Simon was a common name. I found seven of them in the Gospels. The most famous Simon was a fisherman on Galilee. Jesus gave him a new name: Peter (Matthew 16:16-18). Another of the twelve Apostles was named Simon the Zealot (Matthew 10:4). Judas Iscariot’s dad was named Simon (John 6:71). The African, a man from Cyrene, who was conscripted to carry the cross for Jesus was also Simon (Mark 15:21). Jesus had a half-brother named Simon (Matthew 13:55) and another Simon was a leper (Matthew 26:6). And, in the story we’ll consider today, Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to a banquet.
While Jesus was reclined at the table in Simon the Pharisee’s home, a woman slipped in and anointed Jesus. “She brought an alabaster jar of perfume and stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to wash his feet with her tears. She wiped his feet with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with the perfume” (Luke 7:37-38).
This was not Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 12:2-8, Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9). The sinful woman who made the uninvited appearance at the Pharisee’s home may have been Mary Magdalene, but we have no way of substantiating that detail. If this was, indeed, Mary Magdalene, then she had once been possessed by seven demons (Luke 8:2). It seems logical to believe that Jesus had miraculously emancipated her from spiritual bondage, and her extravagant worship was quite understandable.
When the host, Simon the Pharisee, witnessed the extravagant act of worship, he was incredulous! “This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—she’s a sinner!” (Luke 7:39). In other words, “If Jesus was really who He claims to be, then He wouldn’t have let that hussy anywhere near!”
In response, Jesus told Simon a parable and capped it off with a question. “A creditor had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:41–42). The answer was obvious, logical, so Simon responded thoughtfully to Jesus’ inquiry. “The fella that owed the bigger debt and who was forgiven most would be the one who would love the most. Right?”
Jesus then compared his host to the sinful intruder. Simon the Pharisee had not provided the customary hospitalities of a basin of water to wash his dusty feet or perfumed oil for a pleasant aroma. Simon hadn’t welcomed him with an embrace or a kiss. On the other hand, the sinful woman had washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and toweled them with her hair. She had anointed him with an extravagant amount of expensive perfume and hadn’t ceased kissing the tops of his feet (Luke 7:44-46).
More importantly, the woman, likely a prostitute, had been a wretched sinner and clearly recognized her need of a gracious Savior! Simon the Pharisee was a self-righteous, hyper-religious hypocrite who saw no flaws in his thoughts or actions.
Jesus then turned to look compassionately at the woman. Her matted hair hung loose over her shoulders. Her eyes were swollen and red from weeping. Her checks were dirty, streaked with dust and tears. Jesus knew her checkered past, and He knew what her forgiveness would cost Him at Calvary!
“Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). That’s grace!