The Gospel for the Self-Righteous l Luke 7:36-50 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
Good morning again, Chapel Hill! I am looking forward to digging into God’s Word together this morning. If you would open your Bibles with me to Luke chapter 7. Today we encounter Jesus at a dinner party of a religious leader and something pretty unbelievable happens. The title of our message is The Gospel for the Self-Righteous. We’re in Luke, chapter 7, beginning in verse 36…
“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:36-50 ESV
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
So, here’s the big idea of our message this morning: Jesus transforms us from being self-righteous to being sinners saved by grace. If we want to be people that are characterized by a love for God that is genuine, we have to abandon our self-righteousness. And we have to come to Jesus as sinners in desperate need of his grace. The key characters in this account illustrate this for us—two contrasting portraits of how we can approach Jesus and then we meet Jesus himself.
1.) Portrait of Self-Righteousness
We’ll turn first to the Pharisee. This Pharisee is our portrait of the self-righteous. The scene is set for us in the very first verse: One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
The text says that the Pharisee asked him to eat with him, to come over for dinner. But we need to know, this wasn’t your average dinner party. This was a big event. This was kind of a major thing when a religious leader like Simon would host a dinner. Because he would have invited all sorts of leaders and cutting-edge thinkers there—what we could call the movers and shakers, the who’s who of society.
And so, what we see is that this Pharisee is put together on the outside. He’s a big religious leader who’s hosting this big meal with the big names in town. That’s what’s going on in the outside. But on the inside…
On the inside, there’s something else going on. There is this shocking inner dialogue. This is actually a theme in Luke, it’s what he calls in Greek the dialogismoi. It’s our innermost thoughts. And what Luke tells us back in chapter 2 is that this was actually a prophecy about Jesus, that he would bring these innermost thoughts out into the open.
And that is exactly what happens with this Pharisee, Simon. Take a look at verse 39: “Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” (Luke 7:39-40 ESV)
Did you catch that: Jesus reads his mind! And he brings his thoughts right out into the open. Simon’s inner dialogue is exposed, and it’s what reveals his self-righteous heart. And this is often the case for those of us who are self-righteous. On the outside, we’ve got it figured out. But on the inside, there is a world of sin.
Like Simon, our self-righteous inner dialogue hinders our response to Jesus. This is the frightening truth we learn from the Pharisee’s inner dialogue of unbelief: that it is actually possible to invite Jesus into your home and never have