Welcome to the Foundations podcast, a thought for the day for Thursday 17th January. We’re continuing through the Gospel of Luke this week and today we find ourselves at the end of chapter 7, verses 36-50. This week we’ve read some passages that have been full of surprises and today is no exception. It’s got plenty of ‘they won’t be expecting that’ moments so get your best New Zealand accents ready and here we go. (Listen back to Tuesday’s podcast if you need the context for that!)
Let’s set the scene. We’re in the house of a Pharisee called Simon. That’s right, a Pharisee has invited Jesus into his house for some food. He’s invited some others as well. In fact, we’ve got quite a dinner party in full swing. The title of the story gives away what happens next. This passage is entitled ‘Jesus anointed by a sinful woman’. It’s quite a good title as that’s exactly what happens. Jesus is eating with his host and the other guests when in walks a woman. We don’t learn her name, but are told that this woman is something of an outcast in local society. Despite this, she walks up to Jesus, cracks open some perfume and starts cleaning his feet, crying as she does it. Obviously this creates quite a stir in the room. You can imagine the looks, the glances, the murmuring. Now, Jesus does a lot of impressive things in His ministry but guessing what the room is thinking here is well within His skill set. Here’s how He responds to the questions no one dares ask, verses 41-42.
“Two people 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 forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Jesus then unpacks this a little in verses 45-48:
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. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Once again Jesus flips our expectations. We might sometimes feel far from God, unworthy of His Holy presence in our lives perhaps. The woman in this story is known as a sinner. The word sinner there means to be an absolute moral failure. This isn’t ‘forget to take out the bins’ level of messing up, she has well and truly walked a path that looks nothing like the Jesus life. Jesus answers that with a simple message. Where there is more sin, Jesus pours out more forgiveness to match. Where there is more distance between the way we live and the way God calls us to live, God’s grace is sufficient. Nothing can trump God’s love for us shown through the grace and mercy He pours out. Grace is big enough for where we mess up, wherever and whatever that looks like. Jesus also suggests that the more forgiveness we receive, the more we are enabled to love Him more. Now that doesn’t mean we have to mess up loads in our life to have a deep and valuable faith. But the Bible does tell us that by His grace God uses all things, good and bad, for our good and ultimately for His glory. (Romans and Second Corinthians)
The passage concludes with Jesus forgiving the woman and telling her to go in peace. That’s the amazing thing about the grace of God. It doesn’t just cover our sin. It brings us back into right relationship with God. It enables us to no longer be opposed to God but to be at peace with Him, on His team as He brings in His new kingdom to this world. The grace by which Jesus saves each and every one of us is the grace that empowers us to live like Him today.
Father thank you for your grace in our lives. Thank you for this story and the reminder that you are a God who forgives us, who gives us a new identity, and who empowers us to live out our lives with renewed purpose. Amen.
READING: Luke 7:36-50
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 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. 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.
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.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’
‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said.
‘Two people owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 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?’
Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’
‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.
Then he turned towards 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. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’
Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’
Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’