With the Powerless – Gospel in Life

With the Powerless

Tim Keller |  January 26, 1997

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  • Repentance
  • Forgiveness
  • Understanding the Gospel
Luke 7:36-50
RS 73-16


Between the events in the very beginning of Jesus’ life and the events at the very end of his life, you mainly have a series of personal encounters. In this passage, Jesus encounters a man and a woman who are both serious spiritual seekers. But we see at the end that Jesus Christ rebukes him, but welcomes her.

In the very beginning of the passage, we see they respond to Jesus in two different ways. In the middle, we see through Jesus’ parable that the two responses to Jesus derive from two different understandings of Jesus. Then at the very end we see the two different understandings of Jesus result in two different responses from him.

Luke 7:36–50

When Jesus meets Simon the Pharisee and a remorseful woman in Luke’s gospel, we see two very different reactions to him. The woman shows a strong emotional reaction while Simon appears more formally interested in Jesus. This story makes us think about whether there’s really one “right” way to approach Jesus, suggesting that our reaction to Jesus really depends on how we understand him.

1. They react to Jesus in two different ways

Simon is more of a skeptic, questioning Jesus in his mind, while the woman is emotionally invested in Jesus. This shows us that it’s more important to have a personal bond with Jesus than just to follow religious practices. The story criticizes the idea of just following Jesus’ teachings without really knowing him, emphasizing that a deep, personal relationship with Jesus is necessary, not just being a good person. It also shows us the unfair standards society places on women, comparing the woman’s selfless love for Jesus with Simon’s more conditional approach, and encourages us to approach Jesus sincerely and openly, without any personal agendas.

2. The different actions towards Jesus come from different understandings of Jesus

Jesus tells a story that shows both Simon and the woman are spiritually in debt and can’t pay it off themselves, pointing out that everyone needs a Savior. Simon thinks he can handle things on his own, while the woman realizes the true cost of forgiveness, which Jesus offers to pay for everyone. If we don’t realize our need and the cost of forgiveness, our faith becomes impersonal and doesn’t have the power to change us.

3. The two different understandings of Jesus result in two different responses from him

Simon and the woman’s reactions to Jesus show the power of forgiveness and love. Understanding how much we’ve done wrong and how much we’ve been forgiven is key to loving others and living life fully, as shown by the woman’s ability to love others and ignore what society thinks of her. Her surrender to Jesus gives her a life of peace, excitement, and deep happiness, and we should strive to follow her example.



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