Lavish Love

Lavish Love

Luke 7:36-50


  • I want you all to imagine with me that you and a group from your church have taken a missions trip to Los Angeles (not that professing Christians would ever do anything like that, take a vacation and call it a missions trip). It is lunch time and your group decides to eat in a small café. While you are eating a celebrity walks in and she walks over to your table. You recognize her immediately. She begins to speak, “I noticed your church van outside. So, I’m guessing that you guys are Christians?” You do not really know how to respond to her question because you are so surprised that she is speaking to you. Somehow one of you is able to get out the fact that you are Christians. You notice her beginning to cry a little. She says, “You may not believe this, but I just accepted Jesus as my Savior. I have been living a sinful life and felt beyond forgiveness. Someone shared the gospel with me recently and I realized for the first time that I could be forgiven through Jesus. So, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and to save me.” Your group is sitting there listening to this whole story, watching Lindsay Lohan pour out her heart to you about accepting Jesus Christ as her Savior. It seems so surreal. Then you begin to think about who this woman is and what she has done – being involved in homosexuality, drunk driving, shoplifting, and other various forms of immorality. Even though her story seems so touching, this is Lindsay Lohan. How could she genuinely be saved? We know who she is and what she has done. How could Jesus accept her? The sins of Lindsay Lohan are very public today. People know who she is and what she has done. How would you react? The woman in our passage was also well known. The Pharisees knew who she was and what she had done. She was a sinner.

  • Just prior to our present passage, Jesus had spoken with messengers from John the Baptist. John had sent a delegation to obtain testimony from Jesus concerning his identity as Messiah (7:18-23). Jesus answered by quoting Isaiah’s statements concerning the Messiah and applying those messianic statements to himself (Isaiah 35:5; 61:1). After John’s delegation departed, Jesus spoke to the remaining crowd about John the Baptist and his preparatory ministry for the Messiah (Luke 7:24-28). Jesus knew that the Pharisees and the lawyers had rejected John’s baptism of repentance. As a result, Jesus spoke of them rejecting John because he was too stringent and they rejected Jesus because they viewed him as too loose (7:31-35). Ironically, the people and tax collectors agreed with Jesus because they had been baptized with John’s baptism of repentance (7:29-30).

  • The Jewish religious leaders rejected John and Jesus, which led Jesus to declare that wisdom will be vindicated by her children. We are about to be introduced to one of her children and you will never guess who. The principle in the passage is this, “Lavish love received from Jesus produces lavish love for Jesus.”

  1. The Event Prompting the Parable (36-39).

    1. Jesus accepts an invitation to eat in Simon the Pharisee’s home (36).

      1. Jesus’ reclined at the table. At such a gathering dinner guests would have been reclined on couches, not chairs as is the custom of today. The guests would have their head closest to the table and their feet stretched back furthest from the table. At this point the only ones present that we know of are the Pharisee and Jesus.

    2. A known sinner comes to see Jesus (37-38).

      1. A woman located in the city, who was viewed as a sinner by religious Jews, learned of Jesus’ presence at the Pharisee’s home. Knowing that Jesus was present at the dinner she threw caution to the wind and entered into a hostile environment. It was not uncommon for uninvited guests to be present at such gatherings, especially when a Rabbi was present. Yet, because of who she was the host was not happy to see her. Luke describes her as she was known, a sinner.

        1. The identity of the woman is unclear. Some propose that she was a prostitute. Ultimately the text does not say. Therefore, we must be content with the reality that she was a woman who had a reputation for disobeying God’s law. The host recognized her immediately, so she must have had a well-known reputation as an immoral woman.

        2. She is described as carrying an alabaster vial of perfume. In this culture it was common for women to wear such containers around their neck. It is possible that she had purchased this expensive perfume with money earned by immoral means, but the text does not tell us.

      2. Upon entering the home she stood behind Jesus at his feet crying – she wet Jesus’ feet with her tears (7:38). It appears that she was kneeling at his feet because she wiped the tears off his feet with her hair. Righteous women in this culture would have had their hair concealed. This woman did not, which was normally a sign of being morally loose. Not only did she wet his feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair, she anointed Jesus’ feet with the perfume in her alabaster vial (7:37, 38b).

        1. She is unconcerned that she is embarrassing herself in front of all those who are present. She is unconcerned with entering a hostile environment.

    3. The Pharisee is offended by Jesus’ “bad judgment” (39).

      1. The Pharisee in whose home this was occurring said to himself, “If this man were a prophet he would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

      2. The (second class condition indicates that the) Pharisee did not believe that Jesus was even a prophet because he allowed such a sinful woman access to himself. The implication is that if Jesus knew how wicked this woman was he would never allow her to touch him. The Pharisee is looking down on Jesus for allowing this to happen. He is too righteous to allow such a thing to happen to himself. He believes that Jesus has bad judgment and he has good judgment.

        1. The religious Jews believed that they would become ceremonially unclean if they were to come into contact with a sinner.

        2. It is important to note he does not say this out loud. He merely thinks it.

  1. Jesus Shares a Dinner Party Parable with Simon (40-43).

    1. Jesus is not going to pass up the opportunity to correct Simon’s bad judgment (40).

      1. What is incredibly ironic about Simon’s thinking is that Jesus knows exactly what his host is thinking. Apparently, Simon the Pharisee does not notice that Jesus knew his thoughts. The truth is Jesus knew exactly how immoral this woman was. He knows everything! Therefore, Jesus is not going to allow Simon’s misunderstanding to go uncorrected. Jesus tells Simon that he has something to say to him and Simon tells him to say it. In doing so he refers to Jesus as a teacher, not a prophet. Jesus tells him the story to confront his misunderstanding.

    2. Two debtors owe drastically different amounts (41).

      1. The story deals with a moneylender and two debtors. Simon would have been familiar with the concept and it is possible he may have even been a moneylender at some point. Moneylenders would loan money to individuals who were in need at a set interest rate.

      2. In this case one debtor owes a large amount and the other owes a huge amount (7:41). One debt amounted to 50 denarii and the other amounted to 500 denarii.

        1. A denarius was equivalent to a day’s wages for a laborer. Jews were not supposed to work on the Sabbath, which would mean a six day work week. So the individual owing 50 denarii would have to surrender his wages for over two months (50 days of work). The individual owing 500 denarii would have to surrender his wages for over a year and a half (500 days of work; closer to a year and three quarters).

        2. Imagine that you make $10 per hour and you work an 8 hour day, which equals $80 per day. Your daily wage would be $80 and you owe someone 50 days wages, which would be $4,000. Another person making the same amount owes someone 500 days wages, which would be $40,000. Imagine the reaction of the person who has been forgiven a $40,000 debt! Do you think he would be more ecstatic than the person who has been forgiven a $4,000 debt? Absolutely!

    3. Both debtors are forgiven, who will love the lender more (42)?

      1. Jesus asks his host Simon the Pharisee which debtor would love his moneylender more, the one forgiven 500 denarii or the one forgiven 50 denarii? Jesus is drawing a connection between forgiveness of debt and a response of love.

    4. The one forgiven the greater debt will love more (43).

      1. Simon appears to respond to Jesus’ question with indifference. It is possible that Simon was aware of the fact that Jesus often used questions to correct wrong thinking and actions. Therefore, at the very least Simon is very cautious in responding.

      2. Jesus informs him that he has answered correctly. The individual who has been forgiven the greater debt will love more.

  1. Jesus Applies the Parable to the Present Situation (44-50)

    1. The sinner has loved more than Simon (44-46).

      1. Jesus continues to speak with Simon but he turns to look at the sinful woman (44a). He begins to use the sinful woman and her actions to rebuke Simon. It is certain that Simon did not see this coming.

      2. When Jesus entered Simon’s house, Simon did not provide him with any water to wash off his feet (44b). Since the majority of roads in the first century were unpaved and people wore sandals, it was very common to have dirty feet. It was a common custom for hosts to provide water for guests to cleanse their feet prior to eating. In this case, the host Simon did no such thing for Jesus.

        1. In contrast, the sinful woman (who was not the host) had washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair (44c). This nameless sinful woman provides Jesus with a courtesy that the host did not. Simon merely needed to provide water but the woman provided cleansing for Jesus’ feet in a more costly way.

      3. Secondly, Jesus points out that when he entered Simon’s house he received of greeting from his host (45a). This was a well-known practice of a host greeting a guest with a kiss on the cheek. Simon provided no such greeting for Jesus.

        1. In contrast, the sinful woman did not cease to kiss Jesus’ feet (45b). Simon could have merely kissed Jesus’ cheek once but the woman kissed his feet repeatedly.

      4. Thirdly, Simon did not anoint Jesus’ head with oil upon entering his house (46a). The Greek word Jesus used to describe the oil (that Simon did not provide for him) is different than the Greek word used to describe the perfume that the sinful woman poured on Jesus’ feet. It was customary for a host to anoint the head of a guest of honor with olive oil, which was inexpensive and prevalent. Simon did no such thing for Jesus.

        1. On the other hand, the sinful woman anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume, which would have been expensive. As mentioned previously, it is possible that this perfume was purchased with funds gained through immoral activity, but the text is silent on this issue. The point remains that Simon did not provide an inexpensive courtesy to Jesus his guest, but the woman lavished love on Jesus.

    2. The sinner’s debt has been forgiven that is why she loved more than Simon (47-48).

      1. This is where Jesus hits the punchline. He tells Simon that this sinner, her many sins have been forgiven (47a-b). She has showed up at this gathering for the purpose of lavishing love on Jesus because her many sins have been forgiven. Jesus has just declared to Simon that this sinful woman is like the debtor who owed 500 denarii (cf. 7:41). As a result of her great debt being forgiven she loves Jesus greatly.

      2. Jesus completes his statement by saying that the one who is forgiven little, in turn loves little (47c). Just as in the parable, the debtor who is forgiven the smaller amount loves less than the debtor who is forgiven the greater amount. At this dinner party, Simon is the debtor who loves less. Jesus never says that Simon does not need forgiveness. He merely contrasts the sinner’s love with the Pharisee’s love, which is lacking.

        1. D.A. Carson makes this observation, “love is the proof that a person has received forgiveness, and the more people are forgiven, the more they will love.” Simon would never have guessed that he would end up being the villain of the story and the sinner being the hero.

        2. Zaccheus a chief tax collector would later receive Christ also. When Jesus went to his house people grumbled because Zaccheus was a sinner (Luke 19:1-2, 5-10). Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

        3. Jesus invited all the weary and heavy-laden to come to him for rest (Matt. 11:28-30).

    3. What is your level of love for the Savior who allowed you to come to him and forgave your great debt?

      1. Then Jesus informs the sinful woman that her sins have been forgiven (48). It appears that Jesus’ pronouncement is for the purpose of assuring the woman that she has been forgiven for her sins. Her forgiveness is not the result of her love, rather her love is the result of her forgiveness. It does not appear that Jesus is granting forgiveness here, but rather is announcing something that has already occurred.

        1. It is also likely that this is the punchline of Jesus’ story. The sinful woman leaves the dinner party assured by Christ of the forgiveness of her sins. Simon does not receive assurance by Christ of the forgiveness of his sins. He loves little because he has been forgiven little (in fact, he has not received forgiveness at all because he has not repented). Jesus came to call sinners to salvation, not the righteous (Matt. 9:9-13).

        2. Share my personal testimony.

    4. The dinner guests react to Jesus’ bestowal of forgiveness (49).

      1. This is the first time that we realize others are present at the gathering. They begin wondering who Jesus thinks he is to forgive sins. They are offended that he would say such a thing. Levitical priests would pronounce forgiveness upon individuals following a sacrificial offering. On this occasion, no such offering has been given, nor is Jesus a Levitical priest.

        1. Prior to this Jesus had declared a paralytic to be forgiven of his sins and then clearly stated that he has authority on earth to forgive sins (Luke 5:20-24).

        2. “There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent” (Luke 15:7).

    5. The sinner’s faith has saved her (50).

      1. Jesus continues speaking to the woman and tells her that her faith has saved her. This statement by Christ makes the point clear, her faith resulted in her forgiveness and her forgiveness resulted in her love. He concludes by telling her to go in peace.

      2. For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:20-24 NET).


  • The irony of the entire story is that the sinful woman stood forgiven for her many sins and Simon the Pharisee stood condemned. Simon was greatly offended that Jesus would allow such a sinner to come to him. Jesus dropped the bombshell by declaring that the woman lavished love on him because she had been forgiven for her many sins. John Newton said, Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

  • How would you respond if you were sitting there and in walks this sinner? Imagine Lindsay Lohan (or Madonna) walking up to you, breaking down in tears, and expressing to you that she had repented of her sin and accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior.

    • How would you react?

    • Who (or what kind of person) do you see as beyond forgiveness of sins? Lindsay Lohan, Madonna, muslims, homosexuals, prostitutes, Democrats?

    • Is there anyone who cannot come to Jesus and be accepted by him?

  • Remember the principle I mentioned to you in the introduction? – lavish love received from Jesus results in lavish love for Jesus.

    • How do you love your Savior?

    • Are you still in awe of the forgiveness you have received?

    • Are you humbled by the greatness of the debt you owed and the greatness of the forgiveness you have received?

    • What is your level of love for the Savior who allowed you to come to him and forgave your great debt?

      • Thom Constable said, The more one understands forgiveness, the more love he will have for Christ.”

  • The Bible states that Christians should do everything like they were doing it for Jesus, And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people,because you know that you will receive your inheritance from the Lord as the reward. Serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:17, 23-24 NET).”

  • We are unable to walk up to Jesus and tangibly show him our love as the woman in the story did, but imagine if we were to do everything as if we were doing it for Jesus. Imagine how our:

    • Worship would change – worship with a renewed sense of gratitude and love for the Savior who took your sins upon himself and received from God the Father the wrath which your sins deserved (1 Peter 2:24-25; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Eph. 1:7-8a).

    • Service would change – serve with a renewed sense of gratitude and love for the Savior who took your sins upon himself and received from God the father around which your sins deserved. Humble service for God is the result of genuine gratitude and love for the Savior (1 John 4:9-10; Eph. 2:1-7).

    • Living would change – live with a renewed sense of gratitude and love for the Savior who took your sins upon himself and received from God the father around which your sins deserved (Phil. 3:17-21).

      • our obedience to God’s Word would increase and disobedience would decrease

      • our marriages and families would demonstrate God’s grace and unconditional love

      • our personal relationships would be marked by humility, unconditional love, and forgiveness.

  • Lavish love received from Jesus produces lavish love for Jesus. Our love for Jesus is demonstrated by obeying His Word in all areas by His grace. Whatever you do for others and for God – I am doing this because I love Jesus Christ, as a result of the great forgiveness he has given to me. I do this for him because I love him because he first loved me and he deserves obedience.


One thought on “Lavish Love

  1. Pingback: He Makes All Things New « It Just Dawned On Me

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