In the Gospel of Luke 7:40-50 we read,
“And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. (41) There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. (42) And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? (43) Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. (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. (45) Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. (46) My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. (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. (48) And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. (49) And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? (50) And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
Looking at the woman at His feet, Jesus felt His Father’s compassion rising up from within Him. It was then that He spoke to her: "[Woman], thy sins are forgiven" (Luke 7:48). The woman’s upward look of surprise could be matched only by the words and shocked expressions of those who had gathered for the evening meal. Her presence had drawn a flurry of disapproving remarks from Simon and his fellow Pharisees. Their whispered comments and cynical remarks only added to the tension that was growing in the room.
Guests had taken their places for the evening’s banquet, but this woman had come in and fallen at the feet of Jesus. She was well-known in the city, a reported sinner. Many scholars believe she made her living as a prostitute.
At first, Jesus remained unmoved by Simon’s disapproval. He simply allowed the woman to bathe His feet with a mixture of fine oil and personal tears. She had taken the time to do for Him what no one else had offered to do.
When the hostile comments became numerous and hurtful, Jesus addressed their complaints by directing His words to His host, Simon in verses 41-42,
“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. (42) And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?”
Simon answered wisely and chose the one who had the greater debt. Then Jesus’ attention turned to the woman at His feet in verses 44-47,
"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. (45) Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. (46) My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. (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."
Forgiveness is a balm of healing to the soul and a constant reminder of God’s grace freely distributed. But only the Lord has the wondrous ability to forgive with an eternal impact while offering the sinner another chance.
The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet had one goal in mind and that was to demonstrate her love and devotion to Christ. And Jesus did not disappoint her when He said in verse 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."
True forgiveness begins with Christ. This is where our need for forgiveness is eternally satisfied. It is God’s love that draws us to Himself. And it is here in the embrace of His love that we find instant and complete forgiveness for our sin and shame. It is also where we find the reassurance we need to continue. In talking about forgiveness, Corrie Ten Boom often said that when God forgives He tosses our sins in the deepest sea and then posts a "No Fishing" sign.
Jesus did not answer this woman’s shame and sorrow with a list of things to do in order to be forgiven or accepted. God’s love is not based on spiritual performance or deeds well done. It is unconditional and comes to us as a result of His grace demonstrated at the Cross on our behalf. We must accept God’s forgiveness for ourselves.
Mentally, spiritually, and physically, we must act, and believe that we are forgiven. Two of Satan’s most destructive weapons are false guilt and disbelief. He is relentless in his quest to convince us that we are unforgiven, that God does not love us, and that the Lord has abandoned us. This is not true. God loves us with an eternal love, which is not based on anything that we do or don’t do.
The enemy knows sin erodes our fellowship with God. He also knows that when we yield to sin, he can use our sin against us by accusing us. He recoils over the truth that God’s love is both eternal and unconditional. And he is repulsed by the fact that Christ has the power to forgive sin.
The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet knew she was a sinner and longed to be forgiven. Few of us have to be told when we do something wrong or something that is in opposition to God. We feel the shame and conviction that accompany sin. The Holy Spirit’s responsibility is to prick our consciences in such a way that we acknowledge our sin and turn from it. When we ask for God’s forgiveness, we essentially agree with God that our behavior is sinful, and we are determined to turn away from it.
In Ephesians 5:31-32 we read, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” There are many aspects to forgiveness, but there is one that is crucial to our spiritual growth: forgiving those who have hurt us. Forgiveness sets us free to enjoy life. When we refuse to forgive those who have hurt us, we are the ones who suffer.
A spirit of unforgiveness can hold us back from enjoying the blessings of God. Like a bird tethered to the ground by a very long string, the person who refuses to forgive is restrained from flying to new spiritual heights. Bitterness, anger, frustration, and depression are just a few of the results of unforgiveness.
The one thing to keep in mind when dealing with the forgiveness of those who have hurt us is this: forgiveness does not mean what the offender did was right. Forgiveness simply states that we are willing to forgive and allow God to contend with those who contend with us. He is the final judge of mankind, and He will make sure justice is complete. Our responsibility is to forgive because we have been forgiven, and then to allow God to take the responsibility of dealing with our offender.
When we harbor an unforgiving spirit, we quickly become consumed by maintaining its existence. The result is a dry and weary spirit that has little emotional time left for loving God.
The first step to forgiving others is realizing that we are forgiven and deeply loved.
The second step is to forgive the person who committed the sin against us. Release our offender mentally and emotionally. This is what God has done for us. He has released us from a debt that we cannot pay. The number of times God forgives us is infinite. Jesus modeled forgiveness with His life, and this is what He wants us to do for others.
The third step to forgiving others is acceptance. When we internalize the fact that God accepts us just the way we are, then we can accept and forgive more freely.
The fourth step to forgiving others is to view them as tools in God’s hand. God can bring good out of horrendous circumstances. Perhaps the best illustration of this is in the life of the Old Testament character of Joseph. We may not understand how, but God knows. His sovereignty has not and will not change. He is over all things, good and bad. Though we live in a fallen world where bad things happen to even the best people, God is in control, and He will rescue and restore each person hurt by the sin of another.
The final step to forgiving others is reconciliation. If there is a life-threatening circumstance involved, God will not require this step. However, if the offense is something that God seeks to heal, then reconciliation is the way. Like forgiveness, reconciliation is an act of the will.
We must choose to respond to others with the love of Christ. Paul admonishes us to be reconciled one to another. When there is division within the body of Christ, everyone suffers. When there is division in the home, the entire family suffers. The same is true for our offices and churches. Animosity, bitterness, vengefulness, and resentfulness are obvious signs that something is wrong and the need for forgiveness is being ignored.
That day in Simon’s house, Jesus was not moved by the powerful presence of His peers. He saw the humility and love of one woman, and His heart was touched with compassion. Nothing can stop the love of God. The forgiveness that was extended is eternal. It was this woman’s faith in Jesus Christ, and God’s ability to forgive and restore her, that saved her. With great joy, Jesus told her in verse 50, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” This is what He tells each one of us. It is not our works that save and restore. It is our faith in Him that heals and washes our lives with purifying hope.
This letter has served as an introduction to a new series of Weekly SERMONS. Beginning next week and for the following five weeks, attention will be focused on the subject of Biblical forgiveness.
The foundational text is found in Ephesians 4:31-32 where we read these breathtaking and arresting words. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
The foundational definition of forgiveness is defined in these words, "Forgiveness is a CHOICE, to reconcile with an offender by erasing their debt and agreeing to live with the consequences of their sin."
The topics and scriptural passages for the five Weekly SERMONS will be as follows.
August 2, What is Forgiveness? Ephesians 4:31-32
August 9, Two Forgive, Mark 2:1-12
August 16, Boundary of Forgiveness, Romans 13:1-7; Mark 3:28-29; Revelation 20:11015
August 23, Confession: the Gateway to Forgiveness, Psalm 32: 1-5; 51:1-13; I John 1:9 and
August 30, Steps Beyond Forgiveness, Genesis 44-45; 50.
In His Amazing Grace
Pastor David Miklas