The Questions Jesus Asked
“Which One Will Love Him More?”
Today we are going to look at one of the most awkward questions asked by Jesus. In his interaction with Simon the Pharisee and the woman who interrupted the dinner seeking Jesus’ forgiveness Jesus asked; ‘Which one would love him more?”
Looking at the story, Jesus is going to the home of Simon the Pharisee for dinner.
It was common practice back then for important people to entertain other important people. I guess it still is today. Simon invites Jesus to his home for dinner. The invitation is not so much to enjoy Jesus’ company as it is for Simon to look good in the eyes of the town. If Simon really wanted Jesus to be there because he wanted to learn more about what Jesus had to say, he would have observed the customary marks of hospitality and good manners current at the time. He would have washed Jesus’ feet, given him a kiss when he arrived, and anointed his head with oil or perfume. Good manners dictated that these three be done for a guest.
But Simon the Pharisee has other things on his mind. He’s not interested in Jesus. He’s only interested in the praise he will receive from his other guests as they congratulate him on opening his home to them so that they can get to know the traveling celebrity better.
But the woman, a sinner at that, is another matter all-together. Far from observing the customary social protocols, she throws caution to the wind and gives it everything she has. It’s as if she has completely forgotten that there is anyone else there but her and Jesus. She didn’t just say a couple of polite “Thank you,” and leave it at that. No, her actions were over the top.
Now remember that this woman is repudiated to be a sinner. Not even Jesus disputes that. The fact that she has her long hair down is a tip-off that she’s a prostitute. But it’s this woman who showers an abundance of love on Jesus that overflows to the point of being nothing but extravagant. Her generous actions cannot help but be contrasted with the inaction of Simon’s stinginess. Simon is so wrapped up in himself that he can’t see what’s going on before his eyes.
Jesus recognizes the contrast before him before and shares a parable.
If Simon failed by what he did not do, this woman excelled in what she did. Jesus pointed out the difference to Simon, but first to press the truth home, Jesus told a little story about two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, the wages for about 500 days of work. The other owed 50 denarii, or the equivalent of fifty days of work. In a strange stroke of good fortune, when the creditor found that neither could pay, he cancelled both debts. Speaking directly to Simon, Jesus asks, “Now which one will love the creditor more?” (Luke 7:42b).
You can almost hear the agitation in Simon’s voice when he replies. “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt” (Luke 7:43). Jesus says, “You got it, Simon.”
If that were not enough, Jesus does not stop with this. He seizes the opportunity to apply the lesson in light of what the sinful woman has done in their presence. He says to Simon, “Do you see this woman? (That is, ‘Can you see what she has done?’)
I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet; but she has bathed my feet with tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment” (Luke 7:44-46). The precious ointment was probably from a phial, called an alabaster, which hung from around her neck, a common fashion at the time.
Jesus then goes on to drive his point home: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:47-48).
After this little lecture by Jesus, we do not hear another word from Simon. Simon has been put in his place and he knows it. And justly so. But you have to say this for Simon, at least now he has the good manners not to publicly disagree with Jesus and to call his authority into question. Simon is not going to risk embarrassing himself by insulting the honored guest any more than he already has.
But those around the table were not so hesitant or silent. They began to ask among themselves a question. “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49b). If these guests weren’t ready to answer that question with their words, there was one in their midst who had already answered it by her actions. She had poured out her love and affection to Jesus for telling her that God loved her, too. She could not stop showing Jesus how grateful she was. Even Jesus had to take notice of how incessant her affection and gratitude was. It had gone on from the moment she arrived till the party was over — so extravagant was her love.
I’m sure we’ve all have had times when we have either been on the receiving end or the giving end of similar acts of love. The question Jesus really asked is what are the depths of God’s forgiveness?”
Either we find it hard to forgive others for a wrong or a perceived wrong done against us or we spend are whole lives never forgiving ourselves. The truth of the gospel message is that God will forgive if only we humble ourselves and to Him as we are, just like that woman.
To close, I say to you, as Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50).
- Who do you relate to more in this story, the Pharisee or the sinful woman?
- How have you shown your gratitude to God for forgiving your sins?