Why did Simon the Pharisee invite Jesus to his home? Perhaps he saw this charismatic Rabbi more as a night of entertainment than someone he cared about personally. He seems unusually negligent in following basic etiquette to host an honored guest. What does this say about him? That he was ambivalent about Jesus, or cavalier? (Quickly read Luke 7:36-56 at the end of this post for the entire story.)
Maybe Simon really did value Jesus’ teachings and his company, but not to the point where it would cause him to be undignified or show too much affection. Certainly not like this shameful woman fawning all over the Master.
I relate to both Simon and the immoral woman, as she is named in this story, and maybe you can find things you relate to as well. Let me begin with Simon.
Having grown up in the church, having never rebelled, and having lived a fairly moral life, I have more in common with this Pharisee than I care to admit. Like Simon, the pervasive depth of my sin compared to others, or my need, has not always been so obvious to me, especially in my youth. Like Simon, I can relate to “loving little” during times when my heart has been distant from the Lord. And sometimes I, too, might not want to appear “undignified” or “fanatic” about my love for Jesus.
On the other hand, everything that Simon was, the immoral woman was not. She did not have power, status, or a good reputation. When Jesus came to their town, both of them must have heard his preaching and witnessed miraculous healings, yet while Simon doubted that Jesus was “a prophet,” she believed and repented.
And so it appears that gratitude and love drove her to crash Simon’s party. As she knelt down to perfume Jesus’ feet, the tears came. So many had come to Jesus to be healed physically, but what could be done for a broken heart? How could this holy man accept someone like her?
I, too, have often wondered, how can he accept someone like me? Yet she came anyway, despite her great unworthiness. And this is a good lesson for all of us, isn’t it? To just come, regardless of how bad we are feeling about ourselves in the moment.
As Jesus talks to Simon about this precious woman, honoring her love and devotion, I try to picture her reaction. Did she suddenly stop crying and lift her head, incredulous at his words? Yes, we must look away from our guilt and shame and look up at our beautiful Savior.
Even more surprising, Jesus pronounces her sins forgiven. He didn’t even add, “Go and sin no more.” I’m guessing this simply wasn’t necessary in her case. Her heart was already devoted.
Instead, Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Not “go and feel bad for a while,” not “go and try harder to fix yourself,” not “go and do more,” but . . .
Go and be free!
Go, knowing yourself so wonderfully loved and accepted that you find yourself incredulous.
So our privilege as a believer is that we may keep kneeling before him, we may keep believing our sins are forgiven, and we may keep rising to “go in peace.”
Is this not how we learn to “love much”?
Luke 7:36-56 — Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.[a] 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver[b] to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”