Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him - that she is a sinner." Jesus spoke up and said to him ... "Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Luke 7: 39-40a, 47-49 NRSV
What does a prophet know? A prophet knows what God has revealed to the prophet. And, although some prophets did do miracles, I don't know of a prophet who could forgive sins. Simon, the pharisee in this story, is of the opinion that prophets know who is a sinner or a bad person and who is not. In other words, if Jesus is really sent by God then he knows who the good people are and should not be around bad persons. Prophets want to make sure folks are following God's laws and sinners are disobeying God's laws.
Simon is right. Jesus does know that the woman is a sinner and that she has disobeyed God. But Jesus knows even more than that. Jesus sees not only into the sinner's heart (repentance, acceptance and love) but into the "righteous" person's heart as well (selfishness, holier-than-thou, contempt). And then Jesus shows that he not only knows but he has authority: he can proclaim someone's sins as forgiven. This isn't just about the letter of the law but the heart of the law.
With this, Jesus proves that he is more than a prophet. He is the Messiah, the Savior, Emmanuel: God with us. Jesus knows more than prophetic knowledge. Jesus knows our hearts and forgives us our sins when we ask for forgiveness and repent.
Oh, God, my sins are many. I am not even worthy to approach your throne of grace. But your mercy is abundant and you extend your hand of love and forgiveness. Thank you, God, thank you. I humbly pray in Jesus' name.
Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims