One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at the 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. 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.” 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 canceled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he canceled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 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. 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 the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
The Pharisees were constantly trying to trip Jesus up. They looked for ways to condemn him as a blasphemer, to accuse him of being an agent of Satan, to charge him with not adhering to the law. They felt threatened by Jesus’s influence and how his ministry would challenge their power. As keepers of the law, the Pharisees were known for avoiding outcasts and sinners. Ordinarily, a woman like the one who entered the Pharisee’s home would have been forbidden. However, it was customary to allow uninvited guests, even “sinners,” to sit around the perimeter of a home to hear special guests or to listen to important discussions. Maybe the woman in this passage requested to see Jesus and they allowed her in to see what he would do. Either way, she entered with a heart to worship, to show faith-filled love towardChrist, taking an expensive oil and anointing Jesus with it in tears.
The Pharisees saw this as evidence that Jesus was not a prophet because surely a prophet would know what sort of woman she was and would cast her out. Instead, Jesus responds with a parabolic question, asking if two debtors’ debts were canceled, who would love the lender more, the one with the larger or smaller debt canceled. Simon the Pharisee answered correctly that the person with the larger debt canceled would have a greater love for the lender. Jesus then turns to the woman and explains to Simon that this woman, whose sins were many, loved Christ in proportion to how much she knew he’d forgiven her.
Rather than a humble conviction that would lead the Pharisees and guests to know the depth of their sins and to respond in repentance, they marvel at Jesus’s response and question his authority to forgive sins. It is easy for us to miss that Jesus even extended a gracious welcome to his enemies, to those he knew who had impure motives and were out to discredit his ministry. However, Christ welcomed the hospitality of the Pharisee, who missed the opportunity to receive Christ’s forgiveness, and he welcomed the hospitality of the woman, whose genuine love and reverence were on display as she presented herself before Jesus as a known sinner.
The Pharisee’s self-righteous attitude only allowed him to look outward at her sins rather than inward at his own need for forgiveness. What a missed opportunity in that home, to miss the greatest love one can know, love for Christ and the love of Christ, for those whose sins have been forgiven.
- Have you received the offer of Christ’s forgiveness? If not, what might be keeping you from accepting that offer? If so, how has your love for Christ grown and how would you encourage someone who does not yet know the forgiveness of Jesus?
- How have you missed what Christ has called you to because you were more focused on the sins of others rather than your own?
- How might you demonstrate greater love and gratitude for Christ given how much he’s forgiven your sins?