…for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” – Matthew 26:28.

One of the most scandalous claims Jesus made while walking the earth was his ability to forgive sins. In this week’s teaching, a sinful woman interrupted Jesus dining with a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Despite the woman’s reputation and public shame, Jesus welcomed her acts of repentance and assured her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48). Onlookers were shocked: “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” (Luke 7:49) Luke recorded a similar question earlier: “But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” (Luke 5:21)

They were right, only God alone can forgive sins. But they were blind to a crucial truth—Jesus is the Son of God. And with that authority, He could make such an audacious claim to forgive sins.

The story of the sinful woman is one of perspective. Simon the Pharisee has an inaccurate understanding of this woman. He sees her only as a sinner, thus he considers Jesus’ contact with her as inappropriate. He is judging her based upon her reputation. Jesus obviously has a different perspective. Jesus tells Simon that he must reevaluate her actions at the dinner. These are not inappropriate or wanton expressions of an outcast; they are deep love offered in response to deep forgiveness. The woman is not, in fact, who readers might think she is at first glance. As Jesus publicly declares, she has been saved. “And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”(Luke 7:50)

But those watching knew that a holy, righteous God cannot simply forgive sins—they must be paid for. And they knew that God had instituted the means through which forgiveness was possible: the shedding of blood. “In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22). So when Jesus granted the sinful woman forgiveness while giving no instructions or provisions for forgiving her, the assembled people were baffled.

Jesus knew something the onlookers didn’t: sin would be paid for and there would be blood shed. And it would be His. In his book The Prodigal God, Tim Keller elaborates on this truth: “Jesus was stripped naked of his robe and dignity so that we could be clothed with a dignity and standing we don’t deserve. On the cross Jesus was treated as an outcast so that we could be brought into God’s family freely by grace. There Jesus drank the cup of eternal justice so that we might have the cup of the Father’s joy.”

God’s unconditional love is a very difficult concept for people to accept because, in the world, there’s always payment for everything we receive. It’s just how things work here. But God is not like people. If you’ve asked God to forgive you and to come into your life — you are forgiven. His word says so. Thank Him for His forgiveness and begin to rejoice in your secure relationship with Him. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is forgiveness to you? What should our response be to Christ’s forgiveness? 
  2. What are some of the promises God gives us about His forgiveness?
  3. Can self-righteousness interfere with your forgiveness?
  4. What can we change in our lives as a result of the story of the sinful woman?