Today's reading is a story that describes Jesus as one who is willing to dine with us, about forgiveness and transformation. Most of all, it is a story of Jesus' love for each and every one of us - no matter the sin. It will call us to check the condition of our own hearts. Let's start with the setting....A setting which demonstrates Jesus as a friend to sinners.
"When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, we went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table." - verse 36
We see Jesus here at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. Simon wanted to honor this famous rabbi. We can assume that Simon is well-to-do. Most of the pharisees seemed to be. Hospitality was a very strong value in the Middle East with much fuss made over guests, especially a famous rabbi. The text indicates that Jesus "reclined" at the table (Greek kataklino-reclined). This is a characteristically Eastern style of dining, with guests arranged around a low table, reclining on one arm and supported cushions, leaving their hands free to feed themselves. Their feet would be stretched out behind them, with room for those who were serving the meal to bring various dishes to the table. This is also the likely arrangement at the Lord's Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. A woman comes to the party uninvited.
It is important to understand that the pharisees were distinguished by strict observation of the written and traditional law, and were believed to have held pretentions to superior sanctity. In modern language - self-righteous.
Then something extraordinary happens in verse 37:
When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume."
So in comes this woman. I am quite certain it was not proper for a sinful woman to approach the honored guest, especially not this type of woman, a woman who lived a "sinful" life. She comes with an alabaster jar of perfume.. She is viewed as someone who conveys uncleanness by her very touch. Her actions indicate that she must have heard Jesus speak of His Father's Kingdom in words so plain and compelling that she desperately desires what Jesus is promising. Forgiveness and restoration. She somehow knew Jesus would be receptive to her coming. verse 38 says;
"As she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped then with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them."
The woman is standing behind Jesus, and weeps. We read that her tears fall upon Jesus' feet. How long this goes on we are not told. Each tear must have made a brown wet mark in the dust of his feet, until his feet were wet with her tears.
Now she unfastens her hair, removing whatever kerchief she may have worn over it, lets it fall free. She kneels down and begins to wipe his feet with her hair. A women's glory is her appearance, and her hair especially in the New Testament times! She allows herself to be dishevelled & uses her hair to wipe the feet (the job of a servant) of Jesus!
Her weeping "klaiousa" (Greek) κλαίουσα is especially deep weeping of great remorse and great sorrow that is only used three times in the whole of the New Testament!
a)Here in this verse and in
b)Matthew 2:18 Rachel is "weeping" for the children after Herod had ordered the killing of boys under the age of 2,
c)And John 20:11 where we see Mary of Magdala (Magdalene) "weeping" at the tomb on Easter morning before conversing with the two angels.
In the case of Mary Magdalene and Rachel the great sorrow is easily understood. In the scene here we see a pouring out of deep remorse – for this woman came to Jesus with a humble and sorrowful heart, seeking forgiveness. True humility, remorse, & repentance are demonstrated by her actions.
You might jump to the conclusion that this woman had a lot to be sorry for – after all her sin was “especially wicked”. The question we need to answer for ourselves is how big does the sin need to be for our hearts to be deeply sorry? Do we sometimes think that the “little” things we do don’t matter so much? Before answering that question….let’s take a look at what happens next in verses 39:
'"When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, He said to himself, 'If this man were are propnet, He would know who is touching Him, and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner.'"
Did Simon know, really know who he had at his dinner table. We see him questioning, doubting --- looking for ways to disprove what he had been told to be true about Jesus. himself. What was it about Simon that caused him to doubt Jesus. One might suggest that just as much as we see Jesus being Jesus, we see the Pharisee being the Pharisee – hoping to uncover a gotcha moment. This is something that we all need to be careful of. It is easy to sit here today in judgement of the pharisee but how often do we find ourselves looking for the bad in another person rather than the good. I often wonder how we define the call to “love" our neighbor and our enemy if we spend time seeking the gotcha moments … the I must be right and you must be wrong. Verse 40 says:.
"Jesus answered him, 'Simon, I something to tell you.' 'Tell me, teacher, he said."
We can surmise that Jesus knew what the pharisee was thinking. Jesus does not confront or judge Simon - why not? After all, Jesus is God. Who better to pass judgment?
Let’s keep in mind that Jesus is speaking to Simon who is concerned about this woman who just came in and touched Jesus – something that a prophet – at least in the mind of a pharisee – would never let happen. Jesus the friend of sinners…now becomes Jesus the teacher who answers Simon as follows in verses 41-42:
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denari, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
How would you answer this question if it were you? Both were forgiven – does the amount of forgiveness we receive increase our love – especially as it relates to our Lord? Maybe a reverse question might be – is it ok to continue in sin in the “small” areas of our life because we only need forgiveness for the big things? Let’s see how Simon replies and how Jesus applies it to the woman in the story (verse 43):
"Simon replied. 'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.' 'You have judged correctly,' Jesus said."
Simon's words were more than an answer. They were a judgment as well. Jesus had concealed Simon's conduct under the cover of a parable, and had thus led him to unwittingly pronounce sentence against himself. Simon, the little debtor, had no acts of gratitude to plead in evidence of his acquittal. (verses 44-45)
"Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet. but she wet my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet."
See this woman? - Jesus is comparing Simon’s actions to the woman known as a wicked sinner – YIKES!! Simon -- see what this woman has done for me, compared with what you have done. She has shown me expressions of regard which you, in your own house, have not shown. Jesus was expressing the fact that he had come into Simon’s house expecting the usual hospitality.
"You did not give me water for my feet." - Among Eastern people it was customary, before eating, to wash the feet; and to do this, or to bring water for it, was one of the measures of hospitality. The reasons for this were, that they wore “sandals,” which covered only the bottom of the feet, and as we see here, they were reclining on couches. It was therefore necessary that the feet should be often washed. The neglect of washing, kissing and anointing is not well taken by Jesus (verse 47):.
"Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - as her great love has shown. But whoever has forgiven little loves little.".
In Matthew 7 Jesus is pretty direct when He says:
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eyes? You hypocrite. First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Simon the little debtor had a huge gargantuan-sized plank in his eye that was not only blocking his vision to see this man named Jesus was the Messiah, but another one that kept him from recognizing his own sin and therefore how little he was capable of loving.
Does it matter how big or small the forgiveness Jesus showers upon those who repent? Or does it matter how much we love, truly love, Jesus? We love Jesus because He loved us first. We love Jesus because we know who He is! We love Jesus because we all know that we have sinned and fallen short. And yet, still Jesus forgives and we are saved by our faith!! Jesus the TEACHER is also Jesus our Savior.
Dp we recognize all the "little debts or "little sins" in our lives that need forgiveness? Are we too focuced on the magnitude of the sin of another, to even recognize our own? (verses 48-50):
"Then Jesus said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' Others present saw what was happening and wondered who this man was who could forgive sins."
It is the light of our own faith that will draw others that are in the darkness of this world into the light of Christ.
What about the condition of our own hearts? Are we able to see beyond ourselves to see Jesus in the midst of all that goes on in our world? Jesius says, "Your faith has saved you; now follow me. Don't compare yourself to another-follow me. I know what is best." We need to be humble, servant, forgiver, and forgiven!
Do you think that this woman who Jesus loved and forgave became a channel of God's peace to those she came into contact with? We are forgiven and, whether we are forgiven "small" or "big" we are to love our Jesus and one another a whole lot!
So where are you today? How is your heart? Rest your eyes on Jesus, for He is your friend, your teacher, your Savior. If there is anything at all you need to confess, tarry no longer. Make things right with the Lord, so you, like our woman in the story, can go in peace and become that channel of God's peace that our world so desperately needs.