************ Sermon on Luke 7:47 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 10, 2001
"Forgiven Much, Loved Much"
Topic: CallFor people – families, school-mates, room-mates, friends, neighbors, and employees – there is also a Great Divide.
Subtopic: Divine, To Decision
Title: The Great Divide
High on a mountain in the Rockies of Canada a dome has been erected. On the structure, is a plaque with the words - "The Great Divide." Drops of rain falling in the same shower separate at that dome: some join a stream that becomes a mighty river and flows to the Atlantic Ocean; others, falling in the other direction, join a stream that flows to join the Pacific Ocean. Though they fall in the same shower of rain, their destinies are hundreds of miles apart.
Jesus Christ is "The Great Divide." He divides man's destiny: all deserve hell, but some He brings to heaven. He has divided time (in the reckoning of many countries) into B.C. and A.D. He divides the human race into two classes – those "in Christ" and those "in Adam." When He was on earth there was a division among the Jews as to His person, His works and His words: some believed and accepted Him and other disbelieved and hated Him.
Jesus Christ is "The Great Divide." We see that in our Scripture reading on this Lord's Supper Sunday. In front of us are two completely different reactions to Jesus. One person is coldly indifferent. The other cannot control her feelings of gratitude and adoration.
I Two Responses
A Jesus is at a banquet table. He has been invited by Simon the Pharisee. Rather than sitting on chairs like we do, invited guests recline on couches, leaning on their left elbows, with their bare feet facing away from the table. In that place and culture banquets are public affairs. Only the invited can eat but anyone can wander in and sit or stand along the walls to watch and hear what happens.
B Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to his banquet table. But, as Jesus makes clear, Simon is rude, insulting, and indifferent to Jesus. We can point to three things. First, when a guest enters a home he takes off his sandals or slippers and leaves them by the door. Servants then wash the dust or mud of the road from his feet. But Simon does not give Jesus any water for His feet.
Second, in the Middle East it is usual for a host to greet visitors with a kiss. If the guest is a rabbi or teacher – and that's what Simon calls Jesus (vs 40) – then custom demands that all the male members of the household greet him by respectfully kissing his hands. But Simon does not greet Jesus with a kiss.
Third, etiquette demands that special guests, as a sign of honor, be anointed with olive oil poured over the head. But Simon does not put oil on Jesus' head.
Rabbi Jesus, at Simon's invitation, comes to Simon's house for a banquet. Yet, His feet are not washed, He is not greeted with a kiss, and no olive oil is poured over His head. In other words, Jesus might be an invited guest but He is not an honored guest. Simon is cold and indifferent towards Jesus.
C In contrast to Simon is a woman who enters the house and stands behind Jesus at His feet. She cannot restrain herself and does for Jesus everything that Simon neglects to do. Simon does not wash Jesus' feet; by contrast, the woman washes His feet, not with water but with her tears, and dries them with her crown and glory as a woman, her hair. Simon does not greet Rabbi Jesus with a single kiss either to the face or the hand; by contrast, the woman degrades and humbles herself by covering Jesus' feet with many kisses. Simon does not anoint Jesus with olive oil even though it is cheap and plentiful; by contrast, the woman anoints Jesus' feet with an expensive perfume.
D Simon can't understand why or how Jesus allows the woman to do all this. Yes, the woman is doing for Jesus everything that Simon should be doing. But Simon thinks the woman's behavior is scandalous. He says to himself,
Luke 7:39 "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."The woman is a sinner, a prostitute. And everyone, including Jesus and Simon, know this. Simon, being a Pharisee, believes that the touch of such a woman makes a person unclean, unfit for worship, not suitable to enter the temple courts. From Simon's point of view, the woman's touch represents impurity and contamination. From Jesus' point of view, as we shall see, the woman's touch represents adoration and gratitude.
II Much Forgiveness Means Much Love
A In front of us, then, we see two people with two reactions to Christ: one reacts with indifference, even hostility; the other reacts with adoration and gratitude. Now we need to ask why. Why does the woman act the way she does? And why does Simon act the way he does?
We can say that the woman acts the way she does because she is filled with adoration and gratitude for Jesus. At the same time, we can say that Simon reacts the way he does because he is not filled with adoration and gratitude for Jesus.
B Jesus explains their reactions by way of a little parable. A person who has been forgiven a debt of $500 will show more gratitude than a person who has been forgiven a debt of $50, won't he? Even Simon the Pharisee has to agree to the truth of this saying. It only makes sense that the bigger the debt that is forgiven the bigger the gratitude that is shown.
Of course, Jesus is not really talking here about money, but about grace and salvation. Says Jesus, "This woman loves much because she has been forgiven much." And the opposite is also true: Simon loves little because he has been forgiven little.
Let's make sure we understand this. Our English translation is not as clear as the Greek. Our Bibles say, "her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much" (vs 47). This makes it sound like the woman is saved because of her love. But this cannot be right for Jesus' final words are "Your sins are forgiven ... your faith has saved you." He did not say "Your love has saved you." Her love is not the reason why she is forgiven; her love is proof of her forgiveness, a fruit of forgiveness.
Now we know the reason for the difference between the woman and Simon. The woman loves much because she has been forgiven much. Simon loves little because he has been forgiven little.
C When we think about it, we have to admit that Simon needs forgiveness as much as the woman. Yes, he is not a prostitute; and, as a Pharisee, he leads a very moral and upright life. However, he is still a sinner needing forgiveness. In God's sight he is as deserving of hell fire as is the woman. Therefore, Simon should love the Lord as much as the woman. Yet, he doesn't. So what's the problem? Why the difference?
Subtopic: Of Sin Commanded
Title: One Man Was Honest
In his book Great Themes of the Bible, Louis Albert Banks told of the time D. L. Moody visited a prison called "The Tombs" to preach to the inmates. After he had finished speaking, Moody talked with a number of men in their cells. He asked each prisoner this question, "What brought you here?" Again and again he received replies like this: "I don't deserve to be here." "I was framed." "I was falsely accused." "I was given an unfair trial." Not one inmate would admit he was guilty. Finally, Moody found a man with his face buried in his hands, weeping. "And what's wrong, my friend?" he inquired. The prisoner responded, "My sins are more than I can bear." Relieved to find at least one man who would recognize his guilt and his need of forgiveness, the evangelist exclaimed, "Thank God for that!" Moody then had the joy of pointing him to a saving knowledge of Christ - a knowledge that released him from his shackles of sin.
Like this last prisoner, the woman who anointed Jesus is aware of her sin. Her many tears tells us she knows and understands how great is the sin from which Jesus saves her. She confesses her sin. By grace through faith her sin is forgiven. And out of gratitude for that forgiveness she washes, kisses, and perfumes Jesus' feet. Using the words of Jesus, the woman knows she is forgiven much so she loves much.
Simon, the Pharisee, on the other hand is not aware of his sin, does not confess his sin, is not forgiven his sin, and therefore has no gratitude to bring to the Lord. Using the words of Jesus, Simon is forgiven little, so he loves little.
III Forgiveness, Love, and Us
A We took the Lord's Supper today. We remembered Christ's crucifixion. We remembered how Jesus bled and died for our sin and guilt. We remembered how Jesus shouldered the anger and wrath of God against our sin. How marvellous His love.
Topic: ChristIn the same way, we are protected by the blood of Christ. Cloaked in His blood, we are invulnerable.
Subtopic: Blood of
Title: Invulnerable Covering
The great English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon told of a man who had been sentenced to death by a Spanish court. Because he was an American citizen but also of English birth, the consuls of both countries decided to intervene. They declared that the authorities of Spain had no right to take his life, but their protests went unheeded. Finally, they deliberately wrapped the prisoner in their flags - the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack. Defying the executioner, they issued this warning: "Fire if you dare! But if you do, you will bring the powers of two great nations upon you!" There stood the condemned. But the rifleman would not shoot. Protected by those flags and the governments they represented, the man was invulnerable.
B Now, in response, how much love do you give to the Lord? How much gratitude? How much devotion? How much commitment?
Many people, like Simon, try to be cheap with God. They want to give Him something, but not too much. That's why Simon invited Jesus to his home but gave Him no honor.
Topic: LoveOn the other hand, there are also many people, like the woman, who are very rich in their praise and thanks to God. Filled with an overwhelming gratitude, they cannot give enough to the Savior. To Him they surrender all.
Subtopic: To God Commanded
Title: $3 Worth of God
Wilbur Reese writes with biting sarcasm:
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb not a new birth.
I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack.
I'd like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
How much of God do you want?
C Again I ask, how much love do you give to the Lord? How much gratitude? How much devotion? How much commitment? Because our sin is so very great our love should be very great. But is it? Are you generous or are you stingy in your love for Jesus?
If you know and believe that Jesus bled and died for your sin, then you should be rich in love. If you know and believe that it was your guilt that Christ shouldered, then you should be generous in your thanks. If you came to the Lord's Table this morning with a heart full of sorrow for sin, if you came on bended knee, if you came knowing you are a sinner deserving everlasting hell fire, then you should be lavish in your gratitude.
On the other hand, if you came to the Lord's Table this morning thinking you aren't such a bad guy after all, if you came believing there isn't all that much that is wrong with your life, if you came feeling a little bit self-righteous, then you don't have much to thank Jesus for. In fact, then you don't have anything to thank Jesus for, for His salvation is not for you.
Remember, congregation, the lesson of the woman and Simon: much forgiveness means much love; little forgiveness means little love.
I pray that none of us, like Simon, love little because we are forgiven little. I pray that all of us, like the woman, love much because we are forgiven much.
So I ask you again: are you generous or are you stingy with your love for Jesus? Like the woman do you surrender all to Jesus?
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