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The Two Debtors

by Inge Anderson 1998


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Reading the story of the two debtors (Luke 7: 37 - 50), I am particularly impressed with the lessons in the setting itself.

Jesus had been invited to the home of a Pharisee, one belonging to a group of religionists who were more careful than most to follow the conventions of their religion. When the sinner (immoral woman, according to the margin), whom I shall call Mary, heard this, her heart overflowed with gratitude to this Man who had done so much for her. With deep emotion, not quite knowing why, she took her precious vial of perfume (Had it been bought with the proceeds of her immorality?) and, gliding up behind the reclining form of Jesus, she knelt down and anointed His feet with the perfume, mingling it with her tears of gratitude. It was an outpouring of feeling expressed in tangible and fragrant form -- the latter reaching the nostrils of Simon the Pharisee.

And Simon knew that Mary was a sinner. (How did the righteous Simon know her so well?) He doubted that Jesus was even a prophet, much less the Messiah, because he allowed himself to be "defiled" by this immoral woman. So he judged both Mary and the Master in his heart. By this time, certainly, the eyes of the dinner guests must have been on the figure kneeling by the feet of Jesus, as the perfume made her presence known. Did she feel the condemnation in their eyes? Did she feel the circle they drew to shut her out?

While Jesus could read the heart of Simon, he did not expose him but told a story instead -- the story of the two debtors. Simon recognized himself as the debtor with the small debt, I'm sure, and Mary recognized herself as the debtor of the large debt. When Jesus asked which one of the debtors would have the greater love after having been forgiven and Simon answered, "The one who was forgiven more," Mary's heart surely leaped up, Yes, 'tis true! I love Him so much!! And Jesus confirmed the words of Simon. How Mary must have treasured the words that followed!! He recognized her gift and valued it!! He understood what had driven her though she could scarcely articulate it herself. Her emotions which had so often led her wrong, which had made her seek love in all the wrong places -- giving her body to men so she could feel loved -- these emotions had this time guided her rightly.

Her Lord understood! Surely her heart sang as she left with the words ringing in her ears, "Go in peace. Your faith has saved you."

This electronic medium attracts many of us who rely largely on our intellects -- just like Simon. The Mary's who feel deeply but can not always articulate clearly just why they do the things they do are probably a bit under-represented. And we caution that we are not to give in to feelings. While it is true that we are not to give up our faith because we do not feel that God loves us, we surely should not be inhibited about expressing our positive feelings! I think this story teaches us that Jesus understands the more emotionally oriented folks just as well as the more intellectual types; and he doesn't expect them to change their temperaments. While the more emotionally oriented personality finds it difficult to believe in times of discouragement, the more intellectually oriented personality finds it difficult to believe in the face of "scientific" and sociological "evidence." For each, faith is a choice based on evidence.

Another lesson I saw concerned the way we see sins. Did Jesus see Simon's judgmental spirit as a lesser sin than Mary's immoral behavior? We have a tendency to see things the way Simon did. Sexual sins we regard as the most heinous to God. But is it the way God judges? Which sinners are more likely to come to Him for help? And, considering that none will be saved without His grace, it seems to me that there may be a great many more formerly "immoral" than "righteous" folks in heaven. What do you think?

Jesus told another story of two debtors. You can find it in Matthew 18. Did Simon hear this parable too? In this story, the one who judged his fellow debtor is the one who  did not get final forgiveness for his debt. Perhaps the spirit of judgment is a more dangerous sin, after all, than the sexual sins that society condemns. The latter lead people to seek a Savior, and that, after all, is the path to salvation.

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Last modified 10 May 2010 11:01 AM