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“And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden Him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This Man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him. Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose he, to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And He turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet: but she hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest Me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And He said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace”—Luke 7:36-50.
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How God delights to emphasize His grace to great sinners! It was always a matter of distress to the Pharisees that the Lord Jesus showed such a deep interest in those who were despised and outcast because of their wicked lives. His heart went out to them. He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. I remember hearing a great evangelist say many years ago, “Oh, how hard it is to find sinners; I would be willing to go any distance to find a sinner who recognizes his need of a Saviour.” We read in Proverbs 20:6, “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” If you try to talk to most men about the Saviour and their need of Him, they will begin at once to tell you of their own merits. They try to make out a good case for themselves, covering their sins and insisting on their goodness.
In the Word of God, you will find that as long as people try to justify themselves, God cannot help them. But when they recognize their need and own their guilt, He can save them.
I have drawn attention before to the fact that in this Gospel we read of several instances where the Saviour dined out. Luke, who is presenting Jesus as the perfect Man, shows Him to us at the dinner-table. There is no place where a man relaxes and manifests his true character as when he is at the table with good friends around him and good food before him. Our Lord did not turn down invitations, even though He knew there was some ulterior motive in inviting Him. So here He accepted this Pharisee’s invitation and went to his house for dinner, and had hardly reclined at the table before this interesting situation took place.
We need to remember that it was not customary for the Jews to sit up at the table in chairs like we do. The table itself was generally in the shape of a horseshoe and the guests reclined at the outside of the table, on couches. One took his place and reclined, supporting himself on his right elbow, and served himself with his left hand. Thus, servants passing about could readily wash the feet, which were farthest from the table.
Right there outside the door, a poor woman is looking in. I have no question but a number of those in the house knew who she was. She had no character, was despised by everyone, and yet she wanted to see Jesus and to seek relief from her burden of sin. Her heart was distressed and she longed for deliverance and for cleansing. We look down, perhaps, on those in sin and say, “Thank God we are not like them.” But we little realize how close some of them are to the kingdom of heaven; closer than those who are self-righteous. She was an immoral woman. All down through the centuries respectable people have looked down on her kind as they looked down on her. But we need to remember that there never was a fallen woman unless some man had caused her wretched condition. He who is responsible for the poor woman’s condition is accepted as a member of good society, while she who has fallen is outside. Jesus said the publicans and harlots would go into the kingdom of heaven before the hard-hearted Pharisees.
I imagine this woman was thinking, “If I could only get to Jesus, He would understand, He would know how to deal with me.” Possibly, the servants were keeping their eyes on her. But she was waiting and watching and perhaps the moment the servants’ backs were turned, in she slipped and there she is down on her knees at the couch where Jesus’ exposed feet were. She burst into tears, and realizing her need of cleansing, she began to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and to dry them with her beautiful hair. With that lovely hair, which perhaps had lured others into her house of shame, she was now wiping the feet of Jesus. Impulsively she began to kiss His feet. This annoyed the Pharisee. Jesus perceived the thoughts of this man. “Now when the Pharisee which had bidden Him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This Man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him; for she is a sinner.” I wonder how he knew so well. He knew her character. He knew the life she had lived. The Pharisee would have passed her by. Jesus did not shrink from her. He never does from any sinner. He did know what manner of woman she was who touched Him. But that was why He welcomed her. He came to redeem sinners. It rejoiced His heart when such came to Him in repentance.
He read every one of Simon’s thoughts, and He knew all her thoughts. She was thinking, I am not worthy to come here, and yet He will surely do something for me. Jesus turned to Simon and just as though Simon had spoken out, He answered him: “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.” And Simon said, “Master, say on.” Jesus answered, “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other, fifty.” Five hundred pence does not mean very much to us if we think of it in our own pennies, but according to the standards of those days it meant a great deal of money. There are some men who realize that they are great sinners and have broken the law of God and they feel hopeless—these are the five-hundred-pence sinners. But there are others who say that they are not very wicked, they know they have not always obeyed the law of God, but did not intend to do wrong; they have failed here and there, but in the main they are very good. These are the fifty-pence sinners.
A Sunday School teacher was speaking to her class of two kinds of sin—sins of commission and omission, and we are responsible for both. She asked, “What are sins of commission?” The children replied, “They are sins we commit.” Then she inquired, “What are sins of omission?” One boy answered, “They are sins we meant to commit, and forgot to.” That is not it. But every time you fail to do the thing you know you should do, this is as truly sin as the evil things you did. The fifty-pence sinners have nothing to pay, nor have the five-hundred-pence sinners. Whether you realize it or not, whether you are a great sinner, or, as you imagine, you are not much of a sinner, the fact remains, that, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” How could you make up for your sins? That lie you told! You can never undo it! That time you took the name of God in vain! You can never atone for the wrong you did to God, and His Name. That time you fell into some great moral evil! You can never make that right, either toward God or to the one with whom you sinned. You have nothing to pay. You owe so much and you have nothing with which to pay it and you cannot settle it. What are you going to do about it? Jesus went on to say, “When they had nothing to pay, he (to whom they were indebted) frankly forgave them both.” That is just a picture of the grace of God in Christ. Through the work of Jesus on Calvary, God is able to forgive every sinner who comes to Him in repentance.
A story is told of an eccentric Irish nobleman who some years ago became converted, and whose salvation was the wonder of the countryside. He was so filled with the sense of the grace of God that he began to go around preaching, and people called him “the crazy nobleman.” On one occasion he posted notices to this effect, that he would be in his office from ten to twelve on a given day, and he would be prepared to settle the debts of everyone of his tenants who would come to him. Some of the folks could not read it and would ask someone else to read it to them. Many would not believe it. So they talked about it, and the days went on and finally that certain day arrived, and the people went down to his office. At ten o’clock sharp, the carriage pulled up in front of his office, and the nobleman got out and entered it with his secretary. Outside, the tenants talked among themselves as to whether he really meant it. They could hardly believe him. About half-past eleven o’clock, an old man and his aged wife came hobbling along, and the old man had a number of bills in his hand, and he asked, “Is it true that his lordship said he would pay our debts?” They replied, “Why don’t you go in and try it?” He was so anxious to be free of debt that he decided to do so. He and his wife went in to see if his lordship would pay their debts. Outside, people waited anxiously to see what would happen as he handed his bills to the landlord. His lordship told his secretary to total them up and give him a check. “Oh, my lord, thank you so much! I am over eighty years old, and now my wife and I can die with our debts paid. Now we must go out and tell the rest.” But the nobleman replied, “You took my offer by faith and because you believed me your debts are paid. The rest must do the same.” They outside waited and wondered why the old people did not come out. Finally twelve o’clock struck, the door opened and the nobleman stepped out, and the old couple followed. The others asked the old man if he had his debts paid. He said, “Yes.” Then they all crowded about pleading to have theirs paid also. But the nobleman said, “My friends, I gave you the opportunity to come, and I would have paid everything, but you would not believe me, so now you will have to pay them yourselves.” He then used this illustration as a basis to preach the gospel to them. If you will not come to Christ, then there is no one to blame but yourselves if you have to face that dreadful accounting day of judgment.
“And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.” Jesus said, “Yes, you have answered well. You are like that fifty-pence sinner, you did not think you had done much wrong, but when I came to your house, you did not do the things for Me that are done in ordinary homes. You did not have a servant wash My feet. But this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to wash My feet with her tears. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman hath not ceased to kiss My feet. Wherefore, I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” “And He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” Why were they forgiven? Because she washed the feet of Jesus? Because she wiped them with her hair? No, not at all. She did these things because she came to Him in repentance and this was an expression of her love for Him.
“And He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” Who can forgive sins but God only? “Who is this that forgiveth sins also?” they questioned among themselves. They did not understand that He was God manifested in the flesh. Ignoring them, Jesus turned to the woman and said, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” I think I see her hurrying back to her home, and saying to herself, “I must get everything cleaned up now. I must get those dirty pictures off the wall, and those vile books out of the place!” Perhaps some one saw her and noticed the different expression on her face and the change in her demeanor, and inquired the reason. She would say, the old life was ended and a new life was beginning.
That is what Jesus does for sinners. If you have never trusted Him before, will you trust Him now? Take Him as your Saviour and you will hear Him say to you, “Your sins, which were many, are all forgiven.”