The Two Debtors

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Jesus continues the theme of good news to the needy in the story of the two debtors.  The context for this parable is Jesus’ invitation to the home of Simon, the Pharisee, for a dinner party.  At the dinner, a woman known to be “immoral” came and anointed the feet of Jesus.  Jesus, aware of what the host and religious guests were thinking told this story, “ ‘A certain moneylender had two debtors:  one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both.  Which of them will therefore love him more?’  Simon, the host, answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’  And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged correctly.’ “ (Lk 7:41-44).

Jesus goes on to equate the woman with the large debtor.  She loves much because she has been forgiven much.  Jesus pictures sin as a debt, not just a character flaw or something unpleasant.  It is a debt that is real and that we have no hope of successfully repaying by our own righteousness.  If we are to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must recognize our need and come with the open hands of faith in Jesus Christ.  It is significant in this parable that after announcing to the woman, “Your sins have been forgiven” (Lk 7:48), Jesus adds, “Your faith has saved you.” (Lk 7:50).

Two words that repeatedly come up in these kingdom parables announcing good news to the needy are repentance and faith.  Jesus’ acceptance of “sinners” is not some universal salvation that only requires recognition of our need.  It also requires repentance and faith.  Jesus’ began His earthly ministry with this invitation, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:15).  Repent and believe.  Repentance and faith.

What do you think of when you hear the word repent?  Our English word “repent” is translated from the Greek word metanoia.  “Meta” means “change” such as in our English word metamorphosis; a complete change of form, structure, or substance.  “Noia” comes from the Greek root “nous”.  If you look up the word “nous” on dictionary.com, you will see it is a term in Greek philosophy for “mind” or “intellect”.  To repent literally means to “change your mind”.

Jesus is asking His hearers to change their mind and join His kingdom.  And the ticket to join is faith.  Jesus told Nicodemus, a Pharisee who surely met any outward qualifications for righteousness, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3).  Jesus goes on in the rest of John’s gospel to explain that to be “born again” is to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, and have faith that His finished work on the cross, confirmed by His resurrection, paid the price for our sin.

How do the needy (or self righteous for that matter, or anyone in-between) enter the kingdom?  We enter the kingdom by repentance and faith.  “Your faith has saved you.”