“’A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.’ And he said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.'” (Luke 7:41-43)
In first century Judaism, the Pharisees were respected men who kept the Law of God down to the letter. Unfortunately, their meticulous legalism was totally devoid of love and compassion. They followed the law with great pride, for, to keep the law, they needed a great deal of self-control and self discipline. Perhaps they felt some resentment towards those who did not keep the law as they did. So they did not want to give anyone a break, and certainly did not want to extend forgiveness or mercy to anyone who did not follow the rules.
In this week’s Gospel reading we meet one of those Pharisees, Simon. Perhaps he felt some admiration for Jesus as a great teacher, or maybe he just wanted to show off his own influence and reputation so he invited Him to dinner. This banquet was interrupted by an uninvited guest, an unnamed woman, a sinner, by implication, a prostitute. In the middle of dinner, she walked over to Jesus and knelt at His feet, a serious breach of etiquette which perturbed Simon. Her presence alone would defile his house. Imagine then how upset he got when she washed Jesus’ feet, for, on the face of it, her actions had sexual overtones. Simon was outraged. How could Jesus allow this woman to do this?
Jesus knew what Simon and the rest were thinking so He told him the parable of the two debtors, a simple story. If a lender forgave two debts, one ten times as great as the other, then the one forgiven the massive debt would obviously love the lender more.
In this we note that God is the lender and the forgiver. The person with the larger debt was the woman. Simon is the person with the smaller debt. The woman’s sins were gross and more blatant, more socially reprehensible. But Simon’s were not so obvious. After all he was a righteous man of God. Yet neither one of them had the ability to repay their debt. What that means is that we are all sinners. None of us has the ability to make ourselves right with God no matter how righteous and good we think we are. We may like to criticize and judge those whose sins are more obvious, but the reality is, we are all alike, all in need of a Savior.