Summary: In this passage we meet a woman without a name, or a named sin. But we get to put our name in the story, and our sin, and see how our God reacts to us in love
We really don’t know much about her. We don’t know her name. We don’t know what she did. But the people living her town knew both. They knew all about her sins, whatever they were, they were public, and they were shameful. You are free to use your imagination to fill in the blanks where Scripture does not care to comment. Sufficient to say that people did not wish to look at this woman when she walked by. In fact, I imagine that there were many who despised her so much that they wish she would just go away, or disappear, or even just drop dead.
So it’s no surprise that she would not have been invited to Simon’s house. The only people invited to his house were the spiritual and cultural elites. After all, Simon was a Pharisee. Simon was a homeowner, and an educator, and a very prim and proper follower of the law. And as such, he had invited Jesus into his home for a meal.
But we learn after a little while that he didn’t invite Jesus because he thought highly of him, or that he wanted to learn from him. He invited Jesus to, “put him in his place.” He invited Jesus to let him know who was in charge. It’s really silly when you think about it, inviting God over to your house to impress him and belittle him. But that’s just it. Simon didn’t think Jesus was God’s son, he didn’t think he was the Messiah, he just didn’t think much of him at all. So there was no real welcome into his home. After walking the dusty roads of ancient Palestine, one would have a servant wash your feet upon arrival. You would be refreshed with an anointing of oil upon your head, and your host would reveal how happy he was to see you in his home by greeting you with a kiss upon your cheek. Jesus received none of this common courtesy. He knew he wouldn’t, but he still came and honored this conceited and undeserving man with his presence. Amazing if you think about it.
But soon this dinner would become something that people would talk about for thousands of years to come. Not because Simon said something so wise, or because the food was so good. But because in this Pharisee’s house, two worlds collided. And in the resulting explosion, something important about Jesus was revealed.
The explosion started when the sinful woman, “learned that (Jesus) was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house.” And without thinking, without asking, without any concern for what people might think at all, she just walked right in, uninvited and unwelcome. She wasn’t the type of person that would ever get an invitation to a Pharisee’s house. But she didn’t care. She had heard of this Jesus, and heard what he preached, and nothing would keep her from getting to see him, and give him a gift that she considered in no way compared to the gift he had given her. He had been preaching about repentance and forgiveness of sins. And this was a message she knew was meant for her, and meant a great deal to her.
You can imagine how awkward and upsetting her mere presence must have been for Simon and the others, much less what she proceeds to do when she finally gets to see Jesus face to face. She, “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.”
“Ah-ha!,” Simon thought to himself. Here is the proof I wanted. There is no WAY this Jesus is who he says he is, “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.” The implication is, of course, that if Jesus only knew this woman’s reputation, he would have cast her away, and reprimanded her, not let her honor him with her tears, and hair, and precious perfume.
But Jesus proves in an instant that in fact he is a prophet, in fact, much more. What Simon only says to himself, Jesus answers with full voice, knowing even his thoughts. “And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
So Jesus tells him a parable, “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
There could only be one answer, and Simon gives it, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled 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 table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”