Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner – Part II

by The Doctor

Jesus then took the opportunity to relate a story that was designed to tell Simon something about himself…

“Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’ ‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said. ‘Two men 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 canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?'” (Luke 7:40-42).

Now before we continue, let’s take a moment to see where Jesus is going with this illustration. The word “denarii” (pronounced “den-nair-eye”) is the plural of the word “denarius,” a unit of money that was equal to an average worker’s daily wage in those days. So one man in Jesus’ story owed 500 days of labor (or about 1.5 years of work) and the other owed 50 days of work (or about 1.5 months of work).

Now someone who was unable to repay his or her debt in those days was in very serious trouble. You see, there was no such thing as “bankruptcy protection” for someone who was in debt at that time. If someone couldn’t pay their bills, one of two things would usually happen: that person was either sent to jail or sold as a slave until they paid off the money that was owed.

Now even though one man owed a small debt and the other man owed a large amount, both of the men in Jesus’ story faced the same problem- they both couldn’t pay. Nevertheless, the man with the larger debt had more to lose, so naturally he would be more thankful when he was released from his debt.

So here’s how Simon answered Jesus’ question…

“Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said” (Luke 7:43).

Now getting the right answer to this question isn’t exactly rocket science. The right answer to this question is pretty easy for anyone to guess and Jesus commends Simon for giving the correct answer. But now we get to the moral of the story…

“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet'” (Luke 7:44-46).

It’s important to remember that there weren’t many paved roads back in those days. This meant that someone walking along the dirt roads of that time often had to deal with dust, mud, and things like animal droppings and other waste. People of that day usually wore sandals and as they walked along, their feet would usually get extremely dusty and dirty.

So when a traveler entered someone’s home as a guest, it was expected that a servant would remove the guest’s footwear, pour water over their feet, and dry their feet with a towel. In addition, the climate can often be very dry in that area of the world. Offering a guest some oil for their skin was a welcome relief and represented another courtesy that people usually observed. Finally, it was good social etiquette in that culture to greet a guest with a kiss as a show of respect and courtesy. However, Simon apparently chose not to extend any of these courtesies to Jesus. That led to Jesus’ conclusion…

“‘Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven– for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven'” (Luke 7:47-48).

Like the man who owed 500 denarii in Jesus’ story, the woman who bathed Jesus feet with perfume also owed a large debt. Her debt was a spiritual debt and her great appreciation for Jesus was demonstrated by her actions. Jesus then used this woman’s example to show the contrast between her response and the false righteousness of Simon the Pharisee:

  • Simon didn’t arrange to have Jesus’ feet washed and dried when He arrived, but this woman washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair
  • Simon didn’t extend the courtesy of offering Jesus some fragrant oil for His skin, but this woman kneeled down and bathed His feet with perfume
  • Simon didn’t offer Jesus the customary kiss of greeting, but this woman kissed Jesus’ feet over and over

So while Simon the Pharisee and this sinful woman responded very differently to Jesus, they both had at least one thing in common- their outward actions clearly demonstrated what they were really like on the inside.

Now for what it’s worth, this whole episode provoked quite a reaction among the other dinner guests…

“The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?'” (Luke 7:49).

Today there is often a great debate over who and what Jesus claimed to be. While people continue to debate these questions today, it’s interesting to see that there was no such debate among those who were there in Simon’s home and saw these things take place. These guests clearly knew exactly who Jesus claimed to be. They also knew the consequences of what Jesus said to this woman. You see, these people knew that only God could forgive sins and when Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven,” these dinner guests knew that it could only mean one thing: Jesus claimed to be God.

Like these dinner guests at Simon’s home, everyone who reads the Scriptures is also faced with an important choice to make regarding Jesus. Either Jesus wasn’t really what He claimed to be which means that He was completely dishonest and untrustworthy. Or He was what He claimed to be, which means that He is God and we need to pay close attention to the things that Jesus said and follow what He taught.

(1) Thayer’s Greek Lexicon