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Faithlife

Justified by Faith

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Intro

Good morning. Today is Reformation Day Sunday. In two days from now, Tuesday, October 31, it will be exactly 500 years since the start of the Protestant Reformation. For on that date in 1517, a monk by the name of Martin Luther posted what would come to be known as the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. These theses, or theological points, that Luther had posted, challenged the established church’s teaching on salvation and eventually led Luther and others like him to rediscover the true Gospel - that a person is not saved by any works of the law or good deeds, but by faith alone.
Originally, the theses were written as a response to the church’s teaching concerning indulgences - the practice of selling slips of paper that guaranteed its purchaser the forgiveness of their own sins, or of the sins another loved one, whether living or deceased. And when Luther heard that this was being taught - that salvation could be purchased with money, he immediately took a stand with this influential document. Luther’s original intention was never to split the church, but only to reform it. But once it became clear to him that the church would not reform, and he was forced to choose between the Word of God and the word of the Pope, he chose the Word of God.
Introduction
In his famous trial in the town of Worms, Germany, when Luther was asked if he would take back everything that he had written, he said these words,
“Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen."
And it from this point forward that Martin Luther made it clear that Scripture would be his sole authority for faith and doctrine.
And so, from this conviction came several interlocking principles that became known as the 5 solas of the Reformation:

The Five ‘Solas’ of the Reformation:

Sola Scriptura - “Scripture alone”
Sola Fide - “faith alone”
Sola Gratia - “grace alone”
Solus Christus - “Christ alone”
Soli Deo Gloria - “to the glory of God alone”
Our source of authority is found in Scripture alone. And from that Scripture we find that salvation comes by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone. And everything that we do in life should be to the glory of God alone.
For this morning, I was trying to think of how we can best remember the legacy of the Protestant Reformation.
Here is one idea:
Show image of article
An article from the satirical website, The Babylon Bee, features this title: “Wife Of Protestant Asks Him To Please Stop Nailing Grocery List To Front Door”.
The article says, “Reminding him that it was the third time he’s done it, the wife of local Protestant Steve Carey asked him Tuesday to please stop nailing the grocery list to the front door of their home, sources confirmed.
“Seriously, babe, why can’t you just stick it on the fridge with a magnet like a normal person?” she pleaded with Carey as he stood defiantly… “It’s damaging the door. Front doors are really expensive,” she added. “It’s not like it’s some important document. It’s a grocery list! You are not Martin Luther, dear!”
“Seriously, babe, why can’t you just stick it on the fridge with a magnet like a normal person?” she pleaded with Carey as he stood defiantly. “Or hey—you could put it on the cork board with a thumb tack. That’s almost the same as nailing it to the door—would that work for you?”
“Hun, it’s damaging the door. Front doors are really expensive,” she added. “It’s not like it’s some important document. It’s a grocery list! You are not Martin Luther, dear!”
Still, Carey refused to budge. “Here I stand,” came his reply.
Still, Carey refused to budge. “Here I stand,” came his reply.
Of course, that article is purely satire - not real at all. But maybe that is not the best way to celebrate the Protestant Reformation today.

Our Focus Today - Justification By Faith

No, on a more serious note, I thought that perhaps a better way to honor the legacy of the Reformation would be for us to be reminded of one its greatest tenant - that a person is justified by faith alone.
This is near and dear to my heart, because it was the point that caused me, at age 18 to go from being a very religious, but very lost teenager, to a forgiven and adopted child of God. In my younger years I assumed that if I did enough good things, and went to church faithfully, that God would allow me into heaven, simply on the basis of my goodness. But on the night of July 4, 1999, I came to realize that I would never be good enough to merit heaven. And by God’s grace, he imparted faith to me. And when I believed - really truly believed for the first time, in Jesus as my Lord, God justified me. He declared me not guilty. He made a declaration on my heart - and said, ‘he is mine.’ And he set me free. That is why the doctrine of justification by faith is so precious to me.
Now we could go to a number of familiar texts if we wanted to study this topic. We already read from in the beginning of our service which says.
Romans 5:1 ESV
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
or, we could go to -26 which says,
Galatians 2:15–16 ESV
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
or, we could read
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Those are all central texts. Worthy of memorization.
But today, I would like to look at example of this principle at work, in the ministry of Jesus. And in doing so, we won’t just be seeing justification as a doctrine on paper, but my hope is that you will see how it transforms lives.

Our Passage for Today - Luke 7:36-40

In our passage before us, , we have a woman who was a great sinner. And according to the religious leaders of her day, she had no business being anywhere near God’s people or having any hint of the mercies of God. Yet she falls down at Jesus’ feet, in despair, yet as an unwelcome guest. What will happen to her?
With that introduction, I’d like to have Mike come forward and read the passage to us.
Mike reads
We have two weeks left in our study of the Parables - this week and next. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. Today we are going to talk about forgiveness and our gratitude toward God. And our text is . Here we are going to read about how Jesus was invited into the home of a Pharisee, and while he was there, a woman came and wept bitterly at his feet. The Pharisee saw this and was repulsed, but Jesus told a parable to illustrate that what she was doing was really true worship, that was sourced in her humility and repentance. And we’ll see what lessons God would have us to learn through this parable. Again, our text is . Like we normally do, we will break this up into sections.
Good morning. We have two weeks left in our study of the Parables - this week and next. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. Today we are going to talk about forgiveness and our gratitude toward God. And our text is . Here we are going to read about how Jesus was invited into the home of a Pharisee, and while he was there, a woman came and wept bitterly at his feet. The Pharisee saw this and was repulsed, but Jesus told a parable to illustrate that what she was doing was really true worship, that was sourced in her humility and repentence. And we’ll see what lessons God would have us to learn through this parable. Again, our text is . Like we normally do, we will break this up into sections.
Luke 7:36–50 ESV
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “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 of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 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. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:36–40 ESV
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
First we have the event described (the setting), in verses 36-38. Then we have the Pharisees’ reaction to the woman, and Jesus’ response to the Pharisee in vss 39-47. Finally, we have Jesus’ response to the woman in vss 48-50. So let’s start with the event that prompted the parable – vss 36-38. Someone read that:

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
Luke 7:36–38 ESV
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

The Setting

The Setting (7:36-38)
Thank you, Mike. That is the story before us. Let’s take some to expound on what it has to teach us this morning.
Let’s start with the setting (vss 36-38). Jesus is invited to have dinner with a Pharisee. We are not told precisely when this incident occurred, or where. The principle characters are Jesus, the Pharisee (named Simon), and a woman whose name is not given. All that we know about her is that she had a sinful history.
But Jesus is invited to the home of Simon the Pharisee. At the time, it was considered virtuous to invite a teacher over to dinner, especially if the teacher taught at the synagogue or was from out of town. The text says that they were ‘reclining at the table,’ which was a different way of eating than what we are accustomed to. While we would normally sit at chairs for a meal, a common practice for a banquet might be this kind of configuration:
Show picture of reclining.
Again, this was done for banquets and other such special occasions. And the overall idea here is that the Pharisee is trying to honor Jesus in a rather showy way.

An Unexpected Guest: The Actions of an Unnamed Woman

This brings us to the unnamed woman. In contrast to the Pharisee, this woman desires to honor Jesus, but she cannot invite him over to her house. For, the text tells us that she 'was a sinner’ (vs 37), and she would have not felt worthy to invite Jesus over. It would have been especially looked down upon if her sinful life included a life of prostitution. Then she definitely wouldn’t have felt worthy to invite Jesus to her house. And here, we see, that because she would never be invited by anyone, she had to come in, uninvited, if she ever wished to see Jesus.
This woman apparently heard that Jesus was coming to Simon’s house, and that is how she came to be there. She was eager to be there, and it almost seems like she was there before Jesus arrived, waiting for him, for in Jesus says,
Luke 7:45 ESV
You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.
If she wasn’t there before came, it seems that she arrived soon afterward.
““You (that is Simon) gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet” (). So she was there from the time Jesus walked in.
Now you might wonder - How is it that Simon allowed her to come in? For if you or I were to host a meal in 2017, we usually wouldn’t expect some random stranger to walk right in. Well, at the time, religious people would sometimes allow their door to remain open during banquets, as a show of good will to the poor. But those who walked in were usually expected to remain quiet and away from the couches, observing the discussions of host and guests.
So that is how the woman got in, but we can see that she does not observe the normal protocol. Verses 37 and 38 say,
Luke 7:37–38 ESV
And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
Luke 7: “she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and (she didn’t remain away from the couches, but instead) as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” You can see how this would have struck a nerve with Simon, the host. This woman “wasn’t keeping to her place”, as it were.
So instead of keeping her distance, she dares to get very close to Jesus. This likely would have alarmed and annoyed Simon as the host. Further, she begins to weep to such a degree that her tears fall on Jesus’ feet, and she proceeds to wipe them off with her hair, while also pouring perfume on them as well.
No, instead, she comes up to Jesus, cries over his feet, washes them with her tears, then wipes them off with her hair, and pours perfume on them. Now, washing the feet of a guest was usually reserved for the lowest servant. A water with a basin was usually used, and then afterward the person’s feet would be anointed with oil or perfume. In this case, however, the woman is so quick, so eager to do this for Jesus that the Pharisee doesn’t even have the chance for a basin to be brought, if he was even going to bring one at all. The woman does it instead.
Now, washing the feet of a guest was usually something that a servant of the house would do. It was normally performed with a basin of water and a towel.
However, this woman takes this task upon herself. And though has no bowl or towel, her tears provide the water, and her hair is what dries his feet. It could be that she didn’t have those items to spare. Or it could be that she knew she couldn’t ask for them at a stranger’s house. In either case, she didn’t allow her lack of materials to stop her. Further, the text tells us that she kissed Jesus’ feet.
This is significant. In that culture, a kiss on the cheek, was used as a greeting. Men would kiss other men as a form of welcome. And you might recall that Judas used this common greeting of a kiss as a betray Jesus - not welcoming him as a friend, but signaling to the guards who to arrest.
picture of Judas kissing Jesus
This woman would not have been permitted to greet Jesus with a kiss, so she did the only other thing that she could think to do - kiss his feet.
However, we see that she has no basin. Instead, she washes Jesus’ feet with her tears. And she was not permitted to kiss Jesus’ cheek, like the Pharisee would have done. So the best she can do is kiss his feet. She uses tears to wash his feet, and since she has no towel, she uses her hair to dry them. And then finally, she uses a bottle of expensive ointment to anoint Jesus feet.
There is something significant happening behind the scenes here - something that is prompting this woman do all of these things. Implied in her actions is the idea that this woman is remourseful. She is coming to Jesus with a contrite and broken heart. And further, another thing that is implied in her actions is her faith. She believes that Jesus can grant her the forgiveness that she seeks. Otherwise, this woman could have gone to any other rabbi, or could have gone to the Temple or to the synagogue. But does none of those things. Instead, she goes to Jesus. Why? Because she believes he is who he says he is. So again, it is apparant that this woman is both repentant, and that she has faith.
And once you understand that,

Notice how her faith is expressed in love and action:

She demonstrates devotion to Jesus, in arriving at the banquet early.
She demonstrates servanthood because she was the first to wash Jesus’ feet.
Her contrite heart since it is apparent that she is remorseful about her way of life
Her faith produced courage since it would have taken a lot of guts to walk into a stranger’s house and approach Jesus in this way.
She demonstrated insight because she understood that Jesus was no ordinary person. She had the insight to understand that he was worthy of being anointed with oil - like a king, or priest or prophet would.
She demonstrated that she loved Jesus above all other things, since she was willing to use expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet, even though she probably was not wealthy.
I want you to see that this woman’s worship of Jesus was at a great cost to her. It cost her the expensive vial of perfume, and the humility to kiss, wash, and dry the dirty feet of the Lord Jesus. But there was a higher price than this paid by the woman. In my opinion, the greatest price which she paid was facing the scorn and rejection of the self-righteous Pharisees and other dinner guests at that meal. Jesus did not give her a “dirty look,” but it is inconceivable to think that all of the others did not. Simon’s disgust, revealed by his inner thoughts, must also have been evident in his eyes, and so too for the other guests. “What in the world are you doing here?” must have been etched on the faces of the guests. However, the woman’s desire to see and to worship Jesus was greater than her fear of these guests. Their scorn was a high price to pay, but to the woman it was worth it.
All of this flowed out of her faith in Jesus. It was because she believed in him that she was willing to do all that we have described, no matter what others thought of her. Now, let’s see how Simon, the Pharisee, reacts to all of this, in contrast ().

In Contrast: The Response of a Self-Righteous Pharisee

Luke 7:39–43 ESV
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “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 of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Here is where we see Simon’s inner thoughts - both about the woman AND about Jesus. Of course, he is disgusted by the woman. That much is clear. But in this ordeal, his true thoughts about Jesus are also revealed:
Let’s read about the Pharisee’s response to this woman, and then Jesus’ response as well. Could someone read the next section – vss 39-43? Thank you.
Simon’s Thoughts and Jesus’ Teaching (7:39-43)
Luke 7:39 ESV
Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Notice that by all outward appearances, Simon has invited Jesus to his house to honor him. Yet, here, we can see that he really doesn’t believe in Jesus at all. In fact, Simon’s thoughts are similar to a question that was asked of Jesus earlier by other Pharisees: “Why do you eat and drink with the tax-gatherers and sinners?” (; cf. ; ).
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
– and of course, Jesus knows his thoughts. But what is interesting is that his thoughts reveal his opinions about both the woman, and about Jesus, for he says, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is”. He not only looks down on the woman, but you can also tell that just like so many other Pharisees Jesus has encountered, he doesn’t really believe that Jesus is who he says he is either. In his mind, the fact that Jesus doesn’t turn away the woman shows that he is not a true prophet. For a true prophet would know what kind of woman this was, and he would certainly not allow her to do this disgraceful thing. Simon’s thoughts are similar to a question that was asked of Jesus earlier: “Why do you eat and drink with the tax-gatherers and sinners?” (; cf. ; ).
41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Thank you. Now, here we see Simon’s inner thoughts – and of course, Jesus knows his thoughts. But what is interesting is that his thoughts reveal his opinions about both the woman, and about Jesus, for he says, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is”. He not only looks down on the woman, but you can also tell that just like so many other Pharisees Jesus has encountered, he doesn’t really believe that Jesus is who he says he is either. In his mind, the fact that Jesus doesn’t turn away the woman shows that he is not a true prophet. For a true prophet would know what kind of woman this was, and he would certainly not allow her to do this disgraceful thing. Simon’s thoughts are similar to a question that was asked of Jesus earlier: “Why do you eat and drink with the tax-gatherers and sinners?” (; cf. ; ).
That is similar to what Simon is thinking here. “Why is Jesus doing this?”, he wonders. Now the ironic thing is that Simon is actually right in what he is thinking:
“If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
The truth is that Jesus really does know who this woman is, and that is the very reason that he allows her to touch him! But Simon doesn’t understand a great many things -
He doesn’t understand the woman’s true heart
He doesn’t understand who Jesus is
He doesn’t understand the true heart that God accepts
He doesn’t understand mercy.
So Jesus challenges Simon’s false way of thinking by using a parable.

Jesus Speaks: The Parable of the Two Debtors

Luke 7:40 ESV
And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
Luke 7:
Luke 7:40–42 ESV
And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “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 of them will love him more?”
Notice that while Jesus just read this man’s unbelieving thoughts, he continues to put up appearances as if he believes Jesus by saying, “Say it, teacher.” But of course, Jesus can see right through that.
Luke 7:41–43 ESV
“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 of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Luke 7:
Luke 7:41–42 ESV
“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 of them will love him more?”

The Parable Explained

Jesus’ parable here is a short one. (Some parables are very long, like Parable of the Sower. Some are short, like this one.) Two men owe money to a lender. One owes about 2 month’s wage, while the other owes 20 month’s wage. Both debts are forgiven by the lender. And the point that Jesus leads Simon to is:
The Stated Point of the Parable: A person who has had a greater debt forgiven will love the moneylender more than one who was forgiven little.
But what does that mean?
I say that Jesus’ point is easy to see, for he states it plainly. But it is a little more difficult to understand how Jesus intends to use this parable in the case of the Pharisee and the woman.
Is Jesus implying that Simon only had a little bit to be forgiven of, and so he loves a little, but the woman was much, much worse, and therefore was forgiven more, so she loves Jesus more? I don’t think so. For that would imply that Jesus agrees with Simon’s assumption that he has less to be forgiven of. I don’t think Jesus is intending to do that.
Rather, what I think Jesus is doing is making an argument from Simon’s point of view. Simon thinks of the woman as being the one who is in greater debt - that her sins are much more numerous than is. By contrast, he feels that he only has a few sins to be forgiven of. And as a result, Simon doesn’t really feel a big need to be loved by Jesus, or to be forgiven at all. So, the implication is that Simon really doesn’t love God much at all.
J
I don’t think so.
So Jesus’ point is this -
The Deeper Point of the Parable: A recognition of the debt that we owe before God is a prerequisite to our love of God.
Let me say that again: a recognition of the debt that we owe before God is a prerequisite to our love of God.
This is actually a description of how salvation works.
Notice the order of events that Jesus describes in verses 42 and 43 of the parable: the cancellation of debt precedes (comes before) our love for God. Not the other way around. It is not that we love God first, and that is why he forgives us.
No, our love for God only occurs once he has acted on our behalf.
What then does it mean in verse 47, when Jesus says,
Luke 7:47 ESV
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
That can sound confusing, because it sounds like Jesus is saying ‘this woman was forgiven, for (or because) she loved (me) much.’ It almost sounds like she was saved by her works - she loved me, therefore I forgave her. But that is actually not what it saying at all. The key is how we understand the word for.
When it says, “Her sins, which are many, were forgiven - for she loved much”, ‘for’ doesn’t mean ‘because she loved much’. Instead, what ‘for’ means is, “Her sins, which are many, were forgiven - for (or, as evidenced by the fact that) she loved much”
--
“For” doesn’t mean “because” (as if to imply that she was forgiven because she loved Jesus).
Rather, “for” in means, “Her sins, which are many, were forgiven - for (i.e, as evidenced by the fact that) she loved much”
In other words, her faith came first, which led to her forgiveness, which then produced love in her heart.
--
Jesus is saying, “Like the person who owed a massive debt, it is apparent that this woman has been forgiven, as evidenced by the fact that she showed such signs of love toward me.”
Jesus continues by essentially saying to Simon, “Think about it. You didn’t wash my feet, greet me with a kiss, or annoint my head, like a host might have done. You did none of that. Yet, this woman..even though she risked scorn by everyone in this house, and even though she had none of the proper materials, she did all of these things and more.
Her love for me serves as proof that she understood the massive debt that she owes due to her sin, her need to be forgiven, and her faith that I am the one who can grant it to her.
That is why Jesus says in verse 50,
Luke 7:50 ESV
And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Application

Application

Jesus did not say, “Your love has saved you,” “Your decision to wash my feet has saved you,” or “your other acts of devotion have saved you.”
Rather, it is her faith that has saved her, and faith alone.
That order of things is crucial.
Darrell Bock, a famous Bible scholar and theologian, has said this:

Jesus’ remark reveals a crucial theological sequence: first an offer of forgiveness from God, then the faith that saves. Such faith evidences itself in the acts of love that she has performed for Jesus.

This is incredible news for us. And it a truth that we celebrate the Reformers for discovering anew and proclaiming from the Scriptures:
We are justified by faith alone.
We are made right in God’s sight by faith alone.
We are forgiven through God’s grace, by means of faith alone.

Here is the truth:

You can never be religious enough to earn Jesus’ favor.
It doesn’t matter how many years you have been attending church.
It doesn’t matter how many thousands of dollars you give to charity, how many orphanages you build, or good deeds you do.
You can only be made right in God’s eyes by faith alone.
But notice how wonderfully the Word of God defines for us what that faith looks like here in . When we say that a person is justified by faith alone, ‘faith’ does not mean simply agreeing to set of statements in your head, or praying a prayer, and then going on and living your own way.
No, for in fact, we see from the example of the woman in this passage that true faith is evidenced by the love that is shown in our lives. This woman demonstrated by her actions that faith was in her heart.
And notice also, that just like this woman, all true faith begins with an acknowledgment that WE are the ones with the greatest debt. We are the ones with sins that are piled high - impossible for us to pay back or cancel out on our own. We are saved by our faith, yes, but that faith is shown to be genuine by a contrite spirit and a heart of love and devotion to God.

What About You?

So here is the message for you. Today is not ultimately about celebrating one man, Martin Luther, or any of the Reformers for that matter. Rather, today let us celebrate the glorious truths that these men and women sought to make known once again.
Have you come to God in repentance and asked Him, by faith alone, to forgive you on the basis of Christ’s death on your behalf?
Salvation cannot be purchased with money. It cannot be atoned for by religious devotion. It cannot be earned by a thousand good deeds.
The only way that we can be saved is to look into God’s Word alone, and seek forgiveness in Christ alone, not on the basis of our own merits but only by God’s grace alone. And this forgiveness cannot be ours by any good deed, but can only be attained by faith alone.
So Jesus is going to explain how Simon’s evaluation of the woman is wrong, and he’ll do so using a parable.
All you need to do today is believe. It is really that simple. Look to Jesus. Don’t be proud like the Pharisee. Understand the depth of your sin. Fall down at the feet of Jesus. Believe in him. Believe he is who he says he is, and that he has the power to forgive you. And you will be saved.
For that is the Gospel.
John 20:31 ESV
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Will you believe today?
Let us pray.
o Jesus is going to explain how Simon’s evaluation of the woman is wrong, and he’ll do so using a parable.
A Story for Simon (40-42)
Reading the man’s thoughts, Jesus says, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” To which Simon replies, “Tell me, teacher.” Thus begins the parable of two debtors in verses 40-42.
In the parable, a money-lender loaned money to two different individuals, neither of which were able to repay their loan. The one had borrowed ten times more money than the other (500 denari, rather than 50). The money-lender forgave the debt of both men. “Which of the two,” Jesus asked Simon, “would love the money-lender more?” Simon’s cautious answer was that the one who owed the most would love the man the most. Jesus confirmed the truth of his response by saying in verse 43 “You have judged correctly.”
Here is the point that Jesus was making to Simon: THOSE WHO ARE FORGIVEN MOST LOVE MOST.
Jesus now takes the principle and applies it to Simon and the sinful woman. Someone read verses 44-47:
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Thank you. You see, Simon shunned the woman because she was a sinner, and he expected Jesus to do likewise. However, Jesus rebukes Simon by showing that in every respect the woman has outdone Simon in her acts of love and devotion. Simon did not show Jesus even the minimum courtesy of washing His feet. This woman not only washed His feet, she did it with her tears and her hair. Simon did not bestow a kiss on Jesus’ face; the woman did not cease to kiss the feet of Jesus, which, at first, were dirty feet. Simon did not anoint the head of Jesus with oil; the woman anointed His feet with expensive perfume. The woman outdid Simon in showing love to the Lord. The woman was, at least in Simon’s mind, a greater sinner. The woman was, as Jesus pointed out, the one who was greater in love as well. From both the story which Jesus told and from the supper which Simon held, the one who was forgiven more, loved more.
There is a problem here, which has troubled theologians and Bible students over the years. In verse 47 it would appear that Jesus is telling the woman that she is forgiven because she loved much. It is not difficult to accept the statement that those who are forgiven much, as a result, love much. It is difficult to accept the statement that those who love much are forgiven much. To love because you are forgiven is a natural response to grace. To be forgiven because you love is works. However, I don’t think Jesus is intending us to see her forgiveness as a result of her works. I think many overthink this verse in that regard – that is, read too much into it. Rather, I like the way Darrel Bock puts it in his commentary on Luke: “her forgiveness is not a result of her acts, rather, her acts testify to love’s presence in gratitude for the previous granting of forgiveness.” In other words, the woman has already been forgiven, long before Jesus pronounces it to be so in the next verses. And her love is evidence of that forgiveness. It is because that she knows Jesus is merciful and forgiving that she worships at his feet. And her knowledge of her own sin, and of just how much she needs to be forgiven is what causes her to love Jesus so much. Likewise, Jesus says that when a person fails to see how much he needs to be forgiven, like Simon, he loves little.
One more observation - The body language of our Lord in verses 44-47 is most significant. All through the dinner, Jesus’ back was to the woman, who was anointing and kissing His feet. He was, at the same time, facing His host, Simon. Now, once Simon’s rejection of Jesus is revealed, in contrast to the woman’s worship, Jesus turns His back on Simon and faces the woman, even though He is still addressing Simon (cf. v. 44). Jesus is, by His actions, rejecting Simon and accepting the sinful woman. What an incredible statement is being made here! And as we will see in the final verses, Jesus will conclude by actually addressing the woman, and give her words of comfort and assurance. I'll read the last section, verses 48-50:
Jesus’ Words to the Woman (7:48-50)
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
When Jesus speaks to the woman in the final verses of our passage, He now makes clear to her the basis for her forgiveness: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” ().
Let there be no doubt as to the basis for one’s forgiveness. It is not works. It is not the work of loving others, even God’s Son. Forgiveness is the gift of God, granted to those who have faith. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast". So her faith wasn't a work that saved her- even that was not of herself. Rather it was that which she had faith in - the substance of her faith - that saved her.
The question is this: “What was it that the woman believed by faith?” If the woman’s faith saved her, what was the substance of her faith? What did the woman believe that saved her? I believe that the text strongly implies the answer: THE WOMAN BELIEVED THAT IF SHE CAME TO JESUS AS A REPENTANT SINNER, JESUS WOULD NOT SEND HER AWAY.
The “bad news” of the Pharisees—”Jesus associates with sinners”—was good news to this woman, because she acknowledged that she was a sinner. The only people who would wince at the thought that Jesus has come to seek and to save sinners are the self-righteous, those who do not think they need saving. This woman did not dispute the fact that she was a sinner. She rejoiced at the reports that Jesus received sinners. She came to him as a sinner, believing by faith that He would not send her away—and she was right. Of all those who went to the dinner, only this woman is said to have left forgiven. Oh, what good news this is for us sinners!
Conclusion
So that is the parable. Simon and the other guests were left bewildered and doubting: "Who is this who even forgives sins." They failed to catch Jesus' point and believe in him. While on the other hand, the sinful woman left forgiven. What lessons are we to learn from this parable?
Well, the first principle that we learn is quite clear - Christ came to seek and to save sinners. A woman who was considered a great sinner by her peers was forgiven by our Lord, while those who thought themselves righteous went away unforgiven. There is a strange attraction to Christ for those who will admit they are sinners, and who wish to turn from their sins. And the wonderful news is that Jesus doesn't turn them away, but welcomes them. For while it is true that Jesus is the sinless Son of God, who hates sin and who will ultimately judge sinners, the message of the gospel is that in His first coming Christ came to save, not to condemn. Jesus thus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more” ().
This is because in His first coming, Jesus came to bear the penalty for man’s sin Himself, and to save men from eternal damnation. All who come to Him for forgiveness and salvation will be saved. None will be turned away. But there is yet another coming of Christ, when He comes to judge. At that time, it will be too late. Those who come to Him them will tremble in fear of Him, and rightly so.
My admonition to you who have never come to Christ as this woman did, is that you come now. Come, trusting that He will receive you, that He will forgive you, that He will save. No one is more accessible to sinners than Christ. And no matter what your past is, you are never too far gone, never too unholy for Jesus to welcome. For even if you feel like you have done some of the worst things in the world, even if you feel unworthy to even talk to God..... Jesus will turn to you and acknowledge you, just like he turned to the woman who lay weeping at his feet, saying, "Child, you are forgiven." So if you never have done so before, come to Christ, acknowledge your sin, and he will forgive you.
The second lesson which we can learn from our text is to recognize the characteristics of self-righteousness that we see in the example of Simon the Pharisee, and beware of having those same characteristics ourselves. Simon was inclined to see some sins as greater than others in the eyes of God. If this woman's sin was sexual, for example, then that was unforgivable in his eyes. However, pride was acceptable. So you can see how he was inconsistent in his view of sin.
Simon viewed himself as better than this woman. He had no compassion. And so I think another lesson is that a true Christian should have a heart for those who are lost, rather than just a desire to see them judged. You know, it seems like the Pharisees often lacked compassion. In fact, in all of the New Testament I fail to see one incident in which a Pharisee was touched by the misery, the sin, the shame, the grief of another human being. It is little wonder that the Old Testament prophets had to speak so often about mercy and compassion. I see none of it in the Pharisees in the gospel accounts. To have compassion means that you are concerned for their well being - and this is some of what we talked about in the Good Samaritan lesson. But compassion also means a desire to see a person restored, and not destroyed. That is the heart that Jesus had. We should have the same heart..
Lastly, we learn a great deal about worship from this woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears. It is true that we do not have the opportunity to wash the feet of Jesus, as the woman in our text did, but we can learn a number of principles pertaining to worship from her actions. Consider these principles with me as we conclude.
(1) Worship is for sinners. The woman who worshipped Jesus was a sinner. Our Lord neither denied this, nor minimized it. It is important to recognize that sinners can worship God. As you think through the complex rules and regulations of the Old Testament law, it becomes evident that God established worship for sinners. Otherwise, it would not have been necessary to have all of the intricate rules and rituals and sacrifices. Worship, in the Old Testament, was for sinners.
So, too, in the New Testament. Those of us who are most sensitive to the magnitude of our sin, should also recognize the magnitude of God’s forgiveness. And so we should not be paralyzed because of our sin, thinking we are not worthy of worship, but recognizes that Jesus invites it, even despite the ways that we so often fail him. Praise be to God!
Let me say this as an aside: I sometimes get the impression that when we come to the Lord’s Table we think that we have to reach some kind of momentary sinlessness before we can worship. How foolish. Even momentary sinlessness is impossible. When Paul warns against observing the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner” () he is referring to the inappropriateness of the drunken excesses in the Corinthian observance of communion. There is a world of difference between an “unworthy manner” (and adverb, “unworthily”) and an unworthy state (being a sinner). While we will be sinless when we worship God in heaven, we worship as sinners on earth.
(2) Worship takes place at the feet of Jesus. The proper position for our worship is at the feet of Jesus. It suddenly occurred to me that the feet of our Lord are very frequently mentioned in our text. While Simon did not even do justice to our Lord’s head, the woman was only comfortable at Jesus’ feet. She kissed them, washed them, and dried them with her hair. She did not feel worthy to do otherwise. Particularly in the Book of Revelation, men find themselves falling at the feet of Jesus, when they recognize Him as God. Worship at the feet of Jesus acknowledges His greatness and our unworthiness; His perfection, and our sinfulness. We don't get a chance to do this in church, but I would encourage you to try this sometime - as you pray at home, as you sing or read Scripture, or just talk to God, kneel, on the ground if you are able. Imagine you are at the feet of Jesus. And I tell you it will really put into perspective that he is our Lord, and that we worship him. But also know, that you do not have to feel forever unworthy. For as you pray, remember that he hears you, that he turns to you as he did the woman, and that he gives you permission to stand, as he has granted you forgiveness.
(3) Worship is preoccupation with the person of Jesus Christ. The woman who worshipped at the feet of Jesus was preoccupied with Him, and Him alone. The fact that there were those present who disdained her did not matter, for she cared only about what her Lord thought about her. That means as we worship here, we should not be thinking about those around us, what they thinkof us, but solely focus our attention on Christ, whom we worship.
(4) Worship involves the emotions. The tears of the woman who worshipped Him by washing His feet are most significant. The worship of this woman was, may I say, emotional. Those of us in our tradition tend toward a very intellectual worship. We don't get overly emotional here. But real worship sometimes involves serious emotions, raw emotions. We shouldn't be afraid to express them.
(5) Finally, the worship of this woman was without one word. It took me a while to realize that while our Lord spoke to this woman, Luke did not record so much as one word which she spoke to Him. It is possible that she spoke to Him, but Luke does not find it necessary to record the fact if she did. I make this point, because, you don't have to know the right prayer to be heard by God. Sometimes we don't know what to say. And that's ok. It doesn't appear that this woman said a word. Yet, Jesus knew her heart. And he forgave her based on her repentant heart, demonstrated in her actions. That should encourage us to come before Jesus, even when we don't know what to say.
May God enable us to worship as this woman did, to the glory of God, and for our delight.
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