Luke 7–8: Forgiveness & First Love

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 22: Saturday

And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:50

Saturday’s Bible reading of Luke 7–8, contains one of my favorite stories. In Luke 7:36–50, Jesus is eating at the home of Simon the Pharisee. Their meal is interrupted:

“And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”
Luke 7:37–39

Kent Hughes believes the woman was a prostitute because of “Simon’s revulsion at her actually touching Jesus.” He adds that this is the opinion of most commentators.1

Jesus tells Simon a parable of two debtors. If you haven’t read it, go to Luke 7:36–50, and read the passage before reading further here. Jesus has some pointed remarks for Simon, and He tells him:

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Luke 7:47

Hughes explains:

“The thought is not that her great love for Christ earned her forgiveness.  Such a sense is impossible and goes against the entire context. The Jerusalem Bible brings out the meaning of Jesus’ words:  “For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven, or she would not have shown such great love.” Her passionate display of love was a result of Jesus’ forgiveness.”2

This incident in Luke brings to my mind Jesus’ admonition to the church at Ephesus:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

“The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:   ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.  But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

“‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.   ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’”
Revelation 2:1-7

I think Luke 7 answers the question, What does first love look like? Compare the heart of Simon the Pharisee with the heart of the immoral woman in their encounter with Jesus. Look at the differences in their approach, their attitudes and their actions.

Simon the Pharisee approaches Jesus with skepticism (v. 39) and with insult (vv. 44–45).

The woman approaches Jesus with humility (v. 38) and with honor for Him (vv. 37–38).

Simon’s attitude towards the woman is moralistic piety (v. 39), scorn (v. 39) and judgment (v. 39).

The woman’s attitude is repentance (vv. 37–38), gratitude (vv. 37–38) and adoration (vv. 37–38).

Simon’s actions reveal he had no understanding of himself or of who Jesus was (vv. 39, 44–45).

The woman’s actions reveal she knew who she was, and she knew who Jesus was (vv. 37–38).

Hughes has this to say about those who are viewed today as the immoral woman was then:

“Some people whom we would not touch with a ten foot pole, if they met Christ, would put us to shame with their fervent love. Such people love much because they have been forgiven much—and they cannot get over it.

However, this does not mean that unless one falls into the depths of sin he or she cannot love God deeply. What is necessary is a consciousness of sin. The depth and passion of our personal Christianity depends on how clearly we see our personal guilt—and then our forgiveness in Christ.”3

He asks:

“Do I, do you, really love him?  This is the unfailing test of our faith.  Is our love for him growing?  This is a sure indicator of our spiritual health.”4

‘First Love’ is a theme in my writing. You’ll find more of my thoughts on it in my About page, and in “The Mark of a Christian”. I write about it because it’s so important. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, He answered:

“‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:29b-31 (ESV)

First and foremost, the bottom line of our life is knowing and loving God.  Over the years I’ve realized that in the churches and individuals in which that ‘first love’ for God is present, fueled by immense gratitude for God’s grace and forgiveness, I have seen and known the greatest love for others; there has been hunger for His Word and an earnest desire to live in obedience and righteousness; there has been a reality of the Christian life that matched the words of the Scripture. With ‘first love’ for Christ, the rest follows and falls into place.

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Luke 7:47

Love much!

UPDATE: Because the object of first love is not given in this passage, in his book, Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church Revelation 2:4, Alexander Strauch interprets it as encompassing all Christian love, for God and for our neighbor.5

We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
1 John 4:19–21

See my later post, “Love or Die,” for more on Strauch’s book.

_________
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Anointing of Jesus, William Cole: Public Domain.
1, 2, 3, 4R. Kent Hughes, Luke, vol. 1, pp. 276, 283, 283, 281.
5Alexander Strauch, Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church Revelation 2:4 (Lewis & Roth, Littleton CO): 20–23.
ESV: English Standard Version.

Original content: Copyright ©2011–2012 Iwana Carpenter

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