Sermon – June 12
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 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. 39 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.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 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. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 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.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
The Connection Between Forgiveness and Love
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ:
I normally am not a fan of quoting Latin because I don’t know it, and most people do not know it. But I’m going to throw a phrase at you that I heard on a TV show recently: Post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin: “after this, therefore because of this”). The idea is that we can mess up cause and effect. For example, “I had my lucky jersey on, and my team won. Therefore my jersey caused the victory.” This can lead to a lot of wrong thinking. “The rooster crowed so the sun came up.” Or worse in some religions: “We made a sacrifice and so our god caused our crops to grow.”
Just as dangerous is when we mix up the order of God’s love for us and our love for Him. We dare not say, that a person is forgiven because he shows how much He loves God. Rather today we have presented to us the correct order: The love of Jesus brought about forgiveness. That forgiveness brings about our love. That is the connection between forgiveness and love. May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to receive His message today.
1. The love of Jesus brought about forgiveness
During His ministry on this earth, Jesus was criticized more than any public figure today. The criticism mainly came from the religious establishment. Their criticism ranged from what He taught, to how He acted, to the people with whom He associated. The question then, might be raised as to why Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to his house. For a time, the Pharisees gave Jesus some respect as a Rabbi – certainly on a lesser scale than they were, but they wouldn’t put Him in the same category of the dregs of society whom they despised. Later they wanted nothing to do with Him as they perceived Him to be dangerous.
On His part, Jesus worked with both the Pharisees and the public sinners – prostitutes, drunkards, thieves, and the like. Both were involved in sin. One group had a problem with pride and self-righteousness. The other group fell into the trap of moral lapses when it came to the works of the flesh. In love, Jesus exposed sin for what it was, but also offered forgiveness for that sin. He never approved of any sin, but at the same time, He did not withhold forgiveness for those who were repentant.
There was this tension between the Pharisees and those caught up in immorality. This is encapsulated when Simon saw a sinful woman, more than likely a prostitute, lavishing attention on Jesus. We read in verse 39, 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. He thought that certainly Jesus didn’t know of her reputation otherwise He wouldn’t even allow her near Him. Jesus, of course, knew full well who she was and what she had done, and still accepted her attention because she was showing love and thankfulness to Him.
What prompted these acts of love was the forgiveness that she knew was found in Jesus. She had become aware of her great debt of sin and was relieved to know that Jesus had paid it. Jesus illustrated this in a parable in verses 41-42, There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed him five hundred denarii (one denarius was a day’s wages), 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? The obvious answer is the one with the larger debt.
Jesus forgave the debt of sin because of His great love for sinful humanity. Whatever the amount owed in this parable, it could not be repaid. The same is true of sin. No matter how many or how great a sin might be, it puts us into debt that carries a repayment price of eternal punishment. There could be no bankruptcy claim. Our holy and just God could not simply magically remove our debt from the books.
There are only two options: Either you pay the debt yourself, or someone else pays it for you. That someone else cannot be a human being. In a great act of love, Moses made such an offer on behalf of the children of Israel in Exodus 32 after the people were facing God’s wrath due to the sin of idolatry. Moses offered to have his name blotted out of the book of life. The Lord responded, Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. One sinner cannot take the place of another. Only Jesus the holy Son of God could make satisfactory payment for sin.
We might ask the same thing that the Pharisees did in verse 49, Who is this who even forgives sins? They were questioning His authority. When this was asked before, Jesus demonstrated His authority by healing a paralyzed man. We don’t question His authority, but still may ask, What God would freely forgive sins? What kind of God would put Himself into harm’s way in order to release sinners from a mess into which they had put themselves?
That God is one full of love and mercy. He is One who would rather give up His Son, One who would rather suffer the punishment of hell than see it happen to anybody else. He is a God who calls sinners to repentance so that they do not remain mired in unbelief. He is One who makes every effort to present to us that good news of eternal life and salvation. His is generous, able to forget about sin once it is paid for, and who does not require any conditions from us before He gives forgiveness. His love prompted Him to forgive. That is what came first. Jesus’ love brought Him to earth not only to live among sinners, associate with them. His love prompted Him to die for them.
2. The forgiveness of Jesus brings about love
Just as God’s love brought about forgiveness, so also there is a product of God’s forgiveness – that we are able to respond in love to Him. The one who doesn’t know of forgiveness, or does not believe that he needs forgiveness cannot love God, or truly love his neighbor. Simon was one of those. Jesus presents this contrast in verses 44-46: 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.
Simon did not see Jesus as His Savior. In fact, he saw Him to be less than Himself, and so he did not extend even common courtesy to Him. This woman knew of her great need for a Savior, and was so overwhelmed with relief that her debt of sin was paid that she went above and beyond common courtesy and showered affection upon Him. If we are lacking in love for our Savior either we are full of pride concerning our spiritual state or we are ignorant about our sin and need for a Savior. The only way that we can love Jesus is because He has loved us first.
The order of love and forgiveness is very important. We are not forgiven because we love. Forgiveness has to come first. Jesus illustrates this in verses 47: 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. This translation is not real clear and seems to say the opposite of what the rest of this account says when it comes to cause and effect of forgiveness and love. Try this out: It has rained, for the sidewalk is wet. We obviously understand that to mean that the rain is the cause, the wetness is the effect. That is the sense of this verse.
Think of the joy if somebody paid off your mortgage, or credit card bills that are out of control, or $75,000 in student loans. What a sense of relief! Knowing the debt and the payment causes a reaction in us. This is all the more true in the spiritual realm. The grace, love, and forgiveness of Jesus changes hearts in like nothing else can.
The more we know of our great debt, the more that we will appreciate the payment that Jesus made. It’s easy to get off track and find those who we believe are worse sinners than we are. It’s easy to act like Simon or like the Pharisee in the parable in which he was glad that he was not like a sinner such as the tax collector. It’s easy to abuse the forgiveness of Jesus and just go out and rack up more sinful debt.
Rather look inside. See your spiritual bankruptcy. Become aware of your disobedience and your own sin and know it’s price, and also be very aware of how that price was paid. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Through this continuing belief that Jesus has given to you personally the forgiveness that He won for the world, hear the final words of Jesus to this woman: Go in peace. Amen.