Will the real sinner please stand up?

…When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”  (Luke 7:42)

It is true that some of the greatest Christians were once the greatest sinners. As we read the seventh chapter of Luke (verses 36-50), we cannot help but think of The Confessions of Saint Augustine.  It is not necessary to sin much to love God – we should be careful not to give that impression.  There is really nothing good about sin… It it true, however, that the truly repentant contrite sinner can love much because he (or she) has been forgiven much.  This was a driving force in the lives of King David, the Apostle Paul and Saint Augustine.

At issue here are the condescending thoughts of this Pharisee toward the woman (who is washing Jesus’ feet.)  As he compares himself, the Pharisee is self-righteous.  Like his colleague in Luke 18, he is looking upon this woman with an attitude, “I thank God I am not as other people are – sinners!”  The question of Jesus focuses this for him and for us.  The Pharisee was the man who had been forgiven the smaller debt, which means he saw his sin as a very small thing. This teaching also focuses that the way we perceive ourselves has a profound effect upon how we perceive others.  Positively and negatively our self-image is a strong force in our horizontal, interpersonal relationships.

The subtle message of Jesus to this Pharisee is that the real sinner at that luncheon was not the woman whose sin was obvious and known to everybody.  His message to her was the good news, that, because of her faith, her sins were forgiven.  When the real sinner stood up at that luncheon, however, he was a sinner named, “Simon, the Pharisee.”

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.137)

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us sinners.”

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