Just who is Jesus? That’s really the question that the gospel writer Luke is seeking to answer as he writes his book. Luke chapter 1 tells us that he writes to a man named Theophilus. We are not exactly sure who he is, but it seems that he is an important person, perhaps a government official of some kind (“most excellent Theophilus”- Lk 1:3). Stories about Jesus are spreading. Luke’s concern is to paint an accurate picture of Jesus for Theophilus—both what He did and who He is.
The gospel of Luke reveals many things about Jesus. Luke 6, for example, records for us the greatest sermon ever preached; we often refer to it as the Sermon on the Mount. But Jesus is more than a great preacher. Luke continues painting this accurate picture of Jesus in chapter 7 with 5 different scenes or encounters.
In chapter 7, Jesus travels to Capernaum, northern Israel, where he encounters several people. In summary, Luke shows us that Jesus is the one in whom we have faith (v 1-10); he is the one who raises the dead (v 11-17); he is the one who heals disease, afflictions and cast out demons (v 18-23); and he is the one who is a friend of sinners (v 19-35). But there’s more.
The last scene of chapter 7 involves verses 36-50. Yes, Jesus is the one to whom we have faith in. Yes, Jesus is the one who raises the dead and heals all kinds of diseases. He is even a friend of sinners. But this last scene described by Luke gives us understanding as to why He is more than a great preacher, why our faith is in Him, and why it matters that He heals diseases and is a friend of sinners.
Jesus is invited to a party at the house of Simon the Pharisee. During the evening, a woman shows up whom Luke describes as a “sinner” (v 37). She stands over Jesus’s feet wetting them with her tears and wiping them with her hair. She then kisses his feet and anoints them with oil. Simon is appealed by this action from the woman and concludes in his own mind that Jesus certainly is not a prophet, or he would know what sort of woman she is.
Jesus, knowing Simon’s thoughts, shares a story of a moneylender forgiving the debt of two debtors (v 40-42). When the two debtors could not repay the moneylender, he forgave the debt of both, Jesus explains. He then asks Simon, “Who will love the moneylender more” (v 42)?
The answer is obvious from the story Jesus shares. The debtors neither could earn nor deserved the cancellation of their debt. Jesus wants Simon to know that he is referring to the woman, the sinner. Her debt was great, but Jesus forgave her (v 47). And herein lies the story of the gospel. Jesus is the great Savior who forgives great sinners. Our debt of sin is immeasurable. We can neither earn nor deserve pardon. Yet, in Jesus’s infinite grace, He forgives all who come to him broken (perhaps even at times weeping) over our own sins. While our sins are great, His grace is greater.
John Newton knew this all too well. He was from London in the United Kingdom and lived in the 1700s. He was raised by a Christian mother but later rejected his mom’s teachings about Jesus. As a young boy he left home, became a sailor involved in the slave trade of Africans, and later was converted to faith in Christ through a series of events revolving around sailing a ship that nearly sunk while working the slave trade. As a result, he fought to end slavery. He was a self-described wretch of a man prior to coming to Christ in faith. As you know, he would later write:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see…”
He died at 82 years old, and it is told that many friends would visit him prior to his death as his health faded. He is known as saying, “My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”
Praise God that Jesus is the great Savior who forgives great sinners!