Summary: This is about the sinful woman’s anointing of Jesus. She was forgiven of much because she loved much. A story about salvation, criticism, holiness, worship, forgiveness and love.
This is a good story to tell on the Sunday nearest Valentine’s Day. It’s got all the qualities of a great love story: passion, overcoming obstacles, standing up for the other, other people trying to interfere, forgiveness. It’s a great tale about great love, one for another. I like the letter not at all like our Bible passage today, a letter that a young man wrote to his girlfriend. It said, “Sweetheart, if this world was as hot as the Sahara desert, I would crawl on my knees through the burning sand to come to you. If the world would be like the Atlantic Ocean, I would swim through shark infested waters to come to you. I would fight the most fiercest dragon to be by your side. I will see you on Thursday if it does not rain.”
Ah, the stuff that love is made of. Well, let’s pick this story apart. Now, I don’t want to over-analyze it, because at its core it is a love story. But there are some elements I’d like to look at. So Jesus was invited out for lunch. A Pharisee named Simon asked if Jesus would like to eat at his place, and Jesus accepted. Now, it seems that news got out that Jesus would be eating at Simon’s house, and a sinful woman waited for Jesus to show up there.
There are similar stories in the other Gospels describing when Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus with oil. Catholic theology says this is the same story, at least the same woman. While the stories are similar, they have several notable differences too, enough to say that it’s nor fair to assume this sinful woman is Mary Magdalene. The text says “a certain woman”, apparently wanting not to name her, so we won’t either.
So at Simon’s house the woman cried on Jesus’ feet, wiped them off with her own hair, kissed them and poured expensive perfume on them. This all sounds very odd today but back then and there, since everyone wore sandals, cleaning someone else’s feet was a sign of respect and honor. It was customary.
But Simon did not react well to it all. In fact, he used it as proof that Jesus was not who people said he was: a prophet. 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.”
And Jesus, actually proving He was a prophet, responded to Simon’s unspoken thoughts. Jesus told a story of 2 people who owed their creditor some money. One owed a small amount, and the other owed 10 times as much. The creditor forgave them both of their debts. And Jesus asked who would be more thankful for it. Simon said that the one who owed more and was forgiven of more would love more.
Which was exactly Jesus’ point. Jesus then connected it to Simon and the sinful woman and said that the woman showed Jesus much more love. He declared that her sins were forgiven and sent her off, much to the dismay of the other guests, likely Pharisees, who were annoyed at the whole thing.