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Forgiven – from disgrace to grace: a Bible study lesson of Luke 7:36-50

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Our human nature wants to believe the lie that we have gone beyond what God would be willing to forgive. But don’t believe that lie. Don’t let your past keep you from a glorious future in, and with, Christ the Lord. Don’t resist approaching Jesus because of fear of being exposed before Him, or dismissed from Him. Jesus already knows your darkest sins and deepest shames anyway—and He bore those upon himself at Calvary. The blood of Christ, shed for you, is more than sufficient to cover the worst things you’ve done. Those sins can be forgiven, removed “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12).

The truth is that no one deserves salvation. For, all have sinned. However, by Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, He is able to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness, and clothe us in His righteousness.

In Christ alone, there is forgiveness of sins, release of shame, restoration, and peace.

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. (Luke 7:36-37)

In early Judea, the Pharisees were a group of Jewish men who were well-schooled in the text of the Mosaic Law. They were generally considered by their peers, to be devout, godly men, who modeled examples of “right” living.

The Pharisees were known for tithing on their possessions. They regularly attended synagogues. And, they gave generously to charity.

They certainly had  “a form of godliness” (2 Tim. 3:5). However, rather than being men of humility, many of the Pharisees made it a point to openly display their acts of “good” deeds and charity before their fellow countrymen. Rather than serving their countrymen in humility, they enjoyed being envied by others.

To many of the Pharisees, the Mosaic Law became little more than teachings of regulations and rituals—rather than the living, revealed Word of God, for guiding men into deeper understanding and fellowship with God. Many Pharisees were guilty of being able to quote the letter of the Law, yet lacked a personal relationship and intimate walk with the Lord of the Law.

But, “the LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). On a number of occasions, Jesus publicly chastised Pharisees, saying many of them were “full of greed and wickedness” on the inside (Luke 11:39).

However, even though Jesus criticized the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, Jesus never shunned them. Rather, His condemnation of their self-righteousness was meant to convict and guide them to their need for repentance.

For, Jesus does not delight in condemnation. He delights in the salvation of men.

Therefore, when a Pharisee, whose name was Simon (v.40), invited Jesus to dinner, Jesus graciously accepted the invitation.

Why did Simon invite Jesus to his house for dinner? And, why did Jesus accept?

Certainly, Simon wanted to listen to Jesus and learn more about Him. However, Simon’s motives were dubious. Jesus knew that. Still, Jesus’ heart is always receptive to those who call on Him.

Jesus lovingly chose to enter Simon’s house to show and speak of His grace. That is the character of our Lord. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Albeit that Simon invited Jesus to his house, it’s evident that he didn’t have a great deal of respect of Jesus. When Jesus came to Simon’s house, Simon failed to show even basic gestures of courtesy that would be expected for any guest—moreover for an honored guest.

First, Simon neglected to provide water for Jesus to wash the dust off His feet (v.44). That would’ve been the minimal expected courtesy shown to any guest. Failing to do so would’ve actually been considered rude.

Second, Simon didn’t greet Jesus with a welcoming kiss on the cheek when Jesus entered (v. 45). In those days, to greet someone with a kiss was a common gesture to show respect, friendship, appreciation, or familiarity for an appreciated guest. If Simon held any degree of respect for Jesus as a religious “teacher,” he should’ve, and would’ve greeted Him with a kiss with entering the house.

Further, Simon didn’t pour oil on Jesus’ head. To pour oil on a guest’s head was a gesture that demonstrated honor and reverence for that person. So, if Simon was debating whether Jesus could be a “prophet,” Simon should’ve anointed Jesus’ head with oil. But he didn’t.

While Jesus was an “invited guest” to Simon’s house, Simon’s actions, or lack thereof, showed that he didn’t respect Jesus as a “guest of honor.”

Soon after Jesus and Simon reclined at the dinner table, a woman came into the room. In this case, however, it was highly unusual. For she was a “sinful” woman with a reputation for living in wickedness and immorality.

How did a woman of such wicked reputation even get into a Pharisee’s house? She wasn’t close to the “righteous” character expected for any guest entering a “godly” Pharisee’s house.

Any other time, Simon probably would’ve had her forcefully removed from his property. Yet, not when Jesus was there. Why?

Did Simon think he may make Jesus “look guilty by association?” Did he see this as an opportunity to stir people against Jesus?

Simon may have thought he was in charge, but that wasn’t the case. Jesus is always in charge! The reason this woman was able to get into Simon’s house is because Jesus was there. When Jesus is present, doors that otherwise seem inaccessible, are opened.

Regardless of who else may be trying to block you from getting to Jesus, Jesus opens doors that otherwise seem impossible! Jesus welcomes all who come to Him seeking forgiveness. He said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9)

At the same time, the “sinful woman” knew she wouldn’t be welcomed by the Pharisee and his household. Almost certainly, her waywardness would be ousted by someone in the house. She faced being openly exposed, ridiculed, and humiliated.

She was ashamed, embarrassed, and afraid. Yet, she came anyway. She was under conviction and sought forgiveness. She needed a loving Savior. She had to get to Jesus!

This compares to how any person comes to Jesus. No one can come to Jesus through their own righteousness or good conduct. The only way anyone can come to Jesus is in their shamefulness, brokenness, and repentance. Our bitter hatreds, impure lusts, vile doings, and malicious deeds are exposed before Jesus.

We can only come to Jesus in the filth of our guilt and shame, confessing our sins in repentance and seeking forgiveness. Jesus will then cleanse “whosoever would come” of their sin and shame; and “make them white as snow.”

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:38-39)

The woman kneeled behind Jesus and wept, with her many tears dripping down on His feet. Yet, as her tears wetted Jesus’ feet, He never pulled His feet away. Most men would’ve pulled away—but not our Savior.

There’s a beautiful picture here that illustrates how we come to Christ, and how Christ cleanses us. The woman’s tears represent her shame, disgrace, regret, pain, sorrow, and brokenness. More importantly, her tears represent repentance. This is picturesque of a repentant sinner pouring out all his shame, hurts, sorrows, and sins; and fully laying those at the feet of the One who removes our shame and gives life.

Jesus doesn’t withdraw from us when we repentantly fall before Him, confessing our sins and depravity. Rather, He accepted all of our shame upon himself at Calvary. And He treasures our tears of brokenness and repentance.

As the woman’s tears soaked the feet of our Lord, she then wiped His feet with her hair. This is a continuing imagery of repentance and restoration. The apostle Paul tells us that, for a woman, long hair is given for her “glory” and “covering” (1 Corinthians 11:15). In drying Jesus’ feet with her hair, we have a portrayal of someone surrendering their unworthy “glory” and unrighteous “covering” to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

For, the purity of Christ is our glory, and He is our covering. It is His righteousness that brings life and sanctification.

The woman next poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. The pouring on of perfume symbolizes covering the stench of our sin (her tears of shame) with a pleasing aroma (the righteousness of Christ). As, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).

Before Simon’s eyes was a depiction of repentance and restoration. But he, the self-righteous Pharisee, didn’t see any of this. Instead, he saw a wicked sinner. He judged the woman by her past, and that’s as far as he looked.

Simon could easily point out the sin of the woman, but he failed to recognize (or repent of) his own sin. Instead, in an air of superiority, he looked down on the woman as he relished in his own “goodness.”

Could Simon’s “good works” or “good character” earn him salvation? No.

Simon was as much a sinner in need of a Savior, as the woman was. His sins weren’t identical in nature to that of the woman, but the consequences of their sin were. For, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That’s speaks of eternal spiritual death.

The just consequences of sin carry an everlasting penalty of death and condemnation. That is why Jesus went to Calvary, to take our just condemnation upon himself and, through His bodily sacrifice, pay the debt of our sin. Jesus “took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14), so “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus, the heavenly Father’s only begotten Son, who came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17), reclined alongside Simon the Pharisee at the table. But Simon, who could quote the letter of the Law, failed to acknowledge His need for God’s forgiveness and seek the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ alone.

Instead, he thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet . . .”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:40-43)

Notice, it says, “Jesus answered him.”

But, how could Jesus answer him, when Simon hadn’t asked Jesus anything audibly?

Because Jesus answered Simon’s very thoughts! Simon had been wondering whether Jesus was a prophet. So, when Jesus gave answer to what Simon was thinking, that ought to have told him something about Jesus.

Before the Lord, our hearts are laid bare. Our thoughts are not secret from Him. “There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17).

Simon held himself as a good and righteous man, deserving of God’s favor.

To address Simon’s guilt, Jesus began with an allegoric story. Jesus then asked him a probing question.

Jesus wanted Simon to realize that both he and the woman had debts that were impossible to repay. That is a person’s debt of sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All need a Savior.

However, Simon didn’t consider himself “much” of a sinner. Simon considered himself to be a godly man of strong morality, who had done many good things throughout his life.

Many today are depending on their own goodness and how much they can do for “God’s work,” and “serving the church.” The truth is they are, like Simon, only comparing themselves to the character and conduct of those around them, rather than gauge themselves against God’s standard of absolute purity and holiness.

God is wholly holy. So, even a single sin separates a man from God. In the guilt of their sin, all men stand condemned before a holy and righteous God.

But Jesus came to take away the guilt of sin. For, “whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).

When Jesus said to Simon, “You have judged correctly,” He didn’t say that Simon’s answer was correct. Rather, Jesus told Simon he had “judged correctly.” Jesus was alluding to Simon’s having judged himself. By his own words, Simon condemned himself.

The debts of both were so great, neither could pay the debt back. Yet, both were forgiven by the moneylender’s “mercy.” Why would one be less appreciative than the other? Shouldn’t both be equally thankful?

All who receive God’s undeserved mercy should hold, and show, incalculable gratitude.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47)

Don’t misunderstand what Jesus meant by, “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Jesus isn’t inferring that those who had a “greater degree of wretchedness” before coming to Christ, will love Him more deeply. No, that’s not it at all. For, we were all dead in our sins before coming to Christ. There is no such thing as being a “little” dead. Dead is dead!

But, as a new creation in Christ, we can continue to grow in our awe of Christ’s great sacrifice, great grace, and such a great salvation. We are all so undeserving of Christ’s goodness. The more we consider how wondrous is Christ’s love for us, the more we will grow in our love and wonder for Him.

The Lord already loves us to the infinite. But our love for Him should continue to grow deeper throughout all eternity.

O what a Savior!

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50)

Jesus’ words astounded those in the room. Only God can forgive sins. Yet, Jesus told the woman she was forgiven. And, remember, this was a woman of many sins.

Earlier, Simon was wondering whether Jesus was a prophet. Jesus showed He is more than a prophet. For, no prophet had ever forgiven someone of their sins. When Jesus told the woman her sins were forgiven, that should’ve been such a revelation to Simon.

Jesus was the Son of God, in flesh. He is the One who can forgive sins.

How was the woman saved? It was by faith. Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.”

We are saved by faith. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works” (Ephesians 2:8).

This woman approached Jesus is the fullness of her disgrace. She walked away, in the fullness of Jesus’ grace.

She was forgiven. In the saving grace of Christ, she could “go in peace.” Not peace as men define peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? You can today, even now. He is ready to forgive you, and save you today. Read the link below:

Yes, tell me how I can receive Jesus as my Savior and Lord.  

 

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