Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Parable

Leslie Basham: Once a woman who wasn’t allowed in polite circles worshiped Jesus in a dramatic way. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants a heart like the heart of this forgiven sinner.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The love she showed Christ demonstrated that her life had been truly changed. She was a new person. She had different values. She had a different purpose for that ointment than what she would have used it for in her past life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Brokenness, for May 22, 2019.

Nancy: Well, we’re on day three of a five-day series on the sinner woman of Luke 7. So if you’ve missed the first couple of days, be sure to go back to ReviveOurHearts.com. You can look at the transcripts or listen to the audio for the last couple of days because we want you to be able to follow this whole story. We’ll backtrack a little bit today, but I don’t want you to miss what we had on the first couple of days.

If you’re not already there with us, Luke chapter 7, and, again, anytime I’m teaching here or you’re hearing someone teach the Word, if you are in a place where you can get to a Bible, on your phone, or . . . I never go anywhere without a Bible. I’m not saying that makes me spiritual. (laughter) I’m just saying I always want it with me. I encourage you to follow along if you can.

We’re starting in verse 36 of Luke chapter 7. Now, remember the three main characters in this story? There’s Simon the Pharisee. There’s the woman who was a sinner, probably a prostitute. And then there is—thank God—a Savior. His name is Jesus.

Let me just stop before I start into the passage, and let’s just ask God to help us.

Lord Jesus, thank You that You are here today with us, and You are the Savior of the world. You’re the one who rescues both Pharisees and prostitutes and everything and everyone within, between—no matter what our life story. We have both in the room today, and we’re so thankful that amazing grace is amazing no matter where you’ve come from, what you’ve done, or what your needs may be. We all need a Savior.

So thank You for Your Word. Thank You for its power. Thank You for how You are in the process of setting women free even as we see how You set this woman free in this story. Give us ears to hear, hearts to receive all that You have for us in these moments. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Verse 36, Luke 7: “One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table.”

This was a good thing for that Pharisee that Jesus took him up on that invitation because it was going to be his opportunity to see the Savior at work and to see the power of a transformed life. Isn’t it amazing to you—it is to me—that Jesus would choose this prostitute to be the one to illustrate the power of the gospel to this theologian, this religious leader? He was going to have to become as a child, as a sinner, to see his own need before he could experience salvation himself.

Verse 37: “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,” (heart tears—rain, a deluge, a flood, weeping) “she began to wet his feet with her tears and” (then, almost as if, like, hastily, as if to avoid the embarrassment) “wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet . . .” We said that was lingering, kissing and embracing. She didn’t just do it for a moment. She was doing it extensively and intensively and earnestly, kissed his feet. “. . . and anointed them with the ointment” (vv. 37–38).

Now, let me pause here before we look at verse 39. I came across a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon—I often call him my friend, Charles Spurgeon, who preached in the 1800s—a sermon on this woman. Now, let me just read to you a portion of that sermon where he describes this scene. The language is kind of old, so hang in there with it, but I think it’s a beautiful description. He says:

The woman, almost unperceived, came close to him, and, as she looked and saw that the Pharisee had refused him the ordinary courtesy of washing his feet, and that they were all stained and travel-worn with his long journeys of love, she began to weep, and the tears fell in such plenteous showers that they even washed his feet.

Here was holy water of a true sort. The crystal of penitence falling in drops, each one as precious as a diamond. Never were feet bedewed with a more precious water than those penitent eyes showered forth.

Then, unbinding those luxurious tresses, which had been for her the devil’s nets in which to entangle souls, she wiped the sacred feet therewith. Her flowing hair, which once was her vanity now was humbled and yet exalted to the lowest office.

Then she began to kiss those feet, to humbly pay reverence to those blessed limbs. She spake not a word, but how eloquent were her actions! Better even than psalms and hymns were these acts of devotion.

Then she thought of her alabaster cruse containing perfumed oil with which, like most Eastern women, she was wont to anoint herself for the pleasure of the smell and for the increase of her beauty, and now, opening it, she pours out the costliest thing she has upon his blessed feet.

Not a word, I say, came from her; and, brethren, we would prefer a single speechless lover of Jesus, who acted as she did, to ten thousand noisy talkers who have no gifts, no heart, no tears.

Don’t you love that? Let me just read that last sentence again, and let’s include the sisters with the brothers. “We would prefer a single speechless lover of Jesus . . .

You may feel like you don’t even know how to put words. Maybe you’re a brand-new Christian. We have a couple of those with us here today, coming from a home nearby that’s a home for women dealing with addiction issues. They’re here listening to this message, and one of them is just a young believer and sometimes not even sure how to express what God has done.

He says: We would prefer a single speechless lover of Jesus, who acted as she did, to ten thousand noisy talkers—people who can talk all about religion and Christianity and Jesus— but they have no gifts, no heart, no tears.

Well, verse 39: “Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself,” (so he’s thinking this) “‘If this man were a prophet,’” (as He says He is—that’s what’s implied, as He claims to be) “‘he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,’” (like, the scandal of it!) “‘for she is a sinner.’”

So he’s judge, jury, and executioner. He’s the whole thing in one Pharisee. He’s saying, in essence, “There’s no way Jesus could know what kind of woman this is, what she’s done, her sinful lifestyle, because, if He did, He wouldn’t be letting her touch Him, defile Him in this way.”

So, therefore, his conclusion is: “He must not be who He claims to be—a Prophet. He must be just another ordinary man, or, if He does know who she is and what kind of woman she is, well, that’s another problem because He has no problem apparently with being touched in this disgraceful way by this sinful woman.”

So either way, Jesus is a loser in this man’s eyes.

Now, notice that this Pharisee judged and condemned this woman for her sins—“she is a sinner”—while being totally oblivious to his own sins. He saw her sins through a magnifying glass, and his own he saw not at all.

You see, that’s what Pharisees do. That’s what we do when we’re Pharisees, when we’re pharisaical. They exalt and deify themselves. Only God can know what’s in somebody’s heart, but he decided he did know what was in this woman’s heart, what she was like, who she was, what she had done, and what Jesus was doing. So he exalted and deified himself as if he were God.

And then, Pharisees bring down and humanize God. That’s what he did to Jesus. “This man can’t be a prophet. He would know this.” So he was exalting himself over Jesus, who is God. He’s humanizing God.

And then they tear down and criticize other people made in God’s image.

So all the way around, their set of values, the price tag they place on themselves and on God and on others, it’s all mixed up.

Now, Jesus not only knew who this woman was and what she had done, but He also knew what Simon was thinking. As if to prove that He really was a prophet . . . Remember, Simon hadn’t said this out loud. He just thought it. He said it to himself. But Jesus, in verse 40 . . . imagine how startling this must have been to Simon. He’s there kind of with his own thoughts of criticizing Jesus, criticizing this woman. And, of course, he’s very holy and spiritual himself.

“And Jesus answering” . . . because Jesus answers our thoughts. He knows what we’re thinking. We might not say things like Simon said—Simon didn’t say it out loud—but we think it. What kind of woman is she? Jesus said, “‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he answered, ‘Say it, Teacher.’” Which I think is interesting, because he clearly wasn’t interested in being taught. He thought himself as the teacher. Jesus is this man who claims to be a prophet but, truly, can’t be.

And then Jesus tells a parable designed to illustrate a truth about forgiveness and humanity and godliness and the kingdom of God. So He says in verse 41: “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.”

Now, just to help us out here because we use dollars and cents, we don’t use denarii. Denarii was, in that day, approximately a day’s wage for an average worker. So fifty denarii was about two months’ wages; 500 denarii was approximately a year-and-a-half of wages. So one debt was considerably larger than the other.

Now, Simon is understanding, what you do as you hear this, that God is the moneylender, and there are two debtors in the room. There’s Simon the Pharisee, and there’s the woman, the prostitute, the sinner woman.

Simon felt that this woman was a far greater sinner than he was. Therefore, he concluded that her debt to God was bigger than his. And from outward appearances, as we reason humanly, that would have been the case. I mean, I said a lot to disparage Pharisees, but you’ve got to understand that, in the day, they were the most highly respected leaders of God’s people.

Jesus told us, and Scripture tells us, a lot about their heart attitudes. But people didn’t understand that. They thought Pharisees were the good guys. People like this woman, they were the bad people. And that’s what Simon is concluding.

But the fact is, as Jesus tells this parable, neitherof them could pay. They both owed a debt that they couldn’t pay. And so if you can’t pay, does it really matter whether it’s fifty or 500? You’ve got no hope of paying this.

Simon could not pay the debt he owed to God for his sin any more than this sinner woman could pay the debt that she owed to God for her sin. They were both indebted. They were both insolvent. They were both dependent on the mercies of the One to whom they were indebted.

So, verse 42, “When they could not pay . . .” It’s clear there. This wasn’t just, like, chump change. This was a debt they couldn’t pay. So what does the moneylender do? He cancelled the debt of . . . who? Both. Now, some of your translations will say instead of cancelled, it will say “graciously forgave.” Some of our translations say “freely forgave.” He cancelled. He graciously forgave. He freely forgave the debt of both.

Now, you can just imagine. That’s not the way this normally works with moneylenders. Right? You’re trying to pay off that balance that you owe on your car or your school debt, credit card debt. Each month you’re scrimping and saving, trying to make ends meet so you can pay off those debts just a little bit at a time. It’s like a noose around your neck. It’s a bondage. It’s so hard. It’s hanging over your head.

And then the bank calls, and they say, “It’s all forgiven. Cancelled. We’re writing off your debt. You’re free from that debt. You don’t have to worry about it anymore ever again.” You know any bank that does that? (laughter) Not a chance! This kind of forgiveness is unthinkable.

The word used here for canceling the debt in the Greek, it’s a common business term used, just the way I described it, for forgiving a business debt. But it’s a word that’s also used later in the New Testament to describe the free gift of God’s grace and the forgiveness that He gives to believers in Christ. You see it in verses like these:

In Ephesians 4:32, “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Colossians 2:13, “God has forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us.”

A business term that becomes a term that describes what happens at this great exchange of salvation. We have a debt we can’t pay. So fifty denarii, 500 denarii, it doesn’t really matter if you can’t pay your debt. And Jesus says the moneylender clears both those debts.

In that Greek word that is used here, part of that word is the word charis. It’s a Greek word for “grace.” The moneylender graced their debts—graced their debts.

Now, you say, “Why is this grace? He can just write it off.” No, the moneylender, once he graced those debts, he was out that money. He took that debt on himself. He had to pay the debt himself. There’s no such thing as “free forgiveness.” There’s free forgiveness to us, but somebody, the moneylender who whom we’re indebted, has to pay the debt. So the moneylender graced both their debts. He had mercy on both of them.

And so Jesus says to Simon, “Now, which of these two will love him more?”

Look at that word “love,” because it’s coming back again in this passage. It just struck me in the last couple of days as I was continuing to meditate on this passage, love is the heart of this story. It’s the heart of this incident. It’s what was missing in Simon. It’s what this woman had a lot of because she had been forgiven a lot. And we’re going to see there’s a correlation between the size of the debt you’ve been forgiven, and your capacity to love the one to whom you were indebted.

So, “Which will love him more?” He doesn’t say, “Which will love him?” I suppose the guy who was forgiven fifty denarii will love him some. But the one’s who’s forgiven 500 denarii, a year-and-a-half year’s wages, is going to love him more. Right? Why? Because that person had a bigger debt. Therefore, bigger forgiveness. Therefore, bigger love.

Simon answered, verse 43, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” To which I wrote in my notes, “Duh!” (laughter) Of course!

You can just kind of picture Simon squirming here, like, “Where is this going?” I think he’s afraid he’s going to get exposed, and he is by this sinner woman.

And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

“You got the parable. You got this story. But you don’t get the story of My grace. You’ve judged this matter rightly, but you haven’t judged this woman or yourself or God rightly. You’ve missed it.”

“Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon . . .” I love this! He’s looking at the woman, but He’s speaking to Simon. I don’t know if Simon was right there in front of Him or on the other side of the room. I don’t suppose Simon would have ventured very close to this woman, I’m just thinking. But He’s talking to Simon while He’s looking at the woman, and He says to Simon), “Do you see this woman? (v. 44).

Now, what kind of a question was that? Of course, Simon saw the woman! That’s why they’re having this conversation because Simon saw this woman. Right? But had he really seen her? And what had he seen when he looked at her? You see, Simon looked at this woman through self-righteous eyes. He saw her failure, her guilt, her shame. He saw her as unworthy to be near the rabbi or probably in his house, for that matter.

What did Jesus see when He looked at this woman? He saw a woman who, unlike Simon the Pharisee, the self-righteous host, was a worshiper, a humble woman, a grateful woman, demonstrative, not afraid to express her love.

And so He compares with what’s just happened with her to Simon’s failure as a host. He says to Simon, “I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet.” This was something that would have been a common courtesy to do for a guest, any guest, much less an honored guest—to wipe the dirty feet of people coming in off the street to this honored dinner. “You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears . . .” Her deluge of tears. I mean, this wasn’t just, like, sprinkling tears. This was a flood of tears. “She has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair” (v. 44).

“You gave me no kiss.” Again, that sounds a little odd to you because why would Simon be kissing Jesus when He came in. But this was a cultural thing, like a handshake, like a greeting. It’s like he just ignored Jesus. “Yes, You can come to my house, but You’re nobody special.” “You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet” (v. 45).

How great is the contrast between these two!

Verse 46: “You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”

“She has taken the place of a lowly servant. She loved Me. She’s honored Me. And you’ve done none of this.”

Simon had not shown any of these basic courtesies to Jesus, but this unnamed sinner woman had gone above and beyond in honoring Him. She wasn’t doling it out stingily. She wasn’t holding back. This is all out there. She’s a worshiper. She’s a lover of Jesus. She’s overtaken with gratitude for His forgiveness.

The love she showed Christ demonstrated that her life had been truly changed. She was a new person. She had different values. She had a different purpose for that ointment than what she would have used it for in her past life. The things that mattered to her had changed. Everything had changed.

Don’t you love the fact that Jesus received her love, her gift, her devotion? He wasn’t sitting there thinking, much less saying, “What will Simon think?” Jesus didn’t care what Simon thought. In fact, He was probably glad to know what Simon thought so He could get to the heart of Simon’s problem because He needed a Savior, too.

But listen, when you come to Jesus humble and broken and forgiven and cleansed and loving and worshiping—you may not have all the theological terms; you may not do everything in a way that’s socially proper; what you do may look a little bit bizarre or extreme or out of the ordinary or radical—but Jesus loves it. He received her gift, her love, her devotion.

So Jesus says in verse 47: “Therefore I tell you, [Simon], her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Now, we’re going to talk in the next session about this whole forgiveness thing, what it looks like here and that verse, but let me just say here that Jesus wasn’t suggesting that Simon had not sinned much, that this woman was the only great sinner in the room. He wasn’t saying, “She has many sins, but you don’t.”

He wasn’t saying that Simon’s sins were less significant, were more trivial, mattered less than the sins of the woman.

He wasn’t saying that Simon didn’t need to be forgiven much.

But He was saying that the reason Simon was forgiven little was because he had no idea how great his sins were and how much he needed to be forgiven. Therefore, he had little love for the One who could forgive sins. You get that?

John MacArthur says in a sermon on this passage:

The worst possible sinner, the most unredeemable one of all is the one who thinks he’s not a sinner and doesn’t need redemption, who thinks that God is pleased with him the way he is. This is the worst of sinners. The apostle Paul was one of these and that’s why he called himself "the chief of sinners."

That was Simon. But this woman recognized how many and how great her sins were against a holy God. She knew how much she needed to be forgiven. And, therefore, her love overflowed.

There’s often such a difference between those of us who’ve grown up in the church and never known anything but to follow Jesus, to be around other people who follow Jesus, and between us and some who’ve come out of a more sordid life of sin. Now it doesn’t mean, if you haven’t come out of prostitution or drug addiction that you can’t love Jesus. But it means sometimes it’s harder for us to realize how much we need to be forgiven.

Let me go back to my friend Spurgeon. He says:

O for more of this love! If I might only pray one prayer this morning, [as he closed his sermon on this passage, he says] I think it should be that the flaming torch of the love of Jesus should be brought into every one of our hearts, and that all our passions should be set ablaze with love to him.

You know how that will happen? As we get in the presence of a holy God and we see ourselves, not as Simon did as good, unneedy, self-righteous, but we see ourselves as desperately needy, as those who’ve sinned greatly and much against the grace of God. And we cry out to Him in mercy, and God says, “Your sins, which are many, are forgiven.” And in that light, in that awareness, our love, our worship, our gratitude will overflow.

Oh, Lord, take those of us who are Simons and would You show us how great is our sin, how great is our need for Your forgiveness. And let us experience the riches of Your grace and then fall before You, as this woman did, and as Simon could have and should have, to worship and adore and give thanks. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: I think all of us are tempted to be Simons sometimes, looking down on others and ignoring our own sin and our own need.

So to follow up with the teaching you heard today from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, we’d like to help you go through a process of searching your heart, getting honest about what’s there and repenting. The way we’d like to help you go through this process is with a new resource we’ve created called Refresh. It will lead you through a thirty-day process of getting real before God. This would make a nice addition to your daily quiet time.

For all details on how it works, visitReviveOurHearts.com. When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you the Refresh kit.

Nancy: Thanks, Leslie. I’m eager to see how the Lord is going to use this Refresh resource to lead many women through a process of experiencing times of refreshing in Christ’s presence.

When you get this resource through Revive Our Hearts, let me remind you that you’re not just buying a product like we’re a store. Instead, you’re supporting a ministry that is encouraging women everywhere to experience wholeness and refreshing in the Lord.

If you’ve benefited from the teaching and the discussions on Revive Our Hearts, we need to hear from you this month as we come to the close of our fiscal year. Your support at this time makes a big difference in the type of ministry that we can commit to in the year ahead.

That’s why we’ve been asking listeners to pray that God would provide at least $775,000 in donations by May 31. I want to say a huge “thank you!” to all those who have already sacrificially given to meet this need. It means so much.

And a big “thank you!” to every first-time giver. Your gift has been doubled by some friends of the ministry who are matching the gifts of every new supporter up to a challenge amount of $75,000. If you’ve wanted to give but haven’t yet, be sure and let us hear from you by visiting us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Leslie: And make sure to ask for the Refresh kit, which is our way of saying “thanks,” for a gift of any size. Again, the number is:

Nancy: 1–800–569–5959. Thanks so much for supporting this ministry. You truly allow us to do what God has called us to do by standing with us, and we are so grateful.

Leslie: Tomorrow we’ll hear about a woman whose history was full of hurt. However, her focus was not on the sins that had been committed against her but on the incredible gift of forgiveness she received for her own sins. Please be back to hear more on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help your love for Jesus to grow. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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