Luke 7:36-50 The Two Debtors
Facts about Forgiveness: Lost People Matter to God

Jesus spoke a great deal about forgiveness. The parable about the two debtors in Matthew 18 is similar to another parable Jesus told which we want to consider this morning in Luke 7. Three miracles are recorded in Luke 7: A great miracle, in the healing of the centurion's servant; then a greater miracle, in the raising of a young man from the dead; but the greatest miracle of all, is the forgiving and restoring of a sinful person. I believe that saving a lost sinner is the greatest miracle our Lord ever performs. Why do I say that? For three reasons. First, forgiveness meets the greatest need. God can heal the body and we become ill again and eventually die, but salvation lasts for eternity. Second, forgiveness produces the greatest results — transformed lives that glorify God. But most of all, third, forgiveness required the greatest price. It costs very little for God to exert his power heal the sick, but it cost His Son death on a cross for Him to save us. This morning we are going to see that forgiveness is the greatest gift God has bestowed on us.

We are going to see that forgiveness was the heartbeat of Jesus ministry. He felt a passion for the lost, he searched them out. We are left in no doubt: Lost people matter to God, and that is why they should matter to us. Lets begin with Simon the Pharisee. Why Simon invited Jesus to his home for a meal we do not know. Perhaps it was mere curiosity. After all, Jesus was popular, a great Teacher and miracle-Worker. Perhaps it was concern about what Christ's ministry meant to his own religious profession. Maybe Simon wanted to criticise, to find some fault with Jesus. Whatever his motive, this much is certain: the dinner did not turn out quite the way he had planned. When you or I give a dinner we invite our guests and normally do not expect gate crashers or uninvited guests. But this was not the custom in our Lord's day. The invited guests would lie on cushions around the table, while outsiders could come and go and even greet the guests. The host would provide cushions around the room so that any visitor could stop in and converse with the other people. This explains how the woman could so easily enter the room and how she had access to our Lord's feet for the anointing. The appearance of this woman was certainly an embarrassment to Simon. But Jesus used her interruption to teach some vital and universal lessons about forgiveness.

1. Forgiveness is Needed by All (Luke 7:37-39)
How could Jesus allow this notorious woman to touch him? Simon believed his moral purity was maintained by keeping away from such people. In contrast Jesus welcomed them. So much so that Jesus developed a reputation for being a friend of tax collectors and sinners (7:34). Here he was about to give a visual aid to prove the way God feels about us. Simon assumed that he didn't need forgiveness and that this woman was beyond redemption. Simon knew what the woman had done, but forgot what he himself had not done. He had not even shown Jesus the common courtesies of the home—the kiss of welcome, water for His feet, and oil for His head. Everyone at the feast knew who the woman was and what she had done with her life. Her sins were open. But only Jesus (who can read men's hearts) knew the sins in Simon's life. One of the words for sin in the Bible means "to miss the mark." Simon had missed the mark, even though he thought he had arrived. In the final analysis, it does not matter what I see in my life, or what others see. What matters is what God sees. We are sinners whether we feel guilty or not. That is the whole point of the parable of the two debtors (Luke 7:41—43). Both of the men were in debt and were bankrupt.

The difference between £20,000 and £2,000 is not a difference in the degree of guilt. If I keep the Highway Code all my life and on just one occasion am caught for speeding, I am guilty and incur the weight of the Law. The two amounts represent a difference in their sense of guilt.

The woman was not more lost than the Pharisee. She only sensed her guilt and need for mercy far more than Simon did. She was simply more desperate and therefore more grateful. It is interesting that in the Bible, the people who walked closest to the Lord were the people most aware of their sinfulness. Abraham, for example, considered himself "but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27). Ezra, the godly scribe, prayed, "0 my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face" (Ezra 9:6). Peter fell to his knees and begged the Lord, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8), and when the Apostle John saw the glorified Christ, he fell at His feet as though he were a dead man (Rev. 1:17). The Apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Simon the Pharisee did not recognise his own need of forgiveness, nor that the behaviour of this woman demonstrated her own. Jesus realised what Simon was thinking so he told those at the dinner table a story about two men who were both in debt. He would let Simon treat the woman in this way. Forgiveness is needed by all.

2. Forgiveness is the Gracious Gift of God (7:40-43)
Forgiveness is the greatest miracle God ever performs. Notice what is involved in this miracle.

2.1 Forgiveness is Only by Grace
The point of the parable was that neither debtor could pay so the money lender "cancelled the debts of both" (v. 42). This same word is translated "graciously give" in Romans 8:32 and "freely given" in I Corinthians 2:12. Forgiveness is not something we may purchase or earn, because we are bankrupt—we have nothing with which to pay. Paul wrote, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). The concept of grace was difficult for the Pharisees to understand because their religion was based on earning merit through good works. The Pharisee in another parable boasted of his good character: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." (Luke 18:11—12). God is not impressed by prayers like that. If we are saved it is only by Grace. God's riches at Christ's expense. Forgiveness is only by grace.

2.2 Forgiveness is Received by Faith
The woman's tears did not save her, for no amount of remorse or repentance can save us. Unless repentance is joined with faith in Christ, it leads to even greater guilt and condemnation. This woman had already trusted in Christ and her actions were a sign of her appreciation. How do we know that? Because Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven" in 7:48. The tense of the Greek verb means "They have been forgiven, they are forgiven, and they stand forgiven." What was it that accomplished this miracle? Jesus said, "Your faith has saved you." 7: 50. A careless reading of verse 47 would give the false impression that people are saved by love. But nobody is saved by God's love. God loves the whole world (John 3:16) and yet the whole world is not saved.

Sinners are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It was this woman's faith that saved her. She heard God's Word ("Come unto Me"), responded to God's invitation, trusted God's Son, and experienced God's forgiveness. We are not saved by faith in faith either. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Everybody has faith in something. It may be technology, human progress or ingenuity. It may be their intellect, inner moral code, their religious beliefs about God. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not that one has faith and the other does not. The difference is in the object of faith. When you transfer your faith to Jesus Christ, it becomes saving faith. Forgiveness is only by Grace. Forgiveness is received by faith in Jesus.

2.3 Forgiveness is Certain

Jesus gave assurance to this woman twice. She heard Him say to Simon, "Her sins . . . are forgiven" (v.47), and then He said directly to her, "Your sins are forgiven" (v. 48). If you had asked her a week later, "How do you know you are saved?" she would have replied, "Jesus said so." How do people today know they are saved? The Word of God says so: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). Suppose this woman had depended on her own feelings for assurance. While she was near Jesus, weeping and expressing her love, she would have felt saved. But a few hours later, when she had calmed down, and when the tears of joy had stopped, would she have felt the same way? Probably not. We dare not depend on feelings alone for the assurance of salvation. If the woman had based her assurance on the words and attitudes of the people around her she would have had very little assurance. The guests shunned her and Simon criticized her.

Feelings change, but God's Word never changes. People make mistakes, but God's Word is always true. The assurance of salvation must come from the Word of God, witnessed by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:9). Forgiveness is only by Grace. Forgiveness is received by faith in Jesus. Forgiveness is Certain.

2.4 Forgiveness is Costly
In the parable of the two debtors, the creditor took a loss. Since the debtors were bankrupt and he "cancelled the debts of both," he had to pay the price of their debt. Salvation is free, but it is not cheap.

It cost Jesus Christ His life on the cross. I doubt that anyone in that room knew how much it cost Jesus to say to that woman, "Your sins are forgiven." I wonder if any of them were at Calvary when He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness is needed by all. Forgiveness is the gracious gift of God.

3. Forgiveness Results in a Changed Life (Luke 7:44-50)
The woman's faith in Christ changed her. The condemnation and terror of the Law did not make her a new person, nor did the religious system of the Pharisees. It was the grace of God. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." (2 Cor. 5:17) What are some of the new things that characterised her changed life?

3.1 There is a New Love
The woman was not ashamed to show her love for Christ openly. People were watching, and some of them were embarrassed, but she went right on anointing Him and kissing His feet. God displayed His love for us openly at Calvary (Rom. 5:8), so why should we be timid about openly showing our love for Him? The woman displayed her love devotedly and sacrificially. The Greek verbs indicate that she repeatedly anointed His feet, kissed them, and wiped them with her hair. It was not a quick once-and-for-all action, like a nervous teenager kissing his grandmother goodbye! No doubt the ointment was expensive— she did not give Him something that cost her nothing.

She had not received cheap forgiveness and she did not bring cheap worship. It is worth noting that this woman devoted to Christ all that previously she had used for sin. The harlot used kisses, beauty, and spices to lead men into sin (Prov. 7:6), but the forgiven woman gave all of these to her Saviour. There is a new love.

3.2 There is a New Freedom
The Lord sent the woman away, free from her past. "Your sins are forgiven" The people, and presumably Simon the Pharisee also questioned Jesus right to say these words. He may have invited Jesus into his house but she had invited Jesus into her heart. Simon was still therefore a slave of his religious system. She was free. "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36). Forgiveness brings a new love and a new freedom.

3.3 There is a New Peace
Because she was forgiven, this woman had peace with God. Jesus said, "Your faith has saved you, go in peace" (v. 50). The Apostle Paul, another former Pharisee understood this when he confessed, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). Literally, Jesus said to the woman, "Go into peace." It is as though peace was the realm into which she walked and now would live day by day. Grace and faith lead to peace, and peace is the atmosphere we breathe as children of God. Jesus Christ said "Go into peace." He speaks that same word to you if you have already or will today trust Him for salvation. The woman went out a changed person. Simon the Pharisee could have too but it seems he missed his opportunity. His problem was spiritual blindness. We can see that in the way he viewed himself and in the way he treated Jesus and the woman.

First, Simon did not see himself as God saw him. He thought he was a righteous person, acceptable to God, when in reality he was bankrupt and condemned. He saw the sins of other people but could not see his own. He did not even realize how discourteously he had treated Christ.

Second, Simon really did not see the woman. He saw only her past. Jesus Christ saw her present and future. Simon saw only the outside, but the Lord saw her heart.

Third, the basic reason for Simon's blindness though was that he did not really see the Lord Jesus Christ.
He called Him "Teacher" (7:40), but in his heart was saying, "If this man were a prophet. . ." (7:39). Only when we have come to know Jesus Christ personally, as both our Lord and our Saviour, can we ever see ourselves and others as God sees us. And when we do, we will respond as this women did. In thankfulness for God's grace, our forgiveness, his love, freedom and peace.

I am grateful to Warren Wersbie (Luke: Be Compassionate) and Robert Walker (Politically Correct Parables) for material used in this sermon.