“Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?” Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” – Mark 12:13-17.

Most people read the story of the sinful woman in Luke 7 and take it at face value. It is a story of a woman with a past that finds redemption through her act of worship. But, is that the entire story?  Or is she just one element in the story? Is it also the story of Jesus educating and maybe evangelizing a pharisee?

That would not be so far fetched. After all, Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10) People accused Him of being the friend of sinners. And He was, but He wasn’t just a friend of the outcast sinners, the undesirables and the marginalized. He was also the friend of holier-than-thou religious leaders like the pharisee. In fact, on this occasion and others in the gospels, Jesus had conversations with pharisees obviously intending to expose them to the reality of who He was and why He came. In Luke 11:37 we read, “As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table “ Luke 14:1 says, “One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely.”

The other gospels record some of those events as well.  Jesus was committed to presenting the gospel offer to all sinners, whether they were the low or high by society standards. One of the pharisees asked Jesus to dine with him. On the surface, that might seem like a good thing, like he had some personal interest in Jesus, like he was open to Jesus. Well that’s really not the case, as the story makes it very clear. The pharisees had already rendered a verdict on Jesus. 

The scribes and the pharisees had already collectively determined that Jesus was a blasphemer. He was a blasphemer because He forgave sin. And so, He acted as if He was God, forgiving sins. And He had continually defiled Himself by hanging around people the pharisees would never associate with. They were constantly looking for ways to undermine Jesus by finding a way to use His own words to incriminate Himself.   

Jesus was willing to go into the house of a man that He knew was a hypocrite. He knew the man had evil intentions toward Him. He knew the man was going to do everything he could to get some incriminating evidence against Jesus by something that Jesus did or said. He knew he was looking to mount the case for Him. But nonetheless, Jesus, gracious as He always is and coming to seek and to save that which was lost, is willing to expose this wicked, hypocritical pharisee to the power that He has to transform.  And so He entered the pharisee’s house.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does this story tell you about the pharisee?
  2. Have you imagined God would never love you because of something you did in the past?
  3. Do you believe that God loves even the worst person in the world and wants that person to come to Him?
  4. The more we grow in Christ, the more we will see our own sinfulness. Agree or disagree and why?