A Child of Wisdom
Read Luke 7:35-50
This story is found only in Luke's gospel. And it is easy to see why it is particularly appropriate here. The Lord Jesus is not so much presented in His official position in this gospel, it is more Himself in His personal attractiveness. He had come as a man among men to reveal God's grace in its application to men's varied need. According to Luke the Lord Jesus begins His public ministry in Nazareth, where He addresses those in the synagogue, setting forth the program of His ministry. The reaction of the people who were present is worthy of note: 'And all bore witness to him, and wondered at the words of grace which were coming out of his mouth' Luke 4:22. The cause of their amazement was His 'words of grace.' Being a presentation of the grace of God, they were winning words, being both gracious and graceful. Perhaps Luke plays on both senses of the words, they were words of pure grace (not a word about 'the day of vengeance' Isa. 61:2), and they were attractive, winsome words, having a charm of their own.
There is an old proverb which says: 'Only he is beautiful who acts beautifully.' Divine beauty shines out in His conduct here in Simon the Pharisee's house. The moral traits seen in His manners and His behaviour are true beauty, perfect beauty and never-fading beauty. Although everyone in the house did not see this magnificent beauty, it was there embodied in His person. We know with certainty that at least one took notice of it, was captured by it and responded to it in an appropriate manner. Others might criticise the grace of God which in the person of the Lord Jesus had come to their city, but the woman in this story vindicates it. As the story draws to its end the persons present at the meal begin to say to themselves in great wonder, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?' v. 49. Right before their very eyes He exercises His divine prerogative of proclaiming the forgiveness of sin. Consequently the question of who the Lord Jesus is figures prominently in this story. God Himself in awesome majesty had drawn near to them in His person, but He exhibited such charming qualities in His manners and words that His gracefulness and loveliness had a sublime attraction on those who had eyes to see the beauty of divine grace.
Verse 35: 'And wisdom has been justified of all her children.' This pithy statement forms the conclusion of a long discussion of how God's testimony had been received by Christ's contemporaries. The mass of the Jews rejected both John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus. Certainly there was a great contrast between these two witnesses of God, nevertheless they were in fullest agreement. The nation's whole argument was inconsistent, because what they called for in the case of John the Baptist, they condemned in the case of the Lord Jesus. Later when the leaders of the nation sought false witnesses in order to condemn Him, 'their testimonies did not agree' Mark 15:56. Falsehood is never in agreement, only truth is. 'And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written' Acts 15:15.
The climax of their charge is stated in the preceding verse in the following words 'a friend of publicans and sinners' v. 34. This same charge had been launched against Christ before (5:29-30), and would be used on later occasions as recorded by Luke (15:1; 19:7). The Lord Jesus does not enter on any defence directly as to this accusation which concerns His relationship to tax collectors and sinners, all He does is to add this forceful statement: 'And wisdom has been justified of all her children.' The author of this gospel on the other hand adds this story at this very point which elaborates on this question. The story is an exposition of verse 35.
Let us take a closer look at their accusation before we continue. On the principle that a man is known by the company he keeps, they insinuated that He is congenial to tax collectors and immoral persons in character and tastes. There was a sting in this charge that He was a 'friend' of such people. Friend is a very strong word in a Jewish context. It is a word which makes somebody indebted to another; it implies an obligation on both persons involved in the friendship. In fact Luke is the author in the New Testament who uses this word most often. We get a deep impression of what this word meant in Christ's mouth when He said to His disciples: 'But I have called you friends' John 15:15. This charge of His relationship to the outcasts of the Jewish society recurs theme time and time again. The first time they made the accusation as recorded in Luke He answered them that He was among them as a physician with the express purpose of healing them-to call them to repentance (5:33). Here in this chapter He answers the same accusation by telling them that wisdom is justified by wisdom's children. The religious leaders questioned the propriety of the Lord Jesus' association with tax collectors and sinners, and drew negative conclusions as to His person that were unwarranted. However in this verse Christ affirms that the reception of God's grace transforms the sinner. Grace is the source of true holiness, not of licentiousness. In the story recorded immediately after this saying the effect of grace is so apparent in the behaviour of this woman that it should be possible to see even for a blind man like Simon.
Perhaps those who heard Christ's words the first time they were spoken might have had different thoughts as to who the 'children of wisdom' were. The way Luke brings these stories together in his gospel makes it perfectly clear who in this context is the child of wisdom-not Simon but the woman. Certainly a revolutionary thought to the Pharisees. They pretended namely to be 'the wise and prudent' Luke 10:21. The religious leaders of the people considered themselves, and were considered by the majority of the people, as the ones who had wisdom if any. A child of wisdom is a title of honour they would crave for themselves, but in this context they have already failed on the most fundamental point. They lack from the very start, the basis on which it could be built. They pretend to be wise enough to judge God, but not to judge themselves. In true wisdom there is a first requirement which is absolutely necessary for any further development in true wisdom-namely that God should have his place as God in sovereign majesty. Simon was obviously devoid of this basic element of true wisdom. 'The fool says in his heart: There is no God' Psalm 14:1. If God does not have His proper place everything is out of order and there is moral chaos. If there is true wisdom one will bow before God, condemn oneself and justify God. 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding' Prov. 9:10.
The wise are not the Pharisees and the scribes. In v. 29 it says that some justified God, that is, they bowed to God's testimony through John the Baptist and recognized that God was righteous in His condemnation of their sins. Many confessed their sins and took their place in the Jordan, owning in this way that death was what they truly deserved. Thus they proclaimed God's righteousness against themselves. And therefore they also received the grace of God in the person of Christ with all gratefulness, and justified it when many condemned it, showing themselves to be the children of wisdom in so doing. The way God in Christ's person had brought this wonderful grace within their reach was something they adored; they saw only wisdom in the way He had acted, and rejoiced in it. We find in this woman an example of those who justified this wisdom. She gave evidence that she was one of the children of wisdom by so doing. Everything in the story revolves around Christ's person. In other words God is here in Him, God's wisdom is presented in Him. Some felt in their heart of hearts that this was God's message that met their soul's true need; yea more, it filled their hearts to overflowing so that they adored the grace and gracefulness of God revealed to them in Christ. This verse is the culmination of what goes before, and is exemplified in the following story. The claims of wisdom are proved to be true by one of her children.
A child of wisdom
Luke 7:35 - 50 - part 2
Verse 38. The presence of this notorious sinner obviously annoyed Simon, but even more her actions which all had one person as their object. 'She began to wash his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil', in this verse, the expression 'his feet' he uses three times. when Luke describes her behaviour, and when the Lord Jesus comments upon her action in vv. 44-46 He uses the expression 'my feet' four times. Thus His feet are referred to seven times which draws attention to them in an unmistakable way. They had brought Him all the way to 'the city' in which she lived, to win her heart back to God, presenting in His person God's attitude of grace to His creature. She adored the grace which had brought Him and the revelation of God in grace to her city -'came where he was' (10:33). Those same feet will in the future tread down a guilty world in judgment, but He had now come to woo her back to God. She was not trodden down in judgment, which was what she deserved, because He acted towards her according to His merciful heart (1:79). How precious for us that He has come to us in this way too. It is also worthy of note in this connection that journeys are of great importance in Luke's writings. In his gospel the journey of the Lord Jesus to Jerusalem is the most important, while in the Acts the different journeys of the apostles, and especially Paul, are woven into the fabric of the book. Because the Lord Jesus went to Jerusalem and there accomplished the work of redemption, the gospel of the grace of God can be taken to the ends of the earth.
The word 'foot' is used metaphorically in more than one way in the Bible. To 'place the sole of one's foot on' means to take possession of (Joshua 1:3), while to have things 'under one's feet' means to have dominion, to rule (Psalm 8:6). The last meaning is really an expansion of the former thought. Here in this story is a woman who had in truth been won, taken possession of by the Lord. She had in heart submitted to Him and was a loyal subject under the grace which now reigns through righteousness (Rom. 5:21).
'And stood at his feet behind him weeping' She stood before she knelt; perhaps she hesitated to go on. Verse 37 informs us that she came with the intention of anointing Him; that was her evident purpose. But would He permit her to do what she intended? As we read on we see that the Lord defended her in what she did, though there were many who would accuse her. Luke also tells us of another woman who was at his feet, and though her sister accused her He protected her (10:38-42). But it was unusual to anoint the feet, for this act of honour was normally bestowed on the head. The grace of His coming had absorbed her completely. 'And stood at his feet behind him weeping.' She is overpowered with emotion before she breaks the neck of the flask and pours the ointment on His feet. The passage does not state why she was weeping. It was not tears of repentance as the context makes perfectly clear. Though thoughts of regret as to her past sinful life certainly had a place in her heart, surely it was His goodness and grace that overwhelmed her with gratitude. His grace had completely forgiven all her sins and would remember them no more.
'And wiped them with the hair of her head.' She used her hair, that which was given as a glory to woman, to wipe His feet. Was her glory abased by this action? It probably was in the eyes of some; but is the assertion of independence true glory? It will lead to final humiliation in disgrace, while voluntary humiliation ends in glory, yea is true glory already. To be at the feet of the person of the Lord Jesus in appreciation of the grace He has brought is true glory indeed for a human being. From one perspective we will never go higher. In Rev. 4 the 24 elders throw their crowns at the feet of Him who sits on the throne, and fall down on their faces before the throne worshipping, saying: 'Thou art worthy, O Lord' v. 11. This has a moral glory of its own. Their action and position at the end of the chapter express true understanding and appreciation of the source of all blessing; whatever we have received from Him. 'All my sources are in thee' Psalm 87:7. He has won our hearts to Himself. Christ would never give His blessing in order that we should enjoy it at a distance from Himself, its source and giver. His own presence is the right place for this.
Verse 39. 'Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this.' He saw this, but he saw it with the eyes of a Pharisee. He did not see the true reality, and the outward thing which he saw he completely misjudged. In verse 44 the Lord draws his attention to this very fact: 'Do you see this woman?' Did he see her at all? Had he at all understood the meaning of her action?
'This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.' 'Who is touching him.' This is the word he uses to give expression to her actions-her wiping of His feet with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with the ointment-'touching' but nothing more. When she touched the Lord's feet Simon had perhaps expected some indignant outburst from Him, but He did not say anything. No prophet professing to be the mouthpiece of God would allow 'a sinner' to touch him. Perhaps Simon felt deeply hurt his sense of what was seemly infringed by the Lord tolerating her behaviour.
In spite of the fact that Simon was annoyed by the 'sinner's' behaviour in his house, she was not in the focus of his attention. Having seen what he saw Simon did not start to reason about the woman, but drew conclusions about the Lord Jesus Himself. Simon reasoned in the following way: Either He did not know the character of this woman (and if that was the case He was not a prophet of God, because a prophet should be able to discern the moral character of the person who was touching Him) or He knew it all but still allowed her to touch Him and consequently was defiled by her hands, (lacking the holiness which is required by one who represents God, for God is holy). Simon would soon understand from personal experience that the Lord was able to discern men's thoughts and all their surmisings. And in addition to this he would see, though dimly, that there is a holiness connected with grace which he had never contemplated before. The fact was that Simon did not know his guest nor himself.
Simon was absolutely blind as to his own unworthiness to entertain such a holy guest. He had invited a person whom he thought might be a prophet, without, it seems, so much as a thought as to whether his own house was clean and in a condition suitable for His presence. He thought himself different, more respectable and worthy than this woman at least. We are reminded of v. 6 where a Gentile says: 'Lord, do not trouble thyself, for I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.' Simon did not share this understanding and attitude. He was influenced by the attitude expressed in Isaiah 65:5, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' The way Simon judged the Lord Jesus reminds us of how many religious men assess the Bible. They draw their conclusions on false premises and obvious prejudices, and therefore it is no wonder that their conclusions are wrong.
A child of wisdom
Luke 7:35 - 50 - part 3
A prophet-see v. 16: 'A great prophet has risen among us'. The Lord Jesus was a prophet, but a prophet of a new order; one who spoke the truth. No other prophet had made such claims, but here and in John 4 the prophet is brought before us who is Himself the truth and in whose presence everything is seen for what it is. 'The woman said to him, 'I know that Messiah is coming' (who is called Christ). 'When he comes, he will tell us all things' (John 4:25). 'Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am He' (John 4:26). They had been talking about God and the true worship of Him. This prophet, referring back to Deuteronomy 18, would 'tell us all things' relating to these matters. But doing this He inevitably told her everything about herself: 'Come, see a man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?' (John 4:29). It was indeed the Christ (John 4: 42). To come into the presence of God who is light means necessarily that we will know the truth about ourselves as we learn to know God. The Lord did not actually speak of everything about her, He just gave her one indication that He knew everything (John 4:16,17). here in Luke 7 Simon is the opposite of the woman in John 4, for he knew (or: 'did know') neither God nor himself!
Verse 40. 'And Jesus answered.' The focus of attention was now not on the woman but on the Lord Jesus-how would He react? The word 'answer' is used here though no formal question precedes. One must imagine the scene in order to feel the dramatic element in it: not a word has been spoken since the woman entered and started her series of actions. The first surprise was probably followed by a strain, an increasing tension, as the guests at table began to turn their eyes more and more from the woman to the Lord Jesus. The protracted silence would increase the tension even more. Then at last Jesus 'answered.' He turned directly to Simon and showed that He read the very thoughts that were in His host's heart. The Lord Jesus answered his thoughts and doubts, and so showed that He knew all about the woman also. He had perfect insight into the human heart. He revealed Himself to be not only a prophet of the Lord, but the Lord Himself who had come now not to judge, but in grace to save.
The Pharisee's assumptions were both wrong. The Lord Jesus was able to read his thoughts and reply to them, and was not only willing to accept the touch of a sinful woman, but even suggested that her actions were more welcome to Him than the behaviour of His host. This latter point receives all the emphasis and is brought out in the parable that now follows.
'Teacher, say it' (v. 40). Simon did not think that He was a prophet now for though he lets Him speak, he does not expect an authoritative word from Him. How gracious the Lord is to Simon. He tells him a parable in which He answers the unuttered questions raised by the presence and behaviour of the woman. The Pharisee had perhaps invited the Lord Jesus with the hope that he would discover something that would fully prove to his mind that the Lord was only a pretender. He now had what he wanted when the woman came and did what she did -evidence that cast doubt on the person of the Lord Jesus -but now suddenly everything is turned upside down.
Verses 41 - 42. Simon thought that the presence of this woman and her actions proved conclusively that the Lord Jesus was not a prophet. However what follows shows that he was wrong about the woman, about the Lord Jesus and about his own person and ability to judge in these matters. The woman may well have been an immoral outcast before, but this was no longer the case. She had already been forgiven before she entered the house, and she entered because she was forgiven. We are not informed as to when this took place-it may have been quite recently-nor are we informed as to how she had been brought to faith in the Lord Jesus, but the parable and the Lord's application of it imply this had taken place already. This fact is the explanation of her actions.
The Lord Jesus was not only a prophet, He was much more and Simon was exposed as a poor bankrupt sinner contrary to his own estimation of himself. He may have thought that he would compare favourably with this notoriously immoral person, for no doubt, he had not committed the same sins, but he was nevertheless a bankrupt sinner.
The Lord told this parable to bring home to Simon's mind the lessons he was reluctant to learn. He lays down fundamental principles which even Simon would have to admit, though he may have had difficulties in applying the principles to himself. If a creditor forgives a debt the former debtor will love him, and the bigger the debt, the greater his love will be. The woman and Simon were different in many respects, and Simon was occupied with the difference though it is doubtful whether he felt flattered at all by being compared with her; it was more or less an offence to his refined feelings of high self-esteem. The Pharisee in chapter 18 did not really compare himself with the tax collector; he only found contrast. But according to the Lord Jesus there was a fundamental likeness in spite of all differences. They were both destitute: utterly bankrupt with nothing to pay. It might be possible to distinguish the amount of debt, but nevertheless they were both inexorably cast on the mercy of their creditor. They may have been different in life, one an immoral person, the other moral, respectable and strictly religious, but neither of them could pay a farthing. The Bible says of all men: 'There is none righteous' (Rom. 3:11). In the same context it is written that: 'There is none that does good' (Rom. 3:12). The teaching of these two verses is that not only is man a debtor, but he is completely without ability to pay his debt.
Then this parable comes to its climax: the creditor instead of pressing his charges forgives them both. This is the startling conclusion. Having in this surprising way brought the parable to its climax the Lord Jesus underlines the point he is making in His question: 'Which of them will love him more?' It is a matter of course that the forgiven debtor will respond with love to the benevolent creditor. This is exactly how love to God is produced in the heart. Its spring is the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins. How obvious that a complete and full forgiveness must be a known fact in order to produce this response. Something less or something else will not be able to produce such love towards the creditor, for he is the last person the debtor wants to meet while he does not have knowledge and conviction of forgiveness in his heart. Only to have the desire that this should be the case or to have an uncertain hope that perhaps the creditor would give more time to pay back the debt would and could not have produced this response of love. No promise to do good in the future can pay the debt of our sinful past. We are obliged to do good always (see Luke 17:10), but: 'There is none that does good.' How clearly this simple parable teaches us important lessons as to the fundamental truths of the gospel of the grace of God. Only the divine intervention of grace, God's unmerited and unsought favour, can create this love in a sinner's heart.
According to Deuteronomy 15:4,5 there should not have been any poor people in Israel if the nation had kept the commandments. How good to read that Christ was there to proclaim the year of release to the Lord's glory (Deut. 15:2). 'The poor have the gospel preached to them' (Luke 7:22). God was there; He was there in grace 'reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them' (2 Cor. 5:19). Therefore He was also in the house of Simon the Pharisee. He was there, and though He was the creditor, He had not come to press His charges.
The Lord's question makes it perfectly clear that the point of the parable was to show the natural response of the debtors after the whole debt, not some part of it only, had been forgiven. What response did this produce in the debtors towards the creditor who forgave so willingly? 'Which of them will love him more?' The text says he 'freely forgave.' The Greek verb rendered by these two words in English is full of meaning. According to M. R. Vincent: 'More is expressed by the verb than simply giving. He gave as a free gracious, joy-giving gift.' That this is what the verb implies may be seen in Romans 8:32 where it also occurs: 'He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?' The words 'freely give' are the translation there of the same word which is used in Luke 7:42. In Romans it is in obvious contrast to the words 'spared not,' which give expression to something painful, something which causes agony in the heart (just think of Abraham in Genesis 22). The act of giving freely denotes an act full of pleasure to the heart of him who does it. After having carried through the sacrifice would He not do the pleasant part of a gracious giver? A creditor often gets bitter in his spirit as he looks at an unpaid debt. How Christ beams in the glory of grace here in Luke 7. Luke has already given us the ultimate source of remission to be in the heart of God, in His bowels of mercy (see 1:77-79). The forgiveness of sins was not a dogma only, but presented and proclaimed in a person who revealed God, and showed His heart of tender mercy. It had an obvious and overpowering attraction to the woman in our story. The heart it revealed and presented in all its charming power was irresistible to her.
The result for the debtor would of course have been the same in whatever manner the creditor gave the release. But still what a difference there is between giving it grudgingly and giving it with joy. A creditor could have forgiven the debt unwillingly with hard words to let the debtor remember the debt waived. Such a procedure would have taken away all the charm and beauty from the otherwise benevolent action. In the case referred to here the joy behind the action, colours the action in the eyes of the debtor, giving an added value to it and thereby winning his unreserved devotion. If the remission is given with reluctance there will still be mistrust but here joy on the part of the creditor in giving the release, which only increases the joy in the heart of the debtor.
Grace is in this way the source of holiness in us. The gospel does not only set us free from fear, condemnation and so on, but by setting us free, binds us to God for ever. 'O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds' (Psalm 116:16). In other words God in His sovereignty uses even that which should have separated us from Him for all eternity as a means of binding us to Himself. The assurance of having received forgiveness is the very basis for this. The Lord Jesus only confirmed what the woman in faith, had already received. How clear it is that this knowledge of forgiveness must be a matter of certainty beyond a shadow of doubt. How destructive if doubt is allowed to enter here. Any idea of her being forgiven because of her own actions would distort the whole parable. The debt cannot be paid by the love which is produced by the remission. So it is for us that after being forgiven, and in the certain knowledge of being so, we turn to Him.
'Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him more?' (v. 42). By asking Simon this question the Lord highlights the crux of the parable. It is taken for granted that the attitude of a bankrupt debtor towards a creditor who forgives the whole debt will be one of gratitude and love. But the question is: Who will love him the most? Christ returns to this point after having reviewed the woman's actions in detail, comparing them with the reception received in the Pharisee's house, and emphasises it in verse 47: 'she loved much.' He also gives the negative counterpart to this in the more general proposition: 'But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.' He does this to explain the woman's actions of devotion, and as a discreet reminder of the lack of such devotion in the case of His host.
Verse 43. 'You have rightly judged.' Simon is forced to give the conclusion that in principle justifies the actions of the woman and thereby also the person who is the object of them: 'I suppose the one to whom he forgave more.' His 'I suppose' probably implies an uneasy reluctance. He answered with caution, wanting perhaps to leave a way out for himself. Together with the other Pharisees he had judged both John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus and His followers. He considered himself fully competent to sit as a judge in those cases. Now he judges in principle correctly, and as a result, all the other questions he had misjudged completely are solved in principle also.
A child of wisdom
Luke 7:35 - 50 - part 4
Let us look at the application and what it implies when these complex and interrelated questions find their proper solution which perfectly settles all matters.
Verses 44 - 46. In these verses the principle settled in v. 43 is applied. 'Do you see this woman?' For the first time the Lord Jesus looks at the woman and He asks Simon to look at her too. Again the woman is the focal point of the narrative. Now the Lord Jesus compares and contrasts His host and the woman. Simon's treatment of the Lord differed vastly from the woman's; even common oil was lacking in contrast with the woman's costly ointment. What evidence was thus afforded by the woman of the response which forgiveness prompts. The implication is plain: only one of the debtors was really forgiven though the forgiveness of both is supposed in the parable. But the Lord deals very gently with Simon's conscience. He does not tell him directly that he does not love, not even that he 'loves little.' He leaves it to Simon to draw the conclusion. He has accepted the principle of the parable, so he ought to be ready for the application. The Lord Jesus draws the curtain aside and shows Simon the two debtors. Simon is perhaps not surprised to see the woman as one of them, but surely it is to his amazement that he sees himself as the other.
Three aspects of the woman's deeds are contrasted with three expressions of hospitality that Simon had not shown to the Lord Jesus. Two points are brought out: this woman had done what Simon had failed to do, and she had exceeded all that Simon could have been expected to do. What Simon had failed to do the woman had done ceaselessly. Olive oil was a cheap substance in comparison with perfume. There is also a clear contrast between the head and the feet here. Christ says in effect to Simon: 'You didn't anoint my head, the nobler part, with ordinary oil. She has anointed my feet with costly ointment.' This is the climax to the application of the parable. She had come to the Pharisee's house with this purpose in mind: to anoint the Lord Jesus. This act is therefore that which tells us most of her love, and it is precisely here that the contrast between the two is at its greatest.
The woman's many sins are forgiven. The Lord Himself, is not judging from His divine knowledge, but by the evidence. 'Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven.' This weeping, wiping, kissing and anointing; why does she make Him the object of it all? It goes without saying that one who has been freely forgiven like this woman will feel immense gratitude towards the creditor who forgave her.
'She loved much.' Simon made Him a meal. Did it satisfy his guest? There is much lacking in the reception Christ received in his house. 'You did not give me, and so on.' But He received something in the house which satisfied Him superbly; something which was perfectly suited to His taste. He speaks of this with the deepest satisfaction and joy. 'How fair is your love, my sister, my spouse! How much better than wine is your love' (Cant. 4:10). He appreciates her love more than all earthly joy. She had prepared a feast for Him which was according to His taste.
Verse 47. 'Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.' The Lord Himself judges here from the evidence which is available in abundance; evidence which should have spoken with equal clarity to Simon. These are Christ's last words to him; summing up the great lesson to be learnt from the parable in brief but comprehensive words. The parable was spoken directly to Simon and its interpretation is therefore also spoken to him. The great Creditor Himself gives the final word about the point at issue. 'Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.' He does not say: 'Many of her sins are forgiven.' If we were to say that as many as 90% of them were forgiven, that would mean 450 of the 500 if we keep to the numbers used in the parable. But if that were the case she would be no better off than Simon, who was still a bankrupt sinner with his 50. The expression 'her sins, which are many' means all her sins. The creditor did not forgive part of the debt, but the whole of it. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ 'we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins' (Eph. 1:7).
'For she loved much.' The thought that the woman's sins were forgiven because she did the acts that are praised by the Lord reverses the whole parable, and contradicts verse 50 which says: 'Thy faith has saved thee.' Not your love! The parable clearly teaches that before either debtor did a thing their debts were gratuitously remitted. The words 'for she loved much' do not express the cause or reason why she was forgiven, but rather the proof that made it possible for others to see that she was truly forgiven. The woman was not forgiven because of her love, rather she loved because she was forgiven.
Verse 48. Now for the first time the Lord Jesus addresses the woman. What He had said about her in verse 47, He now says directly to her. One might have thought that the words spoken to Simon in her presence were enough for her. She had heard from the lips of the Creditor Himself in unambiguously clear terms that her sins were all forgiven. His words were not given in a general statement, but were unmistakably spoken about her. Still this was not enough for the Lord Jesus, He wanted to bring her into the full enjoyment of knowing, without a shadow of doubt, that all her sins were forgiven. How this reveals the tenderness of His love; it is not enough for Him that the fact of her forgiveness is stated in her hearing, He addresses her directly on this most important matter. She knew intuitively by faith before she came that she was forgiven, but His words gave her definite assurance. What a blessing it is to hear Him speak directly to one's own heart, and what added blessing there is in thus learning His personal love and care. 'Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world' (John 4:42).
The words spoken gave the woman full assurance and they gave the people present in Simon's house a statement of the reason why He had accepted her acts of devotion. It is of great concern to the Lord that we should know with full assurance that our sins are completely and finally forgiven, in spite of all the opposition from religious people. The Lord Jesus Christ is like the merciful Samaritan who we read of in chapter 10: 'And went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine' (v. 34). The man who fell among thieves was perhaps satisfied with being rescued from certain death. What more could he hope for? But the Lord Jesus does not only save us (however great and marvellous that is in itself), He does it in a manner which is fully consistent with His sincere and tender love. Our very wounds are a matter of concern to Him. How obvious it is that our true well-being is on His heart. The woman was a believer already, but she could not have imagined the extent, the assurance and the gracious character of His salvation, except through His own teaching.
Verse 49. 'And those who sat at the table with him began to say to themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?' When the Lord Jesus forgave a man in chapter 5, Luke writes that the people present 'began to reason' (v. 21). Here they 'began to say to themselves.' Christ did not answer them as He did in chapter 5, though He knew their thoughts. Here He vindicates the woman publicly who had justified Himself by her acts of love. The people 'began to say to themselves' in unbelief, unlike the prodigal in chapter 15 who 'began to be merry' in communion with his father (v. 24). The eldest son in the parable did not share in this joy; he was like the people at Simon's table.
The Lord Jesus had not only spoken in a general way about God's willingness to forgive those who repent like many of the prophets in the Old Testament. Neither had He like the priests in the temple proclaimed the forgiveness of sin in the name of God when people in Israel brought their sacrifices. Here we find something completely different. The Lord Jesus exercised His divine prerogative of forgiving sins in an absolute and final way in His own name. But He does not perform a miracle here like He did in chapter 5 to demonstrate conclusively that He had the authority to forgive sin. The Lord was completely occupied with the woman now, and did not turn aside to answer the unbelieving question of the other guests.
Only God can forgive sin. In this parable Christ is the great Creditor, so He is the person loved by this woman, because she had been forgiven. Either the Lord Jesus is God or this devotion to His person is open blasphemy and idolatry. Everything here revolves around the person of Christ. Every issue discussed here finds its final solution in acknowledging Him in His personal greatness as a divine person-God revealed in matchless grace. The question of who the Lord Jesus was had already been raised in verse 39 with the implication that He was not even a prophet. Simon had earlier rejected Him as the Messiah. However at the end of the story He is revealed in His glory as God.
Verse 50. 'Then he said to the woman, 'Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace.' This customary farewell tasks on a fuller meaning when used in this context. Christ has justified one of wisdom's children, and now dismisses her in His own beautiful way. Faith saves-not her love for Him. Peace is her possession as she goes. The Lord Jesus ignores the objection of the company at the table and continues to direct His words to the woman. 'Go in peace.' A worthy climax to what precedes. Not only is her past taken care of-her sins are forgiven, but her future is made secure-'Go in peace.' The words salvation and peace are key words in Luke. Salvation is looked at as an accomplished thing all through the gospel. The remission of sins, grace and peace are proclaimed from the first chapter. In the peace-offering man is permitted to take part in God's joy in the sacrifice, like the returned prodigal: 'And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry' (Luke 15:23). So we find the Lord Jesus making known publicly the grace of God, giving open-handedly without respect of person, this salvation which brings man to God in peace. The saved sinner is given the privilege of sharing God's joy-no wonder that Luke's gospel is filled with praise.
'Go in peace.' How complete and absolute is this salvation. Luke has already told us of Simeon who was enabled to leave this world 'in peace' because he had seen God's salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. 'Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, According to Thy word; For my eyes have seen Thy salvation.' (2:29-30). So this woman-this child of wisdom-is not only forgiven up to this moment without security for the future. It is all provided for in this glorious salvation.