What is the hardest thing for us to do? I’m not looking for second or third on the list. What is the absolute number one, hardest thing for us to do? Is it not for us to forgive? To forgive - and to forgive especially that one person who mistreated me so severely.
But why is it so hard? For one, because we think that person deserves justice, and not mercy. He should receive punishment for what he did to me. Isn’t that what the law demands? I just want to uphold the law. There’s no harm in wanting the law to be upheld is there?
But this is where God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, must come into the picture. Because the punishment that we deserved for our sins against God – He laid upon His Son. “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” And shouldn’t that come into consideration, every single time someone needs our forgiveness? Whether that someone realizes he needs forgiveness is completely irrelevant, because even when we were enemies to God, He reconciled us to Him by the death of His Son.
Every single day is a new day God has given us in Christ – another day of forgiveness – another day of God giving us not what we deserve for our sins, but what Christ deserved for us. He made us His children by Grace, through the Word – He bought us back, and delivered us from everything that separated us from Him, including sin, death, the devil. He gives us new life in His Spirit through the Word, granting us the true saving faith, and He promises to keep us in that faith until our very last day.
Why is it still so hard for us to forgive? Why did Peter even need to ask Jesus how many times he needed to forgive his brother, “seven times”? Jesus responded, “seven times seventy”, meaning, forgive without limit.
Oh, how we love to call for justice. And how the media just loves to tell the whole world just how evil certain people are – and now you, the audience, get to decide, and take an online poll, or call this number, if you think the defendant is truly guilty, and if so, what punishment fits the crime.
That’s why it’s so important, it is so crucial, that we try to put ourselves in their shoes. What if the roles were reversed? What if I was the one who slipped up, and what if I was the one in need of forgiveness? What if I was the one on trial, facing maybe even very serious charges? Or, what if the person on trial, was my son, or my daughter, or my brother, or my sister? Would I then still be calling for justice, or would I be calling for mercy and forgiveness?
What could possibly be more important than forgiveness? What could possibly measure up to the value of the forgiveness God has so freely given to us in His Son, His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life? How important it is that we take that forgiveness into consideration when we are facing the sins of our brother or sister, and when they are in need of forgiveness.
Simon, the Pharisee, was definitely the one calling for justice and not mercy. “He spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”
These two people couldn’t have been any different. As a Pharisee, Simon was a master at following the rules, and a master at keeping a spotless record. As a Pharisee he knew his stuff, he was well educated, he knew the Bible, but most of all, what mattered most to him, is that he knew how to look good before the people.
The woman didn’t fair so well in that category. The way Scripture describes her – it is clear that she is known for her bad behavior. She’s a well-known sinner. It is obvious to all that she has failed miserably at being an upright citizen, and at being faithful to God.
According to human reason, one could easily deduce from this that Simon is a man of great faith, and this woman is not of great faith, yet the way each one treats Jesus, paints a totally different picture.
Simon does absolutely nothing to welcome Jesus. “I entered into thine house, thou gavest Me no water for my feet:.. Thou gavest Me no kiss… My head with oil thou didst not anoint.” All these things Simon could have done to give Jesus a warm welcome. He didn’t do even one.
“But this woman…hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head…since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet”… and “hath anointed My feet with ointment.”
Jesus told a very clear illustration that everyone can understand. Two people owed someone some money. The one owed 500 pence, the other fifty. And from the parable of the laborers we know that 1 pence is equal to about a day’s wage. So one man owed about 2 year’s-worth of wages, the other owed about 2 month’s worth of wages. Both were decent amounts of money, but one, by far, owed more.
“When they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.”
The point is that the woman began to realize the depth of her sin.
And just think how much of a rude awakening she must have had at that point – like the prodigal son, who Scripture says, “came to himself” – finally realizing the depth of the trouble, and shame, his own sins brought upon himself and his family.
This woman too, realized it. And she longed to be forgiven.
Jesus responded with the most beautiful words, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.”
It’s not just that we have committed sins, it’s that we are sinners. All are equally in need of God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ, who went to the cross to save us. No matter how faithful and religious we think we have been, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
There is no greater joy than knowing we are forgiven in Christ not only for our sins, but also for being sinners. Through faith in Him who had a sinless birth for us, all that is offensive in us has been removed, and we are “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
That just begs the question: Are there in existence, any who are truly righteous, without the righteousness of God’s Son, who did everything needful for us to be saved?
The good news is that God continues to call us, sinners, to repentance, and His call is not in vain. His Word and Spirit work repentance in us, and He even gives us the faith to believe in Him.No matter how great our sins may be, there are all fully, and completely forgiven in Jesus Christ. And He promises to keep us in the saving faith until the very end. Amen.