The Gospel of Luke - Part 27: Saving Faith (continued) - Luke 7:36-50

(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


Review:

Last week, we opened our study with the example of strong faith at the end of Luke Chapter 7 when Luke tells us about with the dinner in the Pharisees house and the sinful woman coming in and washing the feet of Jesus with her tears and drying them with her hair.

Remember that this was one of two similar events in the Gospels. This one and the time that Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, also anoints the feet of Jesus, just before his crucifixion.

We saw that this woman was a sinner, probably a prostitute who brought very valuable oil in a very valuable jar to anoint the feet of Jesus. She never spoke. She just showed reverence for Jesus and her humility. She was weeping, apparently because of her shame and feeling of unworthiness in the presence of Jesus. She was obviously deeply touched by what she had heard Jesus say or saw him do or the realization of who He really was. Maybe they were tears of joy and relief when she realized what Jesus had for her — forgiveness.

We concluded that this is how we should approach Jesus, recognizing how unworthy we are but depending on His Grace for forgiveness.

Then we started to see what we can learn from the Pharisee, but only got as far as to learn who the Pharisees were, a faction of the Jews who were one of several different factions of Jews at the time. They were the most important group. They appear in the Gospels as the opponents of Jesus. The Pharisees were the most numerous of the groups, although Josephus stated that they numbered only about six thousand. They controlled the synagogues and exercised great control over the general population.

They appear to be responsible for the transformation of Judaism from a religion of sacrifice to one of law. They were the developers of the oral tradition, the teachers of the two-fold law: written and oral. They saw the way to God as being through obedience to the law.

The Pharisees were strongly monotheistic. They accepted all the Old Testament as authoritative. They believed in angels and demons. They had a firm belief in life beyond the grave and a resurrection of the body. The Pharisees opposed Jesus because He refused to accept the teachings of the oral law.

Before we get to what we can learn from the Pharisee, I want to identify the negative characteristics of the Pharisees.

So now let’s reset the stage in Luke Chapter 7:
Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. 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 sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. “When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 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 she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” —Luke 7:36-50
So a man by the name of Simon (we know that because near the end of the section Jesus addresses him as Simon) was a Pharisee, a self-righteous religious man who had invited Jesus for dinner.

We aren’t told why Simon asked Jesus to have dinner with him. What might be some possible reasons Simon invited Jesus to dinner?

Simon was critical and judgmental of both Jesus and the woman.
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 sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” —Luke 7:39
Simon was wrong about Jesus, and did not see what really mattered about the woman. Maybe that should be a warning to all of us, not to be too quick to criticize others. In the previous chapter of Luke, Jesus said:
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. --Luke 6:37
This verse in "The Message" translation says:
[Jesus said:] “Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don't condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier.” —Luke 6:27
What are some reasons for not being quick to criticize or find fault? Simon saw himself as righteous. The description of the Pharisee in the following parable seems to fit Simon:
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’   But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’“ —Luke 18:9-13
Do you think Jesus had Simon in mind?  Simon had failed to show even basic courtesy toward Jesus.
He said to Simon, ... I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet ... “You gave Me no kiss; ... “You did not anoint My head with oil... —Luke 7:44,45,46 (excerpted)
Jesus points out the Pharisee's neglect of three customs: As Jesus pointed out, Simon, the Pharisee, did none of these. What a contrast with the actions and attitudes of the sinful woman!

 

A.   What can learn from Simon the Pharisee?

1.   Be courteous to everyone.

Richard J. Foster, a modern Quaker writer on Christian Spirituality, says in his book "Celebration of Discipline":

There is the service of common courtesy. Such deeds of compassion have fallen on hard times in our day. But we must never despise the rituals of relationship that are in every culture. It is one of the few ways left in modern society to acknowledge the value of one another. We are "to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men" (Titus 3:2).
Paul tells us:
But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. —1 Corinthians 14:40
"The Message" translation states it as:
Be courteous and considerate in everything. —1 Corinthians 14:40
2.   Sometimes the layman may see the truth better than the religious expert. Don’t judge a book by its cover

B.   Now let’s see what we learn from Jesus in this story. As always, the most important person for us to consider here is Jesus. What do we learn about Him? What can we learn from Him? What strikes you about Jesus in this story?

Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. —Luke 7:36
1.   Jesus was willing to have dinner with Simon, even though the Pharisees were hostile toward Him and looking for any excuse to accuse/condemn Him. Would you have dinner with someone who felt this way about you? Maybe it’s important for us to remember that Jesus loved Simon the Pharisee as much as He loved the woman.
And standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. —Luke 7:38
2.   Jesus was not all offended or embarrassed by her actions. Simon was very uncomfortable. And I’ll bet the disciples were uncomfortable, too! But not Jesus. He freely accepted her worship as He freely accepted her. Simon was wrong about Jesus when he assumed that Jesus did not know what or who the woman was. Jesus knew exactly who she was. But while all Simon could see was a “sinner”, Jesus saw her heart — her humility, repentance and faith.
And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” —Luke 7:40
3.   Notice Jesus' sensitivity and discernment here. Simon said nothing out loud, yet Jesus knew his thoughts.
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 sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” —Luke 7:39
We need to remember this. Nothing, not even our thoughts, are hidden from God:
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. —Hebrews 4;13
Both the Pharisee and the woman showed what they thought of Jesus by their actions.

Under the circumstances, the lesson that Jesus taught the Pharisee was actually done in a pretty compassionate and sensitive way. Jesus did not hit him over the head, but he did deliver a lesson. Jesus used this situation to communicate to Simon the Pharisee (and to all those who were listening) an important lesson concerning our relationship to the Lord.

“A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” —Luke 7:41-43
Five hundred denarii and fifty denarii were significant debts; a one denarius coin was worth a day's wages. In today's terms, a person with a $30,000 income would earn an average of $120 a day. This would mean these two debts would translate to $6,000 and $60,000! As Simon recognized, and as Jesus agreed, the one “forgiven” the greater debt would love more.

Then Jesus put this concept to the case at point.

For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little. —Luke 7:47
Jesus then uses this picture to explain the woman's actions. She did so much for Jesus out of an appreciation of how much Jesus had done for her. Jesus states an important principle here: The more we appreciate how much we have been forgiven by God, the more we will love Jesus in response.

The woman wasn't really any more of a sinner than Simon was. But she saw her own sinfulness and need for forgiveness while Simon didn't. Simon's greatest need was to see himself the way he really was — a wicked sinner subject to God's just judgment, maybe even more than the prostitute. Pauls tells all of us:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. —Ephesians 2:1-2
Many church people tend to be like Simon. They don't see how sinful they really are. They think of themselves as “good” people. As a result, they don't really appreciate how much God has forgiven them.

Charles Spurgeon put it this way, “I do not say that life is always in proportion to the amount of sin forgiven. But I do say that it is in proportion to the consciousness of sin forgiven. A man may be less of a sinner than another, but he may be more conscious of his sin. He will be the man who loves Christ more.”

John tells us:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1 john 1:9
But we need to “confess” with a repentant, believing heart like this woman did. God knows our real attitude toward Him and toward our sin. Jesus commends her faith in coming to Him for forgiveness. Notice the results for her: her sins are forgiven and she leaves in peace.

What we can learn from Jesus out of this passage?

1.   Be clear about your sinfulness. Don’t fall into the trap of the Pharisee, of seeing yourself as righteous, as better than most people. We need a clear sense of our own sinfulness. Paul described himself as the worst of sinners:

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. —1 Timothy 1:15
St. Francis of Assisi was one of the most devoted, self-sacrificing Christians of his day. Yet in describing himself he said, “There is nowhere a more wretched and miserable sinner than I.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a committed German Christian and pastor who was killed because of his outspoken opposition to Hitler, once wrote:

Anybody who lives beneath the Cross and who has discerned in the Cross of Jesus the utter wickedness of all men and of his own heart will find there is no sin that can ever be alien to him. Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother. Once we see the awfulness of sin, we know that, regardless of what others have done, we ourselves are the chief of sinners.
2.   Be fervent in your love. When Jesus talks about the woman, He talks about her love. That was what mattered to Him. It wasn’t what she did; it was why she did it.

Do you really love Jesus? How do you demonstrate that in your relationship with Him?

 

Ruth Myers, in her book "The Perfect Love" says:

Why is [loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength] so important to God? Why does He care so much whether or not we love Him? I think it's because He has always been a relational God. He was never a lonely, solitary figure somewhere out in eternity, all alone in the empty reaches of space. He has always been a triune God in intimate relationship — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in loving communion. And before time began He decided He wanted to include many others in that circle of love.
The woman came to Jesus with nothing; she left with everything. Jesus gave her: The tragedy is that Simon had the same opportunity, but left this encounter with Jesus, and continued as before, having gained nothing.

When you run into Jesus, which I hope is often, why not think about this story and make sure you leave with the goods. If you have accepted Jesus, you have the salvation. But we all continually need to be forgiven and we need to receive the peace that comes with that. That is the only way — to let it go and leave it with Jesus.

__________

Next week:

...we will dive into Luke Chapter 8 and continue to study just how important faith is in the life of a Christian.

Why not read through Luke Chapter 8 to build a platform for the next lesson?