“Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”Luke 7:41-42 MSG
As a high school student, I was both painfully insecure and wildly arrogant. As far as I was concerned, I was a pretty good human—darned near perfect, really—and certainly better than most of my peers. But everything I did in high school was to prove to someone, anyone, and everyone that I was worthy of love.
Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Someone, acknowledge how awesome I am so that I can fill this gaping hole of worthlessness!
There are probably a lot of teenagers out there like me… and maybe a few adults, too. My deep insecurities masked by self-righteousness made me particularly resistant to the idea of salvation. I’d worked so hard to prove how much I deserved to be loved, so why did I need to be saved by some God-Man named Jesus? I’d earned my place at the table.
That lasted until I found myself in a position of undeniable mess. I was desperately in need of rescue, and the only one who could was that same God-Man named Jesus, who graciously and mercifully unmasked my insecurities and called me his beloved, anyway.
When I read back over the story of Simon the Pharisee and the “sinful woman,” I find myself today able to identify with both characters.
Self-Righteous Sarah in high school could completely relate to Simon. Look at this mess of a woman, her life in shambles, brazenly entering my house, letting down her hair, and worshiping at Jesus’ feet. Who does she think she is?! Who does he think he is?!
Today, though, I can see myself in that “sinful woman,” her hair a mess, mascara running down her face, the perfect life she imagined for herself shattered by her own choices and the damage done to her by others. She collapses at the feet of Jesus, sobbing and hopeful that despite everything that has happened, the Lord of the Universe might see her, truly see her, stoop down, lift her chin, and tell her, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Both Simon and the “sinful woman” needed saving. That’s the point of Jesus’ parable—neither of them could earn God’s favor and salvation. They both are children of God. They are both rescued by the Lord and loved regardless of their debts. One just doesn’t know it yet. One just doesn’t feel it yet.
It might take a deep wound, a life shattering amount of suffering, a soul-wakening injustice, or an unbelievable outpouring of sacrificial love to unmask the arrogance of Simon the Pharisee before he’s driven to his knees like the “sinful woman.” But someday, he will know that gift. Someday, he will feel the weight of that grace.
Points of Reflection
- What experiences in your life have driven you to your knees, whether in grief, in fear, in anger, or in love?
- What have those experiences shown you about the character of God?
For the Kids
- Which character in Luke 7:36-50 do you relate to the most, the “sinful woman” or Simon the Pharisee?
- Why do you think the dinner guests were so offended that Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins?
The nameless woman in the story poured out her gratitude to Jesus for the forgiveness of her sins. We’re not encouraged these days to reflect on our shortcomings and failures, but burying the things we’re embarrassed about can turn them into bitter roots of shame, which twist and grow into monsters in our hearts. Set aside time to pour out your sins on a sheet of paper—your annoyances, your selfishness, the lies you’ve believed about yourself, the harmful things you’ve said or thought, and more—and confess them to the Lord. When you feel like you’ve poured out everything you’ve been keeping secret, use a thick marker to write the words Jesus spoke to the woman over your sins: “I forgive your sins. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Okay, I know I’ve suggested this book here before, but I can’t help seeing Francine Rivers’ character from Redeeming Love in the story of the nameless woman. If you still haven’t read Redeeming Love and you still haven’t watched the film, honestly. Cancel your weekend plans and grab a box of tissue. It’s time.