“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table” (ESV, Luk. 7:36).
Here we have a Pharisee, one of the religious leaders of the day who claimed to be righteous through their strict adherence to law and tradition. Jesus had heavily criticized them on multiple occasions, and the Pharisees were consequently seeking to do away with him (Luk. 6:11). This immediately raises the question why–why did the Pharisee invite Jesus, and why did Jesus accept?
“And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment” (Luk. 7:37).
Here we have a woman of the city, probably a prostitute, who has a reputation for being sinful and was thus despised. Upon hearing where Jesus is, she brings an alabaster flask. This flask is not something that was easily obtained; alabaster flasks were used to contain very expensive perfumes and oils worth up to a year’s wages. With probably her most valuable possession, she, the lowest of the low, dares to enter the house of a Pharisee, the epitome of human righteousness. Why? Because she desperately needs to see Jesus.
“… and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with ointment” (Luk. 7:38).
Since Jesus was reclining, He was facing the table, but merely being at Jesus’ feet overwhelmed the sinful woman. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the most comfortable angle from which to approach someone, nor did it matter that everyone would stare and scorn her for the sinful woman that she was. She had come to worship the Lord with all that she had, and she did so. Nothing else mattered.
“Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner'” (Luk. 7:39).
What the Pharisee saw – and what all those around him likely saw – was a sinful woman who ought to be shunned and spurned by all those who were more righteous, himself included. But that’s not what Jesus saw, for He had come to seek and save the lost (Luk. 19:10).
“And Jesus answering said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you,’ And he answered, ‘Say it, Teacher.’
‘A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.’ And he said to him, ‘You have judged rightly'” (Luk. 7:40-43).
Notice that in his parable Jesus doesn’t emphasize the disparity in the debts–both debts were simply cancelled–but the disparity in the love. He doesn’t focus on how vast one’s sins might be, for He came to pay that penalty. He looks instead at the love consequently shown. Yes, the woman is such a terrible and wicked sinner! So how tremendous her love would be for her Saviour when He wipes away it all…
“Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?'” (Luk 7:44).
Simon had previously questioned to himself whether Jesus really saw the woman, and now, Jesus, the Lord of all, asks Simon whether he really saw the woman–her repentance, her devotion, her humility, and her love.
“… I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment…” (Luk. 7:44-46).
All the things Jesus listed were common acts of hospitality toward a guest, and Simon had denied Jesus all of these. Why? Because he thought he was righteous and thought he did not need a Savior, he did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah nor did he see any need to pay attention to Jesus’ teaching. He was, after all, a Pharisee, a religious leader. He thought he did not need to worry about sin. Likely, he had invited Jesus to take a close look at the man who had aroused such interest in Israel.
But the woman who knew her sin and her need for a Saviour had cast all else aside just to worship and honor Him.
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then those who were at 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'” (Luk. 7:47-50).
Jesus, who had formerly been facing the table and the other guests now faces the woman and gives her His attention. He has declared her forgiveness and salvation. He had come not primarily for the Pharisee but for the woman who had humbly and repentantly fallen at His feet.
Self-righteousness and pride is an easy trap to fall into, and sometimes, even when we recognize our shortcomings, we fail to realize how weighty and grevious that sin is. But neither is wallowing and drowning in our sinfulness the proper approach. That sinful woman saw her desperate need, turned to the Saviour who could and did forgive her, and poured out her all in thankfulness and worship. This response requires incredible humility and submission–which ought to be our response if we indeed are Christians.
Examine your life: how has God forgiven you? And what ought your response be? And how can you demonstrate worship and humility? What areas of your life still contain sins you have not surrendered? Pray on this question, and take those areas to the Lord.
When we look at how vast our sins are that God has forgiven, how much should our love abound for Him! And if you have never yet surrendered to Him, Jesus promises to wipe away all your sins; He bore it all on the cross, and He rose again that we may have an eternal hope in Him.
Hymn Spotlight: “His Mercy is More”
Verse Spotlight: 1 Peter 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Photo Credits: Hannah Wong