5 February 2018

Luke 7:36-50

“Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (v. 47)

Psalm: Psalm 15


Today’s passage follows Jesus’ teaching on the ministry of John the Baptist (Luke 7:24-35). While John was rejected by his hearers as an ascetic, the Son of Man – Jesus – was dismissed as a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). We see Jesus ministering to such a sinner, a woman who follows him into the house of a Pharisee where Jesus had been invited to lunch. She was probably a prostitute, and so would be publicly known as a law-breaker.

The woman enters the Pharisee’s house with a precious and expensive alabaster jar of ointment. Falling to the ground, she weeps at Jesus’ feet, covering them with her tears, her kisses and the ointment. The Pharisee’s inward response is to question Jesus’ judgement; surely as a prophet, he would know that this was a sinful woman (verse 39).

Jesus’ response to the Pharisee’s thoughts is to tell the parable of a creditor cancelling the debt for two debtors, one who owed a little (about two month’s wages) and one who owed a lot (over a year’s wages). Asking the Pharisee who would love the creditor more, the Pharisee admits that it would be the one who had the greater debt cancelled. The woman’s response to Jesus similarly demonstrates her greater love. In contrast to the sparse welcome of the Pharisee, the sinful woman pours out her gratitude at the Savour’s feet.

This, then, is a story of Jesus’ radical love of for sinners. Knowing the depths of her sin, the sinful woman sought and found forgiveness at the feet of Jesus, and so her faith was rewarded (verse 39). The story also points to the astounding authority of Jesus. Only God can forgive sins, and yet Jesus claims to do so here (cf Mark 2:1-12), raising again for the Pharisees the question of who this man is (verse 49).

To Ponder

  • To what extent do those who recognise the depth of their sin experience the love of God more deeply?
  • How can the Church point sinners to the transforming love of Jesus?
  • What does his authority to forgive sins reveal about Jesus?

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church and an Associate Lecturer at Cliff College. He lives in Derbyshire with his wife Ali and their two sons.