Christ in the House of the Pharisee (Luke 7: 36-50 KJV)
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. 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, 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. 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. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 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. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 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. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
This parable, found only in Luke, reveals what determines our love for Jesus. Luke records twenty-eight of Jesus’ thirty-nine parables, seventeen of which are not found in the other gospels, and includes the most famous ones, such as The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, and The Rich Man and Lazarus.
This parable of the two debtors was told early in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Because of His growing popularity, He was experiencing hostility from the Pharisees. They had tried to discredit Jesus by saying He was a glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of the tax collectors and sinners – that’s what Luke 7:34 says.
Now, to understand this parable, we need to consider the Pharisee, the prostitute, the parable, and the pardon.
The Pharisee (Luke 7:36)
A Pharisee named Simon wants to know more about Jesus. He “desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.” In the ancient East, people did not sit to eat but reclined on couches with their heads near the table.
Simon was a Pharisee, which means, “separated one.” It refers to a group of Jews committed to keeping the Law. They had separated themselves and looked down on anyone not keeping the Law. Jesus told of the attitudes of the Pharisees in Luke 18:11-12, when He said they thanked God they weren’t sinners like other people. They boasted to God about fasting twice a week, and tithing all of their income.
Today we have a very low opinion of Pharisees. However, in Jesus’ day, they were among the most respected people in town! They were moral; they didn’t lie, cheat, or steal. They believed the Bible [OT] was the Word of God in written form. They went to church every Saturday, tithed, and prayed every day.
The way Simon treats our Lord reveals his motive for inviting Jesus to his home. I'm hear to tell you that Simon was a devil! It was customary for a host to do three things. First, the guest was given the customary greeting of a kiss of peace. Second, the guest’s feet were washed upon entering the home. In Jesus’ day, roads were dusty, and everyone wore sandals. So, as people traveled, their feet would become covered with dirt. Third, a sweet smelling perfume was placed on the guest’s head.
Simon had probably invited other distinguished Pharisees to the dinner. I say that because if you look at verse 49, it says that they were talking to themselves. Unless they were pictures on the wall that were talking, then I’ve got to assume that other people were in the house. So, Simon obviously omits the common courtesies of his day, perhaps to show his friends what he thought of Jesus.
Although we would be quick to condemn Simon for his lack of reverence, we do similar things. You heard me. I said, we do similar things, right now! We come to church to worship, and instead of humbly confessing, we arrogantly sit in His presence with unconfessed sin. However, God desires that we have a broken spirit and contrite and repentant heart when we worship – at least that’s what Psalm 51:17 says.
Once we have offered the sacrifice of a broken spirit and contrite heart because of our sin, Psalm 100:2 says we can then worship God with gladness and joyful songs. Contrite and repentant first…gladness and joy next. Okay? Amen.
Back to the parable: Having looked at the Pharisee, we now need to consider…
The Prostitute (Luke 7:37-39)
As Simon’s group of distinguished friends – them, too, probably all devils - are having dinner [hey, when you all get together at the beauty salon to talk about somebody, don’t you dare think that Jesus has anything to do with it! You’re all being used by Satan, and that makes you all devils!], “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” (7:37). We should not confuse this incident, which occurred in Galilee, with the anointing of Jesus by Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, which is recorded in the other three gospels. That anointing occurred in Bethany, in Judea, just days before the crucifixion.
Let me explain something to you, church: At Jewish dinners, when a rabbi was present, the door was left open and all kinds of people were free to come in and listen to the conversations. Therefore, at the dinner was a woman who had lived a sinful life, which probably means a prostitute. It is clear what she is about to do is not on the impulse of the moment, ‘cause she brought an alabaster jar of perfume with her. Alabaster jars were made of beautifully carved gypsum and were very expensive. This woman stood behind Him at His feet weeping (7:38). Get this picture, now: Her life of sin overwhelms her, and in an act of unparalleled humility and repentance, she “…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.” Lord, God. That’s lovin’ Jesus! Like that song says, “Can’t no body love me like Jesus…Can’t no body love me like the Lord.” Well, that woman was just trying to show Jesus that she LOVED Him. She knew that Jesus is God! Yes! That Jesus is God! Help me, Jesus!
Typically, perfume was used to anoint the head, but this woman felt unworthy to touch the head of Jesus. Y’all know what “unworthy” means, huh? You feel worthy to talk about your neighbor – much like Simon. But, this woman wasn’t worthy to touch the head of Jesus – so, she stays down at His feet! The room is filled with silence as Simon’s distinguished guests sit stunned that a prostitute would touch a Jewish man and make him unclean! At that moment Simon said to himself, “…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” (7:39). Not only does Simon feel superior to the woman, but to Jesus as well.
Jesus not only knows who is touching Him, but He also knows what Simon is thinking. Jesus knows our thoughts. He knows what is in our hearts right now. He knows when we have pride in our hearts and look down on other people. Thus, Jesus tells one of His shortest parables not only for Simon, but also for you and me. We have looked at the Pharisee and the Prostitute. Now, Jesus exposes the hearts of both in…
The Parable (7:40-43)
Jesus knows Simon’s thoughts and says, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.” In his arrogance, Simon says, “Master, say on.” Therefore, Jesus says, “41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.”
The first debtor owes five hundred denarii, which would equal about 2 year’s wages, or about $40,000. The second debtor owes 50 denarii, or about $4,000. Their indebtedness is vastly different, but being unable to pay their debts makes them both the same. Now, I realize that we all know what it means to have a bill sitting in front of us, and not have the money to pay it. It doesn’t matter whether the bill is for $50.00, or $5,000 – if you’re broke, it’s all the same: broke is broke.
In a spiritual sense, we are all the same as well. The amount of our sin debt is not the issue. Comparing our sin debts is like challenging someone to jump the Grand Canyon. I tell Bro. Andrus that I can out- jump him across the mile-wide Grand Canyon. Y’all know Bro. Andrus is 75-years old. He can’t jump. But, I talk him into the contest. He jumps 3 feet, and falls down to the bottom of the canyon – half a mile! Remember, now, the canyon is a mile wide. Here I go, trying to out-jump Bro. Andrus, and me and my bad heart jump 15 feet! But, guess what, I go down to the bottom of the canyon, too! Ain’t no way any of us can jump a mile! I guess what I’m trying to say is, “We all fall short of the glory of God!” Romans 3:23 must be right.
Anyway, Jesus says that the moneylender cancels both debts. “Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?” It wouldn’t be difficult for Simon to see which one would love the moneylender more, so he reluctantly and begrudgingly answers, “43 I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.” In his answer, Simon is placed in the position of judging himself, and thus Jesus responds, “Thou hast rightly judged.” Simon has greatly overestimated his own righteousness and intellect and greatly underestimated the country preacher from Galilee. I’m so glad I’m a country preacher!
After the Pharisee, prostitute, and parable, we come to…
The Pardon (7:44-50)
Jesus points out the stark contrast between Simon and the woman by looking at the woman and saying to 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. 45Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.”
Simon does not see the woman as Jesus sees her. Simon sees a prostitute; Jesus sees a repenter and worshipper. Simon sees her as a notorious sinner, but because of her act of repentance, Jesus sees her sins, though like scarlet, were made as white as snow; though they were red as crimson, they became like wool. Thank you, Jesus, for Isaiah 1:18.
Though the woman’s sins were many, Simon was guilty of the worst of all sins, which is to be conscious of none. In contrast to Simon, the woman was overwhelmed by her need for forgiveness, and so Jesus says, “. 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. 48And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” Even though no one tells Him, Jesus knows this woman is guilty of many sins, and He does not overlook them. It is her guilt for her many sinsthat causes her act of humility and repentance, which she demonstrates by weeping, washing Jesus’ feet, and kissing them.
Jesus’ words of forgiveness causes the guests “to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?” The Pharisees rightly believed only God could forgive sins, but they did not believe Jesus was God Incarnate.
Finally, Jesus “said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” It wasn’t the woman’s tears or good works that saved her; it was her faith in the only One who could forgive her sins and save her soul. The word translated saved [SESOKEN] is perfect tense, which means as accomplished fact. This means she didn’t have to wait until she died to know if she was saved; her faith had already saved her. Jesus promised in John 5:24 that everyone who hears His Word, and believes God sent Him has eternal life and won’t be condemned.
Not only is the woman saved, but she can also go in peace – peace with God, which means she no longer has to bear the burden and guilt of her sins. She is totally and forever forgiven and cleansed of her sins.
The revelation in this parable is “what determines my love for Jesus is to understand that there are no little sinners and no little forgiveness.”
I know you might be thinking that God gave you the right to look down your nose at somebody. I know you might think that He gave you the honor of talking about, or making fun of someone. But, I’m here to tell you that the Simon’s of the world are many, and if they don’t come to Jesus like the woman did, then they can all go to hell, like Simon did.
Rev. Dr. S. Stewart Poullard, Th.D., is pastor of the New Hope
Missionary Baptist Church in Mermentau, Louisiana. Pastor Poullard holds a
Masters in Theology
[Th.M.] from Andersonville Baptist Seminary, Camilla, Georgia, 1999 and a
Doctorate in Theology [Th.D.] from Andersonville Baptist Seminary, 2000.
New Hope’s Motto: "We Teach and Preach Christ." Email him
2004 BlackandChristian.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author and are used by permission.