(Apologies: this should have been Day 41 to stick to chronological order, and yesterday’s reading should have been given today.)
Luke 7:36-8:3 (AD 48)
Jesus did not forgive the woman because of what she did for him, and the woman was not forgiven after Jesus declared her forgiven.
What Jesus told the Pharisee host is that she was already forgiven because of her faith in God. That her faith and love spilled out into gratitude [which was totally foreign to the Pharisees who took God’s favour (which he wrongly believed was on him) for granted]. Jesus declared her forgiven to provide her reassurance and to make a point to the Pharisee about the nature of forgiveness.
Jesus was being extraordinarily kind to the Pharisee, implying that he was an example of the person who might be less grateful because ‘less’ had been forgiven. Not literally less of course, as we are all absolutely lost and utterly in rebellion, regardless of how obvious or heinous our sinning has been.
How did the Pharisee respond to the challenge from Jesus? Did he repent of his ingratitude? Did he redouble his efforts to make Jesus feel welcome? Not so much, it would seem.
The challenge for us then, is not to identify ourselves as one of those who only needed to be forgiven a little bit and thank, ‘Ah, yes, no wonder I find it hard to be really grateful – there’s not all that much to be grateful for’. Jesus was making a point for the benefit of the Pharisee. When the Bible teaches us about our state it uses words like ‘lost’, ‘dead’, ‘blind’. That we are all on our way to destruction and an eternity of hideous absence from God.
We are all, in fact, if we are forgiven at all, forgiven enormously. We are those of whom the “many sins” (v.47) have been forgiven, who would naturally have “great love” (v.47). And yet, sometimes it’s useful to see the gratitude that can be deeper among those who have lived more obviously sinfully, and are more aware of the reality that is as true for us as them: total lostness brought back freely by the love of Christ.
Read a biography of someone like John Newton, who used to be a slave trader. Or ‘Run, Baby, Run’, the story of ex-New York gang member Nicky Cruz who came to Christ through the efforts of David Wilkerson. Re-read the apostle Paul’s conversion.
And simply remind yourself that you were lost, beyond hope, beyond the ability to help yourself in any way, until God reached down and brought you to himself to be loved by Him forever.
Ask God to help you see more clearly how far he has brought you, that your gratitude may naturally grow.