Jesus asked Simon a question by means of a short parable or real life illustration. Here is the parable, His question, and then the much needed application:
“‘There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’ Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.’ Then He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’” (Luke 7.41-48).
Notice the marvelous teaching style of Jesus, but don’t miss the lesson by looking too closely at technique. Take note of the fact that Jesus “turned to the woman and spoke to Simon.” A living object lesson is the method that Jesus chose to drive home His point! The woman was the sinner (at least in the context of the story), but that certainly did not mean that Simon was not a sinner; he just represented the person in the parable who only owed a few denarii as contrasted to the woman who owed that much ten times over. Simon knew the truth about the link between forgiveness and love – as long as it was abstract and did not apply to him. However, Jesus did not leave the lesson in the land of the abstract, but He made direct and unmistakable application! The method is masterful, but the lesson is far greater!
What Simon was about to learn was a lesson that we who profess to be believers sometimes are reticent to admit. The truth is this: Sometimes the vilest of sinners are capable of greater love than those who have lived relatively “close to the Book.” Those sinners who come to repentance seem to have a much greater appreciation for the gift that is extended to them; it is as if they strayed farther from God than most, an hence esteem grace to a higher degree than others are capable of doing.
We will expand on this thought tomorrow, but Simon learned something on this day about how God treat sinners. In fact, Simon learned that the way that God treats sinners sometimes depends upon how sinners treat Him! The penitent sinner is not repulsive to God; in fact, the penitent sinner causes great joy in the heart of the Father. More will follow on this point.
Remember Simon’s assumption about sinners and how they ought to be treated. Remember how wrong he was about the credentials of Jesus! Well, the error of Simon is not restricted to the first century; it survives to this day. The “prosperity gospel” is but a twist to this fatal doctrine of the devil! God loves sinners to the same degree that he loves the righteous!
1. Why did Simon decide that he ought to listen to what Jesus had to say?
2. Reason with Simon as he responded to Jesus’ question. What principles were behind Simon’s right answer and how did he know them?
3. If put to the test as to who loved Jesus the most, Simon or the sinful woman, who won?
4. How does God feel about penitent sinners? How do you know? Cite scriptural proof.
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