Luke 7:36-50

The Money Lender
"The Money Lender" by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube.


Matthew 26:7-13, Mark 14:3-9, and John 12:3-8 are not parallel accounts with our text. These three readings and Luke 7:36-50 have several items in common, but simply cannot be the same occasion as in Luke 7:36-50. Why Luke does not contain the accounts in Matthew, Mark and John is unknown to us. Luke 7:36-50 is found only in this Gospel. Some commentators feel that Luke here uses a true historical event as his example in verses 34-35. That may be so. Jesus is in Galilee and perhaps the city mentioned in verse 37 is Capernaum. But we do not know for sure.

Luke 7:36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. (36 Uno de los fariseos invitó a Jesús a comer, así que fue a la casa del fariseo y se sentó a la mesa.)

Perhaps, but we cannot be certain, the host invited Jesus as if Jesus were his equal. If this is so, then from the very first verse of the text we see that the host did not understand who Jesus was.

The people at this time reclined on couches when they ate.

Luke 7:37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, (37 Ahora bien, vivía en aquel pueblo una mujer que tenía fama de pecadora. Cuando ella se enteró de que Jesús estaba comiendo en casa del fariseo, se presentó con un frasco de alabastro lleno de perfume,)

WHEN - Could be translated  "of all things"  to attract our attention to something noteworthy, a remarkable and exceptional event.

The women lived in the same city as the host and the guests. She is called a social outcast because of something she had done. Jesus says in verse 47 that her sins were many. That might indicate habitual sin. But we do not know specifically what sin or sins. Most commentators suggest sexual sins. It is good that we do not know for sure because the text can be applied to any repentant social outcast, guilty of public sin. What is certain is that her sins were public knowledge.

That this was Mary Magdalene cannot be proved and ought to be rejected.

LEARNED - How she found out, we do not know, but it is clear from the context that she had already heard Jesus' words of absolution either from Jesus or from His words reported to her.

ALABASTER JAR - The jar was made of soft stone, found in Egypt, and was named after the town in Egypt where it was found. The jar was full of perfume.

Luke 7:38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (38 Llorando, se arrojó a los pies de Jesús, de manera que se los bañaba en lágrimas. Luego se los secó; con los cabellos; también se los besaba y se los ungía con el perfume.)

The fact that she stood behind Him is the first indication of her humility. Not at His head, but rather at His feet, another indication of humility. Note that Jesus' feet are mentioned three times in verse 38 and should be supplied twice in the third to the last clause and in the last clause, a total of five times.

The first thing she did after taking her stand was to weep, an indication of emotion. The Greek word probably means the emotion grew stronger. Now her tears are wetting His feet. One commentator remarked that tears are the most precious of waters.

The verbs could denote repeated and continued action.

To unbind one's hair before men in public was considered immodest. Out of love, this woman was oblivious to criticism.

KISS - The word means to kiss profusely, and is the very word used of Judas when he kissed Jesus. Look at Luke 15:20. The only recorded instances of people kissing Jesus are this account and that of Judas' betrayal. Only the profusion is common to both. All other differences are vast.

One commentator remarks that though Jesus loved children very much there is no record of Him kissing them.

Luke 7:39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself,  "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is -- that she is a sinner."  (39 Al ver esto, el fariseo que lo había invitado dijo para sí:  "Si este hombre fuera profeta, sabría quién es la que lo está tocando, y qué clase de mujer es: una pecadora." )

Simon witnessed everything this woman did. He said nothing but was thinking. The thought is a supposition contrary to fact, which denies that Jesus is even a prophet, much less the Son of Man, and therefore Simon also denies that Jesus has knowledge of this women.

Simon would not even allow, in his thinking, for Jesus to be touched by her because in his estimation that meant pollution from a social outcast. The love this woman showed left Simon absolutely cold, our first proof that he was impenitent.

Luke 7:40 Jesus answered him,  "Simon, I have something to tell you."   "Tell me, teacher,"  he said. (40 Entonces Jesús le dijo a manera de respuesta: --Simón, tengo algo que decirte. --Dime, Maestro --respondió.)

Jesus was responding to Simon's thoughts, clearly indicating Jesus' divinity. Both the woman and Jesus were quite the opposite of what Simon thought.

In this account Jesus speaks personally only to Simon and later to the woman.

TELL ME, TEACHER - Simon considers Jesus only an ordinary Rabbi. The second indication of his lack of faith. The Greek word for  "tell me" is a snappy  "say it,"  not very polite.

Luke 7:41  "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. (41 --Dos hombres le debían dinero a cierto prestamista. Uno le debía quinientas monedas de plata, y el otro cincuenta.)

Verses 41 and 42 are a parable. It is remarkable that there are no words of introduction, like  "And Jesus said." 

DENARII - A Roman coin that was an average worker's daily wage. That makes the 500 and 50 wages into a comparison between 1.5 years and two months respectively.

Luke 7:42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"  (42 Como no tenían con qué pagarle, les perdonó la deuda a los dos. Ahora bien, ¿cuál de los dos lo amará más?)

The point here is that neither had the ability to pay. This is important for the application.

CANCELED - Look at Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 2:13, free and total remission. The parable is deliberately exaggerated and exceptional.

LOVE HIM MORE - The Greek word here obviously denotes the love of appreciation.

Luke 7:43 Simon replied,  "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."   "You have judged correctly,"  Jesus said. (43 --Supongo que aquel a quien más le perdonó --contestó Simón. --Has juzgado bien --le dijo Jesús.)

I SUPPOSE - I should think. Simon answers cautiously.

Marshall: His response expresses caution, since there could be circumstances when it might be wrong. Most probably, however, Simon realizes that he has been caught in a trap; that answer reluctantly anticipates what follows, namely, the criticism of Simon's own lack of gratitude to Jesus.
Morris: Simon's answer is somewhat grudging.

Note that Jesus does not say:  "You have answered correctly" but  "You have judged correctly."  He could not have judged otherwise. Implied in this statement is the fact that he has totally misjudged the woman and her actions.

Luke 7:44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon,  "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (44 Luego se volvió hacia la mujer y le dijo a Simón: --¿Ves a esta mujer? Cuando entré en tu casa, no me diste agua para los pies, pero ella me ha bañado los pies en lágrimas y me los ha secado con sus cabellos.)

Jesus turns to the woman with full approval. It is truly amazing that He had not dismissed her on the grounds that this was not the time nor place for such a display of affection.

All commentators agree that a question is introduced. But there is disagreement on the purpose of the question. Lenski thinks that Simon had turned his face away and that Jesus was asking him to face the woman. That cannot be.

Morris: Simon could not see that woman as she then was, for looking at her as she had been.

Exactly! Simon was still thinking of her as an undeserving social outcast. Jesus looks at her quite otherwise.

It is a rhetorical question which Simon will have to answer for himself after Jesus' reply and application of the parable. The reply and application are devastating for Simon's attitude.

Notice the repetition of  "I" and "my"  in verses 44 to 46.

Lenski aptly remarks that giving water for the feet was only common politeness,.look at Genesis 18:4 and Judges 19:21. Offering a kiss of peace denoted treatment of a friend, look at Genesis 22:4 and Exodus 18:7. The application of oil denoted the treatment of a festive guest, look at Psalm 23:5, 141:5 and Matthew 6:17. In other words, Simon was not polite, not a friend nor a true host to Jesus. No love.

Luke 7:45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. (45 Tú no me besaste, pero ella, desde que entré, no ha dejado de besarme los pies.)

Jesus and the woman must have entered about the same time. She didn't wait.

Note the contrast between mere water and tears. Though  "towel"  is not mentioned, it is implicit in the text and contrasted to the woman's unbound hair, a mark of real courage under the circumstance. The woman was oblivious to her surroundings.

Luke 7:46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. (46 Tú no me ungiste la cabeza con aceite, pero ella me ungió los pies con perfume.)

The double contrast between ordinary olive oil and the very expensive perfume is tremendous. You did not, she did.

Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."  (47 Por esto te digo: si ella ha amado mucho, es que sus muchos pecados le han sido perdonados. Pero a quien poco se le perdona, poco ama.)

This verse, along with Galatians 5:6, are used by the Roman Catholic Church to prove their doctrine of  "faith formed by love."  In Latin fides formata. By this they mean that the love of man causes his faith in God.

The  Apology to the Augsburg Confession  explains.

But the Holy Ghost is received by faith, according to the declaration of Paul, Gal. 3:14: That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Then, too, how can the human heart love God while it knows that He is terribly angry, and is oppressing us with temporal and perpetual calamities? But the Law always accuses us always, shows that God is angry. God therefore is not loved until we apprehend mercy by faith. Not until then does He become a lovable object. (Article IV, Justification, Tappert 127)
If any one thinks that he obtains the remission of sins because he loves, he dishonors Christ and will discover in God’s judgment that this confidence in his own righteousness is wicked and vain. Therefore it is necessary that faith alone reconciles and justifies. And as we do not receive remission of sins through other virtues of the Law, or on account of these, namely, on account of patience, chastity, obedience towards magistrates, etc., and nevertheless these virtues ought to follow, so, too, we do not receive remission of sins because of love to God, although it is necessary that this should follow. Besides, the custom of speech is well known that by the same word we sometimes comprehend by synecdoche the cause and effects. Thus in Luke 7:47 Christ says: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much . For Christ interprets Himself when He adds: Thy faith hath saved thee. Christ, therefore, did not mean that the woman, by that work of love, had merited the remission of sins. For that is the reason He says: Thy faith hath saved thee. But faith is that which freely apprehends God’s mercy on account of God’s Word, which relies upon God’s mercy and Word, and not upon one’s own work. If any one denies that this is faith, if any one imagines that he can rely at the same time upon God and his own works, he does not understand at all what faith is. (Article IV, Justification, Tappert 152)

FOR THIS REASON I SAY TO YOU - For what reason? Simon was totally oblivious to the woman's love which was caused by her absolution, which Jesus now states publicly as already having taken place. I SAY TO YOU - Denotes the divine authority attributed to Jesus' human nature. Simon saw only a teacher. But he was dealing with the God-man.

The love the woman shows is evidence of her forgiveness, not the cause of it. Think of this illustration:  "It is raining because the windows are wet."  Who would misunderstand that sentence? The word  "because"  is evidental, not causal.

Arndt: a) The parable of the two debtors shows that love is here considered not as the cause, but as a result of forgiveness; b) the second part of verse 47 is another indication that forgiveness is thought of as coming first, and then love; c) Jesus says in verse 50 -- Your faith has saved you -- not -- Your love has saved you; d) the whole New Testament views love as the fruit of our receiving forgiveness, not as the cause of it.

Verse 47b does not mean that there is such a thing as partial forgiveness. By saying  "To whom little is forgiven, he loves little,"  Jesus is deftly applying the second use of the Law to Simon to make him think.

Jesus is practically saying:  "Your lack of love, indicated by lack of even common courtesy, is proof of the fact that you are not conscious of your sinfulness and that you yet do not enjoy forgiveness."  He does not embarrass his host but does leave him with a thought whose intention and purpose were repentance.

Luke 7:48 Then Jesus said to her,  "Your sins are forgiven."  (48 Entonces le dijo Jesús a ella: --Tus pecados quedan perdonados.)

Neither Jesus nor the woman are inhibited by the surroundings. Why does He repeat what had been said in verse 47? For two reasons: a) Public sinners who repent are publicly absolved. She had already been absolved because it is obvious she had saving faith before entering the house. Jesus is saying that tonques should no longer wag at her. b) For Simon's sake. This application of the Office of the Keys to the woman is for Simon's benefit if and when he realizes his own sins and sinfulness, his work-righteousness.

Luke 7:49 The other guests began to say among themselves,  "Who is this who even forgives sins?"  (49 Los otros invitados comenzaron a decir entre sí:  "¿Quién es éste, que hasta perdona pecados?" )

Perhaps the other guests begin to feel the emotion of the moment. They begin to ask themselves. They began, by their question, to realize that this man was more than a mere teacher, a mere Rabbi. They realize that this man has divine powers.  "Who is this who can even send away sins?" 

Luke 7:50 Jesus said to the woman,  "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."  (50 --Tu fe te ha salvado --le dijo Jesús a la mujer--; vete en paz.)

Another assurance to the woman personally that not only was she no longer a social outcast, but also safe in the arms of her Lord. She had this faith BEFORE she came into the house.

GO IN PEACE - Be on your way in peace

PEACE - Not only the objective fact that all was well with God but also the feeling and emotion which results from this fact.

At times we do not  "feel" this peace, but the objective fact is always true. I trust Him, whether felt or not.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Luke-John, Festival Season Sunday, Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 9-12. Used with permission.

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