36 Then one of the Pharisees invited him to eat with him. He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume 38 and stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to wash his feet with her tears. She wiped his feet with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with the perfume. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—she’s a sinner!” 40 Jesus replied to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He said, “Say it, teacher.” 41 “A creditor had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” “You have judged correctly,” he told him. 44 Turning to the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she, with her tears, has washed my feet and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in. 46 You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. 47 Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
I am imagining a one act play as I read this passage. The setting is a Pharisee’s home. Jesus had much in common with these lovers of the law who helped shape the religious landscape of the day. Jesus’ ministry naturally interested them, but whenever His ministry rubbed against theirs, they were unrelenting in pushing back against Him.
The drama begins with the entrance of a woman whom we can assume made her living on the street. Jesus’ failure to dismiss her from His presence renders Him “no prophet” in Simon’s estimation. In turn, Simon’s conclusion renders Jesus skeptical about Simon’s eyesight. Well, not really. When He asks Simon if he sees her, Jesus is actually referring to something other than Simon’s ability to see. Rather, He is assessing Simon’s willingness to see her—and our willingness as well.
Simon had not done any of the things that could have shown honor to his guest, Jesus. However, this woman went above and beyond basic courtesy. Simon is exposed as one who focuses on himself. In comparison, Jesus lifts up this woman, a sinner, as one who was genuinely seeking forgiveness from the one Source who could provide it.
As we step back from the story, we see two religious leaders in the presence of a sinner, each of whom reacts differently to the woman. Simon moves away from her. His righteousness renders her unworthy of his presence; her presence is a danger to his standing in the community. Jesus, on the other hand, moves toward her. He blesses her with forgiveness. He gives her the blessing of no longer having to see herself as Simon and probably the majority of the people in her world see her.
As He so often does, Jesus offers us a parable, communicating the truth that those who have been forgiven much will love much. The woman’s actions reveal a greater love—especially when compared with Simon’s lack of basic hospitality—because she has received forgiveness for her many sins. May we be like her in understanding our own forgiveness and in our willingness to love and serve King Jesus.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Unfortunately, our Western context allows many of us within the church to develop a mindset similar to that of Simon in our story. Think about how you respond to those “sinners” among us.
- Do you see them?
- Do you have time for them?
- Do you recognize that Jesus loves them?
I struggle to refer to any group of people as “them.” It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that we too are sinners. We too have been forgiven much, and we need to love in a way that reflects this.
Pray for Vicki, a global worker in our church family serving in North Africa. If you had coffee with her, she would tell you there’s not a greater adventure in life than following Jesus where He leads.