The Sinner Who Would Worship, Luke 7:36-50 (Part 2)


We saw last week that Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus over to his house for a dinner party.  We learned that these dinner parties were occasions for the elite to sit around a table and discuss the most important topics of the day.  We also learned that these parties were open to the public, in that people off the street were welcome to come in, stand around the walls – not at the table eating – and listen in on the who’s who of Jewish society weigh in on hot topics.  Our passage describes this particular dinner party where a woman who had lived a sinful life comes in and starts to worship Jesus by crying on his feet, wiping his feet with her tears, kissing his feet and finally anointing them with the perfume she brought with her.  We left off last week at verse 39, where Simon thought to himself that Jesus could not be a prophet because he assumed Jesus did not know who this woman was at His feet.  Starting in verse 40 Jesus begins His response to Simon’s thoughts.

Read verses 40-43.

Drowning in Debt (v40-43)

After Simon thinks these thoughts to himself in verse 39 Jesus answers him.  Again, Simon did not say his thoughts out loud.  Jesus heard what Simon was thinking and then Jesus responded with a parable.  Do not miss the irony at this moment.  Simon thinks Jesus is clueless about who the woman is behind him.  Therefore Simon doesn’t think Jesus is a prophet from God, because a prophet would know – God would tell him.  So how does Jesus demonstrate to Simon that He is in fact from God and does know things?  Rather than starting with the woman Jesus demonstrates shows He does know more than Simon thinks – He knows Simon’s unspoken thoughts.  The parable Jesus tells is clearly related to Simon’s thoughts, which should have caused Simon to panic when he realized his inner monologue was heard by Jesus.  What’s the point?  The point is that if Jesus knows the conversation Simon has in his head then He definitely knows who this woman is at His feet.  Simon thought Jesus needed a lesson in who was at his feet.  But Jesus was going to give a lesson to Simon about who He invited to dinner.

Well what is Jesus’ parable all about?  Jesus describes two people who owed the same guy money.  One guy owed a lot while the other owed a lot less.  Five hundred denarii is equivalent to 1 ½ years wages.  Fifty denarii is about 2 months wages.  While the amount was different for both men, both men had the same problem:  neither could pay back what they owed.  Who are these people supposed to represent?  Who is Jesus talking about here?  The money lender is Jesus Christ.  The 2 debtors are Simon the Pharisee and the sinful woman.  Since Simon compared himself with the woman and felt confident he was righteous because he wasn’t as sinful as her, Jesus wanted to use this parable to compare them both too.  In doing so He was going to reveal to Simon that even though his “debt” to God for his own sin was less than the woman’s, like the woman, Simon could not pay back even the small amount owed.

Let’s notice 2.5 things here. First, if someone owes more than you it doesn’t cancel your debt and it doesn’t excuse your inability to pay back your smaller debt.  The point in this parable Jesus is making is that while other people may be worse sinners than us, that doesn’t’ mean we are not sinners ourselves.  It is a dangerous and foolish thing to make it a habit to compare ourselves with people we think are worse than us in order to feel better about ourselves.  Romans 14:10 says,“You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”  If we have less sin than someone else the point is that we still have sin.  And we can’t pay God back for our small sin! If you think about this it is actually quite striking to realize that while people feel good about themselves because their debt isn’t as bad as other people’s, how do they look when they can’t pay back their smaller debt?

Notice secondly that Jesus makes this about love.  Jesus finishes the parable with a question to Simon:  “Who loves more?”  Why is that even a concern?  Because the parable not only shows that out of His immense love for us God forgives our sin, but, Jesus is introducing the point that God also forgives us because He wants us to love Him.  From God’s side, granting us forgiveness is the expression of His love.  From our side, loving God is the expression of receiving His forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the fountainhead of love.  God wants our love for Him to spring up and out of our realization that He has loved us and forgiven us.  God wants us to love Him.  So much so that He made it the greatest command in all Scripture: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.”

Notice point #2.5 here:  Even “good” people need forgiveness.  Notice in the parable that the money lender cancelled both debts.  Not just the big one, but, the small one as well.  The big debt belongs to the “bad” sinner whereas the small debt belongs to the “good” sinner.  Oh yes, Jesus can cancel the biggest sinner’s debt.  But, here He is looking right into Simon’s eyes across the table and saying that his debt, though small, must be forgiven, and, can be forgiven.

Application:  You see, the people with big debts need to realize that their debt is able to be forgiven – that God’s grace can cover the biggest mountain of baggage.  On the other hand, those who have “small debts” need to realize something different:  they need to realize that though their debt is smaller than that of others, it is still a debt and it still needs to be paid.  All this is to say that so called “good” people need salvation just as badly as so called bad people because while their debts are different their problem is the same:  neither can pay back what they owe to God.  Don’t be deceived by being good.  According to Isaiah 64:6 “All our righteousness acts are like filthy rags…”  Romans 3:10 and 23 say, “There is no one who is good…All sin and all fall short of God’s glory”  Again in Proverbs 20:9 we read, “Who can say ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?”  No one is good.  Jesus said only God is good (Matthew 19:17).  When we compare ourselves to Scripture rather than others we are using the right measuring stick.

A Sinner’s Love (44-47)

Notice what verse 44 says – don’t miss it.  “Then Jesus turned towards the woman”.  But the thing is Jesus continues to talk to Simon while looking at the woman.  On the one hand we see how the Lord sees everything from our inner most thoughts to our worship of Him.  Jesus looking at this woman implies He accepts her worship, as He will validate in the next verses.  But I think the reason Jesus was looking at her while talking to Simon was because Simon should have been looking at what Jesus was looking at.  Oh Simon was looking at her, but not the way Jesus was looking at her.

And that’s why Jesus, still looking at the woman, poses the question to Simon: “Do you see this woman?”  Oh look out when Jesus asks questions.  Of course Simon saw the woman – he saw her from the moment she entered his house.  He has seen her around town her whole sinful life.  Now she was imposing on his dinner party and defiling his house with her presence.  You bet Simon saw her.  She was the elephant in the room.  But, Jesus’ was not asking the question so Simon would see the woman, He was going to make Simon see himself in contrast to the woman. Do you see her Simon?  Simon thought “Yes, I see her, I’m not like her.”  Simon thought that if this sinful woman ever had a chance she needed to become like him.  But Jesus was showing Simon that he needed to become like her to become righteous.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:20, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

When Jesus tells a parable He sometimes explains it and other times not.  But Jesus was going to explain this parable and in doing so force Simon to look into the mirror.  Simon saw himself as better than this woman but Jesus was now going to turn the tables and explain how this woman was better than him.  Notice the 3 statements Jesus makes to Simon which follow a formula:  “You did not…but, she did…”  What Jesus is doing is pointing out that the woman succeeded where Simon failed.  Simon failed to greet Jesus with the standard code of hospitality, and this reflected his low opinion of Jesus.  This woman however, not only greeted Jesus the way a guest should be treated, she did it in a way that demonstrated her love and worship of Jesus.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:20, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Oh here Jesus was explaining how this woman’s righteousness exceeded Simon’s.  It exceeded Simon the Pharisees’ because she put her faith in Jesus Christ.  She had the righteousness that comes by faith and not by the law (Philippians 3:7-9).

Of course none of this meant that she was less of a sinner than Simon.  The measuring stick Jesus is using is how each of these two people responded to Him personally.  Jesus said “the measure in which you judge others will be the measure in which you are judged.”  Think that through a minute:  If a man rejects Jesus that man will be rejected.  If a man accepts Jesus’ words that man will be accepted.  She held a better estimation of who Jesus was – she knew who Jesus was and knew who He was personally to her.  Simon dismissed Jesus in verse 39 and unless Simon turned himself around he would find out that God was going to dismiss him – forever.  She treated Jesus better.  Her thoughts of Jesus were better.  Great people in the Bible are great because of their great view of God – not necessarily because they lived so perfectly.

And so because she was forgiven much, she loved much.  I think we should assert here that she came to worship Jesus at that party because at an earlier time Jesus had forgiven her.  Her intent was to come and worship Him and show her gratitude.  That was because her sins were already forgiven.  Notice the parable tells us that love follows forgiveness.  Does your love flow from your confidence that God has forgiven you in Christ Jesus?

You Can’t Have Your Righteousness and Salvation Too (v48-50)

The only person who left that room saved was the one with the worst reputation.  Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven” and the reason her sins were forgiven was because of her “faith”, Jesus says:  “Your faith has saved you.”  Simon was learning that you can’t have your righteousness and salvation too.  In other words, you can’t be holding on to your own self-made rightoeusenss and at the same time be saved.  Salvation inherently means abandoning the idea that you can be righteous by yourself and instead accepting the free gift of righteousness from Jesus Christ.  Philippians 3:7-9 says, “

Jesus has Power to Forgive Sins.  Verse 48 Jesus says “Your sins are forgiven.”  He said that because He could.  And if He says it then it’s real.  Just like the miracles He did were real so too is the forgiveness He gives.  Actually, Jesus connected the two and intended that those who saw His power to heal were to realize He also had power to forgive sins.  The Jews attributed both powers to God.  In Matthew 9:5-6 Jesus was going to heal a man who was paralyzed.  He says to some stubborn Pharisees who scoffed at His ability to forgive, “Which is easier:  to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  But so that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” and then Jesus healed the guy.  In other words, Jesus was demonstrating that the same power He had from God to heal was the same power He had from God to forgive sins.

Let me step on some psychology toes today.  There is a lie going around today, made popular by secular psychology, that people who struggle with guilt and self-loathing must learn to forgive themselves.  Here’s the problem that as seen in the Bible:  we don’t have authority to forgive our own sins.  Only Jesus does.  And “forgiving” ourselves never works, but, when we come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness we find His power is effective in our lives to “cleanse our conscience of our sins” (Heb. 9:14; 10:2, 22).

Faith is the Only thing God will Accept from a Sinner.  “Your faith has saved you” This woman was righteous because of her faith, not because of her works.  “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him.” (Rom. 4:7).  Paul said in Philippians 3:7-9, “…”  This woman’s sins were forgiven and she received the righteousness of God because of her faith.  Simon, though his sin debt was smaller, his debt still remained.  He did not believe in Jesus Christ.

Peace is the Product of Salvation.  “Go in peace”.  Jesus Christ transforms your world.  First of all when you get saved you get peace with God.  You are no longer an object of God’s wrath, but, rather an object of His love and blessing.  But you also have inner peace, which is the product of a conscience that is cleansed, freedom from a guilty conscience, and the fruit of peace that comes from the Holy Spirit inside you.  This peace is sought after so desperately by people and you would pay big money to have this peace.  But it can’t be bought.  It’s free when you accept the free gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ.

The Purpose of our Life in Christ:  Don’t miss what Jesus says to her:  “Go!”  What I love about this last point is seeing the movement of this woman.  At the beginning of this story she comes to Jesus.  At the end of the story she is sent out by Him.  We see Jesus doing this to people all the time in the Gospels – sending them away from Him after He ministers to them.  He sends the demoniac back to his town.   He sends the 12 Apostles out to preach “Go into all the world”.  In Luke 8:48 he says to a woman that was healed by touching his robe, “Daughter, your faith has healed you, go in peace.”  In Luke 10:37, after parable of the good Samaratin Jesus tells the teacher of the law, “Go and do likewise”.  When we go to Jesus like Mary and sit at His feet worshipping Him He will send us out in service to Him.  Like the branches growing out from the vine our lives are to grow out from Him.  “Go!”  Go to Him for salvation, for new life, and then with His power and commission go out from Him to tell others.  Has Jesus saved you?  Then He says “Go!”

The Sinner Who Would Worship, Luke 7:36-50 (Part 1)


There are two kinds of sinners in the world today:  those who know they’re sinners and those who don’t.  For instance, in Luke 18 Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who both went up to the temple to pray.  He says the Pharisee confidently stood up and bragged about all his righteousness to God and named all the faults with everyone else that he never was guilty of.  On the other hand, the tax collector was too ashamed of himself to even look up to heaven and he could only plead with God to have mercy on him because he knew he was a sinner.  The tax collector knew he was a sinner and the Pharisee didn’t.  The tax collectors sensitivity to his own sin made him humble, and made him cry out to God for mercy.  The Pharisees pride in himself blinded him to his own sin, and his own need for mercy, and therefore kept him from ever asking for God’s mercy.

Jesus is Invited to Dinner (v36)

Events and parables contrasting these two types of sinners abound in the NT.  Our study today in Luke 7:36-50 contrasts another set of these two types of sinners.  This time we see a Pharisee and a woman who had “lived a sinful life”.  The occasion begins in verse 36 when Jesus, ever in demand socially, is invited by a Pharisee named Simon to come and have dinner at his house.  Jesus was always getting invited over – even by Pharisees (Luke 11:7; 14:1).  Sometimes it was for his honor, and sometimes, it was to try and trap him – as the Pharisees were often trying to do (Luke 14:1).  This may have been Simon’s intention, but, we don’t know that for sure because there were many among the Pharisees who secretly supported Jesus (John 3:1-2; 12:42; Acts 15:5).  Perhaps Simon was in Nicodemus’ camp and was hopeful that Jesus really was the Messiah.  If so, as we will see, Simon has some religious trappings to overcome first.

Let’s point out 2 things regarding verse 36.  First of all, Jesus knew his host’s intentions because He is God and as so He is omniscient.  He demonstrates His knowledge of all things – even men’s thoughts – throughout the Gospels and even in this passage.  Accepting the invitation demonstrates His grace and love, even when He knows evil motives lie behind their hospitality.

Second, we should note that Jesus didn’t just eat with “sinners and tax collectors”.  Liberal preachers really want you to believe that Jesus shunned the elite classes and favored the outcasts.  They desperately try to paint Him as some social rebel who tried to protest and take down the establishment.  But over and over again Jesus is found dining with the rich, righteous, and influential and not just the poor, sinful, and outcasts.  Why would He do this?  Because all men need salvation.

Sinner on the Scene (v37-38)

Well the dinner party gets interesting when a woman with a bad reputation arrives uninvited.  Notice verse 37 and 38 with me [Read].

Many theologians believe she had been a prostitute.  So when she walks through the door things get tense.  We might say she was the elephant in the room.  People were uncomfortable being in the same house with “that woman”.  It was improper.  I was asking myself this week, “What would possess a woman to barge in on a high profile dinner party she was not invited to, and most definitely not welcome at?”

Well, while studying I found out some context about the culture in that day.  Apparently, Pharisees like Simon here would have a dinner party with other prominent religious leaders.  And at these dinners these men would discuss everything from points of the Mosaic Law, to cultural and social ideas of the day to anything else that was important.  It was a place where weighty opinions were offered on all things going on in Jewish society.

Now the thing was these discussion dinners were often open to the public, and the doors to the house would be left open and room in the dining room around the walls would be available for anyone off the street to come in and listen to these heavy hitters talk.  It was a chance to literally be a “fly on the wall”, photobomb a Pharisee or two, and hear the who’s who give commentary on all things Jewish.

Knowing that helps us understand that this woman wasn’t exactly “barging in” and crashing Simon’s party.  As part of the public, she had a generic invitation to come in.  But still, it was awkward.  And it was only going to get more awkward.  She didn’t come to listen to Pharisees.  She came to worship Jesus.

Notice what Luke tells us she does.  First of all she goes to Jesus.  Verse 37 says that when she “learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house” she went to that house.  When she found out where He was she went to Him.  That is the call to all men, to come to Jesus Christ for salvation.  Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened”.  In John 12:32 Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to myself.”  In the Millennial Kingdom Isaiah 2 says all nations will come to Jesus the King of kings in Jerusalem to worship Him and hear Him teach.  The first thing she did was to go to Jesus.

Have you come to Jesus Christ?  Have you turned to Him and come to Him to receive His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life?  You have to come to Him at the cross, where He died for your sins.

Once she arrived – which made everyone uneasy enough – she started to act in a very bizarre way.  Luke says she stood behind Jesus at His feet, weeping so hard that the Lord’s feet were soaked from her tears.  Realizing this she used her own hair to wipe His feet clean, then proceeded to kiss His them, and finally pour the whole jar of perfume on His feet.  If the Pharisee’s conversation had put anyone to sleep they were wide awake now.  People had to be thinking, “What is Jesus going to do?”  “Is Simon going to throw her out?”  “She must be out of her mind!”  No, actually, when you worship the Lord Jesus Christ you are in your right mind.  There is nothing more right for your mind.  It is those who don’t worship Him who are out of their minds.

You might be wondering “How can she be standing behind Jesus and be near His feet?”  Because they didn’t eat dinner the way we do.  We sit in chairs with our feet under a table.  But their tables were low to the ground and rather than sitting, everyone would lie down on their sides/elbows on some comfy rugs.  Everyone’s heads would be near the table while their feet would be extended away.  So when she walked up behind Jesus His feet would be the first thing she encountered.

While everything she did seemed bizarre, it actually wasn’t.  It was customary in that day for a host to do 3 things for their guests when they arrived.

First, have their feet washed since the roads were muddy and dusty and everyone wore sandals.  This was done by the lowest servant in the home.  John the Baptist said he wasn’t worthy to untie the sandals of Jesus.  This woman washed Jesus feet.  A person’s worship is only as real as their humility.

Second, a host would pour oil on their guest’s head.  Living in a hot, sticky, sweaty climate body odor is a problem and baths are few and far between.  It was part of hospitality to refresh someone by pouring oil atop their heads to provide a pleasant aroma.

And thirdly, a host greeted his guests with a kiss, a sign of hospitality, the affection of friendship.

The point here is that what she was doing was actually the customary way of receiving a guest in an honorable way, even though how she did it was quite unusual.  To underscore that point notice in the next verse that Simon was not offended by what she was doing.  Rather he was offended that Jesus would let someone like her do it.

Measuring Jesus the Wrong Way (v39)

It was probably Simon, the host of the party, who was most uncomfortable with what this woman was doing.  But, interestingly, he keeps his thoughts to himself.  Of course, our thoughts are never known only to us.  God knows our every thought.  Hebrews 4:12 and 13 say, “The word of God…judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  And so the Holy Spirit inspires Luke to tell us what Simon the Pharisee thought to himself as he watched this woman worship Jesus.  Verse 39, “…”

Notice what Simon is doing:  Simon dismisses the possibility that Jesus is a prophet.  He assumes that Jesus doesn’t know who this woman is.  But Simon is wrong.  Jesus does know who this woman is.  He knows who everyone truly is.

Two things.  First of all, Simon was right, she was a sinner.  But, his implication is that she was a sinner and he was not.  In identifying her as a sinner Simon was not identifying himself with her.  His assessment of her sin was as much an affirmation of his own righteousness.  He could be satisfied that he never had done anything she had a reputation for, and so he thought because he hadn’t committed her sins, he wasn’t a sinner.  He sat comfortably on his moral throne.  Oh, how he was in for a lesson.  There was not only a sinner at Jesus’ feet, but one face to face with Him too.

Application:  Do we think highly of ourselves because we think lowly of others?  Do we think that we’re not sinners, or bad sinners because we always see everyone else as worse than us?  There’s a reason it’s called “Looking down” on people.  It’s because we think we’re higher than them, better than them, looking down at them in their pitifulness while we sit high atop our moral stallion.  If our self-esteem is built upon the condescending criticism of others we have a Pharisee’s kind of pride.  We need to humble ourselves and confess such an attitude as sin.

Secondly, Simon makes the mistake of measuring Jesus with the wrong criteria.  He thought Jesus was like him as a man of God and would never allow such a sinful woman near him.  So since Jesus wasn’t acting like Simon expected Him to act – that is, like himself – he thought Jesus could be written off.

Oh how arrogant, and oh, how common, isn’t it?  How often do we think God is just like us?  How often do people dismiss God because they think they are more moral than He is?  God doesn’t measure up to their moral code so they think they are morally superior to God.  Desmond Tutu, a very liberal Anglican Bishop said he “would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven” and instead choose “the other place.” Or listen to Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists condemn God for genocide in the OT.  Or listen to people smugly judge God as evil for allowing evil in this world.  God is the Judge and all are accountable to Him – yet so many today think that God is accountable to them and that they are God’s judge.  But God says in Psalm 50:21, “You thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.”  God warns in Job 40:8, “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”

That is a very dangerous thing to do.  We need to be very careful that we do not begin to think that Jesus is supposed to be like us-  rather than us becoming like Him.  We are most susceptible to this when we are ignorant of God’s Word.  The Bible explains who Jesus is.  Unless we are informed by the Scriptures as to Whose image we are supposed to be conforming to, we are left with our own ideas.  Our own ideas.  Our image.  Our made up image of Jesus.  What we think Jesus is like.  Which usually means…. like us.  “You thought I was altogether like you…”  This is a bad place to be and studying the word of God, sitting under sound Biblical preaching is the only way to be Biblically informed, and not end up deformed spiritually.

Simon dismissed Jesus because Jesus was not like him.  He used the wrong criteria to measure Jesus.  He didn’t look at Jesus the right way.  But this was Simon’s problem with everyone.  He saw Jesus the wrong way.  As we’re going to see Simon saw the woman the wrong way.  And clearly, as a smug, self-righteous Pharisee, he saw himself the wrong way too.  Pride distorts your perspective so badly – of everyone else and of yourself.  It makes you see yourself as better than everyone else while seeing everyone else as inferior to you.  Jesus said in Luke 14:11, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled. But whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Do you allow this kind of pride in your heart?  Certainly none of us are immune from it, but, we must not allow it to have a home in us.  A spirit of pride will cause division, back-biting, grumbling, and snatch our peace away.  We need to pay careful attention to this Pharisee kind of pride in our hearts.  It won’t do for those of us who call on the Lord Jesus Christ – and it doesn’t honor Him.