1. Study Luke 7:36-48. What do you observe about
the setting of this passage?
Jesus has been invited to the home of Simon the Pharisee for dinner. It was an honor
to host a visiting Rabbi, and Simon the Pharisee had the means to do this in both home and money.
2. Observe carefully the actions of the Pharisee and the girl. What do you see?
The Bible does not say why the Pharisee invited Christ to his home for dinner; but
others knew the invitation, which may suggest a personal political motive. The Pharisee, with his cordial
behavior, did not acknowledge Christ as being God, and perhaps perceived himself to be equivalent in
spiritual stature as "a teacher." Honoring a guest is usually shown by a) providing a basin
of water to wash his feet (people wore sandals), b) offering scented olive oil for the hair, and c)
greeting the guest with a kiss. Simon the Pharisee did not do any of these things. The woman behaved
in a quite different manner: a) without invitation, and despite public knowledge of her reputation and
social ridicule (likely a prostitute), she came early to the home of a Pharisee to wait for His arrival,
b) she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, c) she stood behind Christ, d) she cried, e) she washed
His feet with her tears and hair repeatedly, f) she kissed His feet with her lips repeatedly, and g)
anointed His feet with perfume. By her actions, she acknowledged, loved, and revered God.
3. Who is the audience and what is said in the parable? What is the difference between Grace and Mercy?
Jesus is speaking to both Simon the Pharisee and the woman. The parable is about a
moneylender and two borrowers who lack the money to pay off their loan. Within the context of the time,
borrowers unable to repay the lender are thrown into prison until family members can redeem the loan.
The woman had a bigger debt than Simon the Pharisee, but the parable shows that the penalty is the same
regardless of the loan amount. Simon the Pharisee never this nor saw himself as the debtor, which prompted
Jesus’ judgment of him. In the parable, Jesus’ question of which debtor would love the moneylender
more came after the moneylender forgave the debt. The woman did not come to Jesus to ask for forgiveness,
she came crying knowing she was forgiven, and she was profoundly grateful. Faith in His promise of
forgiveness and redemption was her salvation.
Did the woman receive grace or did she receive mercy? What is the difference? Grace
is getting something you don't deserve. Mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Simon the Pharisee
did not truly know his own spiritual state; the woman clearly understood hers and that she was a recipient
of God’s grace and mercy.
Remember that when reading parables, the key in understanding the parable is observing
whom Jesus is talking to. Jesus speaks mostly to Simon (and indirectly to others at the party). Simon
was held in high regard socially and religiously and the woman was not; he was "good" and
she was "bad." Yet, while being the most capable, Simon the Pharisee failed to recognize God
or his sinful spiritual state. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. However, in man’s eyes, the recognition of sin
is relative; it is inversely proportional to one’s indulgence of it. The less likely one has indulged
with a particular sin, the greater the public rejection and recognition of it. The greater one has indulged
with a particular sin, the less likely the public rejection and recognition of it. Thus, prostitution is
considered a "greater" sin than adultery. Jesus is telling us that being good is not the same as
being forgiven of your sin. Furthermore those who fail to recognize that 1) Jesus is God, and 2) they are
sinful will not experience God’s grace and mercy.
"Whenever we share comparable particulars (i.e., similar specific life situations) with the first-century
setting, God's Word to us is the same as his Word to them." Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (1981)
Douglas Mar's personal note:
When I first accepted the Lord in high school, I cannot say that I was truly regenerate. It was not
until several years later, when I realized the depth of my spiritual depravity, that I began to
understand the full implications of God's Grace; until then, I had failed to appreciate the difference
between being good and unforgiven verses being good and forgiven of your sins. My life, free of physical
suffering and misery, concealed my bankrupt spiritual state. Someone once wrote, "If you have a flawed
view of man's depravity, you'll have a flawed view of God." Did you make the same mistake as I did? You
can start anew and be forgiven with this prayer and have a
new view of God, yourself, and life. I had a good
life before Jesus Christ; I have an even better life now and so will you.
Douglas Mar was born in Oakland, California and graduated from UC Berkeley.
He practices optometry and dabbles in web design in Seattle, Washington.
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