Luke 7: 36 – 50 NLT
“One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. 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 to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, cancelling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled 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.”
Who do you think you identify with the most – Simon the Pharisee or the “immoral woman”? I suspect if I could ask you in person, you would have trouble answering. You wouldn’t want to identify with a religious, legalistic person, but you also wouldn’t want to identify with a person known for sinful behaviour. But if we get right down to it, I suspect we likely consider ourselves as good people, people who do our best to live well. And we also look at some other people who we know have issues with alcohol, or who even live in and out of jail as a result of petty crimes, as people who are not as good as us.
Simon was a Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner likely along with other Pharisees. We don’t know if Simon was looking for an opportunity to catch Jesus with some statement considered dreadful, or if he was actually interested in this new popular “rabbi-like” person. But we do know he was upset with this woman who snuck into the dinner and began weeping at Jesus’ feet. Just stop for a moment and put yourself at that dinner. You are hosting some reputable people from Windsor at your backyard BBQ, and a homeless man shows up, runs over, and hugs one of your guests. Wouldn’t you be a little alarmed?
Yet, despite this alarming intrusion, this irreputable woman was the one that Jesus treasured. This woman kneels at Jesus’ feet, washes them with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and then anoints them with extremely costly perfume. After telling a story about two people who were forgiven debts – one a very large debt and the other a smaller debt – Jesus mentions that Simon hadn’t arranged to have his feet washed and dried. That was a usual custom supplied by the host’s servants. Nor was he anointed with olive oil, another custom of the day. Why?
Obviously, Simon didn’t love Jesus all that much. He was interested and willing to invite him for dinner, but Jesus wasn’t someone he felt indebted to at all. The woman, however, knew what a mess she had made of her life and was so grateful for Jesus’ love and care.
This makes me stop and think and go back to the question I first asked. Who do you identify with the most – Simon or the woman? It’s so easy if you’ve been a church-goer for most of your life to forget how much Jesus has forgiven you. Deep down in your mind, you think you’ve followed Jesus fairly well, doing your best to live in an honest, caring way, serving in the church, etc. You would likely avoid downtown Windsor, especially at night, when you are more apt to run into homeless people. There are some neighbourhoods you wouldn’t visit because you know they are rather run-down. I say those things, because I know they reflect me. This story in Luke hits home if I’m willing to admit it.
As Christ-followers, we need to admit we are sinful – in the past and in the present. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3: 23) That is something we need to remember. Serving God needs to come from our thankfulness and love for what Jesus has done for us – not from a sense of feeling we are doing well these days.
Heavenly Father, forgive me for my pride. Help me to serve you from the bottom of my heart, from my awareness of how much you have loved and forgiven me.
Our song for today is Lay Down My Pride by Jeremy Camp