Summary: Nurturing our relationship with Jesus is an essential part of our Christian formation.
A FORGIVEN WOMAN’S ACT OF LOVE
The unnamed woman is identified as “a sinner” (Luke 7:37; Luke 7:39; Luke 7:47). This tells us nothing about the nature of the woman’s sins, but simply of the universal reality of sin: your sin and mine; Simon Peter’s (Luke 5:8); the woman’s; and the tax collector’s (Luke 18:13). Jesus is seen as the forgiver of sins (Luke 7:47-49).
A certain religious man named Simon invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 7:36). The house was evidently open to whoever might drop in, and a forgiven woman availed herself of the opportunity to get closer to Jesus (Luke 7:37). Nurturing our relationship with Jesus through Bible study and prayer, fellowship, worship and Communion, is an essential part of our Christian formation.
It is at this point that we are shown the nature and heart of the Pharisee (Luke 7:39). Jesus knows OUR innermost thoughts, too (cf. Psalm 139:2). This is why the Apostle Paul later exhorts us to put a guard on our minds (Romans 12:2).
Simon could not see beyond what the woman had been - and furthermore began to hold Jesus’ credentials as “a prophet” (Luke 7:39) suspect. What business has the Lord, after all, in dealing with “a sinner”? Jesus, exactly because He is “a prophet”, was able to read the thoughts of the Pharisee, and answered accordingly (Luke 7:40).
Tucked into the narrative is a tidy little parable: a riddle which cuts right to the heart of the matter (Luke 7:41-43). Jesus was highlighting the attitude of gratitude which formed the basis for the woman’s act of devoted love.
At first glance Simon’s invitation of Jesus had seemed commendable, but it appears now that the host’s manners stopped short of the common courtesies of his day. Jesus, never one to mince words, contrasts the devotion of the woman (which was the natural corollary to her sense of forgiveness) with the curt and uncivil behaviour of His host (Luke 7:44-46).
It is apparent from what Jesus says here (best translated as “HENCE she loved much” Luke 7:47) that the woman’s forgiveness preceded, and was the reason for, her act of love. Works follow faith (James 2:22), and her lavish extravagance was evidence of her sense of having been forgiven.
Jesus’ pronouncement, “Your sins HAVE BEEN forgiven” (Luke 7:48) is declarative. Despite the self-righteous pronouncements of religious hypocrites (cf. Luke 7:39), Jesus is assuring the truly repentant of the full free forgiveness of sins. This, we now know, has been purchased by His blood (Ephesians 1:7).
Simon’s other guests also began to talk within themselves (Luke 7:49). Their question may have been a replication of Simon’s negative attitude (cf. Luke 7:39); or they might have been sharing the wonder later expressed by the disciples after Jesus rebuked the storm (Luke 8:25). Every one of us has to come to terms with just who Jesus is, and what He means to us.
For the woman, the last word is with Jesus. It is not love, or acts of love (i.e. works) but, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:50).