Bible Reading: Luke 7
Luke 7:47, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
The problem with mere religion is that it has no life to it. It is cold, hard, loveless, and lifeless. Religion says, “do this” and “don’t do that,” supposing to somehow benefit the lives of its adherents. But it is a scam, ill-founded on the false premise that dos and don’ts can somehow work a genuine change of heart and life. No matter how zealous, no amount of religious effort can work to gain that which was lost in the fall.
Simon was a Pharisee. The affairs of his daily routine were governed by countless “do’s” and “don’ts,” and in doing such things, he esteemed himself righteous. He invited Jesus to his home for dinner. Perhaps he was curious about Jesus, but whatever the reason, the gathering was disrupted in an unexpected way.
A “woman of the city, who was a sinner” entered the home (Luke 7:37). According to Luke’s account, she was an immoral woman. That Simon knew of her reputation, “what sort of woman” she was, would indicate some public sin (Luke 7:39). Perhaps she was a prostitute. To enter that Pharisee’s home was an incredibly bold venture. What caused her to do it? In the chronology of events, Jesus had previously invited “all who labor and heavy laden” to come to Him (Matthew 11:28). Perhaps she came looking for Jesus, yearning for His promised “soul rest,” something that mere religion could never provide.
So, the woman entered the house. Jesus was reclining at the table (Luke 7:37). She came up behind Him and began to do all that she could do that she might express her love for Jesus. She had brought an “alabaster flack of ointment” (Luke 7:37). She was weeping and “began to wet his feet with her tears.” She then wiped His feet with the hair of her head and anointed them with that rare and expensive perfume (Luke 7:38). It was an unprecedented public display of extravagant devotion. It would be repeated by another on a future occasion, and the response of the religious in both cases indicated their ignorance of matters pertaining to grace, love, and forgiveness (John 12:1-7).
Simon was disturbed by what he saw. “Didn’t Jesus know ‘what sort of woman’ she was,” he thought. But Jesus discerned his thoughts and used the opportunity to explain, with a parable, important truths to a man who was religiously wise but spiritually stupid. He said, “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which one of them will love him more” (Luke 7:41-42)?
We are all, in sin, debtors before God. Religion falsely supposes that the debt can be worked out through religious self-effort and good deeds. Simon was a religious man, but he had not experienced God’s forgiveness. He saw no need for it. His religious life had no “vertical” to it, leaving him ignorant of matters pertaining to grace and love. He invited Jesus to his home, but gave no kiss, washed no feet, and offered no anointing. According to his way of thinking the sinful woman was worthy only of disdain, her faults mere fodder to bolster his religious ego.
But the sinful woman found a friend in the “Friend of Sinners.” No sin debt can exceed His capacity to forgive. His forgiveness worked a change in her, freeing her from her bondage to love Jesus in extravagant fashion. Her life was utterly and remarkably changed by Jesus. She loved Him much because she had been much forgiven. And in that, she possessed something far more precious than Simon’s dead and heartless religion. One by one God’s much-forgiven saints file into church on any given Sunday. Like alabaster flasks, they were much forgiven and created anew in Christ Jesus that they in turn might be broken and spilt out just as He was.
Loving devotion to Jesus is fueled by an awareness of how much we’ve been loved by Him in the forgiveness of our sins!
Broken and spilled out
Just for love of you, Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on thee
Broken and spilled out
And poured at your feet
In sweet abandon
Let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee