When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Two men in debt. One owes 500 denarii, a debt that will take almost two years to pay it back. The other man owed 50 denarii, a debt that will take a couple of months to pay. Neither could pay. The bank cancelled both of their debts. Which one will love the bank more? Obviously the one who had the bigger debt canceled!
The Pharisee! And the Sinful woman! Jesus cancelled their debt to God! Who will love Jesus more? But then, what about us? Jesus cancelled our debt to God by forgiving our sins too. How will we react? Like the Pharisee? Or like the sinful woman? It all depends on how you answer this question, HOW MUCH DID YOU OWE TO GOD?
Jesus offers forgiveness of sins to two people. The first one is a Pharisee who invited Jesus to dine at his house! He was a good, God-fearing, upright, law-abiding citizen. He was very religious. He knew all the laws of Moses, and lived according to them. He was a hard-working honest man who followed the laws of God. Any mother would love for her daughter to marry such a man. A Pharisee was considered perfect in every way!
And then you have this woman. She is simply called a woman “who lived a sinful life.” It could be that she was a married man’s mistress! Or maybe a prostitute. Or probably more likely, she was a woman whose husband divorced her because he claimed she was having an affair! Or maybe she was a young girl who “got herself pregnant,” and the guy wouldn’t marry her. And because of her past she would forever be branded as an adulterer, as the type of girl good girls just don’t associate with. Either way, this woman was branded as “a Sinner,” exempt from the synagogue, unable to go to the Temple, out of favor with God, and with God’s people.
And Jesus came to offer both of these people forgiveness of sins? Which of the debtors are they? The one who was forgiven 50 denarii? Or the one who was forgiven 500 denarii? Well, let’s take a look at how they demonstrated their love and appreciation for Jesus!
Well, the Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him. That’s something special. Not everyone gets an invitation to this man’s table! This man must have considered Jesus worthy dining with him!
But, when he sees the commotion caused by this wretched sinful woman, and the way she is touching Jesus, his true nature is demonstrated. Oh, not by anything he said. But by his thoughts. “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.’” This man didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah like some did! He didn’t know if this man should even be considered a prophet. And now he has his proof. Notice his words, “If this man” wouldn’t even call Jesus by name, “were a prophet,” which he isn’t! He’d know what all of us know here. This woman is a sinner, she’s damaged goods, she’s not good enough to be a child of God. But since this man doesn’t know what we all know; he can’t be much of a prophet can he?
Now look at this woman. She knew she wasn’t welcomed in the Pharisees house! She knew she would get nasty looks, nasty comments, maybe even thrown out. But she didn’t care. She heard Jesus was there and so she came. When she saw Jesus, she began to weep, and cry, enough weeping and crying so that her tears got Jesus’ feet wet. Everyone could see her! Everyone could hear her! But she didn’t care. She was so troubled by her sin! And she was so thrilled at the words Jesus had preached that there is forgiveness from God for even the worst sinner. And then because she didn’t have a towel, she used her hair to dry up Jesus’ feet. That would mean she would need to remove her head covering, and let her hair fall loose. And it was a shame for a woman to uncover her head, and an even greater shame for a woman to be seen in public with her hair down. People would consider her a shameful hussy! But she didn’t care. She needed to do this labor of love for Jesus.
And then she did what she came here to do! She poured her most expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Not on his head where maybe for a couple of days, the aroma would still be smelled. But on His feet. And when he left this place, and his feet were once again subject to the dry and dusty dirt of the highway, the aroma would be gone. But she didn’t care. She wanted to give her best to her Lord, for the precious message of forgiveness He had shared with her.
This woman is pouring out her heart and soul to Jesus. Weeping and crying over her sins, and rejoicing in the forgiveness only Jesus can give. And the only thing this Pharisee can say is “If Jesus were a prophet, how could he let a sinner like this woman even touch him?” How pathetic! No love for a repentant sinner!
But, then this man has no love for Jesus either. Even though he invited Jesus to dine with him.
When Jesus entered Simon’s home, he didn’t give Jesus any water to wash his feet. This was a common courtesy offered by any home owner to any visitor. Simon didn’t have to wash Jesus’ feet. He didn’t even have to have one of his servants wash his feet. He simply had to give water to Jesus so he could wash his own feet. But even this common courtesy, this Pharisee would not give to Jesus.
This woman didn’t give water to Jesus to wash his feet. She used her own tears. She didn’t have a servant wash Jesus’ feet. She did it herself!
When Jesus entered Simon’s home, he didn’t give Jesus a customary greeting kiss. It was a friendly gesture telling the person that he is welcomed into my home, a lot like shaking hands today. But Simon wouldn’t even give this friendly greeting to Jesus.
This woman didn’t just give Jesus a friendly kiss on the cheek, she gave Jesus loving appreciation for His grace and mercy by kissing Jesus’ feet.
Sometimes when a special guest, a dignitary, or a famous person, or a rich and powerful person you want to impress entered your home, you might anoint his head with oil. Usually, it was olive oil with some fragrant powder inside it, but it was usually pretty inexpensive. When Jesus entered Simon’s home, he gave no special treatment, he didn’t consider Jesus anybody special, he didn’t consider Jesus worthy of respect and honor as an honored guest.
This woman anointed Jesus not on his head, but on his feet. Not with some cheap olive oil, but with her most precious and most expensive perfume.
So, “Who loves Jesus more? Who had the bigger debt cancelled? And it became very obvious. This woman had huge sins forgiven, and you could tell, because the way she showed love and appreciation for what Jesus had done for her. Simon gave no love, no appreciation to Jesus. The point is, when Jesus came to Simon and said, “I’m here to forgive your sins,” Simon replied, “Thanks! But no Thanks! I don’t need forgiveness!”
What about us? Perhaps some of us can relate to this sinful woman. We’ve done stupid things in our younger days, things we’re still embarrassed about, things that still cause us pain, and we’ve had to live our entire life knowing that we’ve messed up not just for ourselves, but in the process have hurt other people and made their life miserable! Some of us, like this Pharisee have pretty much walked the straight and narrow. Oh, we’ve messed up, but nothing too bad. We’ve tried to do what is right! We’ve tried to steer clear of those people who might take us down a wrong path. And perhaps most of us are a little of both.
So, now Jesus comes to us, and says, “I have come to forgive your sins!” How will you respond? How will you receive Him? Will you say like Simon the Pharisee, “Thanks but no thanks, Jesus! I’m not that bad! I don’t need to be forgiven!” Or will you be like that sinful woman who said, “Yippee! Yippee! Yippee! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”? And the answer is going to be based on another question, HOW MUCH DID YOU OWE? TO GOD? The Pharisee thought his debt to God wasn’t that much, maybe the fifty, denarii which he should be able to take care of. But what about you? How many sins have you committed?
Sin that offends God is not just having an illicit affair, but lusting in our heart over someone who isn’t our spouse! Not just the innocent lives we’ve snuffed out, but the innocent lives we’ve destroyed by our thoughtless words and actions! Not just the items we’ve stolen from other people, but the lack of appreciation for the way God is treating us, and the paths He’s taking us down. When you look at God’s law, and our faithfulness to it, you quickly realize that we owed, not just 50 denarii which we could pay back in two months, or even 500 denarii which might take us a couple of years to pay back. We actually owed God 10,000 talents, a debt that would take almost 2,000 lifetimes to pay back. And now, suddenly and painfully, we are made aware of just HOW MUCH I OWED TO GOD! But I also understand what a huge debt my Savior paid just for me!
So, how will we react? How will we respond to Jesus’ forgiving love? The sinful woman gave her best stuff to the Lord! She gave her worship, and praise, and love and appreciation to Jesus. Perhaps a good summary of how we can respond to Jesus’ love is the last hymn we’re going to sing, “Take my life and let it be!” Lord all that I have, all that I am, all that I hope to be, I give to You! Use me and all my stuff, anyway You want, to do anything you want, and let me willingly serve you!
HOW MUCH DID YOU OWE TO GOD? It really doesn’t matter. Because on that cross, Jesus paid the entire debt in full! And now, our debt is gone!
HYMN: #469 Take My Life and Let It Be
1 Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
2 Take my hands and let them move At the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be Swift and beautiful for thee.
3 Take my voice and let me sing Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages from thee.
4 Take my silver and my gold; Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use Ev’ry pow’r as thou shalt choose.
5 Take my will and make it thine; It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart-it is thine own; It shall be thy royal throne.
6 Take my love, my Lord, I pour At thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be Ever, only, all for thee.