTLY what kind of woman this was, for she was just the type of person He came to seek and save.
“For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13 NKJV)

But the narrative does not end here.
And Jesus answered and said to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. So he said, Teacher, say it. There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more? Simon answered and said, I suppose the one whom he forgave more. Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little. (Luke 7:40-47 NKJV)

When Jesus had arrived at Simon’s home as an invited guest, he had been treated with rude indifference. The woman, on the other hand, responded with such humility and love, that she had the attention of everyone present.

And she didn’t care who saw her or what others opinions were of her. Love makes us that way. And Jesus tells Simon that this s because she had been forgiven much and therefore loved much. Notice that Jesus did NOT say it was because “she had a lot worse sins than you did, Simon.”

You see Jesus didn’t link the love to the amount of sins, but to the amount of forgiveness granted. Jesus did’nt say it was because she sinned much, but because she had been forgiven much. That is a critical distinction, because Simon the Pharisee was in just as much need of forgiveness as the sinful woman!

Sin carries with it a death penalty. And since all have sinned, everyone is under that sentence of death (Romans 3:23). That is why John 3:17 says Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. It is because the world was already condemned!

And a death penalty is a death penalty, whether you were sentenced for a murder or 100 murders. When the condemned is pardoned, he is taken out from under that penalty and should be thoroughly grateful. The real problem in the story is not the woman’s lavish, unsolicited, and unauthorized response. The problem was Simon’s lack of any response other than indifference.

So with this story in mind, let us examine ourselves and ask who we are most like in this story; Simon, or the woman.

I conclude with words of ex-slave ship captain John Newton.
“My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things; That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.”

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