In this story, Jesus sets on the table His theology of grace.
The setting for our feast is Simon the Pharisee’s house in Galilee. This dinner probably took place around dusk. The people would have been reclining to eat on cushions surrounding low tables. When a teacher was invited to dinner, the doors to the courtyard were usually left open so that uninvited guest could enter and stand around the perimeter to hear the teaching. As you read try to imagine the scene… the oil lanterns flickering, the smell of the food, the lively conversation. Notice the difference in the way Simon performs as a host to Jesus and the way the sinful woman greets him. Read the Scripture below and try to enter the scene yourself as you observe the characters involved.
Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman - Luke 7:36-50
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, 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.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Jesus was causing quite a stir in the area. There was a growing uneasiness among those in power, the Pharisees. Simon was probably curious himself.
Could this man really be a prophet? He didn’t look any different from all the rest of the strangers you might pass on the street. What was it about him that drew so many into HIs teaching? He was performing miracles and Simon was skeptical. And so Simon invited Jesus into his home. It was his duty after all. This Jesus needed to be investigated. It’s likely that Simon was chosen from among the Pharisees for this task and pride probably also crept in. He could be trusted to check Jesus out on this fact finding mission.
And so the table is set.
Jesus arrives, but isn’t given a place of honor at the table at the inner area of the courtyard and instead is seated around the perimeter. Simon makes a place for him, but can’t bothered with giving him water to wash his feet or having a servant wash the dust from his feet of travels. Jesus head isn't annointed with oil. Their eyes meet, but he certainly isn’t greeted with a kiss. These were all common courtesies defined by the community and time in which they lived.
Then the sinful woman enters the feast.
This woman has invited Jesus into her life and has invited herself to the feast.
She becomes a host for Jesus and is filled with delight in contrast to the hosting that Simon offered out of religious duty.
Jesus calls the woman the more gracious host. She attends to the needs of the guest in the way that Simon should have offered.
I think verse 44 is so interesting - Jesus turns his gaze toward the woman, but speaks to Simon.
Simon saw only a prostitute, a sinful intruder into his home. He didn’t see her as a person, and He certainly didn’t recognize her extravagant acts as offerings of worship to the Savior.
But Jesus saw her, really saw deep into her soul. For once, a man, a man named Jesus, looked into the depths of her soul and saw her need, not what he could get from her for a price - but what He could give her for a price that He was willing to pay. He saw beyond her sordid past and into her glorious future. And in humility and love, she comes to this feast to honor Him in her present state of forgiveness.
It’s important to note that this woman enters the scene already forgiven. John McArthur explains in his commentary on this passage - “Notice that little statement, "I say to you, her sins which are many have been forgiven." That's perfect tense. It didn't happen right there then. That's past. Perfect tense, something happened in the past with continuing effect. She had already been forgiven. She had been forgiven some other place, some other day, some other time. She came there already forgiven, in a state of forgiveness, to find Jesus to thank Him. “
Jesus has transformed her life.
We don’t know the details of how, but we see the evidence of it in her lavish display of love and gratitude, her deep humility.
She is silent at the rebuke in the room. Imagine how she felt while people whispered about her reputation in the room.
But divine grace has moved her to love and love has given her courage to serve Jesus. What she gave cost her in finances and in public rebuke. She pours out all of her costly perfume on His feet. She has brought it as a gift of her love to the One who has forgiven her.
In contrast, Simon was a religious leader. He had done his best to live a respectable life. His sins were tucked away, maybe he didn’t even recognize them himself.
But he had given himself permission to judge and size up others, putting a wall around his world and his heart. His life was all so orderly, so under the law that he couldn’t see the unpredictable power of grace.
The Scripture says Simon thought - “If this man were a prophet he would know what kind of woman she is. She is a sinner. I love how Jesus reads Simon’s mind and answers him with the parable in verse 41- 43.
This Master teacher is trying to get Simon to understand grace through His parable.
Simon and the woman both owed a debt that neither of them could pay.
Simon, the Pharisee was so certain that he was on a road that would lead him to heaven - that road of an orderly, moral life. He had followed the rules, kept himself ritually clean. And yet, heaven walked right in through his door, sat down at his table and Simon didn’t even recognize Him.
In contrast, the woman knew how desperately lost she had been and she found heaven at the feet of Jesus and her heart broke open with tears of love. The evidence of her forgiveness is in her lavish love.
She has invited Jesus in and she hosts Him into her life with utter delight. This is worship - pure and holy.
Look again at the words of Jesus in verse 47 - Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
I would imagine the room went silent when Jesus spoke these words.
This is such a significant truth for us. We will love God to the degree that we recognize the magnitude of our sins and the immensity of God’s grace to forgive them. And then we worship as worshippers the Father is seeking - in the beauty of our brokenness and repentance over our sin and the passionate love that flows out of us as a result of His grace.
Lavish love comes from lavish forgiveness.
At last, she can experience peace. For so long she has searched for someone to fill the deep hunger and thirst in her soul and that search has led her down a dark and broken life of sin.
Perhaps you also have experienced the same brokenness that a life of sin can bring.
Jesus reveals Himself to be the Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation in her life, the One...the only One who can finally satisfy her hunger and thirst.
And so as we look at the stories in Scripture where Jesus ate, drank and taught we must ask some questions about what we can learn for our own faith journeys. For me the greatest lesson in this story is that no matter how sinful, how broken, how deeply entrenched our own lives have become filled with error, or how hidden the sin is in our lives, we have the hope of forgiveness and peace, just like the woman and Simon.
- Ephesians 1:7-8 - In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight
- Romans 5:8 - God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We may not feel worthy of His forgiveness, but that doesn’t change the fact of it.
- 1 John 2:12 - “Your sins have been forgiven on account of His name.”
1. How are you hosting Jesus in your life?
Do you greet Him in the morning with prayer, reading His love letter to you in His Word, anointing Him with praise?
We can approach Him like Simon, tightly holding on to unspoken questions, treating Him as a question to be answered, a resource to be mined or we can approach Jesus with a heart of gratitude and worship, a Savior to whom we can pour out our love because we know that we are deeply loved and forgiven. We can choose to be like this woman and host Him with the delight of your hearts.
Our love, like hers may not be tidy and orderly. We certainly may not have all the answers. But, if we turn our hearts toward Him, we too will be healed.
2. Can you think of someone in your life who needs the compassionate eyes of Jesus from you?
3. How can you break open the alabaster jar of your love for Jesus in the days ahead?
4. What acts of gratitude can you pour out at His feet?
When we choose to believe, forgiveness is etched on the wounds of our hearts.
It is written in His boundless grace and sealed by His love.
Forgiven and loved,
Resources: Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, Articles and Teaching by John Piper, John Bloom, John McArthur, Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire, Sally Clarkson, Leonard Sweet, Commentary by Matthew Henry,
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