Jesus intends Simon the Pharisee to relate to the debtors who could not pay what they owed. Likewise, Luke records today's Gospel text for you to connect to the people being told the parable. Which person do you identify with? The woman or Simon?
It is almost impossible for them to be more different. Society respected Simon - and would rather that the scandalous woman just disappeared. Yet she will not disappear, because she knows that God's Son in the flesh has appeared in her town. She does not care what other people think about her. The only place she wants to be is right next to our Lord. She is in love.
Simon is not in love. He is simply curious about Jesus. He recognizes Jesus as a teacher, but not a very good one. So Simon does not care to do his duties as host. No common courtesies. No water to clean Christ's dusty feet. No kiss of peace to greet the Friend of Sinners at the door. God anointed this Messiah to be more than a prophet, but Simon provides no oil to anoint the special guest.
The woman does all these things and more. Her joy overflows as the most precious waters of her tears clean Christ's grimy feet - His beautiful feet that are not yet pierced by the nails of the Cross. She wipes those feet with her own hair. Jesus praises this, but the people around them judge it as scandalous. Only the most immodest women among them let down their hair. But like I said, she does not care what you think. The only thing important to her is that she has heard God's plan of salvation is for sinners, including her. She knows God in Christ forgives her. She knows her Savior treasures her more than He cares about the great debt of her sins. So she worships at His feet, continually kissing and anointing them with myrrh.
Jesus tells us that her sins were many. But He does not tell us what her sins were. It does not matter. What matters is that He forgives them all. All the things that Society accused her of. All the mistakes that kept her awake and night and caused her to be ashamed. All those sins, and even the ones she did not know about. God knew about them all - and He forgave them all. That is what matters.
And all that is what should matter to you too. St. Luke tells you this true story because he wants you to relate to this real life woman with real life problems in her past. Because any and every sin of yours and mine makes you just like her - broken, dirty, humiliated, outcasts from Paradise, separated from God and from each other. We are unholy. God is holy. And like it or not, Simon does get something right about this whole situation - this woman should not be touching Jesus. Neither should you come anywhere near this Righteous Lord.
For we are those characters in the parable who cannot pay off their colossal debts to God. If you want to know the size of the debt, study the Ten Commandments. Look at yourself in the mirror of God's law. While we might like to imagine that we only owe the fifty denarii, not the five hundred, it does not really matter in the end how much our debt is. Neither character could give to the Lord what is due.
Yet He did not keep Himself separate and aloof, but He closed the gap. He came down to us. God Almighty became one of us. He lived in our flesh and blood. By His life and death, Jesus did give to the Lord what was due from us - the perfect obedience, perfect trust, perfect humility, perfect love for His fellow man. Like a Husband taking on the debts of His Bride, Jesus paid what we owed to His Father. Our sinful debts have been cancelled and forgiven at His Cross. There Jesus yelled out, "It is finished." That Greek word, tetelestai, was used by bankers when loan accounts were settled. Nothing more needs to be repaid. Christ has bridged the gap and brought us back to God, telling you what He told this woman, "Your sins are forgiven" (Luke 7:48). She no longer is an outcast. Now she is safe in the arms of our Lord.
If I were to ask at this point which character you related to more, Simon or the woman, I hope that you would connect to the woman. You probably would not have come here if you were like Simon, failing to recognize God in the flesh when He comes to you.
Yet there is more sinful Simon inside us than we would like to admit before God. Simon saw the woman as she had been, not as she is now, not as God saw her - a forgiven child of God. If Simon would have known such a filthy, embarrassing creature would darken his doorstep, he probably would have done everything he could to keep her locked outside. That impulse to keep others away from the forgiving love of God still exists - even inside church going folk. Who is it that you fail to see as a forgiven child of God? Like Simon, we want to keep ourselves separate from those who make us uncomfortable. Someone sits over here, so someone else avoids them by sitting over there. We imagine their sins are more terrible and more numerous. That helps me to keep from admitting that my sins are the real problem in life. Because I really do not want to own up to the fact that I am at least as bad a sinner as they are - if not worse. I want to proudly boast that God loves me because I am such a great person.
But how great a person am I if I cannot honestly say to every person, "I am so glad that you are with us today and that you will be in heaven because of Jesus!"? Can you say that? To our shame, our love is lacking. Perhaps You and I are glad that a certain so-and-so is not here at church today - that avoidable person being different for each of us. Some unresolved sin gets in the way. Before anyone realized what happened, one stupid sin led to another. Some little dark deed done in the past snowballed. Now your pride refuses to let go of the pain.
Sinful Simon lives inside of us - and his sins make our hearts dead. Because, unlike Jesus, we are quick to withhold our love, quick to hold grudges, quick to let others walk blindly down the road that leads to their destruction. On the rare occasion that we tell a person we have forgiven them, most often it is only a partial forgiveness, only for the portion of their sins that we think deserve to be forgiven. Seldom do we forgive the way God has forgiven us - totally, completely, quickly and freely with no strings attached.
However, many people think this passage says exactly the opposite - that you and I have to earn God's forgiveness, that our love causes Him to bless us. They completely misunderstand when Jesus says, "I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven - for she loved much." In truth, that is like saying, "The lamp is plugged in - for the light is shining." The shining light does not cause the lamp to be plugged in. The shining light is the evidence that the power cord is plugged in. That is what Jesus meant about this woman. Her love does not cause God to forgive her. Rather, God's forgiveness causes her overflowing love. John says in his first epistle, "We love because God first loved us." Her love is evidence that she is forgiven. "Your faith has saved you," Jesus tells her. Not your works of love, not your tears, not your ointment. Your faith that grasps God's free mercy. Your simple, childlike trust that Jesus does not reject sinners, that Jesus will not treat you the way the sinful world treats you.
It is good that our gracious and merciful Lord Jesus Christ does not deal with us the way we deal with each other. For we have often kept ourselves distant from each other and from God. We have ignored His gifts to us because we thought we needed to attend to more important things. And then we wonder why it is so hard to love each other.
Yet God does not withdraw Himself from us. He still closes the gap our sins have made. Not giving up on this woman. Not giving up on King David in today's Old Testament text, who had a man killed so that David's affair would be covered up. Not giving up on Simon the Pharisee who thought he needed nothing Jesus had to give. And God is still there, not giving up on you - freely declaring your lack of love is forgiven. Not because you are worthy of it. Only because His only Son died on the Cross for you.
Jesus is no longer in Simon's house. You cannot go there and shower His feet with your gifts of love. But you can shower love upon those people you have separated yourself from, those whom you need to forgive, those you have a hard time seeing as your fellow children of God. Today, where you see unresolved sin, stop letting it fester. Stop behaving like you are above God, deciding that you are not going to forgive your fellow man. Say, "I have sinned against the Lord," - like David said to Nathan. And then hear the Lord's servant, your pastor say to you, "The LORD also has put away your sin," when Christ became a curse for you by hanging on His tree. Your sin is gone. Put away as far as the east is from the west. Past tense. It is finished. Forgiven much, you love much. As you go out from here with the peace of Christ, reconcile to your fellow child of God as you forgive the unresolved sin. For the life you now live in the flesh you live by faith in the Son of God. He loves you. He has given Himself for you. He tells you, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
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