Teaching about Forgiveness

KEY VERSE: “I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” —Luke 7:47


A PHARISEE, having heard the discourse of Jesus recorded in the previous verses, invited him to a meal. The purpose of the invitation was to inquire further of Jesus as to his teachings. While Jesus was at the table, a woman of the community and known to be a sinner, came into the room. She had evidently heard the Master’s teachings and, as a result, she was repentant of her past sins and desired to show her remorse and ask forgiveness. She fell at the feet of Jesus and wept, wiping the tears from his feet with her hair. Then she anointed the feet of Jesus with an ointment.

The Pharisee observed all of this with some disgust, because he reasoned, if Jesus were a real prophet he would have recognized the woman for what she was, a sinner, and would have had nothing to do with her. But Jesus read the Pharisee’s thoughts and said, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. … There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered, and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.” This of course was the answer Jesus expected, and he proceeded to develop his lesson to show that real repentance of heart is acceptable to God, regardless of past sins. There seems to be an additional thought also that real repentance will manifest itself in humility and a resolve to do better.

The Pharisee, like most of his sect, was self-righteous and apparently did not feel the need to ask forgiveness from anyone. When Jesus came into his home, Simon did not minister to him the things of common courtesy of the day. He apparently felt that since Jesus did not hold to the doctrine of the Pharisees he did not deserve these common amenities. But the woman who was the sinner washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and wiped them with her hair. The Pharisee gave him no kiss, but the woman kissed the feet of Jesus; the Pharisee did not anoint Jesus, but the woman anointed his feet. And through all of these acts of kindness the woman showed humility and contrition of heart.

Jesus called the attention of the Pharisee to his disdainful conduct and said, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” (vss. 47,48) Those at the table who heard the conversation, began to question among themselves, “Who is this that forgiveth sins also.” They reckoned that it was only God who could forgive sins. But they failed to recognize that Jesus was God’s emissary and that the power that had been given to him by the Heavenly Father was for the very purpose of identifying him as the long-promised Messiah.

In Matthew 9:2-6 is recorded an incident that resulted from Jesus’ healing a man sick with palsy. In this instance Jesus related the healing of the man with the forgiveness of sins. And in answer to the charge of blasphemy, Jesus said, “For whether it is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee: or to say, Arise and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house.” The power to heal was an evidence of God’s power and authority and how it was exercised should have been of little concern to the Pharisees.

A subsequent experience of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 9:10-13, is germane to our lesson: “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard’ that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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