2017-05-28 – Luke 7.36-50 – Parables of Jesus – So Much I Owe
Good morning everyone. I am so pleased that you chose to spend the morning with us here today..
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. I hope you are able take a few minutes out of your busy day and pause and pray in honor of those who died for our country.
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, because many people visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes. Amy and the girls are in Ottumwa, IA today doing just that. Other ways we observe of Memorial day is by
-Flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon
-Flying the ‘POW/MIA flag
-Participating in a “National Moment of Remembrance”: at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day
-And by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our fallen heroes, and to aid the disabled veterans of our communities.
Jesus Christ told us in John 15 “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”, then He did just that, and so has many in uniform.
That is what Memorial Day is for, to recognize them. So I encourage each of you to observe and enjoy this national day of reflection tomorrow. [pause]
Today we are continuing in our sermon series on the Parables of Jesus.
Last week we went over three parables that Jesus used to illustrate a point that God loves us so much. The parables of The Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Son, or otherwise known as the Prodigal Son. Each parable story expressed something that was lost but then was found. And each ensued a subsequent celebration, and Jesus said the same will happen when one sinner repents and returns to God. Angels in Heaven will rejoice. For God loves us that much.
Today our parable is from Luke 7.36 – entitled So Much I Owe, Page 66 of the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. But first let us pray…
This parable is traditionally called ‘The Two debtors’. It is a beautiful story of love, mercy, and thanksgiving. One New Testament scholar describes it as one of the “treasured religious possessions of the Western world.” The actual parable portion of this story is very short, only two verses sandwiched in the center of a situation surrounding Jesus’s visit and a meal at the house of Simon the Pharisee.
Although the parable is brief, it sheds a bright light upon the dynamics of God’s forgiveness. The story begins with verse 36:
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table.
This seems like a fairly straightforward statement of events. However, it’s what doesn’t happen that is one of the central aspects of the story. Those who were present would have immediately understood that a terrible breach of decorum had occurred, and that it was deliberate.
You see the custom at the time dictated that when a guest entered a home, the host would normally greet the visitor with a kiss, either on the cheek or hand. Next, water and olive oil would be brought to wash the guest’s hands and feet. One of the common uses of olive oil in those days was like a soap. In some instances the host would even anoint the head of the guest with the oil. However none of these courtesies were extended to Jesus by the host Simon. And it was a terrible breach of protocol and good manners.
Pharisees generally regarded their dining tables at home to be treated kind of like the altar in the temple; they strived to maintain the state of ritual purity required of priests in the temple within their households and among their eating companions. Simon’s invitation for Jesus to eat with him showed that he considered Jesus to be in the upper class in society and pure. Later in the story he calls Jesus “teacher”, and to host a teacher or scholar in your home was generally considered an honor.
Having been invited to Simon’s house, the least Jesus could have expected was a greeting kiss and some water for His feet, and olive oil to use in washing His hands, but none of these were offered and the other guests would have noticed this. At this point Jesus could have rightfully said, “I am not welcome here,” and left in anger. But He didn’t. Although Simon’s probably deliberate lack of hospitality would have been considered an insult, Jesus ‘took it on the chin’ and reclined at the table with unwashed hands and feet.
Even today, going to a dinner party, although enjoyable, can also bring with it a lot of stresses. I enjoy dinner parties, but there is most always a social or political expectation that makes things a little sensitive and uncomfortable, especially when there are dignitaries or “special guests” invited. I generally violate some expected norm where ever I go, so if you invite me to your party, this is my notice, you have been warned. lol
The next scene of the story now unfolds, verse 37:
And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.
The woman here, who was known within the city to be a sinner, learned that Jesus was going to be eating at Simon’s house that day, so she was present when Jesus arrived. The most widely accepted interpretation is that the woman was likely a prostitute. You might be asking yourself why was this woman allowed to attend the meal at such a stately dinner event? Generally no Pharisee would be seen with a prostitute, let alone have her as a dinner guest.
One author explains it this way: “At traditional Middle Eastern village meals, the outcasts of the community are not shut out. Instead, they sit quietly on the floor against the wall, and at the end of the meal they are fed. Their presence is a compliment to the host, who is thereby seen as so noble that he even feeds the outcasts of the community.”
The woman was probably there not as an invited guest, but as one of those who were allowed to observe the meal, but not join in on the meal. In all likelihood, she was there because she had heard Jesus speak earlier and was transformed by what He said. All of the research material I read in regard to this parable brought out that the woman must have had an encounter with Jesus prior to this meal, and that this encounter changed her life. While this isn’t specifically stated in the Bible, it is inferred, and it becomes clear as the story unfolds.
One thing that is great about being a Christian, is that it allows everyone to be on the same level playing field. I have seen this so many times in ministry. I have dined with many people all around the world and from all walks in life. Especially in the Middle and Far East where there are so many formal and informal classes or casts. This fact gives hope to the hopeless on both ends of the cultural scale. So many people I have been able to love on regardless of the social status.
This woman may have heard of Jesus’ reputation for being willing to mix with sinners. She probably heard Him speak about the forgiveness of sins, that God loved her and those like her, that His grace was available to her even though she was a prostitute. She was hopeful and now maybe even transformed by the notion. She was joyful that her sins were forgiven, that she was set free, and she came to the house to show her gratitude to the one who had shared this Good News with her. We should be so transformed by that same ‘Good News’, Amen?
We are told that she brought an alabaster flask of ointment. Alabaster is a soft stone which was crafted into small vials to hold fragrant oil. In some translations, the word ointment is translated as fragrant oil or perfume. In those days women might wear a vial with perfumed oil around their neck, such perfume was very expensive and precious to them. When this woman found out where Jesus would be and saw how He was treated, she took the perfumed oil and anointed Jesus’s feet as an expression of gratitude for what Jesus had done for her earlier.
By Simon not washing Jesus’ feet, it was a sure sign that he considered Him inferior. He didn’t even make water available for Jesus to wash His own feet.
Not even was the traditional kiss of greeting offered to Jesus. Upon seeing this, the woman wept and took action. She decided to do what Simon had not done, she used her tears to wet His feet. She didn’t have a towel to wipe and dry them, so she let down her hair and used it to dry His feet. She then kissed His feet again and again, over and over, effectively showering kisses upon Jesus’ feet.
Kissing Jesus’ feet was a public sign of deep humility, devotion, and gratitude. I have been to a few countries and experienced this myself. Amy and I sponsor a couple children in the center of India so they can attend school where a friend of mine is the Administrator. I went and visited them a couple years ago to check on their status. Their mothers immediately fell to my feet and started kissing them in gratitude. It was very strange for me, and I even wanted to pull away, but my friend assured me this was proper for that culture. Humbling for me indeed.
In our parable here, I would bet the dinner guests were shocked by this display! They would see this as wrong on a number of levels. A woman letting her hair down is an intimate gesture which would never be done in front of anyone other than her husband. According to some rabbinical writings, if a woman let her hair down in public, it was considered grounds for divorce. And here is an immoral woman doing that very thing in the presence of a dinner table full of men.
To make matters worse, she was touching a man who is not a relative; this is something that no moral woman would ever do. For Simon and his dinner guests, this would have been completely strange and unacceptable.
The story continues in verse 39:
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.”
Having been disgraced for his failures as a host doesn’t seem to affect Simon in any way. Instead, here he is silently criticizing Christ. Simon was probably wondering if Jesus was a true prophet or not at this point. He seems to be rejecting any idea that He might be, because in Simon’s mind, if Jesus were a prophet He would know that the woman touching Him was immoral and was thus defiling Him by her actions.
Or perhaps Simon’s intention in inviting Jesus to a meal was to test Him, to see if He truly was a prophet. After viewing this display and ‘mentally’ noting what he felt was a deep lack of discernment on Jesus’s part, Simon was probably convinced that Jesus didn’t meet the spiritual standard one would expect from a prophet of God. No man of God would put up with the behavior of this woman.
But Simon is wrong. Jesus does know the spiritual state of the woman. He knows she has been a sinner because He later states that “her sins are many.” He also knows that she has been forgiven for her sins because she believed by faith the words about God’s forgiveness that she had probably heard Him speak earlier.
Besides that, Jesus shows He is a prophet by discerning Simon’s thoughts.
Even though Simon hasn’t verbalized his thoughts, Jesus nevertheless responds to him as it shows in verse 40:
Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.”
The phrase “I have something to say to you” is a classical Middle Eastern expression that introduces blunt speech that the listener may not want to hear. And this is exactly what follows. It’s at this point in the story that Jesus tells the short parable of the two debtors. He said:
“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”
In the Jewish culture, one denarius was an ordinary day’s pay for an ordinary day’s work. Therefore, one debtor in the parable owed the lender the equivalent of 500 days’ pay, the other debtor 50 days’ pay. Quite a difference. The lender generously cancels both debts when the borrowers are unable to pay.
Author Kenneth Bailey once said: In both the Old and New Testaments the phrases “canceling a debt” and “forgive a debt/sin” are sometimes are expressed with the same words as is used here in this phrase. The verb used for canceling the debt has its root in the Greek word charis, which is often also translated as the word grace. So the debtor exercised much grace in this parable.
43. Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Simon, realizing that the parable is somewhat of a verbal trap that he has been caught in, answers rather weakly, with “I suppose.” And despite being treated poorly by His host, Jesus commends Simon for his correct answer.
The point of the parable is that love is the correct response to grace or undeserved favor; that the one who has been forgiven the greater debt would love the most and would show the most gratitude. Having made that point, Jesus then delivers the blunt reply to Simon.
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 bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
These words were spoken to Simon, but Jesus turned to face the woman as He spoke them. He asks, “Simon, do you see this woman?” He was trying to get Simon to look at her as a person, not as a sinner. Jesus wanted to transform Simon’s view of the woman in particular, and effectively all people in general.
Simon saw the woman’s actions as offensive, out of place, and in alignment with his low opinion of her as a sinner and a prostitute. He didn’t understand that she was now a forgiven person who was greatly loved by God. Jesus was trying to help him to see the woman as He did, as someone who has been forgiven for much and who therefore loves much, and demonstrates her love and gratitude by her actions. Jesus wanted Simon to realize and accept that her sins had been forgiven and that she was no longer a prostitute. Because if Simon and the others at the table accepted this, she might then be welcomed back into the community, no longer as a sinner, but as a child of God.
Jesus verbalized Simon’s failures, those things which he had omitted, where he had fallen short. He contrasted Simon’s omissions with the woman’s noble actions—actions that went far beyond what Simon should have done but didn’t. Actions based on her humble love and genuine gratefulness. Jesus then linked her great love to her many sins that were forgiven. And in verse 48 it says:
Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Notice Jesus didn’t say that He was forgiving her sins right then, but rather that her sins were already forgiven. So the love she showed and her emotional outpouring of gratitude was in response to the forgiveness she already believed she had received earlier. From what He said, it’s evident that she understood that God’s grace, His forgiveness, is received by faith and not by one’s good works. Learning that God graciously forgives sin even when the person needing forgiveness is not necessarily holy and religious, I am sure brought her great joy and freedom, and it should give us much peace as well. The woman’s response was one of deep thankfulness. She wanted nothing more than to see Jesus, who had delivered the beautiful message to her, in order to express her profound appreciation.
The other guests at the table missed the point completely. They were focused on the wrong things and misinterpreted what Jesus said. In verse 49 it states:
But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
Her faith saved her. She believed in God’s grace and she accepted it. She knew she didn’t deserve it as her sins were many, and there was nothing she could do to merit her own forgiveness or salvation. She believed and accepted what the Lord had told her—that her faith, belief, and acceptance were sufficient.
That’s how the story ends. There is no indication of Simon’s response. Does he get the point? Does he see that he was wrong in his treatment of Jesus and the judgment of the woman? Does he accept that she was one who had many sins forgiven and therefore loved much, and does he see himself as one who loves little? Does Simon understand he’s a debtor as well—that he’s a sinner in need of God’s love and forgiveness—or is he only focused on the sins of the woman? Does he accept that the woman is forgiven, that she’s now changed, and will he accept her back into the community? These questions aren’t answered; instead, we who read the story are left to ponder and to draw our own conclusions.
When thinking about what transpired in Simon’s house, questions arose in my mind as to how I treat the Lord and others. It’s healthy for us to reflect on these matters. Questions like: Can we accept that those who have greatly sinned can be forgiven and can change, becoming new creatures in Christ? Do we continue to respond with thankfulness and gratitude at our own forgiveness and salvation? Do we praise and thank God for our redemption? Do we remind ourselves of what it cost Jesus to take the punishment of our sins and forgive our debts? Have we lost the joy of our salvation?
Having invited Jesus into our lives, how do we now treat Him? Do we treat Him as Simon did—coldly, with disrespect? Or do we give Him the honor and respect He deserves?—Our time, our attention, our love. Do we take the time to both listen to His words and to absorb them? Do we apply them? Do we obey them? Do we give back to Him through service and compassion to the poor and needy?
The woman in the dinner party had that deep joy which comes when you realize your sins are forgiven. Her appreciation was manifested in her actions. Are we appreciative enough to act on the knowledge of our forgiveness and salvation both internally through praise and externally through obedience?
Do we look at others in the manner that Jesus did, recognizing that He died for them too, and wants them to receive the great gift of salvation? Are we motivated to help others find that same forgiveness?—To love them, to respect and speak to them, to give of ourselves, our time, effort, and energy to bring them to salvation no matter who they are?—The poor, the rich, the young, the old, the unlearned, the intellectual, the unlovely, the sinner, and the outcast? Jesus seeks to save all. Are we doing our part to make that happen?
We have all been forgiven for much. Do we love much? Does our love and thankfulness translate into action as this woman showed?
As we get close to Jesus in prayer, and as we continue to study His wonderful Word, my prayer is that we will all grow in our understanding of what and how much Jesus has done for us. And to that I say Thank You Lord.
[Alter Call & Prayer] – Please Stand..
Before we leave, since tomorrow is Memorial day, let us close with a little memorial. Ronald Reagan once said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” That’s is why we need a strong deterrent against the evil of this world. And that is why we also honor our war casualties in memorial.
[Show Slideshow Video – Casualties of Wars]
2017-05-28 – Luke 7.36-50 – Parables of Jesus – So Much I Owe
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And 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 bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he 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 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”