Luke 7: Crying, Judging, Forgiving – the Pharisee, the Woman and Jesus

The Flavour of Luke
Who likes ice cream?
When you go into a shop, which is your favourite?
Chocolate, strawberry?  hokey pokey?
They are all yummy, they are all ice cream, but they all have a different flavour.
 
It’s a bit like that in the Bible
the New Testament starts with four books called Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
They are all really good, they all tell us about Jesus.
But like ice creams, each one has a different flavour, each author has some favourite topics.
 
This year in Global, we are studying the book of Luke
Actually, Luke is like a double scoop ice cream – the second scoop is the book of Acts.
It carries on the story.
 
I like to see the big picture before getting into the detail,
so before we read today’s passage, I want to describe some special flavours of Luke.
 
Luke is a very good storyteller.
Many of the most famous and beautiful stories that Jesus told come from Luke. 
(Like the prodigal son, the Good Samaritan, Lazarus and the rich man, the Pharisee and the tax collector)
 
 
What sort of people was Luke writing about and for? 
Who is studying or working in business, accounting, commerce, economics?
In Luke, Jesus teaches a lot about how we spend our money, what we do with the things we own.
 
 
and who is a woman?  Gosh, nearly half of you!
Well, Luke has more stories about women than the other Gospels
and you know what?
It’s a bit embarrassing for us guys
quite often in Luke, the men are stupid and thick, and its women who believe in Jesus and get things right!
 
 
And, who here is Jewish?
Not many.
Luke has the most stories about people who are not Jewish coming to Jesus.  (Gentiles, Samaritans, Romans)
the book of Acts, the second Scoop of Luke’s double ice cream, is all about the message of Jesus going out to all peoples in all the world –  That means us!
 
 
One of Luke’s favourite topics is God the Holy Spirit.
the Holy Spirit fills people to help them do amazing things and talk about Jesus.
Last week, David gave lots of examples.
 
 
Good stories, money, women, people like us, God’s Holy Spirit.
But what is Luke’s biggest theme, his most special flavour?
Let’s read the passage Gordon spoke on a month ago.
 
this is Jesus’ first public teaching.
He reads these words from the Old Testament of the Bible
 
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
      for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
      that the blind will see,
   that the oppressed will be set free,
      and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
 
(Luke 4:18-19, from Isa 61:1-2) (page 784)
 
here is the Holy Spirit again
anointing means pouring oil or perfume on someone, such as when they become a king in those days.
Today we will see another anointing of Jesus
 
above all else, Jesus came
to bring good news to the poor.
To release people from prison
To set people free who are oppressed, crushed down like slaves.
 
all the way through Luke, Jesus cared especially for
people who are physically or spiritually poor and dirty and blind and in prison
 
 
many of Luke’s stories show this.
There are often three main people or groups:
we’ll read a story like that today.
 
the first person is Jesus, or a character who is like God
 
a second person thinks they are very good, much better than other people.
They are rich and religious and respectable
they look good, but Jesus says they are far away from God
those who thought they are winners are really losers.
 
a third person is an outsider, the sort of person nobody likes, they don’t have many friends.
they know they are losers, failures
in trouble, sick or sinful-they have done many bad things
their lives are a mess, they have lost their way.
 
Jesus said he came “to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10) – people just like that.
He forgives them, he opens their eyes, he sets them free
They are full of happiness and joy.
 
 
This sort of story shows one of Luke’s favourite themes: “the great reversal”.
Jesus says that in the end,
Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then,
and some who are the greatest now will be least important then (Luke 13:30)[i]
 
 
that’s what the gospel of Luke, the good news of Jesus, is all about:
good news to the poor
salvation for the lost.
 
 
A lot of us will have a holiday in the next few weeks over Easter
if you want to learn from the 2011 teaching, it would be a good idea to read right through Luke this Easter.
look out for some of these special flavours
see how many stories, you can find with this pattern of three characters:
God or Jesus, a “winner” who rejects God and ends up last, a “loser” who pleases God and ends up first.
 
 
 
The Woman, the Pharisee, and the Saviour.
But right now, imagine you are at the movies.
Sitting back with your Luke flavoured ice cream!
The lights go down, The curtain goes up,
the movie starts with three images, three close up shots.
The camera is zoomed right in.
 
 
Close-up One:
the face of a woman.
She is looking down
a teardrop rolls down her cheek.
Then another tear.
Soon, there is a waterfall of tears, running down her face and falling like rain.
Why is she crying?
 
 
Close-up Two:
a man’s finger is pointing at something.
It looks angry, accusing, judging.
what is he pointing at?
What is he thinking?
 
 
Close-up three:
a piece of paper, a credit card statement from your bank.
It has a long list of numbers.
$10, $100, $2, $2000
at the bottom of the paper, they all add up to a big red number.
So big it’s frightening – too much for you to pay!
And it’s overdue!
What can you do?
Have you had that experience?
 
 
What’s it all about?
Remember these three close-ups:
the crying woman, the pointing finger, the credit card bill that’s too big for you to pay.
 
And let’s read the passage for today:
 
Luke 7:36-50     (page 788)
———————————
 
At the start of chapter 7, Jesus did amazing things:
he made a sick person well again,
then he made a dead person alive again!
Everyone was surprised and amazed:
 
Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,”
And the news about Jesus spread…
Luke 7:16-17.
 
A prophet is a person sent by God to bring God’s message.
Maybe Simon the Pharisee heard the news,
he wanted to check Jesus out for himself, so he asked him to dinner.
A Pharisee was a religious leader, an important respected person who carefully kept God’s law
 
 
Who was here last week?
David spoke about Luke chapter 5:17-26
it’s a bit similar to today.
Jesus was teaching in a house, and there was an unexpected interruption:
some people broke through the roof, and lowered a sick man down to Jesus.
Jesus saw their faith – like the woman’s faith today – and said, “your sins are forgiven”.
do you remember what the Pharisees, the religious teachers, thought about that?
They were shocked, angry – only God can forgive sins.
Jesus knew what they were thinking inside.
to prove that he really could forgive sins, he made the man well again.
 
 
That was last week.  Here in chapter 7, Jesus is in Simon’s house, having a meal.
they would be lying down at the table, their feet were sticking out behind,
leaning on their arm, and eating with their other hand.
They were in a public area of the house,
people could come in and hear the conversation, maybe poor people could eat the leftover food.
There they are, eating and talking
and then, like in last week’s story, there is an interruption-an unexpected person arrives.
 
It is a woman from that town.
Jesus is a visitor so maybe he doesn’t know her,
but the Pharisee does – she is immoral – that means she is a sinner, she has done many bad things.
She stands behind Jesus.
She has come with a beautiful jar of perfume – like you spray on yourself to make a nice smell.
 
And then we have our first close-up.
The tears start rolling down her face and falling onto Jesus’ feet.
Why is she crying?
what makes you cry?
 
people often cry because they are sad:
she has probably had a very hard life.
She is likely poor, and nobody really loves her.
she has done many wrong things,
she feels spiritually dirty and far away from God.
Probably she is crying for all the brokenness and disappointments,
The sorrow and shame, the sin and failure of her life
do you feel like that sometimes?
Everything is a mess – and it’s your own fault.
 
 
people can also cry because they are very happy – yesterday I was at a wedding and the bride cried.
This woman has probably seen or heard Jesus before.
Maybe for the first time in her life, she sees,
here is someone who really loves me.
Here is someone who accepts me,
someone who can forgive me for all the wrong things I have done.
make me spiritually clean inside,
give me a new relationship with God and a new start in life.
So maybe she is also crying for happiness and thankfulness to Jesus.
 
 
Jesus’ feet are dirty from the dusty roads,
her tears wash them, just like Jesus has washed her heart.
She wipes the tears off his feet, like Jesus has wiped away her sins.
 
And because she is so thankful to Jesus, she kisses his feet,
she pours out her perfume on them.
The sweet smell fills the whole room.
 
 
It’s a beautiful sweet moment, but then comes our second close-up: the pointing finger.
Simon – at least in his head – points his finger at the woman and says, “she is a sinner”
Simon thinks a good religious man would not let a dirty woman like that touch them.
So he thinks Jesus does not know how bad she is.
And what does that mean?
Now, he points the finger at Jesus: that man is not a prophet, not a messenger from God-
he is just a fake, a liar, he is not really from God.
 
There’s our 3 characters: Jesus, Simon, the woman
The sinful woman cries and washes Jesus’ feet.
The respectable Pharisee accuses and judges the woman and Jesus.
What will Jesus do? Let’s read on.
 
now comes the funny moment (39-40):
Simon thinks Jesus can’t see inside the woman.
but Jesus sees inside Simon himself and knows exactly what he is thinking!
Jesus tells him a story (41-42),
It’s about our third close-up: the impossibly big credit card bill.  – Luke’s flavour of money.
 
Okay, maybe it wasn’t a credit card in those days, but these people owe a lot of money.
That is called debt
One owed 50 pieces of silver, the other 500 –
in those days, this coin was about one days pay for working
working 6 days per week, they owe something like two months and 20 months pay
 
how much money do you make every month?
If you owed twice that amount, could you pay it back?
I think I could, if I carefully saved for a year or two
if I never ate at restaurants or went to the movies.
 
But what about 10 times more – it might take 10 years or more to save that much.
And if everyone knew I was in trouble – how shameful!
 
In countries like New Zealand today, we are lucky.
But in the past, what happened when people could not pay their debts?
they were locked up in prison,
or in bible times they were sold as slaves -their families could be sold too.  (Cf Matthew 18:25)
the guy who owes 50 coins can maybe repay in time.
But the guy who owes 500 coins is in big, big trouble.
He’ll become a slave, or go to prison.
And for many people today, being in debt feels like that – at least spiritually.
 
What happened in Jesus’ story?
the man who loaned the money was generous and kind.
he cancelled both the debts.
Both of them were set free – imagine how happy they were.
 
 
Sin is like a debt to God.
Simon the Pharisee probably thought he was like the man with two months debt,
he hadn’t done too much wrong, he could make it up to God.
He didn’t need forgiveness too badly – or so he thought.
So Jesus wasn’t that important to him.
Not worth the extra effort to get water for his feet, oil for his head, or give him a kiss.
 
 
The woman knew she was like the one with 20 months debt, or even more -she could never repay,
she was in big trouble.
Spiritually, she was in prison, like a slave.
 
Remember why Jesus came – in Luke 4:
to bring good news to the poor.
To release the captives, to set free the prisoners.
That’s what God’s forgiveness is all about.
Sin is like a debt to God.
Forgiving sin is like cancelling that debt – you don’t have to pay any more!
that’s why the woman was so thankful, and she loved Jesus so much.
She was not just crying for sadness, but also crying for joy.
 
 
Conclusion
In today’s story, there are two big contrasts
 
first, Simon and Jesus look at the woman in very different ways.
“Do you see this woman?”  (44)
 
Simon sees her sin and failure, all the bad things she has done in the past – “she is a sinner” (39)
Jesus sees her love and faith, and who she can become in the future – “she has shown great love.”  (47)
 
Simon judges her.
Jesus forgives her
Jesus loves sinners, and he loves to turn sinners into thankful lovers.[ii]
he came to save the lost.
 
which one are we more like?
when we meet people, especially people who are very different from us,
do we look at them like Simon or like Jesus does?
 
 
the second contrast:
Simon and the woman treat Jesus in very different ways.
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”  (49)
Simon thinks his sin is small, he doesn’t need forgiveness, he doesn’t need Jesus
 
the woman sees how bad her sin is.
So she sees how good God’s forgiveness is, and she really loves Jesus.[iii]
she pours out her perfume, she pours out her heart, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her
 
Which one are you more like?
How much have you been forgiven?
How much do you love Jesus?
 
 
 
We started with three close-up images:
a crying woman, an accusing finger, a huge credit card bill that you can never pay.
But one of Luke’s favourite themes is the great reversal,
turning things upside down, so the first become last and the last become the first
 
by the end of the story, the woman who had been lost goes home at peace with God
she’s full of happiness and joy.
 
Simon the Pharisee thought he was okay and can judge others.
Then he found the finger pointing back at him.
Will he admit that he is also a sinner, and find forgiveness himself?
We don’t know – Luke doesn’t say.
The important thing is to ask ourselves, will I admit I am a sinner, and come to Jesus?
 
 
And the third image: that huge, enormous debt that you and I could never pay.
The debts of all our sins.
It has been cancelled.
Jesus paid our debts 2000 years ago at Easter,
we’ll hear more about it the next few weeks.
 
We were once oppressed, crushed down.
We were lost, poor, spiritually in prison.
But Jesus brings good news to the poor, salvation to the lost.
 
That big red number has been crossed out.
our sins have been washed away.
Like he did for the woman, Jesus has forgiven us and set us free.
 
 
 
Questions:
Why did the woman come; why was she crying? 
What was the man thinking; what was his finger pointing at? 
What happened to the big debt; who paid it?
 
Have you ever had a debt you couldn’t pay?
 
How do you look at people?
·      Like critical Simon, seeing the bad
·      Like caring Jesus, seeing the good
 
Who is Jesus to you?
·      Just an interesting teacher, like for Simon
·      The one you love more than anything, like for the woman
 
 
Extra: describe Luke’s special “flavour”.
Read through Luke this Easter and look out for stories
            about God, winners who lose, and losers who win.
 
 
 


[i] “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”, Luke 14:11, 18:14 – "salvation as reversal" – Joel Green
[ii] the "friend of sinners", Luke 7:34
[iii] cf Romans 5:20, "where sin increased, grace increased all the more"

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