I’ll be honest. There are some passages in the Bible that I’ve never really liked. Luke 7:36-50 is one of them. Guess what last night’s Bible study was on?
You guessed it.
In case you’re not familiar with Luke 7:36-50, it’s the story of a woman-with-a-less-than-stellar-reputation who very passionately anointed Jesus. She was a “sinner.” A prostitute.
It’s also the story of a man-with-an-impressive-spiritual-resume who very passively stood by. He was a “saint.” A Pharisee.One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. (Luke 7:36-38*)
If I had been one of the dinner guests around the table that evening, I no doubt would have squirmed in my chair and looked away, cringing. What she does is Awkward. Embarrassing. Inappropriate.
Simon, the host of the dinner, was also displeased with this uninvited guest, the party crasher. Jesus told him a story:“A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:41b-43)
Here’s the point:
Some sinners are greater debtors; but whether our debt be more or less, it is more than we are able to pay.” (Matthew Henry)
Let that sink in.
Now imagine Simon’s surprise when Jesus goes on to commend her and correct him:“Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. (Luke 7:44b-46)
This gal “got it.” She understood that Jesus was a very special Guest of Honor. Worthy of honor. The ultimate V.I.P. Suddenly she had my respect. Her actions were actually the more “appropriate” response. Because GOD was in the house!
Who can forgive sins but God only, and in Simon’s house God was present in the person of His Son.” (All the Women of the Bible)
She alone fell at His feet and worshiped.
Jesus continues:“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47-48)
This is the place in the passage where I’d always get hung up. My problem was that I identified more with the “good” Pharisee than with the “bad” woman. It seemed “unfair” to me that the one who had sinned more got to love more.
But really, aren’t we all “the woman” in the story? We’ve each been forgiven MUCH. So much more than we’ll ever know. The woman shows us the only “proper” response as she gives Jesus the one thing He’s really after: OUR LOVE.
Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50)
The woman was, at least in Simon’s mind, a greater sinner. The woman was, as Jesus pointed out, the greater lover as well.” (Bob Deffinbaugh)
Isn’t it interesting, that:
Of all those who went to the dinner, only this woman is said to have left forgiven”? (Bob Deffinbaugh)
And at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters? The question is not “What have you done?” but “What has Jesus done for you?” The issue is not where you’ve been, but where He wants to take you. I have no doubt that her life radically changed that day, and that many other lives were changed through her testimony.
My grandfather, at nearly 70 years of age, came to know Christ through a former prostitute. He had been invited to hear her story at a church service one evening. As she spoke, he realized, “If God can forgive her, then he can forgive me.” He lived another decade, a forgiven, changed man. I loved him and his story.
I now love the woman of Luke 7 and her story, too.
But most of all, I love “this man (who) goes around forgiving sins.” (Luke 7:49)
To know Him – to be forgiven by Him – is to love Him.
*All Scriptures are from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
(Quotes from Bob Deffinbaugh are excerpted from an article called “Wordless Worship of an Unnamed Woman” at www.bible.org.)