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Lesson 3: A Woman Needing Forgiveness

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“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

Pray: Lord Jesus, please teach me through this lesson.

A Little Bit of History

After Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman, He continued teaching and performing many miracles. It was a time of great popularity when Jesus gained many followers. He chose His 12 disciples and preached the Sermon on the Mount. He spent time traveling throughout Galilee and in the area of Capernaum (a sizeable town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee). Peter (one of the 12 disciples) had a house there that became Jesus' base of operations during His extended ministry in Galilee. The inhabitants of Capernaum had many opportunities to see and hear Jesus and to offer hospitality to Him.

Hospitality to guests was one of the most important social functions of Jesus’ time. A guest was highly honored even if he was a stranger passing through the town. When a stranger appeared at someone's door close to evening, the head of the household usually let him in and asked him to spend the night.

If the homeowner refused to be hospitable, he could be snubbed by friends and neighbors. A host always kept in mind that someday he, too, might be a weary traveler looking for shelter and company.

Once inside, the host’s wife or servant brought water to wash the guest's feet, though the host might do it for a special guest. Since the roads were always dusty and most people walked, washing was a common courtesy that made one's guest feel at home. At mealtime, the guest would often be served first. Other customs included anointing the guest with oil, which they used as soap, or even providing clean clothing for the mealtime.

According to custom, a guest should stay no longer than three days in his host's home. While there, he was protected by his host. On leaving, the host was to escort his guest a short distance, sending him safely on his way.

One day, Jesus was a guest in someone’s home…

1. Read Luke 7:36-50.

The Pharisees were a religious society of ~6,000 men who strictly obeyed the Jewish laws as interpreted by the teachers of the law (also called scribes). This law consisted of the written Mosaic Law (found in the first five books of the Old Testament) plus the tradition of the elders, containing hundreds of rules and prohibitions that were equally important to God’s Law. They considered themselves to be Israel’s spiritual leaders.

Though originally standing against evil in Jewish society, by Jesus' day many Pharisees had become narrow-minded and petty, more concerned with rules than with relationships, even with God. They looked at other Jews as well as Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew) as tainted and, therefore, to be avoided. In their minds, no rabbi (Jewish “pastor”) or religious leader should mingle or eat with such “sinners.” Jesus confronted this wrong view of people. So, many Pharisees were opposed to Him.

2. Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. What did he call Jesus in verse 40?

Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner from a Pharisee. He did not cut all the religious leaders off simply because most of them rejected Him. He dealt with people as individuals, and He still does!

The men are reclining around a table as they eat. A woman enters the scene. Let’s call her ‘Emma.’

3. Who is ‘Emma’ (verse 37)?

4. What does she do (verses 37-38)?

5. Put yourself in ‘Emma’s’ place. Why do you think she was weeping, using her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet?

6. Both the alabaster jar and the perfume inside were very costly and could have been ‘Emma’s’ dowry or her savings. What was she giving to Jesus?

If you are thinking that this woman “crashed the party,” social custom allowed needy people to visit such meals and to partake of some of the leftovers. And, it was not unusual for people to drop in when a rabbi was visiting. ‘Emma’ must have heard Jesus teach, which might have given her hope for a new life. Overcome by her brokenness and her need for forgiveness, ‘Emma’ gave to Him the most precious thing she had.

7. What was Simon the Pharisee thinking while this was happening (verse 39)?

8. Jesus read his thoughts (only God can do that) and took the opportunity to teach Simon. What does Jesus teach through the parable (verses 40-43)?

9. Then, how does Jesus address Simon’s harsh attitude in verses 44-47?

Simon viewed this heartbroken woman as dirty and someone to be avoided. Jesus read his thoughts showing that He was indeed a prophet. Remember John 2:25 from Lesson Two? Jesus always knows what is in the heart of men and women.

Jesus contrasted Simon’s lack of courtesy and respect for Him as a guest with the woman’s tender attentions to Him. The Pharisees didn’t recognize their own need for forgiveness because they “followed” the rules, yet their hearts were hard toward God and people.

I heard someone say that your capacity to love is directly tied to your capacity to get how deeply you have been forgiven. When you see yourself as righteous and not needing anything from Jesus (like Simon), you lose compassion for the lost and needy. ‘Emma’ knew how deeply she needed forgiveness.

10. In verses 47-48, what does Jesus grant to ‘Emma’?

11. What else does He say to her in verse 50?

12. Put yourself in ‘Emma’s’ shoes. She needed something from Jesus. For what need(s) do you think she came to Him?

13. What did Jesus give to her to satisfy those needs so that she could choose a different kind of life?

Jesus grants forgiveness and peace to ‘Emma’ because of her faith and love. She needed a relationship with God, forgiveness for her sins, and a chance for a new life. He accepted her gift of love and publicly acknowledged her faith and forgiveness. Jesus gave her respect, hope, and a new beginning. ‘Emma’ could go in peace with her need for forgiveness completely satisfied by Jesus’ love for her. She now has to make choices to live a different kind of life and hopefully leave her life of immorality.

Satisfied by His Love

Jesus took notice of this “worthless” woman of the town. Because she was held in bondage by her sin, she could not have a proper relationship with the true God. Her need for spiritual life remained unsatisfied. Jesus entered her life. He recognized her faith in Him, cleansed her of sin, and gave her new hope. ‘Emma’ needed this as much as every other person on earth. Jesus satisfied her need for real life, real love, and fulfilling relationships by giving her Himself. He does the same for you. No matter what you've done and who won’t forgive you, Jesus does—through faith in Him!

We don’t just need a teacher. We need a Savior who comes in and does for us what we can’t do for ourselves: forgiveness. All of our debt before God is enormous; we are incapable of ever paying it back.

14. Read Hebrews 10:22. What does God promised that He will do for your conscience when you draw near to His presence by faith?

Dwell on the FACT that Jesus will cleanse your conscience from guilt. Will you take Him at His word? If there is any past sin for which you are still feeling guilty, claim God’s complete forgiveness today. You can simply tell God,

"Thank You for forgiving me, thank You for cleansing me…Thank You for being bigger than my sins, and being able to turn things around in ways I cannot imagine. With Jesus' help, I receive the assurance that You have forgiven me. Help my heart catch up with my head on this. Help me to see that You allowed me to go down that dark path into sin because You are able to redeem even the worst things we do." (Sue Bohlen, Probe Ministries, Sept. 2012)

Now, choose to believe you are forgiven and allow Jesus to cleanse your conscience from any residual guilt. Every time you think about it again, thank God for His amazing gift!

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Forgiveness

Like the woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears in Luke 7, many of us carry the guilt of our sins with us like a heavy burden, weighing us down. The continual reminder of our sins keeps us from experiencing freedom and from enjoying the relationship with God that we have by faith in Jesus Christ. You and I need to understand how complete and continual is God’s forgiveness of us. And, we need to know how to deal with any recognized sin in our lives so that we won’t carry that guilt.

In the Bible, the term “forgiveness” means “to send off or send away.” Our sin is transferred to a substitute, Jesus, and taken away. People in Old Testament times were accepted by God and received eternal life in the same way as we are today: by faith in the merciful grace of God. For daily living, however, they had to bring their animal sacrifice to the priest. Their sin was transferred to that sacrifice, and they received forgiveness for their sins up to that point. In Luke 7, Jesus declared forgiveness of sins to a sorrowful, sinful woman without a sacrifice, shocking the other guests. He did this because of her faith in the merciful grace of God.

God promised His people that one day forgiveness would no longer be a temporary solution, but be complete and permanent. That happened on the cross through Jesus.

As Paul declared in Colossians 2,

“When you were dead in your sins…God made you[a] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

Once you place your faith in Jesus Christ, whatever you have done that was wrong in God’s eyes from the time you were born through the time of your death has been canceled. Taken away. All of it. Past, present and future. Nailed to the cross.

It’s even better than that. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says,

that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”

Since your sins have been taken away, God is longer counting them against you. Just like the woman in our lesson today, you are forgiven based on your faith alone. Sins are applied to Jesus who takes them on your behalf. Once you have trusted in Jesus, Ephesians 1 says that forgiveness is something we possess as believers. We receive God’s forgiveness for all our sins (past, present, and future) from the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ. That is very important for you to know. Forgiveness is complete and continual.

Although our God does not hold our sin against us any longer, and His grace is continually forgiving us of sin, that does not give us permission to intentionally sin. Intentional sin does not fit with who you are as a forgiven Christian with a new life to enjoy.

But, as long as we live in these earthly bodies, we will be tempted to sin. Sin will happen—whether intentionally or unintentionally. So, as an already forgiven Christian, you might ask, “How do I deal with sin when I recognize it in my life?”

Great question. Here’s the biblical process for dealing with sin as a believer:

Step One: View yourself rightly.

Your identity is not “_______” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever that sin is).

You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “_____” (covets, is greedy, gossips).

Step Two: Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your sin.

To confess biblically means to agree with God about what you and He both know to be true. Confession is not a formula, a process, or dependent on a mediator. Regarding sin in my life, it is not saying, “I’m sorry.” It is saying, “I agree with you, God. I blew it!” You see your sin as something awful!

Using sexual immorality as an example: while reading 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, the Spirit convicts you that sexual immorality in any form is not pleasing to God. You are instructed to "flee/avoid immorality." You recognize this sin in your life. You agree with God that your immoral sexual behavior is seeking love and acceptance from the wrong source. It doesn’t fit someone who knows God. That is confession.

Step Three: Confession is incomplete without repentance.

Repentance means to change your mind about that sin, to turn away from it, to mourn its ugliness, resulting in changing your actions. Paul says that godly sorrow brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). Like the woman in Luke 7. It’s saying, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it hurts You, God. Please help me to live differently.” That’s how our lives get transformed.

For sexual immorality: You want to live in order to please God, and God wants you to avoid sexual immorality. So, you pray, “Lord Jesus, please have your Spirit nudge me when I am not holy and honorable with my body. Help me to say no to temptation and to give up any relationship that is not honorable to you. By faith, Lord, I want you to do that in my life.” That is repentance.

Repentance isn’t repentance until you change something. You can confess “until the cows come home” (daily, habitually) and never change anything. Jesus called for people to “repent” not “confess.”

Step Four: Repentance leads to dependence.

Depend on the living Christ inside you for that change to take place. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in our compliance (outward conformity) as much as He desires our obedience from the heart.

For sexual immorality: Memorize 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 and any other scriptures that deal with staying pure and not rejecting God’s instructions. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s nudging when you are tempted to do otherwise. Choose to desire a life that pleases God.

Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. Another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. The complete and continual forgiveness we receive by faith in Jesus satisfies our thirst for love and acceptance. This forgiveness motivates us to want to live a life that pleases Him. As the Bible promises,

“for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

A satisfied heart basks in forgiveness, love and acceptance. Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the goodness of His love.

15. Is there any ugliness in your life that you mourn? Follow the steps above to live in freedom from that ugliness. Will you trust Jesus to work on this area of your life? For example, if you are currently in immoral behavior, such as an affair, pornography, living with or attracted to someone who is not your spouse, what choices do you need to make in order to flee from immorality or leave your life of sin? Be confident that your Heavenly Father has given you everything you need in order to do this.

Response in prayer and praise:

Ask Jesus to satisfy your heart through knowing Him. Trust Him to work in your life to bring you healing, hope, and freedom. Thank Him for His grace toward you and His unending love for you.

Discover more about Jesus:

Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.

  • Read Luke 9. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 10. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 11. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Luke 12. Reflect on what you read.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women, Women's Articles

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