He Who Is Forgiven Much, Loves Much

by Daniel Conolly
16th June 2013

One thing that I’m constantly amazed at with Jesus’ teaching style is his ability to take the characters in a situation, externalise the key elements (mainly how we think & perceive one another) change the perspective and get the participants to re-evaluate themselves unknowingly through this parallel story. Then brings it home as the revelation sets in. [Modern term: Brain Ninja’ing]…

In this Gospel story we have 3 main characters: Simon the Pharisee, The sinful woman, and in the middle we have Jesus, & Just to recap…. (Story Summery)

And at the close of the story Jesus say’s this richly philosophical statement pointing us towards the heart of the story “He who is forgiven much, loves much”.

And that’s what I feel the spirit want us to look at this morning!

Forgiveness is such a big subject. It’s a term so frequently used in Christianity, & yet do we truly understand it? And do we know what it requires of us? does it have an expression? Or maybe we do intellectually understand forgiveness, but do we really know how to emotionally “Do” forgiveness?

In my own life journey, & in working in ministry I’ve come to know that forgiveness is something that can richly empower us & our relationships, or the lack of forgiveness greatly hinder us and hold us back in life, even destroy us. I’m sure this is why it’s such a big theme in God’s word. And something we need to look at together.

We biblically come to the understanding of Forgiveness as being a part of a progression where Repentance is required. So in one sense we turned from a life without Jesus, to having a life with Jesus. In another sense we live a life of Repentance – Constantly turning to Christ, becoming more Christ like every day.

And this is a richly encouraging to our own Faith walk to see those around us turning to Christ day in our everyday lives.

The word repent comes from the word (metanoia in Greek) & this is an interesting word that we’ve studied in our Young adults group over last few weeks & I think it has a fascinating impact on this story & how we look at it… The most literal translation being “To have a total Mental breakdown, followed by a Positive rebuild (loses something in translation). Maybe we would put it in our modern language as having “A Change of Thinking or a Change of mind”.

You can see it doesn’t have the same strength about it… e.g.

To totally have all the thinking that lead you in this direction, & make these choices gone/abolished and to have a total positive rebuild of thinking that leads you in this direction and leads you to more positive choices.

And isn’t this what we start seeing in the woman?… Or do we miss this and just see her as the sinner….

I’d like to submit the thought this morning that this story is really “the story of two broken people”. One who is very aware of their brokenness, and another who is totally unaware? I’d also like to submit the thought also that when the story tells of the women breaking the Alabaster jar and anointing Jesus, that it is a strong metaphor of her breaking at the foot of Jesus.

So let’s look at these two characters, and what can we learn from them?

Here we find our first character (the woman), who is very aware of how broken she is.

We get told that she’s a sinner not only by the title but by Simon who points this out.

There’s a sense of a back story that has happened with her to bring her before Jesus…

She hares that Jesus will be at this Pharisees house, so seeks him out prepared to meet him with this alabaster jar. (The situation would have been uncomfortable.)

And falls to his feet in this beautiful display of extravagant worship, this love act towards him, crying so much that she can literally wash his feet with her tears, and wipe them with her hair.

Maybe the text does say her name or specify her sin so we could more easily put ourselves in her place? (just a thought)

The second character in this story is Simon the Pharisee, & it’s empowering of this persona to point out here that the Pharisees get a bad wrap! (rightly so), But we too often over look the fact that they actually started off with honest, God seeking intensions. And by all means were set on God word and heart. The word Pharisee in Hebrew literally means “Separate or Set apart” from sin. That was their intension, there motto or Dogma. But like most, they fell short, and at the time of Jesus, had become quite consumed with their own self righteousness’, and status even believing they were literally set apart from the rest. To the extent that they couldn’t even see Jesus for who he was when he came on the scene!

*Simon holds a dinner party. It would have been an honour to host the visiting rabbi.

*He doesn’t offer all the marks of a fully honouring host, and great value is placed on hospitality in their cultural setting. So this is a bit of a social “foe par”, or is it a message pointed at the guest? It defiantly gives us an insight into Simons Value of Jesus.

*Simon call’s Jesus Teacher at one point, but in other time starts to second guess if he is who people really say he is?

* In some commentaries they point out that the text makes note of how Jesus is situated, giving to the idea he might not have even been given the same seating arrangement as the others. Same place of honour!

So here are our two characters, and so we pose the question: Who showed greater love and Honour toward Jesus, (The Woman).

And why is she able to show such great love?

Because she had been forgiven, her response was to love the lord.

Jesus gives us an interesting insight as to how forgiveness and love are linked in this parable. Landing on this phrase: He who is forgiven much, loves much.

But again I ask why is she able to show so much love?

Because she had made herself vulnerable & exposed her brokenness (her sin and failings) to the Lord, and in front of all these people, she allowed herself to receive all of Jesus’ forgiveness of such a breadth of things, that her love matched how much she was forgiven. It’s about exposing all of ourselves to God.

Again we see the alabaster jar as a metaphor – that the jar has to be first broken in order to let the precious oil out. So too do we need to admit our brokenness in order to see Jesus work through us.

The other side to this story of brokenness is Simon…Who sadly I feel like maybe I connect more with at times.

He’s the church man, trying to do the right thing! Reads and has studied the word. He sadly shows us some insights into the way he sees & values things. For e.g. when he saw the woman doing this he starts to question who Jesus was, (and didn’t he know she was a sinner?)

You see, Simon saw the sinner, Jesus saw the person. And when we lose sight of people we’ve done a sad thing.

(Story of the Queen Victoria)

I heard a great story just recently about Queen Victoria, and how when Albert died the crown felt moved to get the people involved with a fundraiser to build a memorial for Albert which we would all know today as Prince Albert hall.

One of the events was a big Royal Dinner; now a man from up north came who just happened to become a major contributor. He made his fortune through the steel business, starting from humble beginnings – but maintained his tradesmen roots. Now this man showed up at the event in his best brown boots and brown suite, only in his utter embarrassment to realise everyone was in there finest Black & Whites, tails and bowties.

He got through that and finely sat down at the table for dinner, and you can imagine the spread at a royal dinner. And there was a finger bowl that you would wash your fingers in-between courses. Well he picked it up to drink from it thinking it was a fancy glass of water, as a titter of laughter erupted at his expense.

Just think this poor guy, how much more does he have to endure. And just as everyone is laughing under their breath a royal A-hem was overheard, and the Queen picks up her fingerbowl and drinks it, and because the queen does it its protocol for everyone to do it.

The interesting point of this story (I think) is that the Queen get’s it!  The Queen saw the person, and in his vulnerability he brought all he had to the table, though people around him couldn’t see past, or understand the sight of him.

#Do we miss out on the richness of each other because we lose sight of the person?

#Do we stop people even shame them out of coming before God?

#Do we show signs of great love in our lives?

#And how does our Love change the way we look at one another?

When we are vulnerable in front of Christ, and each other, we allow him to forgive us. Now we’ve got to be honest with him, we’ve got to be open with him; we feel bad and so maybe hold back things but “in a way” were limiting his ability to help us.

But I want to encourage you to be like the Alabaster Jar, because it’s only once it’s broken, can the sweet aroma & richness of the perfume come out, and permeate where we are.

By Daniel Conolly

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