Luke 7: 36 – 50 Jesus anointed by a sinful woman

Luke 7: 36 – 50 Jesus anointed by a sinful woman

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.’

Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’

‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said.

‘Two people owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 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?’

Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’

‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.

Then he turned towards the woman and said to Simon, ‘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. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’

Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’

Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

*       *       *

Simon the Pharisee had a good impulse; he invited Jesus to dine with him and his friends. Perhaps he felt an attraction to Jesus’ teaching; perhaps he was just professionally curious; perhaps he wanted the chance to put probing questions to Jesus in an environment where Jesus couldn’t call on the support of a crowd. Whatever his motivation, Simon was doing the right thing in wanting to hear Jesus’ teaching for himself.

Jesus accepted the invitation, arrived, and was treated with the barest minimum of civility.

He reclined at the table, and a woman who was known in the town to live a sinful life came and stood behind him. So great was her emotion that she wept copiously, until the tears ran over Jesus’ feet. She wiped them away with her hair and she kissed his feet repeatedly.

Simon was immediately suspicious of Jesus. If he really were a prophet, surely he would know that this woman was a sinner without being told? Simon passed judgment on Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t contradict Simon’s muttered comments; he offers him some teaching. Teaching was what Simon wanted, I think, and he makes an appropriate response. ‘Tell me, teacher’, he says.

So Jesus tells him a parable about two men who were heavily in debt. One denarius was the usual daily wage of a day labourer. If the characters in the story were day labourers, then the one who owed fifty denarii might just have been able to pay it off over the course of a year. It would be hard, and he would have to often go without food. The one who owed five hundred had no chance at all; probably even the interest payment would be more than he could afford to pay; he was in a desperate state.

When Simon answered ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven’, we can understand why. The man who was desperate was suddenly free. He knew that his whole life had been given back to him.

Jesus then directly contrasts the behaviour of the sinful woman, and Simon. Simon had shown Jesus minimal courtesy; the woman had shown great love and gratitude. Jesus tells Simon, “Look at her love for me. Look at her gratitude. She shows that because her many sins have been forgiven.” He stops just short of telling Simon that his sins have not been forgiven, but he hints strongly at it.

Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

No ifs. No buts. No admonition that she must not sin again. Just forgiveness.

The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’

There must have been consternation among the guests. How many of them, I wonder, judged Jesus guilty of blasphemy?

I wonder what Simon felt. To be so close to such an authentic and dramatic demonstration of Jesus’ power to forgive sins must have been astonishing. I wonder if Simon’s whole world was turned upside-down in that moment.

Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

Prayer

Dear Lord

You taught Simon the need for true repentance. You teach us that the love we feel for you depends upon recognising how much we owe you and how freely you have paid our debt. Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Amen

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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