Canceled Debt

Sermon Notes/Deeper Study

Contained below are the notes and some of the research found for my recent sermon on Luke 7:36-50. This Scripture contains Jesus’s interaction with a Pharisee named Simon that invited him to his home for a meal. While there a woman of ill repute comes in and washes Jesus’s feet with her own tears and then dries them with her hair and anoints them with perfume. This was her display of faith and love for Him. Simon protests that Jesus shouldn’t have let “such a woman” to touch Him. To this Jesus responds with a parable about two men that owed a debt each to a certain moneylender they could not repay. Still, this moneylender forgives their debt.

Luke 7:36-50

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he canceled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”


This section of Scripture follows Jesus’s speaking of how the commoners and tax collectors accepted John’s words and baptism, but the Pharisees did not.

Today’s story illustrates just that fact.


We begin today’s study looking at an invitation for Jesus to come and dine with a Pharisee.

It was the custom when inviting a guest, especially a special guest, you would have made ready a wash basin for the guest’s feet before entering the home. The person would likely be greeted with a kiss as many still do today, and due to the dry dusty, windy air, oil would be offered for one to fix their hair.

Though invited, the Pharisee did none of this for Jesus.

We have a woman that shows up to the meal…uninvited.

There were others there that were not invited guests but had only come to likely listen in on the conversation. It was customary to leave the front door open for others to come in and take seats by the wall.

What is it that makes this woman special?

The Sinner

Luke calls her a “woman of the city, who was a sinner.” Most believe her to have likely been a prostitute, or at the least a woman of no good reputation.

But what Luke tells us about her is her actions towards Jesus when she hears that He is there at Simon’s.

She stands behind Jesus’s feet weeping, and she begins to cleanse his feet with her tears and her hair.

Ancient Seating and Eating

For most of us here in the west we picture eating being done at a table with everyone sitting upright and knees/feet pointing inward under the table.

Think about the picture of the Last Supper. That is a completely western view of the event.

But this is not how the ancient Jew or Greek would have done so at this time.

As we note the text says Jesus was reclining and His feet were behind Him.

Here we can see how they would have been seated and how she would have accessed His feet.

Her Humility

After weeping and cleansing His feet, she lets down her hair to dry them.

It was considered a disgrace for a woman to let her hair down in public.

She then proceeds to kiss His feet.

Kissing the feet is said to have been a sign of utter humiliation and servitude before the feet of a rabbi.

While kissing His feet, she anoints them with the perfume she brought in with her. (In later stories of Jesus being anointed, it is said the cost of the perfume was possibly 300 denarii).

It was customary to anoint the head of the guest. But she, being so humble, could only anoint His feet.

Nothing mattered to her in that moment but Christ.

All the Pharisee could see and think was how sinful a woman she was and his unbelief that Jesus, a supposed prophet, would let her touch Him.

The Debtors

Instead of seeing the good and humbleness of the woman, Simon, the religious Pharisee, only sees her past misdeeds. And he questions how Jesus could let such a woman touch Him.

Simon’s heart was hard towards this sinner…and probably all sinners.

How often we might find ourselves hardheartedly judging someone whom we know there history.

How often we might play the same comparison game Simon has in his own head that we see Jesus draw out using the parable of the debtors.

Jesus knew Simon’s question, and He goes right to the cause of the question…Simon’s thinking he is better than she is.

The debts mentioned are 50 and 500 denarii. Basically two month’s wages versus two years of wages.

No matter the debt, both debtors were in the same situation, they couldn’t pay. 

By the grace of the moneylender though, they are both forgiven.

How would you respond? If you only owed 2 month’s worth of your salary or two years worth? How much would your debt affect your gratitude towards having it wiped off the books?

Debt Forgiven

Simon was comparing himself to her and thinking he was better than her because he wasn’t as bad as her. Jesus asks him the question, which person in the parable loved the moneylender more?

Through pursed lips you might imagine, Simon recognizes it is the one with more debt.

Just like the two debtors in the parable, you cannot repay God for the debt you owe Him. You must be forgiven.

The point wasn’t about which one loved Jesus more as much as it was about how you may compare yourself to another thinking, “at least I’m not as bad as that guy.” Neither could pay their debt. Both are sinners in need of forgiveness.

Faith in Love

Jesus then points to the sinner woman, and says to Simon, “look at her…”

“You judged her a sinner, and that is true, but she has recognized her sin and the debt she owed. Here’s how I know…”

Through her actions, she proved her faith in Jesus.

Through her actions, she showed her love for Jesus.

James is famous for pointing out that faith without actions is dead. Well here you have the opposite that is also true.

As Paul says in Gal 5.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 ESV

Jesus doesn’t question that she is a sinner. However, He recognizes her sins are forgiven because of how she displays her love to Him. To which He then says to Simon…

“Her sins are many, but they are forgiven, and she has shown this through her love for me.”

And He flips the tables on Simon telling Him, in my words here:

“You don’t love me as she loves me because you don’t think you need forgiveness. You believe you’ve sinned only a little.”

Jesus Forgives

Jesus then tells her those words that we should all desire to hear: “Your sins are forgiven.”

And this blows the mind of all the others that were in that room watching this interaction play out between Jesus, Simon, and the woman.

It was just one of many things, many sayings that Jesus did that showed who He was. For He was God in the flesh, and His claim to forgive sins proved this, and angered the Jews. They knew that only God could forgive sin, and as Luke reports of their questioning of Jesus’s forgiving sin elsewhere in his gospel, it was blasphemy for a man to claim to forgive sin, or do anything else only God could do.

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Luke 5:21 ESV

Nonetheless, the woman recognized her need for forgiveness and sought out Jesus, but the Pharisee did not believe himself to be such a sinner in need as she.

Saved by Faith

Notice, Jesus tells her in verse 50, it is her faith that has saved her.

It wasn’t her cleansing of His feet. It wasn’t even her love for Him…though I dare say you can’t love Christ and not be forgiven. But it is her faith that saved her.

By faith alone are we saved, and our reaction, or fruit, of being saved is the same love and devotion as she has displayed here. Jesus shall be our everything, our master, our husband, and Lord. And if He is then we are indebted to show Him our love and devotion.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 ESV

Salvation is Free

Like the men in the parable, Simon, and this woman, you owe a debt to God. We all do. But it is a debt you and I cannot pay. In truth, some of us may owe more or a little less than others, but it isn’t the amount that matters.

The truth is, we are all in debt.

But God’s forgiveness is offered. He gave Jesus Christ to cancel that debt. The debt wasn’t forgiven, it was paid for by His only Son on the Cross.

Our payment was written in red on the check that is Christ’s body on the Cross. And we know the check was cashed when God raised Him from the grave three days later.

But you have to accept the gift, by faith. But you can reject it and it will be of no good to you.

Listen to this parable…because God’s forgiveness is free, but it isn’t automatic.

we can reject His grace if we will. In 1830, a man named George Wilson was arrested for mail theft, the penalty for which was hanging. After a time, President Andrew Jackson gave Wilson a pardon but he refused to accept it! The authorities were puzzled: should Wilson be freed or hanged? They consulted Chief Justice John Marshall, who handed down this decision: “A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.”

 The Bible Exposition Commentary (Chapter Six: Compassion in Action (Luke 7))

Discussion Question

Can you love Jesus and not have faith in Him?

Extra Notes

The posture at meals was a reclined one with the feet out behind.

Her sins were ten times those of Simon…at least in Simon’s mind.

The woman didn’t come to dine. She came to show her love to Jesus.

She anointed his feet with perfume, not just oil. Possibly 300 denarii worth…a year’s wages. Mark 14:5 

Two years’ wages for one and two months for the other…neither could repay. Denarius was one day’s pay.

There was contempt in Simon’s “this man” comment.

Jesus knows the sinful condition of both the woman and Simon.

Jewish rabbis did not speak to nor eat with women in public.

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 1:47 PM July 3, 2022.

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