A Study of Luke 7:36-50

Luke 7:36
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.

Luke 7:37
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,

Luke 7:38
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.

Luke 7:39
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.

Luke 7:40
And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

Luke 7:41
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

Luke 7:42
And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

Luke 7:43
Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

Luke 7:44
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.

Luke 7:45
Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

Luke 7:46
My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

Luke 7:47
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.

Luke 7:48
And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

Luke 7:49
And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?

Luke 7:50
And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Is this not a lovely story?

We always like those stories where someone becomes saved.

But before we get too sentimental about the story of this woman, who became the center of attention at this party, let’s not forget to ask the essential questions:

What exactly did God say in this story?

And: What doctrines did the Lord Jesus teach us here?

Let’s begin with the historical details that are given: Simon the Pharisee invited the Lord Jesus “that He would eat with him”. There is no indication here that Simon wanted to set a trap for Jesus. Jesus was not the only One invited; there were more people invited to this dinner. The Bible does not disclose who they were. But we can see from this invitation that Simon was a little bolder than another Pharisee we know: Nicodemus was also a Pharisee who came to Jesus by night, quietly, so that nobody could see him. This passage, Luke 7:36-50, was at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and Jesus was already getting a name for being a wise Teacher. Both Nicodemus and Simon wanted to talk to Jesus for the same reasons: They wanted to be taught by Him. Jesus addressed the Pharisee as Simon, whereas Simon addressed Jesus as “Master”, which in the Greek text actually says: “Teacher”. This was a great honor to Jesus. In the nation of Israel the Pharisees were the Doctors in the Law; they were the conservative scholars who had studied a long time before they became a Pharisee. In today’s society you would address them as Doctor so and so.

Now, why did Simon invite Jesus for dinner?

This Pharisee invited Jesus “that He would eat with him”; and have the opportunity that they would communicate some spiritual food with each other, and that he may get to know this Jesus a little better, whether He was a fake or whether He was a true Prophet.

Now, while all the guests entered the house of Simon the Pharisee there was among them:

An Uninvited Guest

Now, we should not confuse this event of anointing Jesus’ feet with another anointing that is mentioned in the other three synoptic Gospels. Here in Luke 7 the anointing takes place in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, whereas in Matthew, Mark and John the anointing takes place in the last week before Jesus went to the Cross. That was the second time Jesus was anointed by a woman.

But this woman, here in Luke 7, was a woman of ill repute. Usually, when we read in the New Testament about “a woman who is a sinner”, it is meant that she is a harlot. A harlot is someone who sold out her body to sin. Publicans and harlots were usually grouped together, because they were considered the outcasts of society. There is no indication that Jesus has met this woman before, but Simon the Pharisee knew her.

How did Simon come to know her?

Well, that remains an open question.

And what did this woman come for?

She came to meet Jesus and to anoint the feet of Jesus with this precious ointment that she brought along. That was the primary reason why she came. She did not come there intentionally to weep.

Why did she come to do this?

Was this woman already saved?

Our English translation does not tell us that, but in verse 37 where it says, “which was a sinner”, the verb in the Greek text is in the imperfect tense, which means that her lifestyle was not a thing of the past.

So here was a harlot among the small crowd that went into the house of Simon the Pharisee.

What a most unlikely place to meet Jesus.

What was drawing her to this place?

She heard that Jesus was going to be there in that house, and she wanted to meet Jesus, even if it meant that she would meet Him in the house of a Pharisee. Perhaps she heard what was said about Him in verse 34: “Behold, a friend of publicans and sinners”.

But why was she drawn so irresistibly to meet the Lord Jesus?

The Bible tells us why she was drawn so irresistibly, in the Gospel according to John, chapter 6:37.

John 6:37
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Jesus was speaking to the crowd of people who were following Him, and paraphrased He said:

Only those whom the Father has given to Jesus, shall come to Jesus in a God glorifying way. All others will fall away, because they are following Jesus for their own selfish reasons. Very soon after the Lord Jesus said these words, indeed this large crowd reduced to a very small group. Just in case you did not understand what He said, Jesus said again in verse 44.

John 6:44
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him (2X): and I will raise him up at the last day.

These are the only ones who can come to Me: If the Father draw him.

1. All others who claim they have made a decision for Jesus of their own free will, and

2. All others who claim that they have accepted the Lord Jesus out of their own free will, and

3. All others who claim that they have decided to believe on the Lord Jesus,

They all claim that they are following Jesus, but they do that under their own agenda. They do not know these words, or they do not believe these words in John 6:44. They cannot believe these words. They seem to come from another Jesus. That is indeed true. They do not know my Jesus, who is the Sovereign, Omnipotent, and Almighty God who will not share His glory with another human being. And just in case you still did not understand what Jesus said, He repeats it again in verse 65.

John 6:65
And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

It is impossible for sinful man, who is in willful rebellion against God, and who refuses to put himself under the authority of the Bible as the spoken Word of God, to come to Jesus, the Word Incarnate, and to believe that this Jesus hands out Salvation as a FREE GIFT. It is impossible for them to believe that. That is why the Father must personally choose those to whom He will send His Holy Spirit to make them Born Again, and only then will they believe it and follow Jesus.

Now we understand why this woman was drawn so irresistibly to this most unlikely place to meet Jesus. It was the Father who was drawing her.

In the eyes of man, she had no chance to be saved.

And actually, they were right. She had no chance to be saved, and neither has anyone else any chance to be saved, because none of the human race wants anything to do with the salvation plan that God has. But with God all things are possible. The Father drew her to the place where Jesus was, and God the Holy Spirit gave her a repentant heart right there, on the spot.

According to the custom of the Jews in those days, Jesus was reclining on one of the couches, and she was standing at Jesus’ feet. Jesus looked at her. She began to think of all her sins, they pierced her heart; the tears of sorrow began to pour out of her eyes, and before she knew it her tears fell on Jesus’ feet. Quickly she stooped to dry off those tears with the only towel she had: her long hair. If she had come for such a purpose she would have brought a towel. But tears do not come at will, especially not in a situation like this. No, her tears welled up quite involuntary and more tears fell on Jesus’ feet. She kept wiping them with her hair and kept kissing Jesus’ feet as if she was asking Him to forgive her for fouling His feet with her tears. Her entire soul went out to Him, and she tenderly kissed His feet and wiped them clean with her hair, and she began to pour the anointing oil from the alabaster box with ointment that she had brought.

The alabaster box with ointment was a very precious gift. In the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 14, this ointment is also mentioned, and there it was valued at 300 Denarii, which was equivalent to 300 man-days of work, or roughly one-year salary. So, whatever your annual income is, fill that in. That was the value of this ointment.

What prompted all this?

Jesus, who knew her heart, tells us that it was much love for Jesus that made her do this. Perhaps she had heard Jesus speak before, while she was in the crowd of publicans and sinners who so frequently were drawn to Him, and perhaps she heard from His lips some of those wonderful words such as never man spake. And now that she is at Jesus’ feet she could no longer keep her feelings to herself.

Only Jesus knew that He had come: “To seek and to save that which was lost”. (Luke 19:10

Only Jesus could understand what was going on within her, because Jesus knew that the Father had been drawing her to Him. Jesus expected her this day, because Jesus knew her from before the foundation of the world, and He knew the day and the hour when she would be saved. It is true that she had much love for Jesus, but the Bible says that Jesus loved her before she loved Him.

1 John 4:10
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:19
We love him, because he first loved us.

The woman’s love was more precious to Jesus than Simon’s feast. But now the time had come to draw her into the Kingdom, and the woman who was a sinner became a Saint.

Why had He allowed her to live in sin and misery for so long?

Only God knows the precise answer to that question.

But how differently did Simon the Pharisee look at this event. He saw the woman only as the scum of society, and his opinion of Jesus dropped a step lower on the Simon scale of decency. Jesus should not have permitted such a thing to be done to Him by such a harlot. She is a sinner. Simon thinks within himself that this is conclusive evidence that Jesus is not a prophet.

Jesus knew what Simon was thinking, and for the benefit of Simon, and for our benefit, Jesus began to explain the need for Salvation and the nature of Salvation. First Jesus tells us:

The Parable of the Two Debtors

When the Lord Jesus told the Parable of the Two Debtors, He did not have in view that these two debtors were representing Simon the Pharisee and the woman. Jesus was teaching Simon some basic principles of salvation. Let’s look at those three verses again.

Luke 7:41
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

Luke 7:42
And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

Luke 7:43
Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

“There was a certain Creditor”. Of course, this Creditor represents God Himself. Jesus chose His metaphors with good reason:

A Creditor is one who is benevolent and trustworthy. God is trustworthy, and God will not deceive us. But the Creditor also sets His rules, which we are to follow.

A Creditor is one who is independently wealthy.
His resources are sufficient for all your needs. “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

A Creditor is one who looks for some return for His investment. God gave His very best; He gave His only begotten Son.

What do we give Him?

Do we return Him evil for good?

God says that there will be a day of reckoning, a day to settle the accounts.
So, God represented as a Creditor is the basis of this Parable. This Creditor had only Two Debtors:

They were helpless bankrupts

The amounts they owed were not excessive. One owed 500 Denarii, which is almost two man-years of salary, and the other owed 50 Denarii, which is about two months of salary. You can see that these debts are only symbolic, because they are a mere pittance compared to the debts that we owe to God. Therefore, this parable only serves to establish the principle of verse 43, but not to give us an estimate of the debt we owe.

But there is something significant in the fact that this Creditor had only Two Debtors. If it has any spiritual significance, like here in this parable, the number Two is pointing at the Church. In other words, these Two Debtors are representing two groups of people in the Church.

The Lord Jesus says: “They had nothing to pay”. They were bankrupt. Just like we all stand bankrupt before God. We are unable to pay what we owe. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. Then Jesus said: “He frankly forgave them both”, or literally the Greek text says: “He freely forgave them both”. The small sinners and the great sinners were all freely forgiven. “Therefore, which of them will love Him most?” Now comes the Principle of verse 43:

And Simon answered: “I suppose, to whom he freely forgave the most.”

And Simon almost had it right.

Simon was thinking, as so many theologians are thinking, that the small creditor represented Simon and the large creditor represented the woman, and that Christ had both forgiven all their guilt. But that is not so.

Did Simon love Christ less than the woman?

How much less?

Look at the record Simon:

Luke 7:44
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.

Luke 7:45
Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

Luke 7:46
My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

Look at the record Simon.

You did NOTHING to show your love for Me.

How much less do you love Me?

What is the evidence?

It is ZERO. You have not even anointed My head with a little inexpensive olive oil, but she has anointed My feet with precious ointment.

Now, read verse 47 carefully. Jesus was still speaking to Simon when He said:

Luke 7:47
Wherefore I say unto thee (Simon), Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

When Jesus said, “Wherefore”, He does not mean: “Because she did all this, therefore are her sins forgiven” That conclusion would clash with everything else we read in the Bible. But paraphrased Jesus said: “Wherefore, I say unto thee Simon, look at this woman; her sins, which are many, are forgiven. And look at the evidence: she loves Me much. Her love was not the cause, but the proof of her forgiveness; and this is also evident from the structure of the parable. And then the Lord Jesus laid down this awesome principle:
“To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little”.

This is a message not just to Simon, but also to all of us. A wrong concept of sin leads to a wrong concept of our guiltiness before God, and to a mistaken notion of the nature of God’s provision for sin, the Atonement, and to a wrong concept of God Himself.

Can anyone of us say that he is forgiven little?

Breaking even one commandment makes us guilty of all of them (James 2:10).

And if we say that we love the Lord Jesus Christ, then where is the evidence of that love?

Can we examine ourselves and search our lives for that evidence?

You might say: those are works!

Does God want to see works in our lives after we have become saved?

That is right. The Lord Jesus explains to us here in a few words what the nature is of our Salvation, as well as what the nature is of our Sanctification.

This woman demonstrated what James said in James 2:17.

James 2:17
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Simon the Pharisee accused this woman of being a great sinner. He considered himself to be just a small sinner. That is why the Lord Jesus gave him this parable, which was really a very polite way of putting Simon in his place.

An unnamed woman

This was an unnamed woman. That is very important. Usually, when a person is not named in the Bible, God intentionally does that to paint a historical parable, so that this unnamed person is representing a certain group of people. This unnamed woman represents any person who is being drawn by the Father and is going to be saved and she is going to be the Bride of Christ.

Look at this woman: She wept for the many sins she had committed, she humbled herself to the uttermost, she was putting everything she had at His feet, she held nothing back, and she did it with a broken heart. This was not her own doing. It was the Father who was drawing her.

I used to think that I was just a little sinner, because I never committed any gross sins. I obeyed those who were in authority over me. I smoked just a little, I drank just a little and I rarely used foul language. But if I think about my past honestly, I never was given the opportunity to lead a sordid lifestyle. There was no “femme fatale” in my life, and there were no real wicked friends in my life. And so my life went on like a whisper, and I thought I was a self-made man.

But the Lord taught me differently. He showed me my sinful secret thoughts, and my discontentment with many things, and my pride that I was better than someone else. Slowly, but surely I came to realize that I was a BIG sinner, who was forgiven much. We have seen in this passage in Luke 7 that the Lord Jesus came for BIG sinners, not for little sinners. He also demonstrated that by being a friend of publicans and sinners. Therefore, if the Lord Jesus came also for me, then I must have been a BIG sinner. I am still a sinner, saved by Grace, and now I love Him more and more as the days go by.

Your experiences may not be like mine. But the BIG question for each one of you is this:

Are you forgiven much, and do you love Him much?

Or do you still find it hard to believe that He loves you so much, that all those ugly sins have been blotted out and are remembered no more.

What would it take for you to believe that?

It is so difficult, that it takes an act of God. But remember that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Therefore, as long as you are reading your Bible there is hope. When you stop reading your Bible, then you stop communicating with your Heavenly Father, and then you become like Simon the Pharisee, who knew it all.

The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for us.

What more could He give?

What do you have to give Him?

Does He expect you to give Him your life, out of gratitude?

Oh Yes!

What you give Him out of gratitude is actually the evidence of your relationship with Him.

But what are the blessed results?

When Jesus said to Simon: “Seest thou this woman”, I am sure that her heart was jumping up and down for joy. She was receiving Jesus’ approval. Jesus’ words were like music from heaven.

When Jesus said to her: “Thy sins are forgiven”, she could hardly believe her ears. Her sins, which were as scarlet, were made white as snow. What an encouragement for the wicked to forsake their ways is found in His abundant pardon.

Then Jesus again assured her: “Thy faith hath saved thee”. His Grace had saved her. Now she was free from the tyranny of the power of sin. She was now freed from the very love of sin. It was not her tears that saved her, not her kisses that saved her, not her precious ointment that saved her, but it was His Free Pardoning Grace that saved her.

And last of all, He said: “Go in peace”.

Romans 5:1
Therefore being justified, by faith, we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

By Alfred J. Chompff

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