He marveled at the man who had caused such a stir among the people. “A Prophet?”, “Elijah?”, “Messiah?”. Everyone had their thoughts on who this peculiar Nazarene really was; and now here he sat, eating dinner with him in his own home. Simon felt rather pleased with himself to have gained the attention of this remarkable man he had heard much about.
As they all reclined at the table, a woman known well in the town for her outrageous sinful life attended to this Nazarene, called Jesus; she had brought with her an alabaster jar of beautiful, expensive perfume. She cowered down before him, warm salty tears trickling down her cheeks onto his feet. With tender hands she cleaned his feet with her hair, trembling as she gently poured her perfume over them. This woman, filthy in both her sin and her poverty, was anointing Jesus.
Simon couldn’t believe it. He was as disgusted as he was livid. This sinful woman, he thought, has come into my home, and cleaned and anointed the feet of my guest! Surely, surely if this man were a prophet, he would send this sinner away!
Everyone else also along with Simon were shocked and disgusted at the woman’s gesture; everyone except Jesus. As if sensing the contempt of his fellow diners, Jesus directed a question to Simon:
Simon, I have something to tell you…
With the passing of time in our Christian faith comes an increasing familiarity and comfort about ourselves. Anyone who has been a Christian for a long period of time – whether raised in the church or not – faces an ongoing battle against pride and self-righteousness for a godly humility that marked their need for saving in the first place.
We all come to Jesus like the sinful woman. So aware of our need for salvation, we humble ourselves before him, offering our very best. But over time, as we fight against pride, we may become like Simon; a person who is not only completely comfortable professing his own self-righteousness, but feels entitled to make judgements about Jesus’ state of righteousness as well. So should we ever stop kissing Jesus’ feet?
Jesus said to Simon, Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 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?
Surely this can’t be a trick question, Simon thought. So he answered, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.
You have judged correctly, Jesus said.
Wondering what precisely Jesus point was, Simon noticed that his attention had turned to the woman. He motioned to her, looked back at him and said, Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.
Simon was in still silence. He was shocked both by Jesus’ commendation of this woman, and also his apparent vindication of her. Who is this who even forgives sins?, he heard the others say.
Jesus turned to the woman and said, Your sins are forgiven.Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
Many people may attribute this verse as helpful to those who have come from an ‘overtly sinful’ life, much like the woman in the story. I know many times I have found comfort in this passage, because such a life describes who I once was. I relate very personally with this woman.But I believe this is attributable to all Christians – whether their lives have been externally marked by obvious sin or not – because all of us were marked by a debt we couldn’t repay.
We were “dead in (y)our transgressions and sins, in which we used to live when we followed the ways of this world” (Ephesians 2:1-2). The girl who came to Christ from a life of debauchery and wickedness was no more dead in sin than the girl raised in the church before she was saved at the age of 6. An external life of sin may result in different consequences, feeling dirty and even more unworthy than her ‘pure’ counterparts. A life lived in faith and obedience to God from a young age may render questions about whether she’s really good enough; wondering if her love and thankfulness will match those who seem to have been forgiven so much more. But wait, what did Jesus say again?
Your sins are forgiven.Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
Think not on how much or little you believe you have sinned – for all have sinned, and all are justified freely by His grace through Jesus Christ. If you are in Christ, your past sins are no longer held against you – so let only thankfulness for Christ’s sacrifice be the marker of your love for him. And our thankfulness is born out of a constant, rich humility, reverence and joy in what Christ has done – a response that overwhelmingly pledges all of my best, all of my utmost, for His glory. Sisters, may we never stop kissing Jesus’ feet. Go in peace!