Updated: May 20
For today's reading, lets take a look at Luke 7:36-50 and break it down.
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table.
The fact that Jesus went to the Pharisee's house is amazing and shows us two things: Jesus truly loved any and all types of sinners and Jesus truly loved those who hated Him.
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, 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 the ointment.
The wording of this text is very interesting, "A woman of the city, who was a sinner". You get the sense that this was perceived as a very negative thing by the pharisees. Whatever the perception, or the reality, was for this woman she learned of Jesus somehow and went the extra mile to buy ointment and potentially go to a place where she was unwanted just to get to Jesus. This is a reoccurring pattern in the gospels where, a sinner is called by Jesus and led by His Spirit, to take risks and not care what others think, in order to pursue Him who infinitely worthy. Not to be outdone by her already drastic pursuing of Jesus, the woman wets Jesus feet with her tears, wipes her own tears on his feet with her hair, and then pours on the ointment that she could probably barely afford. Keep in mind she is doing this all while going to a place she is probably not welcomed.
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."
A couple of observations here:
1. The woman was not invited, but Jesus was. 2. The Pharisee questioned whether Jesus was a prophet or not based on Jesus acceptance of sinners, in which, the pharisee was himself. Based on the word "who" it seems the woman was somehow known by the Pharisee's, and potentially others. In addition, her deeds seemed to be known to based on the words "what sort of woman this is". 3. Despite all of this Jesus allowed this woman to touch Him. He let her into His personal space. He accepted the one who was probably often rejected by others.
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."
Up until i now, I used to read this passage and think that this must mean that God, Jesus, forgave both the woman in the Pharisee. What I believe now is that, based on this text, Jesus was saying "when you have real faith you will be as a person who realizes that you have a massive debt hanging over your head and not some flimsy debt that should be forgotten". He is saying that if you are a sinner that is a recipient of His grace and forgiveness your response will be "I have much sin" and not "my sin is too small".
Then turning toward 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 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.
It is here, that we see the importance of taking scripture in context. Jesus moved from giving an illustration of two people owing a person debt to then bringing the example closer to home and saying He is the one owed the debt and the woman and the Pharisee are the ones indebted to Him. He then goes further to explain what really happened based on both the Pharisee and woman's real situation. It no longer mattered how the pharisee perceived the woman. The reality of who this woman was, was going to be defined by Jesus Himself. Like the Pharisee earlier in this passage, Jesus is going to define "who" this woman is but before doing that he describes "what sort of woman" this woman is and what sort of man the Pharisee is not in the list above. It appears that the Pharisee has the small debt based on his little to no actions of love toward Jesus. On top of this, throughout the Gospels, pharisees, like most of us today, have a very poor estimation of our own true condition before God. The woman, on the other hand, knew and sensed her deep need and forgiveness from God. They both had a large debt but it was the Pharisee who didn't know the "who" and "what sort of man" he was. On top of all this, Jesus was in this man's home and was not shown basic hospitality by him. The woman on the other hand treated Jesus above and beyond what this Pharisee's home which was not her home and was a place she wasn't even welcomed. What a radical difference between these two!
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."
This woman's new reality was that she was saved and forgiven and was to leave in peace. This does not seem to be the case for the pharisee. If our love is little, we must be very careful that we are clinging to Jesus because this may be a very telling diagnosis of our condition before Him. A condition of being a unforgiving, loveless person. However, if by His grace, we are loving much we can rest assured that He has forgiven us much and has empowered us to love others.
Thank you for reading!