When Jesus was invited to a meal, the whole neighborhood might come. The common people wanted to see and hear Jesus, a rabbi who was often in conflict with the Pharisees. When Jesus was invited to dine with a Pharisee, it was one part evening entertainment and one part religious instruction.
When Jesus came to dine at Simon’s house (Luke 7:36-50), word spread. A woman who is identified as “a sinner” comes to see Jesus. But she is not content with standing on the periphery, or peering in to get a fleeting glimpse. She moves through the crowd to the feet of the Savior. Weeping, she wipes the tears off his feet with her hair, kisses his feet, and pours over them expensive ointment.
The reaction by Simon was one of disgust and rejection. He rejects Jesus as a prophet because he certainly doesn’t know who is touching him for she is a sinner (Luke 7:39).
Jesus was not adverse to eating with Pharisees (see Luke 11:37; 14:1), nor with so-called “sinners” (see Matthew 9:10). It was his willingness to dine with others that served as an excuse to reject him (Luke 7:34). Yet these false allegations did not cause Jesus to abandon those who needed him. When questioned, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:30-32 ESV).
The meal with Simon displays the vast chasm between those who think themselves righteous, and the sinners whom Jesus calls to himself. The difference between Simon and this sinful woman was not in how God saw them (for they were both sinners in need of a Savior), but in how they saw themselves.
After a simple parable, where Jesus illustrates the power of appreciation for sin and forgiveness, Jesus asks Simon if he sees the woman. Of course Simon had seen her! The whole dinner party had seen her. The whole crowd had seen her. In Simon’s mind she has both ruined his dinner party and exposed Jesus as a fraud.
But that is the problem. He doesn’t really see her, not as Jesus does. Simon sees a nuisance, a sinner to be dismissed and discarded. Jesus sees a penitent heart who is full of remorse for her past sins and gratitude for the forgiveness she has been granted.
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47 NET).
While Simon treated Jesus with great disrespect, this woman has done what she could for the incarnate God. She has been forgiven much and she has loved much.
What Simon did not realize is that if we have been forgiven at all, we have been forgiven much.
There is only one Savior, and there are only two types of people: Those like Simon, and those like the sinful woman. The former are self-righteous and see nothing of their own sinfulness nor their need for forgiveness. The later recognize the greatness of God and the depth of their inadequacies before him. They grasp the damage that sin has done, and the healing that forgiveness brings.
Which person are you?
May we all see ourselves as Jesus does. May we all see Jesus as this woman does.