Summary: A women weeps at Jesus’ feet and is forgiven. Both she and Simon the Pharisee are challenged to see themselves from a different perspective.
A high-school sophomore asks to talk with her parents after dinner. Sitting around the kitchen table, the young girl takes a deep breath and informs her parents that she is pregnant. The parents’ reaction is as expected. The dad threatens to kill her boyfriend after stringing him up by certain parts of his anatomy. The mother begins a lecture on the responsibilities of parenthood and how difficult it will be to attend school while caring for a child. In the middle of their raving, the girl raises her hands for silence. “I’m not really pregnant,” she says. “I just wanted you to be able to put it in perspective when I told you that I got a C- in English.”
We have talked frequently about how “repenting” or getting a new perspective on life is important for our walks of faith. We see that again in this story of forgiveness and salvation. Our perspective either limits or enhances our experience of salvation.
This story has two main characters—Simon, who is a Pharisee and the woman, who is a sinner.
Simon was a good man. As a Pharisee he, like Jesus, was concerned with how a person lived out his life in relationship with God. If Simon lived today, he would be active in his church or synagogue and perhaps he would even be serving on the congregational council.
The author of Luke uses a little used literary device called “Internal Monologue.” It was rarely used in ancient literature. When it was is indicated at time of crisis. The crisis that Simon faces is determining if Jesus is a prophet and if his judgment of the woman is correct.
“Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39)
Simon did not want to talk about what was going through his mind. Jesus, though, forced him into a dialogue. The parable Jesus tells corrects Simon and invites him to live in salvation.
“When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.”
And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly’” (Luke 7:42-43).
The woman is identified as a sinner. This, however, was not of her own choosing. It was the result of a patriarchal, unjust society. The woman is like the 2.4 million people—mostly children—who are involved in sex trafficking today. The laws of the day prevented women from owning property or working outside of the home. The only way a widow or single woman could survive was through begging or prostitution.
Sometime previously the woman had encountered Jesus. She may have listened to his teaching. The woman might have even witnessed Jesus heal the sick or cast out demons. In her encounter with Jesus the woman sense his love for her and others like her.
The woman takes a risk. She enters a place where women were not to be and acted scandalously. She touched a man in public. She doesn’t stop there, though. The woman bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair and anoints his feet with ointment.
“She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment” (Luke 7:38).
Jesus did not rebuke the woman. Instead Jesus welcomed her attention, loved her and accepted her.
The woman responded to Jesus’ love. The act receiving love and giving love enabled to woman to live in salvation. For her salvation meant experiencing God’s love and acceptance and sharing that love with others.
We are invited to live like the woman, who was a sinner, rather than self-righteous Simon. To do this, we do not judge ourselves too harshly, nor others. Instead we stand in awe of God’s steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness. Living in God’s love, grace and forgiveness, is experiencing our salvation today.
Last week a local TV channel featured a couple who had been married for 72 years. Of course the reporter asked to what they attributed their long marriage. They said that it was because they never went to bed angry at each other. I think there is something more, though. One common characteristic that I see in long term relationships is that the couple lives in awe of each other’s love. The man would say, “I am the luckiest man in the world. My wife could have had any man she wanted, but she chose me.”