We have a dining table that seats eight people. When we have dinner guests, they are strongly encouraged to sit up with their feet under the table. Not so in the first century. When Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus and others for dinner, they “reclined at the table” (Luke 7:37, CSB) on pillows or cushions, leaning on the table with one elbow, with their feet pointed away from the table.
And when we have guests for supper in our home, it’s a private affair. There are never spectators or looky-loos. But, at the home of the Pharisee, uninvited guests commonly listened in on the conversation.
That’s how “she” got to the party. “She” was a sinner, probably a street-walking woman of the red light district. The unnamed lady was well-known. She had a reputation. I wonder if some of the Pharisee’s buddies had done business with her... maybe even Simon himself.
When she arrived, she knelt at the feet of the Savior. Weeping, her tears fell upon His dusty feet. Unfurling her hair, she used her mane as a towel, carefully cleaning away the grime. Then, at great personal expense, she broke the neck of her treasured alabaster jar and poured out the contents, the luxurious fragrance filling the room.
Why, Simon wondered, was this rabbi allowing that trashy woman to anoint him? Omniscient, Jesus responded to the unuttered question by telling a short parable. “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, CSB).
As Jesus asked the question, He looked at Simon, who was then forced to respond. “I suppose the one he forgave more” (Luke 7:41-42, CSB). Yep! Jesus said, “ ‘I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ ” (Luke 7:47-48, CSB).
Jesus wasn’t suggesting the Simon had few sins to be forgiven. On the contrary. He had plenty of skeletons in his closet. Self-righteous Simon thought he had few sins, especially in comparison to the prostitute who had crashed his party. He was wrong.
The woman wept. Maybe in the days leading up to this incident she had heard Jesus’ earnest invitation, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV). They were tears of relief. She had given her heavy burdens to Jesus. She wept, understanding that the unfathomable weight of her sin and shame was no longer hers to carry.
As the fragrance of her worship wafted about, this new-born saint heard her Savior say, “Your sins are forgiven.”