The verse in Luke 7:47 baffles me. There, Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
Does it mean that only those with many sins and have been forgiven are able to love God deeply? And those whose lives are not so messed up will not be able to express and experience that deep love for God? I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant. To me, this verse seems like an invitation to those who are hungry to search out the hidden and deeper truths of God.
It reminds me of the ‘Super Lemon’ sweet, which is very sour on the outside but sweet on the inside. To get to the sweet part, you’ve to endure the initial sourness in your mouth. Those unable to endure tend to spit it out after a while and miss the chance of enjoying its sweet inner core.
It’s like what Proverbs 27:7 says, ‘A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.’ Sometimes, God hides ‘sweet things’ in bitter food to keep out those who aren’t hungry enough or are ‘full’ of themselves. How hungry are you for the things of God?
To unlock Luke 7:47, you need to understand the context of the story. Let’s draw some insights from it.
The story began in verse 36 where Jesus was invited to a meal at the house of a Pharisee named Simon. They were interrupted by a sinful woman who entered with a jar filled with expensive perfume and she knelt at the feet of Jesus in front of all the guests, weeping. She covered His feet with the tears that fell from her face and wiped His feet with her long hair. After that, she began kissing His feet and anointed them with the expensive perfume that would’ve cost her more than a year’s earnings.
This sinful woman probably heard about the miracle report that spread throughout all of Judea and the surrounding region – that Jesus had raised to life the dead son of a widow in the city of Nain, and how the people proclaimed, “A great prophet has risen up among us” and “God has visited His people” (Luke 7:16-17). That report gave her hope as she was probably a ‘walking dead’, having no hope, being ostracised by people, and trapped in her sinful and shameful past.
By faith, she went searching for Jesus and found Him in the house and expressed her gratitude to Him in advance with the beautiful act of worship, trusting that He too would ‘raise her from the dead’ and give her a new life to start afresh. When Simon saw her act and how Jesus didn’t chase her away, he thought to himself “if Jesus were truly a prophet, He’d not have allowed this sinful woman to come near Him.” Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and told him a parable about a moneylender who had two debtors, one of whom owed the moneylender a very large amount of money, and the other only a small amount.
When both debtors were unable to repay their debts, the moneylender wrote them off and forgave all that they owed. Jesus then asked Simon which of the two debtors would have greater love for the moneylender. Simon answered correctly that it was the one whom he forgave more.
I believe the two debtors in this parable were Simon and the sinful woman. Jesus highlighted that, when He entered Simon’s house, he had shown Him none of the customary courtesies extended to a guest such as providing water to wash the dirt off His feet, giving Him a kiss of greeting, or anointing His head with oil. The woman, on the other hand, did all that. Verse 47 reveals the condition of the heart – if you don’t see the need to be forgiven, you won’t be grateful for what the Lord has done for you. Even though the woman’s sins were many, her repentant, loving actions toward Jesus showed that she knew she needed forgiveness.
On the other hand, Simon (who may have viewed himself as more righteous than the woman) had not shown as much love to Jesus because he wasn’t aware that he himself had his own debt owed to God. Our posture should be like David’s in Ps 139:23-24: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.’
One last note – our worthiness is not based on how much or little sins we’ve been forgiven. You shouldn’t feel less worthy before the Lord just because the sins forgiven were less severe than those who had messed up lives, and vice versa. Jesus paid the full price for each of us, regardless of the magnitude of our sins. He didn’t ‘die more’ for the greater sinner and less for the lesser sinner.
To love God more, we need a fresh revelation each day of Who He is and what Jesus has done for us on the Cross at every single moment of our lives henceforth.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
How much have you been forgiven?
Ps. Kevin Koh