This morning we’re continuing in part three of our series OUTCASTS as we look at Luke chapter 7. Now in this series we’ve been looking at passages that highlight Jesus’ pursuit of those who many would label as “Outcasts.” And what we have found is that Jesus’ love for the outcast is both extravagant and relentless.
Last week, we talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan and discovered that the message wasn’t so much about the Good Samaritan as it was about the lawyer, the teacher of the law to whom Jesus was witnessing. When you think about evangelism, reaching out to lost people, what is it that makes the most impact? Other than the work of the Holy Spirit, what is it that can impact a person and motivate them to embrace Jesus Christ?
Well obviously, you want to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have; but in the end, what is most powerful on our end, the human end of evangelism, is the witness of a transformed life. Throughout history the message of the church was believable because it demonstrated the power of God in transformed lives. Jesus knew this and as he was seeking the lost, he would often address the real felt physical issues and then the spiritual issue. He would heal the deaf, dumb, and blind; he would heal the lame; feed the hungry, and then he would present them with the spiritual truths that they needed to hear. But on other occasions he would simply use somebody who was transformed as a witness to the power of the gospel. And that’s exactly what happens here in Luke chapter 7, beginning at verse 36, Luke tells us,
“One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume” (Luke 7:36-37).
Now it wouldn’t be a surprise for a neighbor to come in, even a stranger to come in, but not a woman who was a sinner. That’s to say that everybody knew her, she’s got a reputation as an immoral woman, she was known as a sinful woman, because she’s lived a flagrantly sinful life in the public eye. This is the kind of woman that we’re introduced to, she heard that Jesus was there, and she brought an alabaster jar of perfume indicating that she had become somewhat successful at her trade.
Now most people think when they read this story that it’s the story of an immoral woman, but it really isn’t about that, because she’s only an element of the story. This is really a story about Jesus evangelizing a Pharisee, because Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, even those Pharisees who accused him in verse 34 saying,
“Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners" (Luke 7:34).
And truly he was, but he wasn’t just a friend of the outcast, the down and out, and the broken, he was even the friend of religious sinners like this Pharisee. Jesus was committed to presenting the gospel to all sinners, no matter whether they were rich or poor, outcasts, irreligious, or very religious. And here in Luke chapter 7, he reaches out to a hypocritical, self-righteous Pharisee, by using the very person that the Pharisee despised the most, this woman, this sinner, an immoral prostitute who had obviously experienced a dramatic encounter with Jesus. Her transformation was obvious and so Jesus uses her as evidence of his power to transform even this Pharisee; giving both him and us a lesson on forgiveness. The Bible tells us in verse 38, this woman came,
“And 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” (Luke 7:38).
Now it’s obvious that this woman had a previous experience with Jesus and that she had searched him out, because she was so full of gratitude that she wanted nothing more than to worship at the feet of our Savior. But the guests, those gathered around the table and knowing her, were whispering to themselves, they were looking at this woman, and looking at Jesus; and then verse 39 tells us that Simon, the Pharisee who had invited him, said in his mind, 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” (Luke 7:39).
Now, I love how it says that he didn’t say it out loud, he said this to himself, but Jesus knew what he was thinking and replied in verse 40,
“Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
"Tell me, teacher," he said” (Luke 7:40).
Jesus is about to confront this Pharisee’s religious hypocritical mindset, because he knows that religion always judges, religion always accuses, but what Simon didn’t know was that this was the Son of God sitting at his table, and while religious people are great judges of other people sins, Jesus always extends grace, and so here Jesus is trying to reach the heart of this hardened Pharisee.
Now all Simon could think of was why is she here? Why did she have to come right now and while he had guests? He’s pondering all of this in his mind, he’s not saying anything, hoping not to expose any previous indiscretion, or to reveal any familiarity with her, yet the boldness with which she walked into Simon’s house betrayed him.
Meanwhile, she’s crying, she’s washing Jesus’ feet with her hair, and so all he could think of was how weird this was, how uncomfortable this was. You know, what was she doing to his guest, what was she doing to Jesus? And I love how Jesus dealt with the situation. Without even mentioning the woman he began telling a parable in verse 41,
"Two men 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 canceled the debts of both…” (Luke 7:41-42).
Just a simple story, two men had borrowed money, one needed 500 denarii, which was about 500 days’ pay. And another, needed two months’ pay, which equal about 50 denarii. Now neither one of them could pay back the man, so the moneylender graciously canceled the debts of both. Now obviously, this is just the story, this doesn’t happen, this would have been extremely generous, and so Jesus asks Simon at the end of verse 42,
“Now which of them will love him more?" (Luke 7:42).
In other words, which one is going to be more grateful, which one will love him more?
In verse 43, “Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said” (Luke 7:43).
You got it right! That’s it Simon. Whoever got forgiven the most is going to show the most love. It’s a simple story. And then in verse 44 it starts to make sense. In verse 44 comes the application. Jesus 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” (Luke 7:44-46).
Jesus said, Simon, even as religious as you are, as good as you think you are, you haven’t treated me with the honor due a guest. As a matter of fact, the only one that has honored me in this house is this woman that you’ve judged. Jesus, in the same way as he’s been doing all along, doing things people have never seen, saying things that people have never heard, he turns Simon’s religion upside down, and says in verse 47,
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).
Now we don’t know if Simon learned the lesson that Jesus taught that evening, because we never hear from him again, but this is a lesson that Jesus continues to teach us today, one of the most important aspects of our relationship with God, the more you understand your forgiveness, the more you understand how much you’ve been forgiven, the more you’re able to love. In the remainder of our time together, I want to dig into three aspects of forgiveness that are seen in this story. First, we all have much to be forgiven.
We worship and sing songs from Passion, Hillsong, and Jesus Culture, but every now and then we need to go back to the classics, back to the songs when we were little, like “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” We need to go back to the grace that saved us so that we never forget where Jesus found us. Notice that little statement in verse 47,
“I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven…” (Luke 7:47).
In other words, it didn’t happen right here. She had already been forgiven some other place, some other day, and some other time. Maybe it was the day before that she encountered Jesus, maybe it was sometime in the prior week or month, but she came there already forgiven. She had been redeemed, she had been forgiven, the guilt and shame was gone, life was different, righteousness and holiness began to occupy her heart. When she heard that Jesus was there, that Jesus was in town, she searched him out, and coming into the room she was overwhelmed with gratitude. She was so swept away with love for the One who had forgiven her many sins that she couldn’t even contain herself, she just worshiped him.
Finally, Jesus spoke to her and said in verse 48, "Your sins are forgiven."
Now if Simon had truly been perceptive, instead of judging Jesus, and condemning this woman, he would’ve recognized that he wasn’t worthy of his presence. He would’ve responded with repentance like Peter when he realized that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, and fallen at his feet saying,
"Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" (Luke 5:8).
However, he made a tragic mistake of grading himself on a curve, comparing himself to others, and concluding that the woman at the feet of Jesus was the sinner but he wasn’t. But the bottom line was that he needed God’s forgiveness just as much as anyone. Simon had much to be forgiven but he was too proud to acknowledge it.
Now the other guests, who had silently been listening, began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" (Luke 7:49).
They too, missed out on the grace of God. They didn’t recognize their Savior, thinking of themselves as leaders of the people and models of righteousness. Some of these guests gathered around the table may have been the same ones that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount saying,
"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:3).
Teaching us that it’s only when we recognize our own spiritual poverty that we can experience the riches of God’s forgiveness. Simon didn’t get it, his guests didn’t get it, but the sinful woman did and experienced the forgiveness of God. We all have much to be forgiven and then number two, if you want to be forgiven you can be.
You see, this is what’s so amazing. God’s forgiveness is not based on how much we deserve forgiveness. It’s based on how much we want forgiveness. The question is, “Do you want to be forgiven enough to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness?” If you go to God and sincerely asked to be forgiven of your sins, he will forgive you every time and without fail. The Bible is very clear and Proverbs chapter 28 tells us,
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
If you take an attitude like Simon the Pharisee, if you’re self-righteous, that’s concealing your sin, and so if you don’t think you did anything wrong, how can God forgive you?
On the other hand, if your attitude is remorseful, if you’re sorry for what you said or what you did, if you want to be forgiven, if you ask him for forgiveness, God forgives you. And the truth is that God will forgive you as many times as it takes to get you to victory. That’s what Jesus teaches about forgiveness. In Luke chapter 17, Jesus said,
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).
God expects you to forgive others without limit, because he forgives you without limit. Now that’s certainly not a license to sin, because that’s not loving. Sin causes pain, it breaks the heart of God, it wrecks lives, and so part of wanting to be forgiven is wanting to be free from the power of sin forever. And even though you may lose the battle from time to time, if you want to be forgiven, if you want to be free from sin, you’ll be forgiven immediately and you’ll be set free from the power of sin.
This woman is having church, she walks in and doesn’t say a thing. All she does is weep and worship, and the first words that anyone said to her, were Jesus’ in verse 48,
"Your sins are forgiven." (Luke 7:48)
You see, God’s forgiveness is not based on whether we deserve it or not, because none of us deserve it. It’s not a question of whether you deserve God’s forgiveness, it’s a question of whether you want God’s forgiveness. If you want to be forgiven you can be. The third lesson the story teaches us is that accepting forgiveness is an act of faith.
This young woman didn’t say a word, but in this moment her worship did what her words never could. She didn’t run to Jesus, throw herself at his feet, and confess all that she had done. Apparently, she had already done that in the past, Jesus already knew her, but she simply came with a sincere heart full of worship. She worshiped Jesus not caring what anyone said, not saying anything herself, she just gave her life as a sacrifice completely to Jesus.
The extent of her love was intricately linked to the completeness of Jesus forgiveness. All those gathered around the table even though they can’t understand it, they could see it, because the transformed life is manifested in love, joy, gratitude, and affection. Jesus used this woman as a testimony of his power to transform a life, witnessing to Simon, because her salvation was obvious, not because of anything she said, but because of her love for our Savior Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to the woman in verse 50,
"Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50).
You see, it’s always faith that saves you, receiving Jesus forgiveness is an act of faith. You don’t have to wait for a feeling to confirm it, you ask for it, and by faith you accept it. You simply trust God to keep his promise in Ephesians chapter 2
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
You might feel the weight of your sin being lifted from your shoulders or you might not. But how you feel doesn’t change the fact that God promises to forgive you. The sinful woman was saved because she put her faith in Jesus, not in her own goodness, and yet Simon missed out because he trusted himself. If you will put your faith in Jesus, your faith will make you alive, it will literally save your life.
The more you and I can understand forgiveness, the more we’re able to love, and maybe just like the sinful woman you too will find yourself on your knees before Jesus, washing his feet with your own tears, because that’s what God wants. The more you understand forgiveness the more you’re able to love. That’s the response that God is looking for. He wants your love. The more you understand forgiveness the more you’re able to love.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
March 26, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.