The Two Debtors

30 Dec

from Google Images

During the dinner to which Simon, the Pharisee, invited Jesus, a woman, who had heard Jesus was in the Pharisee’s house, came in also with the intention of anointing Jesus with the ointment out of the alabaster box she carried with her (Luke 7:37-38). Luke tells us she was a sinner. Obviously she was very emotional in the account written by Luke. She seems to have been sad over something, but also grateful to Jesus, because she held him in awe for some reason, but Luke is silent about these details. Nevertheless, the woman took her place at Jesus’ feet and wept there. Her tears fell on Jesus’ feet, and she wiped them with her hair; and she kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment out of the alabaster box she had with her.

Moreover, Luke says that the Pharisee was bothered by the idea that Jesus didn’t seem to be ill at ease with the women touching him, and the woman, according to Simon, was a sinner Luke 7:39. Apparently, Simon had considered Jesus to be a prophet, but matters concerning this woman had cast doubt on his perception. The banquet is recorded by Luke in the context of Jesus being called a prophet or the Prophet by everyone who witnessed his raising the dead son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:16-17; cf. Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37). Jesus’ name was on everyone’s tongue, and his words and deeds were on everyone’s mind at the very time this banquet was held in his honor. Nevertheless, Simon wondered if this conclusion were true, because Jesus didn’t seem to perceive his apparent contact with sinners.

This was a doctrinal question, and it seeks to bring out into the open the significance of what God was doing in the miracles Jesus performed. The problem was the Pharisee sought to bring the work of God under the scrutiny of his doctrine or what he thought was true. Therefore, he stumbled at the Rock (cf. Luke 2:34; Romans 9:32; 1Peter 2:8), when he should have allowed what he believed to be ruled by and understood in the light of the acts of God.

Jesus responded to Simon’s inner thoughts with a parable of two debtors (Luke 7:41-42). He asked Simon which of the two debtors would love the creditor more for forgiving them their debts. Simon replied correctly that the one who was forgiven the greater debt would likely love the creditor the most (Luke 7:43). What is implied in the parable is that both Simon and the unnamed woman were debtors to Jesus. Both were forgiven, but the unnamed woman loved Jesus  more than Simon, who judged her a sinner (Luke 7:41-42).

Understanding the seating arrangement for ancient Jewish meals[1] reveals that Jesus would have turned to Simon by leaning on his breast. In this manner Jesus would look directly at Simon and speak to him. It was a private conversation between Jesus and his host. Jesus did not publically embarrass Simon in the hearing of all the other guests, as might be supposed in a cursory read of Luke. Rather, Jesus privately corrected the thoughts of Simon’s heart (Luke 7:47). I believe Simon understood what Jesus was saying, and I further believe he was ashamed and repented of the thoughts of his heart.

Then Jesus either sat up and faced the woman or turned away from Simon and looked at the woman and told her that her sins were forgiven (Luke 7:48). Of course this caused others at the table (probably other Pharisees and rabbis from Jerusalem) to murmur over Jesus’ authority to forgive sin (Luke 7:49), but Simon, who had been with Jesus from the beginning understood what lay behind Jesus’ words. Since we know that this unnamed woman is actually Mary Magdalene, Luke 8:2 tells us that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her, and Jesus’ declaration at Luke 7:48, 50 is in complete agreement with the doctrine of the Pharisees (cf. Luke 5:20-26).[2]

Luke tells us that both Simon and the woman were forgiven (Luke 7:42), so repentance is not an issue here. Love is the issue. Faith or trusting in Jesus is the issue—the kind of faith which is demonstrated in acts of love and kindness (cf. Luke 7:50). Both Simon and the woman demonstrated their kindness toward the Lord, but the tears of the woman and the inner doubts of Simon betrayed the quality of the love they shared for their Lord and Savior.


[1] See my previous study: Another Banquet Held in Jesus’ Honor.

[2] The Pharisees believed that sickness, including demonic possession, was the result of sin. Therefore, if Jesus could demonstrate that he heals a person, it would be the same as his saying “Your sins are forgiven!” The unnamed woman in Luke 7:36-50 is Mary Magdalene of Luke 8:2 out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons. In other words, Jesus healed her, therefore, he had forgiven Mary’s sins. The fact that those at the table murmured against Jesus’ remark shows they didn’t understand the logical conclusion of what they taught (cf. Mark 2:12 and Luke 5:26).

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Posted by on December 30, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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