Jesus had a short life here on earth, but it was always interesting. I was just thinking deeply about the Bible story we’re about to dive into and I noticed something. Jesus was always up to something interesting. Even a dinner party became something more because of his approach to life and his love of people. There’s a saying that I love, something like “marry the person who makes going to the grocery store fun”. The point is, life’s an adventure if you love the people who you’re doing life with. Jesus loved everyone, so he got to live that out every day. Random people, strangers, his loving heart turned every situation into an encounter. We could recreate that sort of a life, if we wanted. If we approached every day with a heart full of love for people, then everything would be worthwhile. The trip to the gas station would be a chance to meet someone new, the haircut would be a chance to hear the stylist’s story and maybe share some wisdom. Love makes every situation better, and I just really enjoy the fact that Jesus’ unending love for people gave him a chance to make even the mundane become profound.
Okay, so we’re still in Luke chapter 7, and Jesus gets invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon. He goes, and when he arrives at Simon’s house, an “immoral woman” shows up. She kneels at Jesus’ feet weeping and putting expensive perfume on his feet. Knowing that this was a woman of sketchy morals, the man who invited Jesus tries to make a big deal out of this woman being a sinner, prompting Jesus to tell what I believe to be one of the most important stories in the Bible.
Luke 7:41-48 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. 47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Honestly, I used to have a very negative reaction to this story. I felt like I was being punished for not having lived a more sinful life before I got saved. I never killed anyone, never did drugs, never hurt people, never did a lot of terrible things that I know others have done, and so for some reason, I felt like that meant the level of forgiveness that Jesus had for me wasn’t equal to the level that he had for worse people. No joke, I was so spiritually immature that I’d daydream about being an awful person, about ending up in prison, and about having this triumphant, amazing moment in my life when I finally rose from the ashes of my existence and became a follower of Jesus. I would sit around and imagine the glory and power that would come from a story of a man rising up from rock bottom.
The issue with that way of thinking is that rock bottom looks very different for everyone. For the woman in this story, it was a life of immorality. But she wasn’t the only one in that room who’d experienced rock bottom. The Pharisee is so puffed up and full of himself that he is blind to just how lost and sinful he is. You see, there are practical differences between a guy who kills someone and ends up in prison and me who spent a lifetime ignoring God and exaggerating about things. On the surface, the killer owes 500 and I owe 50. But you see, that’s only on the surface. Because true rock bottom is being presented with the truth of who God is and choosing to walk in the other direction. Sin is sin, and while some sin may make for a better story than others, when we break the commandments of God we’re all deserving of the same fate. Eternity without him.
In reality, there is no person who owes 500 and person who owes 50. We’re all the ones who owe 500. The only real difference between the immoral woman and the Pharisee Simon is that she understood how deeply in debt she was. She was honest about who she’d been and the things she’d done, giving her a true perspective on just how far down Jesus had reached to grab her hand and redeem her. All the while you have Simon, every bit as lost and sinful, but convinced that he’s got it all together and is a good person. In his own mind he’s the man who owes only 50, because after all, he’s decided that his sin and disobedience to God isn’t as severe as the immoral woman’s.
Romans 3:22-24 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Don’t glorify your sin, but don’t undersell it either. Understand fully that if this were a “fair” world, we would not end up getting to live in paradise with God for all eternity. There’s nothing fair about what Jesus had to go through to save us. It’s the definition of unfair. Our sin, no matter how heavy or light you may view it to be, is what necessitated his death on that cross. If that’s not a rock bottom that we all share, I don’t know what is. We owed a debt we could not pay, were lost in a darkness we couldn’t escape, and Jesus reached down and pulled us out. The killer and the exaggerator alike.
Luke 7:47 47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
You can measure the level of forgiveness we’ve each received by measuring the distance from hell to heaven. That’s the scale of how much love we should show, because that’s the level of unwarranted forgiveness that was shown to us by our Lord. A great debt, so greatly forgiven. The only sane response to that is loving the people around you deeply and endlessly and doing all you can to lead them to the one who can redeem them.
I love all of you. If you’re not at a place in your life where you’re feeling a deep love for the people of the world, I want to humbly suggest that you make a new commitment to the Bible. We have to develop the heart of Jesus if we’re going to have a hope of helping what is a hurting and lost world. Jesus showed each one of us great levels of forgiveness. Great levels of love is the response.
If you need prayer for anything, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be my honor to pray with you.