Forgiven in an Instant: Luke 7:36-50

Read the Transcript

Part way into Jesus’ ministry, Luke records an event that all three other gospels appear to include as well. The big difference is that Luke seems to place this event much earlier in Jesus’ ministry, which prompts me to think that something like this might have happened more than once. If we compare Luke’s version of this event with the other gospels, while there are several similarities, Luke seems to focus more on the teaching opportunity Jesus takes, while the other gospel writers focus on how their similar events foreshadow Jesus’ upcoming death.

Let’s read how Luke describes this event, and what he wants us to learn about Jesus from what happened. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 36, we read:

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 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.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, 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.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he 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. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Part of me is fascinated by how this passage ends. Before hitting on a huge truth Jesus shares, we can see Jesus challenging these religious leaders regarding the nature of forgiveness.

Jesus tells the woman that her sins are forgiven, and this startles the group of people present. Forgiving of sins is something that only God does, and since they are the religious leaders, they likely believe they have the ability to determine for someone whether God has forgiven a sin or not.

When Jesus comes and pronounces this woman has been forgiven, and there was no sacrifice taken to the temple or offering given, the idea that forgiveness has been granted doesn’t make sense.

However, Jesus focuses us on a different truth from the Old Testament, and that the sin in our past doesn’t matter as much as our decisions in the present. Forgiveness is available for everyone who turns away from sin. This idea is challenging for those living in the first century and for those living today.

While it is great news that God saves sinners who turn away from their sin, this idea seems too simple. It must be more complicated. Perhaps it is, but I have yet to see it. Perhaps the only catch in the whole salvation process is that only through focusing on and having a relationship with Jesus can we truly move away from sin in our lives. While we can move away from some sins and towards better habits, the sin of living for self rather than for others is one that is so subtle and hidden in our lives that without Jesus shining the light on it, we are unlikely to realize its presence.

However, what big truth does Jesus share leading up to this. We find this truth in verse 47 where Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.

The twin ideas that being forgiven of a lot will prompt a lot of love, while being forgiven of a little will only prompt a little love, is fascinating in my mind. These ideas imply that if there is a group of people who have always lived pretty good lives and who only have one or two “socially acceptable sins”, then they are in greater danger than someone who has sinned more times than they can count. This also means that someone with a decent life and not many sins is more likely to grow callous and unloving over time, even when they have been forgiven, than someone who has been forgiven of a past consisting of more sin than not.

While this doesn’t mean that we should go out and sin in as many ways as we can think of so that we can be forgiven and love more, this does mean that we should never brush over anything that might be a “socially acceptable sin” because in God’s eyes, sin is sin, regardless of its severity.

We discover how to love more and how to live a life that shows we have been forgiven by focusing on Jesus first, intentionally making and spending time with Him each day, and by seeking to do His will in our lives. How we choose to love Jesus demonstrates how forgiven we really are.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Choose to place Jesus first in your life and intentionally love Him with our lives. We can do this by loving others and by focusing time each day on spending it with Him learning from His word.

While a devotional or podcast can help give you ideas or things to think about, be sure to study the Bible for yourself, because an author, pastor, or podcaster shouldn’t be your only connection to the Bible. Be sure to open and study the Bible for yourself to discover God’s truth for your exact situation.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year 4 – Episode 13: Discover several things we can learn about Jesus from Luke’s gospel when a woman pours oil on Jesus’ head, seemingly early in Jesus’ ministry. Learn what Luke teaches us about how Jesus responded.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Share Your Response

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.