The Scandal of Jesus
Text: Luke 7:36—8:3 | Listen to Message
A Pharisee And A Prostitute
God calls us to holy living. And it’s good to live holy lives. But holiness dissolves into graceless legalism when it’s pursued apart from Christ. See, the more self-righteous a person becomes, the more he thinks grace is unnecessary for himself and unavailable to others. Both of these erroneous presumptions are illustrated by Simon the Pharisee in Luke chapter 7.
Simon invited Jesus to dinner in his home, which is a good start … but his demeanor remained cool and detached throughout. He was a good, religious guy, so he didn’t think he needed Jesus’ trademark forgiveness. He just wanted to interview Jesus.
Mid-meal, a notoriously sinful woman of the town entered the room and approached Jesus. Losing control of her emotions, tears began falling from her eyes onto Jesus’ feet. She knelt to wipe away the tears with her hair. And with the horrified dinner guests looking on, she began kissing his feet and anointing them with a costly perfume. Simon thought to himself, “There’s no way this Jesus is a prophet or else he’d know what kind of woman this is, and he’d put a stop to this.”
Incredibly, Jesus answered Simon’s internal dialogue by sharing a short parable about two people who owed a lender a lot of money – one 10x more than the other. When neither borrower could pay, the lender cancelled the debt of both. “Now which of them,” Jesus asked, “Will love him more?” Simon rightly supposed it was the one who had the greater debt.
The lesson was clear: there is a direct correlation between forgiveness and love. If you think you’ve been forgiven little, you will love little; but if you – like this disreputable woman – know you’ve been forgiven much, you will love much.
This is the scandal of Jesus: While the self-righteous and proud reject him, some of the most desperate sinners are attracted to and captivated by his amazing grace.
In light of this scandalous grace of Christ, we’d do well to heed the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “You’re a sinner, a great desperate sinner. Now come, as the sinner that you are, to the God who loves you.”