Parables of Jesus – Cancelled Debt
Before we begin, mentally list all the debt that you owe. All of it. Every dollar that you borrowed for a soda. Is your breath leaving you as you see the number go up and up? What if you went to each one of these people you are indebted to and explained that you could never pay it all off? Would they laugh in your face? Would you even have the courage to do it? What would you do if they said yes? You say, it could never happen? Let me tell you otherwise.
“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 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?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” (NIV)
This does sound heavenly in today’s economy. To have all our debt cancelled. That would be a miracle. But Jesus was talking about something much bigger than just a few dollars.
Like all scripture, pulling these few verses out and examining them can cause one to pull meanings out of it that are confusing. So let us look at what happened just a few sentences before.
36-40: 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. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in the town had learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 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.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is -- that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. (NIV)
Reading this, someone in the 21st century might be a little confused and just focused on the feet part. Let’s look at this a little different in a way that you can relate to.
What does that Mean to Me to Today?
Jesus is invited out to dinner by the very group of people who have been slandering him and trying to get him arrested. It will be at a local restaurant owned by one of the group. But Jesus agrees to go. Word is spreading around town like wildfire that he actually accepted the invitation. One particular woman who has been working the corner all night hears this and marvels what kind of man would do this. Even she knew the possible danger for him. Yet, she cannot get it out of her mind. She finds herself leaving the corner and making her way toward the packed restaurant. She manages to get inside as people pull away from her. As she comes closer she reaches a hand into her purse and feels the bottle of perfume. Not just any perfume. It was the most expensive on the market and she had saved 2 months worth of working money to pay for it. She had always dreamed of wearing it. She had not even dared put it on for fear of running out of the precious oil. As she comes closer to him, she notices that since this restaurant is of an Asian style all the guests are reclining on cushions and have their feet off. His feet look so tired. Her heart begins to cry and before she knows it she is kneeling with his feet in her lap. She pours the precious oil on his tired feet and tears that fall from her eyes from all the hurt in her soul mingle with the oil. She then lovingly and submissively take down her floor length hair that everyone has always praised her and uses it as a towel to dry his feet. The owner is shocked and is convinced that this man cannot be the prophet or chosen one. If he was he would have known who was touching him and sent her away. Ah, but Jesus does know and knows exactly what went through this man’s mind. But instead of embarrassing him at that moment, he turns to his trusted assistant and decides to explain it to him so that not only does Peter learn a valuable lesson all the guests learn it, too.
This “nobody” saw a need that was not expressed and gave up the oil that was precious to her and allowed her hair that was prized by all to be used as a simple towel. It would get anybody’s attention. It says a lot about Jesus that he would just sit there and allow her to minister to him.
It is at this point that he tells the parable of the forgiven debt. Before we go on, who do think is the one with the highest debt that he is referring to? If you need to, scroll back up and re-read those verses and read them carefully. To help get a better perspective, a denarii was worth about a day’s wages. So let us say that you make $100 a day. One debt was $5,000 and the other was $50,000. Which one would be most thankful for?
That lady of the night was the $50,000. She had so much on her heart and soul that it was weighing her down to the gutters.
Jesus then proceeds to explain the parable to all through Simon:
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. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (7:44-48 NIV)
You have to understand the culture of the day to get the full impact here. The Pharisee is the host. The host has a big responsibility to ensure that ALL needs of the guests are met. It is scandalous not to. One of the customary host duties was to provide water for the guest’s feet. Why? In those days, their shoes where sandals and the roads were dusty. You can imagine how dirty their feet got. So before reclining to eat where everyone sees your feet, you would wash them. Much like us washing out hands before eating. The host ignored the basic rule of hosting while a prostitute used her tears and her hair to meet this basic need.
In this culture, greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek was customary as a sign of acceptance and peace. The host neglected this, too. He obviously did not accept Jesus. It would be like refusing to offer a handshake today. The woman of the night did more than kiss him, she kissed his feet. She accepted Him totally. Oil was also a symbol of honor that the host neglected though he could obviously afford it. The one who could not afford it, gave every ounce she owned.
Who was the poorer? Who humbled herself and received more than she ever imagined? Who thought too highly of himself and got little?
Who are you today?