Luke 7:41-50 — The Two Debtors
A parable has been defined as an instruction method in which scenes from nature or from human life are used to illustrate higher religious or religious-moral truths. Presenting those truths in vivid parable form makes them easier to understand and to remember.
The parable we consider first is found within the account of Jesus’ dining at the home of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). This man was not an enemy like most of the Pharisees. Yet, he did not see Jesus as the Messiah.
While they were dining, a woman publicly known as a sinner came into the room. She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with her fragrant oil.
Simon was disgusted that Jesus would permit this emotional attention from the woman. Either Jesus had to be unaware of what this woman was or He didn’t care. In either case, it ruled Him out as a prophet in Simon’s opinion.
Knowing Simon’s thoughts, Jesus spoke the parable. “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both.”
Jesus asked Simon: “Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon provided the correct answer: “I suppose the one he forgave the most.” Immediately, Jesus applied the lesson. He pointed out the lack of love which Simon had displayed toward Him. There had been no foot washing, no kiss of greeting and no anointing with oil — all common courtesies to guests.
The woman had done all of these things. She did them in a way which revealed humility and gratitude — washing His feet with tears and wiping them with her hair, kissing His feet and anointing them with fragrant oil.
Jesus continued: “Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” Some would have us believe that Jesus was teaching that the woman’s sins were forgiven because of her love toward Jesus. That is absolutely false. [The ‘for’ does not express the cause–merely the logical connection between the thing proved (the forgiveness of sin) and the proof (the love and gratitude which were displayed.)] As Jesus told the woman at the end of this account: “Your faith has saved you.” Her love was a fruit of faith.
The woman had come to faith in Jesus earlier. She had heard His words and been led to believe that He offered forgiveness for her many sins. When Jesus told her: “Your sins are forgiven,” she already believed that. That is why she came uninvited and showed such humble gratitude toward Jesus. Jesus was confirming that belief. And that is why our pastors assure us of forgiveness so often.
The woman’s many sins had been an impassable barrier to her reaching heaven. But with forgiveness her eternal fate had been changed by Jesus. >From this happy realization flowed her high emotion and deep gratitude. She loved her Savior much.
Simon felt no distress over his sins. As a good pupil of the Pharisees, he was not conscious of the extent or the seriousness of his sins. He saw no need for a Savior — no need for Jesus. Therefore, he had no real love for Jesus. Simon remained in his sins, refusing the forgiveness Jesus held out to him.
May the Lord spare us from being Simons. May God grant that we be found, like the woman, acknowledging our sins and expressing our humility and gratitude to Jesus for the forgiveness and eternal life which are ours through faith in Him.
— Pastor Keith Olmanson