The Sinful Woman Who Loved Jesus
1. A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to a meal. In those days it was considered an achievement to entertain an itinerant teacher with a meal after the Sabbath. It seems that Simon saw Jesus as such an itinerant teacher. In response to Simon's request Jesus became his guest and arrived at his place for the meal. Then, abruptly, a woman known to the town as a sinful lady had entered in while crying at the same time. Then, she approached Jesus from behind to the place of his feet and she wet his feet with her tears, then she wiped them with her hair, and then she kissed his feet and began to anoint them with oil. That's the event of which today's passage of scripture speaks.
As A Sinner She Approached Jesus
2. It was a wierd sight to behold. Originally, there was a social context behind who should typically come in to a dinner party back in that day and time. It was not unusual for strangers to be there though. In addition, those eating the meal were not seated in chairs like we do today. They took their meals while on their sides [supported] on their elbows. So, the fact that this woman approached his feet from behind him was not in and of itself an unnatural action for that day. But, even if we deduct these circumstances and conditions, ultimately, the scene still looks strange any way you look at it. We shouldn't try to absurdly turn this into a pretty story just because it is written in the Bible. Please see the whole picture with me. Since she was so sinful, she was probably a prostitute. She had approached him so suddenly, then while crying she wrapped herself around his feet and kissed them. What would we do in that situation? We'd probably raise an eyebrow or two, wouldn't we?
3. However, the church has passed this odd occurrence on and with great appreciation. It has preached it in worship services. Why? Because the church has seen in the person of this woman the imagery of a sinner coming to the savior. Because it has seen the figure of a worshipper coming to Jesus.
4. We have gathered here to worship. We don't think that the way we are is strange. For, we are not ladies of the night known to the town nor are we intruders barging in to a dinner. As we do our thing, sitting neatly in the sanctuary, singing hymns with the accompaniment of the organ, and arranging our voices together as we chant the confession of faith, we probably don't make any connection between what she did and what we are doing.
5. But, how ever different it must look on the surface, when a sinner seeks for salvation and approaches Christ it is by very nature the same as what she did. We might not be thinking that way, but what we are doing as compared to her actions, if seen from God's eyes, is not in the least higher than hers.
6. The focus of this scene is not on the woman. It is on Christ. Nor is [the focus on] what this woman of sin accomplished by approaching Christ, kissing him and anointing him with oil, though it was a fine act and the oil was expensive. Nor is it even on the purity of her heart. [The focus of this scene] is that Christ forgave her. It is that Christ graciously accepted her.
7. Jesus turned himself over to this woman's actions. It was such a strange situation that the Pharisee Simon who had invited the Lord felt tripped by it. He felt in his heart that "If this man were a prophet, he should understand who this woman was who was touching him and what kind of person she was, that she was a sinful woman." It was a truly shocking thing for him.
8. But, it is the same even in our acts of worship. Have you ever felt somewhat surprised over the Lord's pardoning us for our act of worship? Make no mistake. Our worship does not come into being because it is so well prepared and ordered. Our worship doesn't stand because our praises come from beautiful praises out of pure hearts. It doesn't happen because we are such "fine worshippers." Even the highest and supreme worship acts as seen from a human perspective, when seen in the Lord's perspective are only like when the intruder began to spread ointment on those feet that were sticky all over with tears. The Lord mercifully accepted her worship. The Lord Jesus took her act as an expression of love for him. [His acceptance of her] was the Lord's grace.
People With Little To Be Forgiven For Also Have Little Love To Show Forth
9. So, the Lord began to tell one of his parables to Simon, who was having a hard time understanding that the Lord had accepted the actions of this woman.
10. "Two men borrowed money from a certain moneylender. One was five hundred denarii and the other was fifty denarii. Since the two had no money to pay back, the moneylender cancelled out both of their loans. Among the two men, which of them loved the moneylender more?," (verses forty-one and forty-two). His intentions with this parable became clear through its further unfolding. With the illustration of "the love that the men whose debts were cancelled held for the moneylender," Jesus was wishing to speak on love for himself.
11. But, why here of all the stories that could have been told was it a story about skipping out on debts? In reading this passage over again I couldn't help but feel a sense of shock again. Should we mix up and join [two seemingly totally different acts such as] loving the moneylender who cancelled out the debts with loving Christ? Is the feeling for the moneylender who had cancelled out the loans equal to the name of "love?" Should one compare "loving Christ" through such a lowdown funky story? Don't we usually think of loving Christ and living for him as on a different dimension from this world's and on a more supreme level?
12. This extremely humble parable breaks down to pieces our stereotypes in regard to loving Christ; and it makes us realize something: that we overbeautify and idealize without realizing it the acts of being a believer, being a Christian, and being persons who really love Christ from one's being. It happened so slowly, but when we compare ourselves to when we were unbelievers, we knew we didn't used to be anything big. We've forgotten that we had not completed the payments on our sin debt and we were no more than bums who ultimately just skipped out on the payments. Moreover, we've forgotten that the love by which we love Christ is like the love by which those bums loved the moneylender who had cancelled out their debts. Worse than that, many times we don't even have that kind of love for Christ. We're like that Simon. Just like Simon who even though he may have intended to play host to Christ by preparing the meal as he did in his own way for him, he actually didn't feel a need for Christ or have any love for him either - that's how we get too!
13. If that's the way we become, then the problem would seem to be in our self-understanding. The Lord said to Simon, "Therefore, I declare to you. [In] that she has been forgiven of many sins, I see the greatness of the love that she has shown me. A person with little to be forgiven for also has little love to show forth." The love for the moneylender was certainly influenced by the size of the amount [of the loan] that was cancelled out. But, strictly speaking, [whether] a lot or a little, it was not the flat out quantity. The love for the moneylender was figured by how much the person sensed the size of the amount forgiven was.
14. This wasn't the only time that the Lord spoke using a loan as an illustration. There is another story about a very high sum of money. In this text it was five hundred denarii and fifty denarii, but in chapter eighteen of The Gospel Of Matthew is found a man who had a loan for ten thousand talents (six hundred million denarii), (Matthew 18:24). A king did the lending and a servant did the borrowing. It's quite an extreme story, but this servant also had his debt written off. However, the story continues on like this: "But then, the servant went outside and when he encountered his own attendant who had a loan with him of one hundred denarii, he grabbed and choked him and said, 'Pay me the debt.' The attendant bowed down and begged repeatedly, 'Please wait, cause I'll pay you.' But, unconsenting, he hauled the attendant off and put him in jail until he paid the debt," (Matthew 18:28-30).
15. Similarly then, the issue was not the size of the debt. It was an issue of the depth of the realization of how large a debt one was forgiven. Looking at this objectively, a person who has sinned a lot is not necessarily always going to see himself or herself as sinful. But then again, the opposite of that is also possible. I repeat, since love for Jesus is illustrated in a parable of love for a moneylender, it would be figured according to how big the person felt the pardoned sum of money might have been. It is just so important that we examine ourselves deeply in order to truly be a person coming to Jesus, to be a person who loves and worships the Lord.
16. Jesus said to the sinful woman, "Your sins are forgiven." In this scene these are the first words from Jesus that she heard. I think she had probably heard the words of the Lord spoken to the others until then and she had seen the figure of Jesus who was called "a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (verse thirty-four), and she had seen in all that there the figure of her savior from her sins. But, this time she was not hearing words meant for other people, but heard words from the Lord just for her. He said, "Your sins are forgiven." Then he went on to add, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." Oh, I want so much for us to be like her, that we might come to Christ as persons pardoned from our unpayable sin debts, that we might love Christ, that we might hear the same words that she had heard as a message spoken directly to us. and then leave from here the same as she did. "Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."