Being Forgiven

 Jesus forgivesLuke writes for us strange but wonderful picture of forgiveness.  Click here to read it: Luke 7: 36 – 50

In a beautiful illustration of love, compassion, and forgiveness a woman who has been healed, restored, and brought back into fellowship with God brings a thanks offering the only way she knows how. Imagine yourself in the room as this prostitute enters a Pharisee’s house; and endures all the steely stares.  She heads straight to Jesus feet.

Consider who was present in the room:

Simon the Pharisee:  He Invited Jesus in for a meal perhaps after meeting at the synagogue.  The must have represented some sign of endorsement which seems like a curious gesture from a Pharisee.  He had other guests present for the meal so this was no secret meeting with Jesus.  Despite Jesus’ challenge in v. 45 – 46 Simon had extended the expected welcome, but nothing more.  Simon seems genuine and speaks respectfully to Jesus.

Friends of Simon’s:  They understood one thing perfectly clearly: NO one forgives sins but God.  No man can do anything about another man’s sins.  If I back into your car it is up to you to forgive me, but if I back into your car and Garry over there forgives me; who cares?  Only God in the universal context can forgive sins!  Everyone knew that!

Sinful Woman:  She is identified as a sinful woman. It is unclear how much a young woman would have to do in order to be identified in this way but Simon’s assessment of her is consistent with Luke’s as well. This woman doesn’t belong here.  Luke writes that as soon as she knew Jesus was there she went straight there.  It appears that she came to anoint Jesus but was overcome with emotion. It is important to note that this is an expensive gesture.   Perfume was much more costly than olive oil, which would have sufficed in anointing someone.  The alabaster flask that contained this perfume was a one shot deal.  There was no screw on cap to save the rest for later.  Once opened this vial was now empty and worthless. 

Jesus asks a curious question in v. 44: “Simon, Do you see this Woman?” Of course he sees her. Right? He had not failed to notice her.  Ironically Simon would have asked Jesus the same question. Don’t you see this woman? Don’t you know who this is? This is Sarah, from downtown.  Everyone knows Sarah! 

Simon, as a Pharisee was primarily involved in classifying and identifying.   According to John H. Elliott, naming ‘sinners’ is central to Simon’s status as a Pharisee: “The Pharisees…extended the norms of temple and priestly holiness to the bed and board of every observant Jewish home.” As a Pharisee, Simon played this essential, local role in the “social stratification of the Jewish community.”  

Through practices of naming, of drawing the boundaries of the pure and impure, the Pharisees kept society ordered according to the authority of the Jerusalem temple. According to this social logic, this woman appeared in Simon’s house—an important node in the temple system’s cultural sovereignty—as “a powerful contagion,  ritual impurity,” as Elliot puts it.

When Simon looked at the woman he saw a ‘sinner,’ someone for whom the cultural authorities indicate must remain at the bottom of the social architecture, the margins of cultural acceptability. But Jesus calls that mode of perception into question. He asks Simon if he can look beyond his social stereotypes and see that this woman, through her faith, received Jesus. Where Simon failed to receive Jesus through the customary practices of hospitality, this woman fulfilled those expectations with “an extravagant gesture,”

Jesus teaches a powerful lesson about forgiveness this day: 

 Our ability to demonstrate forgiveness is limited by the degree to which we have experienced forgiveness in our own lives.

In order to forgive others, we mush each experience forgiveness ourselves.  In an equivalent way our ability to demonstrate love to each other is limited by the degree to which we have experienced love in our own lives.  In order to show love to others, we must each experience love ourselves.

How can I be a more forgiving person?

By being forgiven by God.

How? I’m already forgiven. How do I get more forgiven?

For some, this is our #1 problem. We will say we’re forgiven, but when our minds are in neutral late at night we are haunted by feelings of: pain inadequacy. We may even be afraid to die because despite all we say here there is a fear that some how the books are still going to need to be settled.

Habbakuk prophecies the Babylonians are coming to punish Israel and in 1: 9- 11 he writes

They all come bent on violence.

Their hordes advance like a desert wind

and gather prisoners like sand.

They deride kings

and scoff at rulers.

They laugh at all fortified cities;

they build earthen ramps and capture them.

Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—

But they will be held guilty, They whose strength is their god.

Charles Hodge says in Systematic Theology , “Guilt can only be removed by punishment. Either the sinner himself must bear it, or a substitute must be provided” and unless Jesus is your substitute, you are a person to be pitied indeed.

We need to be totally convinced of the great debt of sin we have against us but we also need to be equally convicted of the HUGE forgiveness that is ours. BOTH

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit

1 Pet. 3:18

If we are only convinced of one of these we are going to be greatly handicapped in forgiving others in this world. We will look at all the others in this world the way Simon does:

They are in…

They are out….

These guys aren’t too bad.

These ones are sinners.

As we grow in the knowledge of the grace of Jesus Christ we can say, “I am a great sinner. But I have an even greater Saviour.” John Newton


by John Donne


WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
    Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
    And do run still, though still I do deplore?
      When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
                    For I have more.


Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
    Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
    A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
    When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
                    For I have more.


I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
    My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
  Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore ;
      And having done that, Thou hast done ;
                    I fear no more.

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.

Is. 43: 25

Even though surrounded by the religious elite. The illiterate, morally defrocked, humiliated woman schools the whole room of big wigs on what it means to be forgiven.

She is the one who gets it.


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