We have been going through the Gospel of Luke. This is the passage went through on Sunday last September 4, 2011.
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 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, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning towards 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 has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 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?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ Luke 7.36-50
Luke paints a picture contrasting two responses to Jesus and to the presence of the Kingdom of God.
This story comes right after John the Baptist sent this two disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one whom they are waiting for or do they look for someone else. Jesus then subtly declares who he is. He also intended to inform John and the others that His kingdom is different from what they were expecting. Nevertheless, He is the One whom they were waiting for and whose way John was preparing.
A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus over for a meal with the intent I suppose, of questioning Jesus for himself to see if he really is a prophet from God or the Messiah. Basically he wanted to know more about what Jesus was all about.
The thing is, as Jesus and the other guests entered the house of Simon, a woman came as well. She wanted to be near Jesus and minister to him. Some how her emotions and love for the Lord just overtook her and she started to weep. As she wept, she fell at his feet to worship him and express her love. When she washed his feet with her tears and wiped his feet with her hair and anointed his feet with very expansive perfume, she was expressing her love and worship for Jesus.
I want to look at a few things here to contrast people’s general response to an encounter with God.
- She desired to be with Jesus and express her love and gratitude
- She did not care about the “social norms” she defied the shame and scorn of the people.
- She broke social codes of conduct and did not care for it. It was not ok for a woman to go near a Rabbi, and to let down her hair in public.
- It was shameful to let down her hair.
- She used a precious and expensive perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus.
- He did not greet Jesus with the customary kiss
- He did not give Jesus any common respect and courtesy
- He was not affected by the works of Jesus.
The response of the Lord to this event is very important. Jesus speaks to Simon as He is looking at the woman. He knew what Simon was thinking about and then He contrasts Simon’s response to his presence with hers. She kissed his feet and washed them while he did not though he is the host of the house. She was expressing her love and worship, while he was trying to test him. She was aware of her sin and shame and therefore was very grateful for the forgiveness that Jesus granted to her. Simon on the other hand was not aware of his won sinfulness, he considered himself righteous and therefore did not need forgiveness.
This passage shows us 2 distinct reactions to the presence of the Kingdom of God. One is unashamed love and extravagant worship. This was modeled by the woman. Jesus explains that it is the sinners, the ones who know that they are in need of forgiveness and of His love that are grateful for the forgiveness and the grace. They recognize and value Jesus. They are forgiven much so that they love much. The second reaction, is detached snootiness, self righteousness. There is no need to be forgiven because they are “good people” so they do not love much because they are less sinful. They have a hard time seeing God.
It seems that Jesus is saying the woman who is a sinner has a purer heart than the Pharisees. Because she can see Jesus and realizes that His is more than just a prophet.
Where are we in this story? Are we still grateful for the cost of seeing our sin upon that cross? Do we love much because we have been forgiven much? Can we unashamedly worship and proclaim Jesus in our social surroundings?
Lord we pray that you would capture our hearts again with a fresh and deeper encounter with you.