“A Greater Response of Love” (Paul Yu)
Scripture: Luke 7:36-50
Jesus is invited over to Simon the Pharisee’s house. Everything seems normal, until a scandalous woman interrupts the scene uninvited by affectionately anointing Jesus’s feet. After this dramatic act, the scene sharply shifts over to the Pharisee’s self-righteous, judgmental attitude against the sinful woman and Christ. Jesus then rebukes the Pharisee by applying a parable of a lesser and greater debtor. In Jesus’s rebuke, we are challenged to see our self-righteous attitude exposed. The moral of the story condemns the Pharisee and commends the sinful woman. The woman is then declared forgiven, while Christ’s divine authority to forgive sin is displayed. All in all, this passage teaches us how a self-awareness of sin draws us to a greater love for our Savior.
#1: The Setting (7:36-38)
As Jesus performs many mighty deeds, everyone starts to notice him as a great prophet and his popularity grows like wildfire. Simon is curious about all this hype and throws a banquet for Jesus at his house. What seems like a relaxed party suddenly becomes a conflict as soon as a sinful woman approaches Jesus. This provocative woman stands before Jesus pouring special ointment she brought, while weeping and wiping her tears with her hair as she continually kisses Jesus on his feet. This peculiar act is deemed inappropriate as it breaks all social norms. The story then shifts to the Pharisee’s judgmental reaction.
#2 The Self-Righteous Judgment (7:39-43)
Simon’s hateful judgment targets both Christ and the woman. For Simon, the woman’s acts were not viewed as a genuine act of love, but a scandalous act of lust. Simon’s hardened heart was unmoved by the woman’s tears, which reveals his contemptuous attitude that stems from self-righteousness. It becomes clear that Simon invited Jesus to judge whether Jesus was the great prophet everyone claimed he was. In Simon’s eyes, what was more scandalous than the woman’s act was that Jesus received this inappropriate act without stopping it. Simon strongly believed that if you associate yourself with sinners, you condone their sinful lifestyle. Thus, Simon denies in his heart that Jesus is a true prophet for being morally lax by accepting sinners.
Like a metal detector that detects metal objects from afar, we have sin detectors preinstalled in our hearts that detect defects in others. We are all prone to have a natural inclination to detect other people’s wrong doings, but for some odd reason our sensors malfunction whenever it tries to pick up signals of our own blind spots and shortcomings. We resemble Simon as we fail to recognize our own sin, while finding fault in others. By failing to see our sinfulness, we deem the gospel unnecessary and reject Christ like Simon.
#3 The Self-Awareness of Sin (7:44-50)
Where the Pharisee misjudges Jesus by denying him as a prophet, the sinful woman correctly identifies Jesus to be her Savior in her self-awareness of sin. The woman’s acts of greater love are contrasted against the absence of love in Simon. We see here how self-righteousness blinds us from seeing who we truly are and who Christ truly is. It is only when we recognize our great need that we can truly see the great deed of the Savior and respond in love. The climax of the story is reached when Christ authoritatively declares the sinful woman forgiven. People immediately question Jesus’s authority to forgive sins. Knowing this in their hearts, Jesus says to the woman again, “your faith has saved you; go in peace (v. 50).” Not only was Simon’s denial of Jesus being a prophet completely mistaken, but Jesus vindicates himself to be far greater than a prophet as he possesses divine authority to forgive sin.
Jesus not only reveals his divine authority, but he also reveals himself to be a friend of sinners and an enemy of the proud. At the end of the day, who do you see yourself to be? Are you the self-righteous Pharisee or are you the sinful woman? You can only be a friend or an enemy of Jesus, for there is no such thing as neutrality. Whether or not you admit it, there is a Simon in us all. In light of this reality, God calls you to humble yourselves and see Christ’s tender heart towards sinners, so you too can walk in the sweet assurance of the sinful woman that “your sins are forgiven.”
Group Discussion Questions
- Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.
- In what ways do self-righteous attitudes and tendencies manifest in your life? Do you tend to detect other people’s faults, while ignoring your own blind spots? Where do you think your self-righteousness stems from?
- How can you grow in a greater awareness of Christ’s love as you simultaneously grow in a greater self-awareness of your sin? What’s the result of not having this balanced?
- How does the gospel confront your self-righteousness and grow you in repentance? What are some instances when God’s amazing grace came to you when you were Pharisaic? How did you respond?