Sunday (June 16): "Which will love him more?"
Scripture: Luke 7:36-50 and Luke 8:1-3
[Luke 7] 36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house, and took his place at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." 40 And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "What is it, Teacher?" 41 "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly."Meditation: What fuels extravagant love? Unbounding gratitude for sure! No one who met Jesus could do so with indifference. They were either attracted to him or repeled by him. Why did a rabbi invite Jesus to a nice dinner and then treat him discourteously by neglecting to give him the customary signs of respect and honor? Simon was very likely a collector of celebrities. He patronized Jesus because of his popularity with the crowds. Why did he criticize Jesus' compassionate treatment of a woman of ill repute – most likely a prostitute? The Pharisees shunned the company of public sinners and in so doing they neglected to give them the help they needed to find healing and wholeness.
44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48 And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" 50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
[Luke 8] 1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Mag'dalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joan'na, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Why did a woman with a bad reputation approach Jesus and anoint him at the risk of ridicule and abuse by others? The woman's action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus and her gratitude for forgiveness. She did something, however, a Jewish woman would never do in public. She loosed her hair and anointed Jesus with her tears. It was customary for a woman on her wedding day to bound her hair. For a married woman to loosen her hair in public was a sign of grave immodesty. This woman was oblivious to all around her, except for Jesus. She also did something which only love can do. She took the most precious thing she had and spent it all on Jesus. Her love was not calculated but extravagant. In a spirit of humility and heart-felt repentance, she lavishly served the one who showed her the mercy and kindness of God. Jesus, in his customary fashion, never lost the opportunity to draw a lesson from such an incident.
Why did Jesus put the parable of the two debtors before his learned host, a rabbi and teacher of the people? This parable is similar to the parable of the unforgiving official (see Matthew 18:23-35) in which the man who was forgiven much showed himself merciless and unforgiving. Jesus makes clear that great love springs from a heart forgiven and cleansed. "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8), "for love is of God" (1 John 4:7). The woman's lavish expression of love was proof that she had found favor with God. The stark contrast of attitudes between Simon and the woman of ill-repute, demonstrate how we can either accept or reject God's mercy. Simon, who regarded himself as an upright Pharisee, felt no need for love or mercy. His self-sufficiency kept him from acknowledging his need for God's grace. Are you grateful for God's mercy and grace?
Jesus traveled widely during his three years of public ministry. Luke tells us that a band of women accompanied Jesus and the twelve apostles (Luke 8:1-3). This was a diverse group of women. Some came from rich and prominent families, some had lived loose lives as adulterers and prostitutes, and others had been tormented with mental and spiritual afflictions. We know that Mary Magdalene had lived a very troubled life before Jesus freed her from seven demons. He healed her tormented mind and troubled conscience, and filled her with the joy of knowing God's love and forgiveness. She was privileged to be the first to meet Jesus as the risen Lord after he had died on the cross and his body laid in a tomb for three days. Another devoted follower who served and traveled with Jesus and the apostles was named Joanna. She was the wife of King Herod's chief financial officer and a wealthy lady of the court. It's unlikely that these two women would have ever met under other circumstances. What brought them together and united them in a bond of friendship, service, and loyalty to Jesus? Certainly Jesus and his message of the kingdom of God had transformed them. Unlike the twelve apostles, who took great pride in being the chosen twelve, these women did not seek position or demand any special privileges. Jesus had touched them so deeply that they were grateful to do anything for him, even menial humble service. They brought their gifts and resources to Jesus to use as he saw fit.
Are you more like the status-conscious apostles who were concerned with promoting their own position, or like the women who were content to serve Jesus humbly and generously with their own personal resources (Luke 8:1-3)? Our fallen human nature is self-centered and selfish. It seeks to receive rather than to give, to be first rather than last, and to be served rather than to serve. Only the Lord Jesus can set us free from our unruly desires and self-centered ambitions. The Lord Jesus sets us free to love others whole-heartedly as he loves and to serve with a generous and grateful spirit. Through the gift of his Holy Spirit he gives us a servant's heart that seeks to put the interests and concerns of others ahead of our own personal interests. Jesus is our model who "came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom" for us (Matthew 20:28). The gospel honors these women who imitated Jesus in his selfless sacrificial love and humble service of others. Do you know the joy of serving the Lord Jesus in company with others who love and serve him with a willing spirit?
"Lord Jesus, fill my heart with love and gratitude for the mercy you have shown to me. Give me freedom and joy in loving and serving others with a generous spirit."
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"; then you forgave the guilt of my sin.
11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!