A Sinful Woman Forgiven
Brad Mills / General
Luke / Luke 7:36–50
During our Summer Study in 2017 we considered the importance of eating in the ministry of Jesus. We used Tim Chester’s excellent book A Meal With Jesus to spend several weeks talking about the role of meals in the life of Jesus. One of the quotes that stuck was from Robert Karris:
In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.
It was so prominent, it had become a proverb of condemnation from that generation:
Luke 7:34 ESV
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
There are a total of three occurences where this phrase is found:
• The Son of Man came to serve… (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45)
• The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost… (Luke 19:10)
• The Son of Man came eating and drinking. (Luke 7:34)
First two describe “why” and the third explains “how”. Jesus did much of his evangelism and discipleship around shared meals. Meals were essential to fulfilling his mission.
In Luke 5:27-32, Jesus was invited to a party at Levi’s house. Since he was a tax collector there were many despised people at the party. Enjoying hospitality from a tax collector is one thing, but what about giving and receiving hospitality from a prostitute?
It would be unthinkable if it weren’t recorded for us in this passage. And it teaches us an invaluable lesson:
God’s grace welcomes the outcast and brings transformation.
Read Luke 7:36-50
1. Jesus Welcomes Sinners (36-39)
Imagine going to the home of a respected church leader, who has invited a guest speaker who’s teaching has caused a bit of a stir in the community.
A woman walks in who is clearly dressed inappropriately, she has far too much makeup on, and it is running down her cheeks due to tears.
All of the guests know what kind of woman this is, but shockingly she goes right up to the speaker. She knows him! She expresses her love for him and kneels down at his feet. She begins to make everyone uncomfortable by washing his feet with a mixture of her tears and a flask of ointment. The whole scene is quite disturbing, especially for the hosts (v.39).
What are you thinking about her? “Is someone going to do something about this woman? I’m sure shewasn’t invited. Put some clothes on!”
Even more importantly, what are you thinking about him? “Isn’t he aware what kind of woman this is? Why isn’t he pushing her away? Look at him, he’s not even embarrassed by her. Maybe he’s one her clients!”
Scene: Greco-Roman symposium
Table(s) with couches on three sides where guests are reclining, probably on their side, propped up with pillows in front of them, and their legs behind them.
Public rooms in large houses often opened up into a courtyard where outsiders could walk up or listen in. It would seem likely that the Pharisees would’ve safeguarded against this in order to maintain their purity.
They would have especially prevented this kind of woman from entering their home. Tim Chester comments:
“To the Pharisees she is like an infectious disease. Yet Jesus accepts her. He demonstrates God’s grace by welcoming sinners.”
Beyond accepting her, he receives her shockingly intimate gestures. She let down her hair, which was something you did just before bed, in the privacy of your own home. She clearly has no inhibitions. Joel Green explains:
“Letting her hair down in this setting would have been on a par with appearing topless in public…Everything about this woman is wrong; she does not belong here and the actions she performs are inappropriate in any setting for someone like Jesus.”
So this was a humiliating scene, but she completes the task of honoring Jesus despite the shame. And Jesus doesn’t prevent her. He doesn’t preserve his reputation before those who were eager to tarnish it. Rather, he receives her loving hospitality.
We’ve seen several stories of tax collectors and sinners receiving kindness from the Lord. It’s the very thing they needed to bring them to repentance. Do we get that? Are we willing to receive sinners? Who are the outcasts today?
If this were to happen in our context today, how might we respond? Do we celebrate the grace of God or are we scandalized?
I recognize those of you with children need to be responsible parents, but I wonder if sometimes we go too far in protecting them. In the process of shielding our children from sinners, we are liable to act much like the Pharisees who were embarrassed/offended by Jesus’ gracious reception of sinners.
The Pharisees saw Jesus as a rebellious son of Israel, and the irony is that he will die the death of a rebellious son. He died the death of one cursed by God (not stoned, but hung on a cross).
Jesus identified with sinners in his life, and he bore their guilt and shame in his death.
› That’s how far Jesus went to welcome sinners. But Luke also shows us that…
2. Sinners Welcome Jesus (40-50)
They are in Simon’s house. Therefore, Simon is the host right?
Today a host welcomes their guests with handshakes. The host also makes their guests comfortable by offering to take their coats, and get them something to drink. Back then, the host offered a kiss instead of a handshake, and they made them comfortable by offering them water to wash their feet and oil to anoint their head (vv.44-46).
Chester points out:
[Simon] is the host of who’s not really a host. Instead the woman is the host who’s not even a guest. [Jesus is saying to Simon] “I am in your house, but she’s been my host.”
Simon condemns Jesus (v.39), but rather than defend himself, Jesus commends the woman. In fact, in the end he forgives her (v.48) and grants her peace with God (v.50).
The women is not forgiven because of her love for Jesus. Forgiveness is not God’s response to our love. R.C. Sproul states it simply, and well:
It is not that she is forgiven because she loves, but rather she loves because she has been forgiven.
Love is the natural response to forgiveness. We love much when we recognize how much we have been forgiven.
Jesus knows Simon’s thoughts. How often can we relate? Jesus also knew the woman’s heart. How often are we like this woman filled with unhindered gratitude for our Savior?
Not only do Simon and this woman view Jesus differently, but they clearly view themselves differently.
It is only as we are enthralled by the Gospel, my sinfulness exchanged for his righteousness, that we can respond to sinners with compassion, pointing them to Jesus.
How is the gospel on display through your hospitality?
› Or maybe a bit more revealing, Do sinners welcome you?
Chester Hospitality involves welcoming, creating space, listening, paying attention, and providing.
Unresolved conflict can’t be ignored when we gather round the meal table; you can’t eat in silence without realizing there’s an issue to address.
Proverbs 15:17 ESV
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
Sharing a meal together can bridge the gaps between classes. It eliminates loneliness and alienation. It turns strangers into friends.
Jesus accomplished much of his discipleship and evangelism around a meal. That would also seem to be the case for the early church.
• The Church met in homes almost always involving a meal (Acts 2:46; 20:7).
• Hospitality is a qualification for leadership (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8).
• Cutting someone off from hospitality is an act of church discipline (1 Cor. 5:11).
The Church has always grown and matured through shared meals.
Just as an individual’s isolation often reveals a sinful heart, so a lack of hospitality often reveals an unhealthy community.
Let’s pray that the Lord would grow and mature this community through an increased appreciation for showing hospitality.