Parable of Two Debtors

“And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. “When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” (Luke 7:40-43)

As we look into the Parable of the Two Debtors it is important to look at the setting in which this Parable of Jesus was spoken. Jesus has been invited to dine in the house of a Pharisee which I find interesting. Jesus did come to save that which was lost in His Kingdom. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) For the most part the Pharisees who were the representatives of the Jewish Leadership were opposed to His teaching and eventually plotted His crucifixion. As Jesus was willing to dine with the sinners He also was willing to dine with the opposition to His ministry. “Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.” (Luke 7:36)

There was a woman in the city that was a known sinner and she heard that Jesus was dining at the house of a Pharisee. She had an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and she took it with her to the house of the Pharisee to see Jesus. “And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume.” (Luke 7:37)

When she entered into the home of the Pharisee she first stood behind Jesus weeping for her sins were many. The woman was weeping so profusely that she sat down at the feet of Jesus and began to wash His feet with her tears and wipe them dry with her hair. When the feet of Jesus were dry she took the alabaster flask of oil and anointed the feet of Jesus with the sweet smell of the perfume oil. “And standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” (Luke 7:38)

The host of the party began to question if Jesus was a prophet. If Jesus were, then He would have known what kind of woman was anointing His feet. “Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39) Jesus knowing the heart of the Pharisee tells him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” Then Jesus told the Pharisee the Parable of the Two Debtors.

The Parable itself is a story of a moneylender that loaned money to two debtors. To one he loaned 500 denarii and the other fifty. Both debtors could not repay the loan and the moneylender forgave their debt. Jesus then challenges Simon the Pharisee with the question, “So which of them will love him more?” Simon responds with this answer, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” Perhaps Simon was a little reluctant to answer, as he said “I Suppose.” It could be that he was unsure or he had already begun to see the point of the Parable. Jesus then tells Simon that he had answered the question correctly.

Jesus then follows this Parable with a contrast between Simon and the woman. “Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.” (Luke 7:44-46)

It was a custom of the day that when someone entered into your house that you would give them water to wash their feet, as they would be dirty from waling on the streets. But Simon gave no water to Jesus for His feet. The woman washed the feet of Jesus with her tears. Simon gave Jesus no kiss of greeting but the woman did not cease kissing the feet of Jesus. Neither did Simon anoint Jesus’ head with oil but the woman anointed His feet with the oil of perfume. All of these things, water for the washing of the feet, the kiss of greeting, and the anointing of oil, Simon should have done as a proper host. Certainly Simon should have done these things for the most important guest he would have ever had. Then Jesus makes His point to Simon with these words. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

This verse is a little difficult to discern. Is the woman’s love the cause of her forgiveness? Or is her great love the evidence of her forgiveness? Jesus did say that it was her faith that saved her. “And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

Then it was her faith in Jesus that caused her forgiveness and her love is a reflection of the faith that she had in Jesus. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

As we look at verse 47 we read this. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47) This would suggest that love is the proof and the result of forgiveness. Meaning that one who is forgiven little loves little and the one who is forgiven much loves much. The woman’s love was the result of her forgiveness and not the cause of her forgiveness. So our sins are not forgiven because we love. We love God because He first loved us and provided through His Son Jesus Christ and path to be forgiven. “We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

This is a comforting Parable to the sinner. Most people who come to Jesus realize that they had made a mess out of their life. They realize that they are broken and their life is out of control. They come because they are convicted of the sin in their life and they are tired of carrying the burden of that guilt upon them. But we can see in this parable that Jesus is willing to forgive no matter the size of our sin in our life. We see here that the one who is forgiven much that the love this forgiveness generates will also be much. If our sin is acute then the love we have through forgiveness will be all the greater. This great love that we have is the motivation for a greater service to our Lord and Savior. Just as the Apostle Paul, who considered himself the least of all the Apostles wrote. “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10) As forgiven Christians we should not live in the past of our sin but allow the great forgiveness that we have received to motivate us even more in the service to our Lord.

We see also in this Parable that the more forgiveness we receive the greater our love and service to Him. One way to appreciate the forgiveness that we have received is found in that this woman is described as a sinner. We are not told the sins that she has committed but that does not matter. All sin is disobedience to God’s Word. Another is to know more of the nature of sin, which is I say disobedience to God’s Word. No matter how good we think we have been none of us have kept the whole law of God, all of us have been born into sin by our sinful nature. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)

Sin leaves us in debt. It is a debt that we cannot pay and therefore must pay the consequence which is spiritual death. “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” Isaiah 59:1-2) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

The more that we learn the nature of sin and the wage that it exacts from us the more the appreciation that we have in Jesus for the forgiveness that we have received from Him. When we understand this then the more motivated we become to love and serve Him. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant February 1, 2017

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