This morning's Scripture lesson describes a common reoccurring Biblical theme of sin and forgiveness. Sound kind of familiar? We sin, God forgives. But the characters of this story provide us with a special opportunity to see what real forgiveness is all about.
Our story takes us to the home of a well-respected and popular Pharisee by the name of Simon. It seems that Simon was giving a party and invited the usual cast of characters. However, one of the invited guests of the party wasn't that usual. That guest was Jesus.
Imagine this scene with me if you will. Simon is in his home overseeing the preparations for the banquet that is about to take place. Cushions are placed on the floor around a low table where the guests would recline in comfort and enjoy a meal of the finest foods. Some of the best wines that the local vineyards produced have been purchased and sit in stone jars waiting to be poured into the cups of notable scribes, popular Pharisees and other local dignitaries. The table is set with the finest pottery available. Simon walks around the room looking to make sure everything is just right before his guests arrive.
Soon the room will be full of the guests Simon had invited. They would all be in the center courtyard of the house. It was customary in those days for local people, or uninvited guests to gather at one of these events in the outer area of this courtyard and listen to the discussion and debate of learned individuals.
Then, just as planned the guests begin to enter into Simon's home. Simon greets each guest with a customary embrace and kiss. The servants' standby, ready with fresh water and towel to wash the feet of each guest before anointing them with sweet smelling ointments. All of these things were customary expressions of hospitality.
Just as everyone is settled, Jesus enters the room. Simon had invited Jesus during the week almost on a dare. Simon wondered if Jesus would have the nerve to show up to a banquet where so many people would be who opposed him. Jesus did show up and now Simon could have his fun.
The banquet comes to a halt and everyone's eyes are on Jesus as he walks across the room and takes a seat at the table. Simon does not greet Jesus with a customary kiss. He does not offer to have his feet washed or sweet smelling oil poured on him. He offers Jesus none of the common courtesies that his other guests had received.
As soon as Jesus is settled at the table and the party gets under way again, a "woman of the street" enters the room. She was among the uninvited guests sitting in the outer room observing the events of the banquet. The room full of men are aghast that this woman has come in among them, that such a sinner should be in their presence. They are so shocked at her appearance to this banquet that they are speechless. Everything in the room comes to a standstill. The music stops playing. The servants stop serving the guests. All conversation ceases. You can hear a pin drop in the room.
All eyes are upon this woman as she walks across the room towards Jesus. She begins to weep at the sight of Jesus. She is overwhelmed by his mere physical presence. She begins to wash his feet with her tears. She wipes them with her hair. She kisses Jesus' feet. She takes an alabaster jar of sweet smelling oil that is tied around her neck, breaks it open and pours it on his feet.
Finally, Simon breaks the silence. He stands up, points to Jesus and says, "If this man is the prophet he says he is, he would know that this woman who is touching him is a sinner." The guests ready themselves for the intellectual game of volleyball that is about to begin. But Jesus, without missing a beat turns to Simon and says, "Simon, I have something to tell you. Two men owed a lender money. One owed him $100, and the other $1000. Neither could repay the debt so the lender forgave both of them." Now comes the snare. Jesus asks, "Simon, tell me, which one of them will love him more ?" Simon begins to see the point. He answers Jesus almost sarcastically, "Well, I suppose the one whom he forgave more."
Here's where we get the teaching in this story. Jesus draws a parallel between the woman (who had a great deal of sin) and the man who owed the most money. He also compares Simon (who thought his sin was less) to the man who owed $100. "Where little has been forgiven, little love is shown. Where much has been forgiven, much love is shown."