Andrew Fountain - Forgiveness of Sin - the Woman who Loved Jesus


Read Scriptures: Luke 7:36-50

  • A Pharisee Decided To Hold A Banquet
    1. Now one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table.
  • Large Room
    • At the time of Jesus, a banquet would have taken place in a large room, with the food on a low table down the centre. Surrounding the table would have been low couches on which the guests would have lain with their heads nearest the table, lying on one elbow and with their feet away from the table.
  • Doors
    • At the end of the room the doors would have been wide open to the street. It was quite common for people of the village to come in and sit around the edges of the room, and listen to the conversation (but not participate in it).
    • You would be quite surprised today if you had a meal in your home and people just wandered in off the street and sat around the edges of your room, but in those days it was quite appropriate for people to do that.
  • Greeting guests
    • Jesus was one of the invited guests. It was normal to greet your guest with a kiss, in fact it was quite rude not to.
      • A kiss on the cheeks was for an equal,
      • A kiss on the hand showed great respect.
      • If the host didn’t give a kiss it was a real snub.
    • This Pharisee didn’t kiss Jesus at all!
  • Washing feet
    • It was also expected that the guests’ feet would be washed.
      • The streets then were not the neat paved streets we have today. They were dusty and dirty, with no garbage collection and no sewers, so feet were in a filthy state.
      • You would leave your sandals at the door and your feet would be washed. At the very least water would be provided.
      • Not to so this would be a social snub.
    • This man didn’t wash Jesus’ feet.
  • Olive oil
    • Occasionally when people visited a very wealthy place, their head would be anointed with olive oil.
    • Jesus was not anointed (though that was not necessarily bad manners.)
  1. Then when a woman of that town, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil.
  • Sinner
    • As Jesus settled down to the meal a woman came in who was notorious sinner in that city.
    • The word “sinner” doesn’t just mean someone who sins, it means someone who is living a life alienated from God.
      • The fact she was a “notorious sinner” means this was clear from her behaviour.
    • It is quite probable that she was a prostitute, although we can’t be sure about that.
      • The Pharisee obviously recognized who she was and what her situation was.
  • Stood behind Jesus
    • She stood behind Jesus at his feet, which would have been away from the table as he lay on the couch. As she stood, she wept and her tears flowed down.
  • Prostitutes would often carry around a jar of perfume
    • so this is quite probably why she had it. (Don’t confuse this story with the other woman who did an similar thing with an extremely valuable purfume just before Jesus died.)
  1. As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfumed oil.
  • Wash, Wipe, Kiss & Anoint
    • The woman let her hair down. A woman in that culture didn’t let her hair down in public. It would be a real shock for people to see a woman with her hair let down in public, and they would think it most inappropriate. But she let her hair down and she wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair.
    • The tense of the verb to kiss in the Greek means “to keep on kissing.” She smothered his feet with her kisses.
  1. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”
  • Simon is shocked and disgusted!
    • When Simon the Pharisee saw this happening he said to himself,
    • “If this man was a prophet he would know the kind of woman who is touching him. He is allowing this evil woman to touch his feet. He is allowing her to debase herself in front of him and expose her hair!”
    • He is quite disgusted by this behaviour.
  • Tesing Jesus?
    • It seems that maybe he had invited Jesus to this feast to test him, to see what he was like. The way he snubbed Jesus was perhaps a way of provoking Jesus to see what he would do. Would Jesus sit there in silence? How would he respond? And now Jesus is allowing this woman to touch him!
  1. So Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He replied, “Say it, Teacher.”
  • Jesus turned to Simon and said
    • “Simon, I have something to say to you.” That was the way that you would introduce conversation if you were going to say something that the hearer might not like.
  1. “A certain moneylender had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty.
  2. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
  • Jesus told a story:
    • One owes a huge amount of money, maybe fifty thousand dollars today
    • and the other owes a tenth of the amount, maybe five thousand dollars.
    • Neither of them can pay their debt, but the one to whom they owed money forgives them both.
  • Who loves him more?
  1. Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
  • obvious answer
    • Perhaps Simon doesn’t know what is coming. He has to answer this question and he gives the answer that is obviously right.
    • He says “The one whom he forgave more.”
    • And Jesus says, “You have judged rightly.”
  1. 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.
  2. You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet.
  3. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil.
  4. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.”
  • Jesus is Rude
    • In that culture a guest was supposed to praise the hospitality of the host and constantly say how unworthy they were of this hospitality.
    • The host was supposed to continually say that what they were providing was unworthy of the guest.
    • No matter how poor what the host provided was and no matter how wealthy and deserving the guest was,
      • this was the way things were supposed to be.
  • Our culture
    • Even in these days it is extremely rude to start criticizing your host’s behaviour, isn’t it?
    • When a visitor comes to the door, we usually invite them in, hang up their coat for them and then say “Would you like to sit down?”
    • Imagine you invite a guest to a meal and he starts to criticize you: “When I came in, you never took my coat and you never invited me to sit down.”
  • Jesus is shocking
    • Jesus acts in a way that is quite strong and quite shocking.
    • He does this because he is making a point that is so important.
    • It really doesn’t matter that he is going to shock their social sensibilities.
  • He says to Simon
    • “Do you see this woman?”
    • and he turns to look at the woman, not even looking at Simon as he speaks to him.
    • “I entered your house;
      • you... but she...
      • you... but she...
      • Therefore, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.
        • But you love me very little.”
  • Jesus has completely reversed things!
    • In Simon’s mind, just moments ago, he was the one who was righteous.
    • He was the Pharisee, the pure one and she was a disgusting, evil woman.
    • How could Jesus let her touch his feet?
    • Now Jesus has turned it right round.
      • She is the worthy one, the one who has been forgiven much, and who loved much.
      • He is the one who is worth little, who has done little.
  1. Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
  2. But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
  3. He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
  • Sins forgiven
    • She must have already known this because “the one who has been forgiven much, loves much”
    • Maybe they had a previous encounter
    • Or maybe she had been watching Jesus, listening to him, and just trusted that he would forgive her

What did she know of him?

  • Different Story
    • different occasion to Mary
      • This beautiful story is a different occasion to that recorded in the other three gospels where Mary, just before Jesus was crucified, anointed his head with precious ointment.
      • This was much earlier in Jesus’ ministry. It seems that this woman already knew Jesus. Obviously she had already been forgiven.
  • What did she know of him?
    • If we turn back in Luke we can see that she could have heard the gospel that Jesus was preaching, either directly, or through other people.
  • Luke 4:18
    • Jesus preached in the synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...
      • You can imagine her saying, “Yes, this is me. I am poor. I am broken-hearted. I am the one who is captive to sin and he has come. He is the one who has come to free me.”
    • She probably heard about the time when he healed all that were brought to him (Luke 4:40).
      • She had seen the beautiful compassion of this man, who healed all, who never turned any away, the man who had
    • an unclean leper come to him (5:12)
      • who fell on his face and implored him saying, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.”
      • Jesus put out his hand and touched this leprous, polluted man and said, “I am willing, be cleansed,” and immediately the leprosy left him.
    • Maybe she had heard of the paralyzed man who was let down through the roof on his bed by his friends.
      • The Pharisees all around were criticizing, but Jesus spoke gently to this man and said, “Your sins are forgiven you,” and healed the man.
    • Probably she had heard about Matthew the tax collector (5:27)
      • a traitor to his country, who would have to hang his head in shame when he walked by his own people,
      • whom Jesus forgave and told him to follow him.
    • Jesus said in Matthew 5:31
      • “Those who are well have no need of a doctor, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
    • Maybe she had heard Jesus saying, “It is for sinners that I have come.”
    • She might have heard about him healing the man with the withered hand
      • even though he risked the anger of the people all around him who were filled with rage when he healed on the Sabbath.
  • Luke 6:17-19
    • And how even later that day, a multitude came to him and he healed them all. None of them he turned away (6:19).
  • In Luke 6:20-21 He said, “Blessed are you poor... “
    • She was one who wept. She was one who was poor, who was hungry.
    • She heard him speak and heard his wonderful promises. These invitations brought her to him.
    • Maybe she heard how he healed the widow of Nain
      • who had lost her only son.
      • Jesus had compassion on her and said “Do not weep,” and brought this man up from the dead.
  • Luke 7:21-23
    • Maybe she was there when John the Baptist’s disciples came to Jesus
      • to ask if he was the One, and Jesus responded, “Go and tell John...

How much did she love him?

  • You can see by her behaviour how much she loved Jesus.
    • She wept from the time she came in.
    • Her tears of joy and thankfulness were pouring down.
    • Have you ever thought how many tears it takes to actually wash somebody’s feet?
      • She came to these foul, dirty feet still covered with the pollution and sewage of the street. She washed them with her hands and her tears. And her hair, her glory, she let down, and used it to wipe his feet, to sponge off the mud and the filth, and to wipe them clean.
    • And she kisses them
      • She smothers his feet with her kisses.
  • She loves him
    • She loves this man because he has forgiven her.
    • He cleansed her.
    • Her sin and filth he has washed away.
    • He has accepted her: —Other people didn’t accept her.
      • This Pharisee didn’t accept her. This Pharisee regarded her as scum,
      • but Jesus, this pure, godly, spotless man, accepted her.
    • So she pours out the precious ointment on him.

Why did she love him?

  • She loved him because she was an outcast.
    • She was hated.
    • She was the scum of society.
    • She was considered worthless,
  • but this man, who was God himself,
    • took an interest in her.
    • He accepted her.
    • He loved her.
    • He showed her compassion.
    • He cared about her.
    • And he forgave her.
  • Of course she loved him!

What does forgiveness mean?

  • In Psalm 103:10 we read about forgiveness
    • How far is the east from the west?
      • They are not places, but directions. There is no limit to the distance. This is a picture, a metaphor to emphasize that our sins are removed for good.
  • In Isaiah 1:18 we read,
    • “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
      • When I was in high school, I used to play rugby. I would bring my kit home and my bright yellow rugby shirt would be covered and caked in mud, but when it came out of the washing machine the mud was gone. It was clean, it was pure. You couldn’t see any stain. No trace. That is what it is like to be forgiven, there is no trace of our sin.
  • God is ready to forgive us.
    • In Psalm 86:1-5 David prays:
    • “Bow down your ear O Lord. Hear me, for I am poor and needy... For You, O Lord, are good and ready to forgive and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.”
    • I once offended a person and later apologized to her.
      • I thought the matter was all resolved, but a year later she brought the matter again. I apologized again and said, “Look, do you forgive me?” “Yes,” she said, “I forgive you.” So I said, “Will you promise never to bring this matter up again?” And she said, “Okay, I promise. I will never bring this matter up again.”
    • That is what forgiveness is, isn’t it?
      • Your sin is gone, forgotten, completely wiped away. God truly forgives.
  • God’s forgiveness is more than that.
    • It is not a neutral forgiveness.
    • Suppose your daughter is murdered in a senseless shooting.
      • they catch the man who did it, and he serves a twenty-year prison sentence and eventually is released. According to the law, they have done their time, and in some sense they are forgiven. But can you demand the relatives of the people who were mutilated or killed to throw their arms around the killers after they have served their prison sentence and say, “You are forgiven now because you have done your time”? You can’t expect that, can you?
  • God’s forgiveness is more than that.
    • God’s forgiveness is to be welcomed into his arms,
      • like the parable where the father welcomed the lost son who had sinned so much against him. The father threw his arms around him and kissed him and said, “My son who was lost is found.”
  • That is the forgiveness that Jesus has.
    • A forgiveness that welcomes us,
    • a forgiveness that puts its arms around us and hugs us and kisses us and says, “You were lost and you are found.
    • You are forgiven.
    • I have cleansed you.
    • You are accepted. I accept you for who you are.
    • Everything that you have ever done wrong is gone.
    • Every failure that you have committed is gone.
    • Every stain is gone.
    • Every mistake, every piece of nastiness you have conceived in your heart is gone.”

What were you forgiven?

  • If you are a Christian, what has Jesus forgiven you?
    • What are the worst sins?
    • Some people say, “All sins are just as bad,” but that is not true.
      • It is true is that we cannot judge sins because we cannot see the heart, but God says that some sins are worse than others.
    • The sins he hates the most are pride and unbelief.
    • A friend of mine was to give his testimony at a meeting.
      • The previous testimony was of salvation from depravity and vile open sin. My friend got up to give his testimony and began, “You know, my sins were worse than those you have just heard.” Everybody was thinking, “Worse than that?” “Yes,” he said, “I was proud!” Why is it so hateful to God when we are proud? Because God is so pure and so high and so far above us, that to see one of us trying to exalt ourselves above another when we are so worthless is abhorrent to him. The great king Nebuchadnezzar walked out on his rooftop and looked over Babylon and said “I have built this city. I am a great king.” God was so angered by his pride that he struck the king down, so that he became like an animal.
    • God hates pride. But God has forgiven your pride.
  • If Jesus is your Saviour, God has forgiven your unbelief.
    • God said that unbelief is a worse sin than the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. When Capernaum saw the miracles done and they didn’t believe Jesus, God said that it would be worse for them than for Sodom and Gomorrah. Maybe you were brought up with Christian parents or Christian relatives and you didn’t believe the gospel. For many years your heart was hard. God has forgiven that.
    • Maybe you heard the gospel many times and you turned your back on Jesus Christ. God has forgiven that.
  • In Proverbs 6, God lists seven sins that he particularly hates,
    • beginning with pride and ending with one who stirs up trouble among friends.
    • I am sure you have said things behind peoples’ backs, but God has forgiven you for that.
      • Doesn’t it feel good to moan about somebody to somebody else? They agree with you and the gossip feels so sweet. This is the sweetness of sin, but it is an abomination to God.
    • Yet God has wiped it away. Not a stain is there.
  • But what of the sins since you became a Christian?
    • The sins you have committed this week,
    • the sins that you have committed today.
    • Jesus didn’t say to this woman
      • “Your sins up to the point when I forgave you have been forgiven.” No. he said in verse 47, “Your sins are forgiven.” In verse 48 he said, “Your sins are forgiven.” We know that they were already forgiven before this time because Jesus said to Simon, “She loves much because she has been forgiven much.” The love the woman showed to Jesus from the moment she walked in the room must have been from an earlier occasion when Jesus forgave her. Yet her sins didn’t stop at that time, and Jesus continued to forgive her sins.
  • Right now, if you are a Christian, your sins are forgiven.
    • Right now God’s love is smiling on you.
    • He accepts you for who you are.
    • He accepts the fact that even now you are tempted and often give in
    • He accepts you right where you are.
  • He delights in you, just as Christ delighted in this woman.
    • Jesus delights in you at this moment.
    • He surrounds you with his love.
    • His arms of love are around you right now because he forgives you.

What did it cost for this forgiveness?

  • God just can’t say “I forgive you,” like that.
    • God’s justice demands that someone pays.
    • In the story that Jesus told, when the moneylender forgave men who owed money he had to make up the difference himself
    • Similarly when Jesus forgave, he paid the price himself.
    • He paid it with his blood.
      • He paid it with a pain so great and so intense that even he himself shrank from the cost. A thousand times more suffering than you can imagine was the sea of pain through which Jesus swam for our forgiveness.
    • He did it because he loved you and me.

How are we to be forgiven?

  • Maybe you are not forgiven today.
    • What can you do?
  • It wasn’t this woman’s love that saved her.
    • It is no good trying to work up a lot of love for Jesus so he will save you.
  • It wasn’t her reformed life that saved her.
    • It wasn’t that she changed her life and so he decided to forgive her.
  • It was her trust in Jesus
    • Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

What was her faith?

  • She simply threw herself on Christ’s mercy.
    • She just looked to him and said,
    • “I am going to trust you.
    • I am going to give myself to you.
    • I am going to throw myself on your mercy.”
  • Faith is to put your trust in something.
    • A few years ago I climbed up a mountain on Vancouver Island called Mount Klitsa.
      • Coming down was very steep and in one place, the whole slope had collapsed. But somebody had fixed a rope so that it was possible to climb down. At one particular point you had to take a step off the firm ground at the top and hold onto the rope, slithering down the very steep slope.
    • That was a step of faith
      • moving from where you are trusting in yourself, to trusting in something else
    • Faith is a movement.
  • The woman had to move
    • from trusting in her own sinful lifestyle
    • to trusting in Jesus
    • She had to decide whether to follow the old or whether to follow the new
  • She didn’t even have the power to change her lifestyle
    • but had to trust him even for the strength to turn away from that sin
    • But as soon as she looked to Jesus, and grabbed hold of that ‘rope’ in faith
    • then he provided the strength to turn from her life of sin.

If you want to be forgiven, Jesus is standing there with open arms.

  • He is ready to forgive you.
    • He says “Come to me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
    • Ask him to forgive you. He is ready.
    • Start to follow him. Trust him.
    • He is ready today to forgive you. He delights to forgive
    • He accepts you exactly where you are
  • All you have to do is to come to him, to trust him, to ask him and to turn to him

Updated on 2009-09-06 by Andrew Fountain