Luke 7:36-50

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

November 29, 2000


Jesus was gaining a reputation as a “friend of sinners”.  The Pharisees were perplexed by this.  Jesus is going to be invited over to the house of a Pharisee who wants to know more about Jesus.  We’re going to see Jesus dealing with both the Pharisee and a “sinner”.

There are two other places where a similar story is recorded, but it would seem that these other two stories were about a second, similar occurrence, one which took place the week before Jesus’ death.

In the other stories, the woman is identified as Mary, the sister to Martha and Lazarus, and it takes place at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany.

(Mat 26:6-13 KJV)  Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, {7} There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. {8} But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? {9} For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. {10} When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. {11} For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. {12} For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. {13} Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
(John 12:1-8 KJV)  Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. {2} There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. {3} Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. {4} Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, {5} Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? {6} This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. {7} Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. {8} For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

I wonder if Mary hadn’t known of what had happened earlier with this “sinner” woman, and she wanted to copy this gift to Jesus.

:36  And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.

sat down to meatanaklino – to lean against, lean upon; to lay down; to make or bid to recline

Dinner tables were low to the ground in those days, and the guests would lay around the tables, generally leaning on their left elbow while using their right hand to eat with.  Their heads were closer to the table with their feet pointing away from the table.

:37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

sinnerhamartolos – devoted to sin, a sinner; not free from sin; pre-eminently sinful, especially wicked

broughtkomizo – to care for, take care of, provide for; to take up or carry away in order to care for and preserve; to carry away, bear off

alabasteralabastron – a box made of alabaster in which unguents are preserved; The ancients considered alabaster to be the best material in which to preserve their ointments. Breaking the box, probably means breaking the seal of the box.

boxmuron – ointment (the Greek word could possibly related to myrrh)

This would be the second time that Jesus has been given myrrh as a present if this were myrrh.

:38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

The woman is standing alongside Jesus’ feet, behind Him.

weepingklaio – to mourn, weep, lament; weeping as the sign of pain and grief.  Present participle, continual action.

washbrecho – to moisten, wet, water; to water with rain, to cause to rain, to pour the rain, to send down like rain.

The verb is a present tense, meaning continual action.  The other verbs that follow in the passage are “imperfect” in tense, meaning a continual action in the past, while this one (and “weeping) are in the present tense.  The idea is that she was wiping, kissing, and anointing for awhile, but her tears flowed the whole time, sprinkling Jesus’ feet, even past the time when she stopped wiping, kissing, and anointing.

wipeekmasso – to wipe off, to wipe away.  Imperfect tense, continual action in the past.

I kind of get the idea that this woman was standing behind Jesus when the tears began to flow.  Then she noticed that the tears had been dripping down on Jesus’ feet, so she began to wipe them off with her hair.

kissedkataphileo – to kiss much, kiss again and again, kiss tenderly.  Imperfect tense, continual action in the past.

anointedaleipho – to anoint. This isn’t a “sacred” or “holy” type of anointing, just the act of putting oil or perfume on another person.  Imperfect tense, continual action in the past.

:39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

spake within himself – even though Simon is only thinking these thoughts, note how Jesus will respond to Simon’s thoughts.

what mannerpotapos – from what country, nation or tribe; of what sort or quality (what manner of)

touchethhaptomai – to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to; to touch; of carnal intercourse with a women or cohabitation; of Levitical practice of having no fellowship with heathen practices. Things not to be touched appear to be both women and certain kinds of food, so celibacy and abstinence of certain kinds of food and drink are recommended.

:40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

answeringapokrinomai – to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer; to begin to speak, but always where something has preceded (either said or done) to which the remarks refer

Even though Simon was only thinking the words, Jesus still knew what Simon was thinking and He responds to Simon’s thoughts.

Masterdidaskalos – a teacher

:41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

debtorschreopheiletes (“to lend” + “to a debtor”) – a debtor

creditor daneistes – a money lender, creditor

pencedenarion – “containing ten”.  A Roman silver coin in NT time. It took its name from it being equal to ten "asses", a number after 217 B.C. increased to sixteen (about 3.898 grams or .1375 oz.). It was the principal silver coin of the Roman empire. From the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, it would seem that a denarius was then the ordinary pay for a day’s wages. (#Mt 20:2-13)

So, one debtor owed the man five hundred days’ wages, while the other owed fifty.

:42 And when they had nothing to pay,

to payapodidomi – to deliver, to give away for one’s own profit what is one’s own, to sell; to pay off, discharge what is due; a debt, wages, tribute, taxes, produce due

NOTE:  Neither had enough to repay their debt.

We are all sinners. 

Some sin worse, owing more than others
But none of us can repay the debt we owe.

:42  he frankly forgave them both.

forgavecharizomai – to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify; to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent; to grant forgiveness, to pardon; to give graciously, give freely, bestow; to forgive

Interesting choice of words that Jesus used.

It not only is used in relation to debts in the business world, but is used in relation to sins in the spiritual world.

:42  Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

loveagapao – of persons; to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly

mostpleion – greater in quantity; greater in quality, superior, more excellent

:43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

supposehupolambano – to take up in order to raise; to take up in the mind; to assume, suppose

:44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

It was customary for a host to provide water to wash his guests’ feet.  People walked the streets in open toed sandals, and their feet were filthy dirty.

A wealthy man would have one of his servants perform the task, otherwise it was usually assigned to the person at the bottom of the ladder, like the youngest child.

:45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

kissphilema – a kiss; the kiss with which, as a sign of fraternal affection, Christians were accustomed to welcome or dismiss their companions in the faith

ceasedialeipo – to interpose a delay, to intermit, leave off for a time something already begun

to kisskataphileo – to kiss much, kiss again and again, kiss tenderly

Jesus was just looking for a peck on the cheek from Simon, but He got none.  This woman has continuously lavished kisses on Jesus’ feet.

It was customary to greet your guests with a kiss.  Simon called Jesus “Master” (vs.40), but he seemed to have no affection for Him.

:46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

Another way of greeting guests was to put a little dab of perfumed oil on their heads, kind of a way of refreshing them as they came into your house.  Kind of made everything smell nice too.

Usually the oil went on the head, but this woman could only bring herself to anoint Jesus’ feet.

:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

forgivenaphiemi – to send away; to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit.  Perfect tense, an action taking place in the past, with results continuing up to the present.

Jesus uses a different word here than the one used in His parable (charizomai, vs.42), but it still means “forgiven”.


Greater love comes from greater forgiveness

You could almost twist this if you wanted to and make it sound that if you want to love Jesus more, you should sin more so you can be forgiven more.
That’s not the point.
I kind of wonder if it doesn’t really have to do more with a sensitivity to our own sinfulness and need for forgiveness.
When we fall into thinking that we don’t need forgiveness because we don’t sin very much anymore, we are in a dangerous place.  We will find our own love for the Lord to be growing dim.
Sinning less doesn’t mean you need forgiveness less.
Instead, you can grow to the point where your conscience is growing more and more sensitive so that you are pricked by things that you used to just overlook in your life.
Look at Paul’s life –

Paul was getting closer and closer to Jesus.

(Phil 3:12-14 KJV)  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. {13} Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, {14} I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Yet in one of Paul’s last recorded letters, he clearly calls himself a sinner:

(1 Tim 1:15 KJV)  This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

How could Paul be growing closer and closer to Jesus, yet still consider himself the “chief” of all sinners?

Because I believe that part of growing closer to Jesus is becoming more and more keenly aware of how much I am affected by my own, attached, sin nature.

And the more I become sensitive to my own great inclination to sin, the more I am aware of my great need to be continually forgiven by my Savior.

And the more I’m forgiven, the more I fall in love with my Forgiver.

We are all sinners.

David Seamands ends his book Healing Grace with this story:  For more than six hundred years the Hapsburgs exercised political power in Europe. When Emperor Franz-Josef I of Austria died in 1916, his was the last of the extravagant imperial funerals. A processional of dignitaries and elegantly dressed court personages escorted the coffin, draped in the black and gold imperial colors.

To the accompaniment of a military band’s somber dirges and by the light of torches, the cortege descended the stairs of the Capuchin Monastery in Vienna. At the bottom was a great iron door leading to the Hapsburg family crypt. Behind the door was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna. The officer in charge followed the prescribed ceremony, established centuries before.

“Open!” he cried. “Who goes there?” responded the Cardinal.  “We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz-Josef I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Defender of the Faith, Prince of Bohemia-Moravia, Grand Duke of Lombardy, Venezia, Styrgia...” The officer continued to list the Emperor’s thirty-seven titles.

“We know him not,” replied the Cardinal. “Who goes there?”  The officer spoke again, this time using a much abbreviated and less ostentatious title reserved for times of expediency.  “We know him not,” the Cardinal said again. “Who goes there?”  The officer tried a third time, stripping the emperor of all but the humblest of titles: “We bear the body of Franz-Josef, our brother, a sinner like us all!”

At that, the doors swung open, and Franz-Josef was admitted.  In death all are reduced to the same level. Neither wealth nor fame can open the way of salvation, but only Gods grace, given to those who will humbly acknowledge their need.

-- Alan J. White, Chicago, Illinois.  Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4.

I used to attach the word “forgiveness” to just a couple of major sins in my life.  They were things that I had a hard time stopping, and so whenever I’d think or hear about forgiveness, I’d think about Jesus forgiving me of those sins.  I kept growing in the Lord to where I was finally able to have victory over those sins.  And then whenever I thought about forgiveness, I’d think back to God giving me victory over those sins, and the joy of forgiveness began to grow fainter and fainter as I moved farther in time from those sins.  But what I hadn’t realized was that God still had lots to do in my life.  He still does.  When I’d think about God giving me victory over sin, I was only thinking about those particular sins, but I found out that there’s plenty more where they came from.
D.L. Moody was one of the greatest Christian evangelists who ever lived.  He could hold a crowd in the palm of his hand, won thousands of converts to the faith, and established several religious institutions.  Yet he never displayed the pompous air of self- importance that so many famous evangelists did in that era.  He was a tolerant, understanding man who rarely criticized. One of his famous sayings was, “Right now I’m having so much trouble with D.L. Moody that I don’t have time to find fault with the other fellow.”

:48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

forgivenaphiemi – to send away; to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit.  Perfect tense, an action taking place in the past, with results continuing up to the present.

I think the idea is that this woman had already received forgiveness from God over her sins.  Her love for Jesus was proof of that fact that she had already been forgiven.  She didn’t “earn” forgiveness by loving Jesus “much”.  Her “much love” was proof that she had been forgiven.

:49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?

They are having a hard time with Jesus telling her she was forgiven.

Lu 5:21  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

:50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.


Forgiveness comes through confession

We have to admit that we have sinned.  We have to be willing to turn from our sin.
(1 John 1:9 KJV)  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Don’t skip out on your part.  Don’t make excuses.  Don’t try to hide your sins.  Don’t try to explain them away.
(Psa 32:1-5 NIV)  Of David. A maskil. Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. {2} Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. {3} When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. {4} For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah {5} Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
When we admit that we are sinful, we are “walking in the light”, we are letting God expose our sins.
(1 John 1:7 KJV)  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Can Jesus’ blood cleanse you from your sin?


We receive forgiveness through faith.

We don’t have to “feel” forgiven, we have to “trust” to be forgiven.
Our part is to admit that we’ve sinned and turn from our sins.
God’s part is to forgive us.  He is faithful to forgive us.