Skip to comments."Forgiven Much, Love Much" (Sermon on Luke 7:36-50)
Posted on 06/12/2010 12:52:06 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
Forgiven Much, Love Much (Luke 7:36-50)
Why is it that there seems to be so little love for God these days? I mean, why arent these pews packed full of worshipers? Where are all the people who ought to be here but are not here? So little love for God!
Well, I can tell you the answer very simply: Lots of people dont think they need what God is giving here, which is the forgiveness of sins. You see, if you dont think you have many sins, if you dont think you need much forgiveness, then youre not going to go where God is meeting that need, and youre not going to love God very much. It all goes together.
And it works the same way on the positive side, too. When you do realize that you are a sinner and that your greatest need is forgiveness, and when you find out how much God does forgive sins and how and where he is doing that, then you will run to be where you can receive his forgiveness and you will overflow with gratitude and love for God as a result. Its a cause-and-effect thing, both ways: Forgiven little, love little. Forgiven Much, Love Much.
We see this truth illustrated both ways in our text for today, the account of Simon the Pharisee, on the one hand, and the sinful woman, on the other. Simon the Pharisee thinks he has little need for Gods forgiveness, and so he shows little or no love. The sinful woman, though, is keenly aware of her sins and her need. She knows that in Jesus she finds the great forgiveness that covers all her sins. And so, as a result, she shows great love toward God in the person of Christ. Lets follow the story.
Jesus is visiting a certain town, hes been ministering in the area, and so one of the local religious leaders hosts a dinner for him at his house. Kind of a customary courtesy when a visiting rabbi comes to town. Simon the Pharisee is the host, and he wants to check out this new teacher Jesus hes heard about. Simon invites some of the prominent citizens to the dinner--you know, the good people youd like to have at a dinner for the visiting teacher.
But then somebody else shows up, an uninvited guest. Its a woman, and she too has heard of this Jesus--in fact, it seems she must have even heard him in person as he had been preaching and teaching in town. And now she crashes the party. Shes really eager to be where this Jesus is and to show him her extreme gratitude. She does some extraordinary things: She gets down by Jesus feet, and, weeping, she wets his feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair! She even kisses his feet and anoints them with some perfumed oil! This woman is really going overboard with her love and appreciation for Jesus!
But now here is the real shocker: The woman who is doing this--not only is she an uninvited guest, the reason she was uninvited is because she was not one of the prominent citizens of the town. No way! This was a known sinful woman! She had a bad reputation, and deservedly so. So who is she to crash this party and get near our honored guest and make such a scene? She shouldnt be here, mixing with all the good religious folk! Disgraceful! Embarrassing!
Thats what Simon the Pharisee is thinking. And hes also thinking something about Jesus. How come Jesus is letting this sinful woman come near him and do these things? If he were really a prophet sent from God, he would know about this woman, and he wouldnt let her near him. Simon the Pharisee has been evaluating the visiting teacher, and he comes to a conclusion about him. He rejects Jesus, because he lets a sinner get next to him and welcomes her display of love.
Jesus knows what Simon is thinking, and so he explains whats going on by way of a story. Two people owe money. One has a certain size debt, the other has a bigger debt, but they both are in debt. And they both are unable to pay. But the one to whom they owe their debts--the moneylender decides to cancel the debts of both. It doesnt matter how big the debt, what matters is that it is forgiven, purely by the generosity of the lender. But, Simon, guess which debtor is going to have a greater sense of gratitude, the one who owed a lot or the one who owed a little? Why, the one who owed a lot, Simon rightly concludes.
You see, thats how it is with us and God. Humanly speaking, it may look like some of us are bigger sinners than others. Some people go off into some really bad behavior, like drunkenness and sexual immorality and corruption and debauchery of various sorts. Other people lead relatively moral lives, at least outwardly pretty respectable. But thats not the point here. The point is, even the respectable people, even the religious people--we are still sinners before God, we are still in need of Gods forgiveness, just as much as the blatant sinner. We all are debtors before God, good and bad alike, and we are all alike unable to pay.
Our goodness, our supposed goodness, our relative goodness compared to the really bad people--that is not enough to pay off our debts. If we go that route--and that is where Simon the Pharisee was going--then we would have to meet a much higher standard, and none of us can rise that high. You would have to keep Gods law perfectly: no sins, no sinful thoughts, words, or deeds, ever. If you cant do that, then you are under the curse of death and damnation, and you will be lost eternally.
So dont trust in your own goodness--thats not going to be good enough. The only thing that will work is Gods forgiveness, and that is freely given to big debtors and little debtors alike. Only dont pretend that youre not a debtor! Dont think that you dont need forgiveness, that you dont need a Savior. And dont look down your nose at those really bad sinners that God chooses to forgive. Youre no better, really.
Forgiven little, love little. Simon the Pharisee didnt think he needed much forgiveness--he was wrong, but that was what he thought--and so he showed no love for Jesus. On the other hand: Forgiven much, love much. The sinful woman knew Gods great forgiveness for her many sins, coming for her there in the person of Christ, and so her response was that she loved much.
Forgiven little, love little. Forgiven much, love much. Thats still true today. When people think that they dont have much sin to forgive, when they refuse to admit that they are sinners, then theyre not going to have much interest in the Savior of sinners. And that then explains their lack of love for God and their non-attendance at church. The reason people dont come to church is because they dont think they need Jesus. Its not all the other smokescreen excuses people make--you know, I cant get up that early on Sunday morning, or The church is full of hypocrites, or I dont need organized religion, or all that other rigmarole. No, the real reason people arent here in church on Sunday morning is because dont think they need much of a Savior. Otherwise, they would move heaven and earth to be here, to be where Jesus is, to receive Gods forgiveness, and to worship him in love. Theyd be knocking the doors down, wanting to get in, if they really knew how big their need is and how big their Savior is.
So how can we get people to love God more? Or, to put it more directly: How can you--yes, you--come to love God more in your own life? Let me suggest two things: Look in the mirror. And look at your Savior.
First, look in the mirror. Look at your own life in the mirror of Gods law. Have you kept it? Have you kept Gods law well enough, which is to say, perfectly? Do you love God with every fiber of your being? Do you use your knowledge of God always to his glory? Do you delight to hear his word? How much do you love your neighbor? As much as you love yourself? Do you respect those placed in God-given positions of authority over you? Do you ever have hateful thoughts or words toward another person? Do you ever lust after persons other than your spouse? Do you cheat and deceive in order to have more money? Do you tear down the reputation of others through damaging gossip? Do you crave what belongs to others, out of envy and discontent, always wanting more? These are the sorts of things you will see if you look honestly in the mirror. Thats who you are. Thats who I am. A sinful man. A sinful woman.
But now, next, take a look--a good long look--at your beautiful Savior, Jesus Christ. He came preaching and teaching the kingdom of God. He welcomed sinners to his side. This is Jesus, your friend--more than that, he is the only Savior sent from heaven. He is the very Son of God, who shows Gods love for us so much that he lays down his life for sinners. Take a look--a good long look--at Jesus dying on the cross. There he sheds his blood for you--the sinless one in the sinners stead--to pay off the debt we could never pay. His death wipes the slate clean. You are debt-free because of Christ! And the curse of death is lifted as a result. Resurrection of the body and life everlasting are the result--and your sure hope, as sure as Christs own resurrection from the dead.
And now listen to what your risen Savior says to you today: Your sins are forgiven. Yes, just as he forgave that sinful woman, so he forgives you. Your sins are forgiven, he says--and does. Who is this, who even forgives sins? It is Jesus Christ, who has the authority to forgive sins, because he has purchased that forgiveness for you with his blood.
Forgiven little, love little. But you know better than that. You know that you are a sinner, a big sinner, that you have sinned more times than you could ever count. You know your need, youre keenly aware of it. But you also know the only thing that will save you, and that is, Gods great and gracious forgiveness in Christ. You may be a big sinner, but you have an even bigger Savior. That is why youre here today, to be where Jesus is, and to receive his forgiveness and all the gifts that come with it--joy and peace and everlasting salvation.
And that, finally, is why we love our Savior so much. Its because of his great love for us. Yes, its a cause-and-effect thing: His forgiveness is the cause; our love is the effect. Or, in other words: Forgiven Much, Love Much.
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with [Jesus], and he went into the Pharisees house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisees house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. And he answered, Say it, Teacher.
A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more? Simon answered, The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt. And he said to him, You have judged rightly. Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. And he said to her, Your sins are forgiven. Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, Who is this, who even forgives sins? And he said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
One solution to this problem comes through the Emerging Church movement. The best religious minds perceive the current situation to be a dilemma, and propose ways to be relevant within the current culture. The relevant characteristics of the movements church design produces not converts to the Christian faith, but in its highest achievement produces what C. S. Lewis called Materialist Magicians in The Screwtape Letters. These individuals accept the proffered treasures of the Christian tradition, retain aspects of sciences and philosophies they treasure, and amalgam the result into achievement of their ambitions.
The Christian Church, one and inseparable from the person of Jesus Christ and independent of denomination, considers the current situation a timeless paradox. How can believers and their Church make converts when they are in this world, but not of this world? How can the Church and believers make converts in the face of amazement and perplexity transformed into antagonism by a fallen world? Believers know their part requires praise, prayer, and living out daily his/her life in Jesus. The Christian Church knows its part requires sermons with heavy reliance on scripture and sparing reliance on doctrine, which bear witness to His Identity and purpose. The Church understands praise and prayer must provide the temper needed to successfully deliver scholarly analysis. The Church knows to trust the Jesus in believers to offer themselves, and Church resources to a host of activities in the larger community.
The answer is neither the believers nor the Christian Churches can make converts. The Lord Jesus Christ, who is always nonsensical to a fallen world, miraculously brings the treasure of Christian faith through redemption and relationship one person at a time. The Christian Churchs and believers role requires partnership with, but mostly staying out of the way of, the Holy Spirit by always striving to be inseparable from the mystical body of Christ. Only in this way are members likely to undergo the stress of encountering the Lord God in all His Majesty as Job and Moses did in the Old Testament, or as Paul, John and Peter did in The New Testament.
I don’t know why the pews in your church aren’t packed with worshippers. The pews in our church, and every church in this area, are. I can’t find a place to park, and if I’m not pretty early for services I’m going to have to stand in the overflow room and watch the sermon on TV (can’t sit, all the seats will be taken there, too). People love hearing the Gospel, they’re hungry for it. Smack them between the eyes with it, make them laugh with love and joy, and make them squirm in their seats as they’re convicted. They will hear.