Luke 7:36-50, Galatians 2:15-21
Dear MLEPC Members and Friends:
Here's a Bible riddle for you!
I was appointed but wasn't expected; I swallowed whole what I did not eat.
I was a place of prayer out of sight, and when I was sick, God approved!
I am in the Bible - what am I? (Hint: bottom of letter)
Our scripture from Luke this week introduces us to two characters who are polar opposites. We meet a sinful woman "of the city" who, in her brokenness, responds to Jesus with a bold and lavish display of love. And we meet Simon, a Pharisee, who condemns the woman and, as the host of a dinner party to which Jesus is invited, fails to offer him even the most basic hospitality. Through these characters and Jesus' words, we see the basic gospel message played out - sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus. In Galatians 2:16, Paul writes ". . . we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."
Our response to and love for Jesus is directly connected to how we understand ourselves and our brokenness. Like the sinful woman, when we come to Jesus boldly and broken, we receive forgiveness of sin, love and peace. If we are like Simon, we show that we don't understand ourselves or God's grace. The gospel message is played out through a complex story undergirded by first century tradition of expected behavior and hospitality.
At banquets and feasts, it was common for someone to pose a riddle in a contest of wit and wisdom. Jesus offers the parable of two debtors, one owing fifty denarii and one five hundred denarii. Both are forgiven, and Jesus asks Simon who would love the debt collector more. Simon answers correctly, the obvious, it is the debtor who owed more. This becomes a teaching moment where Jesus drives home the point, one who is forgiven much loves much, one who is forgiven little loves little.
We are challenged to place ourselves into this story. We can be like the woman who recognizes her sinfulness and need for forgiveness and boldly comes to Jesus. We can be like Simon the Pharisee who doesn't understand his sinfulness or need for God's grace. We can be like Jesus and show compassion when faced with someone who is in need of forgiveness. Or there are those other guests at the dinner party who see the interaction and ask, "who is this, who even forgives sins?" Who are you?
Love, in Christ,
(Hint: Jonah 1 and 2)