From Awkward to Honored

11.7.23 Devo Image

“Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’ ‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said. ‘Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.”—Luke 7:40–43 (NIV)

We’ve all experienced awkward moments—those times when something embarrassing happens in a social setting and no one knows quite what to say or do. I don’t think Jesus ever did, though, because in today’s passage of Scripture, we see Him masterfully handle what would have been understood by the people around Him as a scandalous encounter and turns it into one of the most memorable stories of love, worship, forgiveness, and redemption in the Gospels. 

As we learned yesterday, a woman with a notoriously bad reputation in the community (a “sinner” as she’s described by Luke), walked into this dinner party and broke every cultural norm and rule you can imagine. Not only were women not supposed to let their hair down in public at that time because it was seen as immodest, but also, she was touching a man who wasn’t her husband and kissing His feet—and a rabbi no less! It’s difficult to imagine just how shocking—and bold—this woman’s actions were in that day and culture. 

Simon, the Pharisee who hosted the party, was so offended by what he was seeing on the outside, he completely missed what was really happening on the inside of himself and the woman worshipping at Jesus’ feet. As Bible commentator David Guzik puts it in the Enduring Word Bible Commentary: “Simon the Pharisee doubted that Jesus was a prophet because he thought that Jesus was unable to see this woman’s heart. Jesus will show that He can read the heart of man by exposing Simon’s heart.”

You see, Simon looked at the outward appearance of this woman, focused only on her sin (most likely prostitution or sexual promiscuity, Bible scholars note) and judged her—and Jesus—for it. It completely blinded him to the fact that she was worshipping the Messiah of Israel and expressing her love and thanks to Him for forgiving her of her sins. As it says in 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV), “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

With the precision of a surgeon, Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter by telling a parable of two people who were in debt to a moneylender. One owed 10 times as much as the other, but both were forgiven. He then turns to Simon and asks him a pivotal and revealing question: Which one of the people who had been set free from debt would be more thankful and loving? The Pharisee answers correctly by saying the one with the bigger debt will be more grateful. 

In this brief exchange, Jesus exposed Simon’s self-righteousness, his sin, and the fact that he was just as much in need of forgiveness as this woman was. Now, how’s that for turning the tables on an awkward situation? 

As we’ll learn tomorrow, Jesus will continue His discourse and honor this woman for her actions, pointing out how she was doing exactly what Simon the Pharisee failed to do when He showed up for dinner. What began as a shameful and embarrassing situation to the onlookers, Jesus turned into a moment of honor, forgiveness, and redemption.

Don’t you just love that about Him?

Pause: Have you ever judged someone based on their outward appearance? (Be honest; we all have.) Or have you been the target of someone else’s judgement for something you said or did—perhaps even publicly humiliated for it? What do you think God wants to say to you through today’s devotional about it?

Practice: If you’re someone who judges a book by its cover too quickly, stop for a moment and consider how much Jesus has forgiven you today. If you’ve been on the receiving end of unwarranted judgment from another, know that God sees your heart and He receives your worship and thanks for the forgiveness He’s extended to you.

Pray: Heavenly Father, thank You that You are a God who is rich in mercy, slow to anger, and abounding in love. Jesus, thank You for forgiving me of my sins by shedding Your blood for me on the cross and defeating death so I can have eternal life. Help me remember that everyone has fallen short of the glory of God, and we all need your forgiveness. Open my eyes and heart to see my brothers and sisters as You do, Your beloved children in need of grace just like I am. Amen.

About the Author

Rob Nieminen

Rob Nieminen is a seasoned writer and editor who has written devotionals for Calvary since 2015. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. He serves in the Worship Ministry at Calvary Boynton Beach and is an avid reader, an erratic golfer, and an aspiring photographer who loves to cook and spend time with his family.