The Creditor, a Pharisee and a Forgiven Sinner

Reflection: Luke 7: 36 -50

Simon and the anonymous woman are not unfamiliar with Jesus, having probably been following and listening to Him for some time, sufficiently for them to approach Him with some level of confidence. The hospitality of Simon, who belongs to a religiously wealthy Pharisaic clique, is commendable, whatever his motives, as Jesus is especially critical of their hypocrisy during His ministry. In this instant, he provoked the Lord’s response when he censoriously appraised to himself the embarrassing conduct of an uninvited guest toward Jesus (vv.37-39). The Lord caught it immediately as He sees their hearts (1 Sam 16:7), and painted this parable for the benefit of all at the meal setting.

The parable of the two debtors reflects more than just the forgiveness of their debts, nor is it limited to sin, since all sin whether serious or otherwise, is depravity. The anecdote signifies the condition of the human heart and how that affected their differential approach to Jesus: highlighting their respective vulnerability and commitment to Him. They both believe in God, know that they are sinners, and grasp the meaning of forgiveness (vv.41-43). The ex-prostitute, however, tears with grateful affection and premeditatedly anoints His feet with perfume (normally the head is anointed with olive oil –which is less expensive, but in this instant the feet are more accessible to her); symbolically fulfilling Simon’s lack of hospitable social convention as a host (vv.44-46). Her behaviour signals her thankfulness for God’s forgiveness possibly in an earlier encounter, which Luke does not elaborate. It would be a travesty of Divine justice to interpret that the woman needed more forgiveness than Simon, due to the degree of her sins. Jesus chastises Simon’s prejudiced perception of her and refocuses him on her motive (v.47) – the attitude of her heart.

Both are unable to pay their debt, irrespective of its size, as they possess absolutely nothing that would interest the Creditor. What is Jesus saying to Simon? “Simon, your sins are so overwhelming that there is nothing you can do about them. Because of her sins, this woman realizes she needs salvation more than you, and appreciates how much she has been forgiven” (vv.47-50). Simon’s religiosity and his perspective of others blind him to his own sinfulness. Jesus then turns to her and affirms her newly found faith status before Simon’s table companions (vv.48-50). The outcome for Simon from this incident is unknown. She walks away with the Lord’s blessing of peace; a life surrendered and transformed. Likewise, we have been forgiven much, so much that our ‘first love’ – the love of Christ, ought to be the compelling motive to our being (Mark 12:30; 2 Cor 5:14).