A moneylender had two debtors: one who 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?
When a prostitute poured all her expensive perfume on Jesus’s feet in an act of devotion, Simon the Pharisee got his toga twisted in a wad. Luke 7:39 says, “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.’” Simon was saying, “If this man were a prophet–and I do not think He is–He would know what kind of person was touching him.” Simon the Pharisee did not believe Jesus was a prophet, much less the Son of God.
So Jesus told him a parable in verses 41-42: “A moneylender had two debtors: one who 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 did not like where this was going, but he said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more” (v. 43). Jesus said, in essence, “Bingo! The one who is forgiven more is going to love more.”
What does this have to do with the prostitute’s actions? In the next few verses, Jesus contrasted the indifference with which Simon treated Him to the devotion with which the prostitute treated Him. New Testament scholar William Barclay explained that in the first century, if you went into somebody’s home, the host would do three things to show you hospitality: He would remove your sandals and pour water over your feet to wash away the dust. He would place his right hand on your shoulder and give you a kiss on the cheek, a sign of peace. And he would burn some sweet-smelling incense or place a drop of oil on your forehead.
Knowing that, look at what Jesus said to Simon in verses 44-46: “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.” And here is the climax of the story in verse 47: “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.” That is the point of the story: those who are forgiven much love much; those who are forgiven little love little.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The One about the Pharisee and the Prostitute” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2004.
William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, rev. ed., The Daily Study Bible (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1975), 94.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org