20230115 Appreciate Him
Luke 7:36-50 NET
36 Now one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table.
37 Then when a woman of that town, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil.
38 As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfumed oil.
39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”
40 So Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He replied, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty.
42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” Jesus 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 of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet.
46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil.
47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
50 He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
We have been trying to do what Jesus told us to do in his Great Commission. He told us to teach everything that he commanded. So far, we have focused on direct commands, like when he tells those who are mourning to rejoice, or when he tells us to love our neighbors and our enemies. But today we are looking at an indirect command. Jesus is talking to a Pharisee named Simon, and he tells him a story, and then he shows him what this woman did for him. So, what we have in today’s text is an implied command. Jesus implies that this Pharisee should appreciate him as this woman did. Luke includes this story in his history because we are all responsible to love and appreciate Jesus as well.
Let’s look at the characters in today’s text.
The first character to appear in today’s drama is a Pharisee named Simon. All we know about him at first is that he was a Pharisee and that he owns his own house. From those two facts, we would assume that this man has his life sorted out. He is not a broken person. He pays his bills, goes to the synagogue, and tries to be nice to others. If you met this man walking around town, you would want to say hello. You might invite this man to church. Nobody would fault you for that. He’s good people.
We also know that Simon had learned about Jesus and invited him to his home for a meal. We can add hospitality to his list of admirable attributes. But if we look a little closer at today’s story we see that Simon’s appreciation for Jesus leaves a bit to be desired. Compared to the woman in the story, Simon’s love for Jesus comes up short.
We see Jesus in this story too. Interestingly, we see two Jesuses. We see Simon’s Jesus and we see the woman’s Jesus. Simon’s Jesus is a Teacher, but there is some question about whether or not he is a prophet. Simon’s Jesus is worth an invitation to his house, but apparently, he does not rate the traditional welcome because Simon’s servant didn’t wash his feet or anoint him with olive oil. Simon also forgot to welcome Jesus with a symbolic kiss on the cheek.
This woman appears out of nowhere. Apparently, Simon’s dining room was adjacent to his courtyard, and this woman just wanders in and starts ministering to Jesus. She is the diametrical opposite of Simon. She has a reputation as a sinner. If you see her walking around town you would probably turn around and walk in the opposite direction. You don’t say hello to such a person, and you definitely would not invite her to church. Simon didn’t invite her to his house. She just showed up.
Interestingly, though, this woman’s Jesus is very different from Simon’s Jesus. Just coming into Jesus’ presence sends this woman into tears. She has forgotten her towel for wiping his feet, so she wipes them with her hair. She has a little bottle of perfumed oil and she uses that to anoint Jesus’ feet. The very least that we can say about this woman is that she values and appreciates Jesus Christ. She is a visual aid to demonstrate what it means to worship the Savior.
The final characters in the setting are the others who had been invited and are at the table. Their only line is a question. They ask “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” Like Simon, they are not convinced that Jesus is who he claims to be. The only person in the story who demonstrates faith in Jesus is the woman.
Now, let’s look at the lessons taught in today’s text.
There are two lessons. The first is the object lesson taught by the woman. Through her actions, she teaches what it means to appreciate Jesus. She does not immediately come to see Jesus face-to-face. She approaches from behind and ministers to his feet. To understand how this happens, you have to realize that when people are dining in Jesus’ day, they lie down and rest on their left elbow, and their feet are exposed. Having access to his feet, she washes, kisses, and anoints them with her perfumed oil. She does what Simon should have done. Simon welcome Jesus to his house, but this woman recognized who he really is. Simon asked Jesus to come to his house, but this woman came to Jesus.
Jesus had recently commanded all those who are weary and burdened to come to him and he will give them rest. This woman had decided to repent of her sin and come to her Savior. She decided to stop carrying the heavy load of her life of sin and get the rest that Jesus offers. From the way she treats Jesus in Simon’s house, you can see that her life has changed. Conversion does that to a person. Now, her only goal in life is to love her Lord. That is why she does what she does.
Now, Simon the Pharisee is apparently too dense to figure out the first lesson, so the Teacher gives him another one. The second lesson is a parable. Jesus tells a story about a creditor and two debtors. Both debtors owe what they cannot pay, so the creditor decides to forgive both debts. Jesus asks Simon which debtor would love the generous man more. Even Simon can’t get that wrong. He acknowledges that the one who is forgiven more will love the forgiver more. We don’t know from Luke if Simon was able to make the connections and turn his life around and love Jesus as this woman did.
Finally, let’s look at the doctrines taught by today’s text.
I think this passage of scripture reinforces what the Bible teaches on many levels. For example, the Bible teaches us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In the parable Jesus taught Simon, the important thing he mentioned about the two debtors is that they both owed what neither could pay. Isaiah says “All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path” (53:6). Both of the debtors needed their debt to be canceled. Jesus loved this woman and he also loved Simon, and he loved the others around the table. He offered forgiveness to them all. But the woman responded to God’s grace and apparently Simon and the others did not. Simon doubted that Jesus was a prophet. The others just asked who he really was. Only this woman had the faith to accept his salvation. Which person in the story am I? Am I devoted to loving Jesus because of his forgiveness, or am I still on the fence?
We should also be careful not to misinterpret today’s story as if it teaches that you have to be a great sinner in order to be a great Christian. Note how Jesus puts it in verse 47: “her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much.” She loved much not because she had sinned much. She loved much because she had been forgiven. You don’t have to wallow with the pigs in order to appreciate a good bath. Forgiveness cleanses us from all sin and fits us to worship as this woman did.
What does it take to know true forgiveness? Jesus told the woman “Your sins are forgiven.” Why did he tell her that? He said to her “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Her faith drew her to Jesus, and Jesus forgave her. The difference between this woman and the others in today’s story is not the lifestyle she used to live. The difference is the choice she made. You and I are challenged to make the same choice. We need to see ourselves as hopelessly in debt and entirely dependent on God’s grace. Then, when we see Christ, by faith we recognize that he is the answer to our deepest needs. That is why we can “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help” (Hebrews 4:16).
What is the result of our seeing Christ for who he really is? Like the woman in the story, we come to him in faith, showing tearful repentance for our sins, and demonstrating appreciation and worship. We come to his feet in humility. We offer our best perfumed oil for his feet. We are changed. We call that being saved. It comes with a new destiny. Before salvation, our sins keep adding to the debt that we cannot pay. Our destiny is destruction. We have no hope. But after salvation, we are free to demonstrate love again. We can demonstrate love to Christ. We can demonstrate love to our neighbors. We can demonstrate love to each other. We can even demonstrate love to our enemies. We have been forgiven much, thus we love much.
Before salvation, we are at war. We are at war with others. We are at war with ourselves. We are at war with God. But after salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, he tells us what he told that woman. He said, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” He tells us that we have a new life to live today. It is a life of wholeness and devoid of the enmity and brokenness that had characterized our past life.
It is the peace of safety and security. We can say with the psalmist “I will lie down and sleep peacefully, for you, LORD, make me safe and secure” (Psalm 4:8). Our Lord is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He tells his followers “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage” (John 14:27). Wherever we go, we can go in peace. Nobody can take away that peace because we get it from him.
Now, as a result of our time in today’s text, we should all be asking ourselves two important questions. First, who is Jesus to me? Is he a curious mystery as the people around the table saw him? Is he a Teacher but less than a prophet like Simon saw him? Or, is he the wonderful Savior, forgiver of sins, giver of peace, and granter of grace that the woman saw?
The second question is who am I? Am I a hopeless debtor, destined for destruction? Or am I a forgiven debtor, free to live and love again, and destined for eternal life? Before she left Simon’s house that day, the woman knew who she was. Before you and I leave this house today, we need to discover who we are.