We have all had the opportunity to go to someone’s house for dinner. It is typically a festive and joyous time of getting together with friends and family.
At the occasion, we might have a serious conversation, times of laughing and joking, and sharing about our events of the day or week.
Imagine a dinner party with important people being present. Imagine Loretta Evans having a celebrity, famous politician, or a well-known theologian come over to her home, and some of us are invited. Do we think it might be exciting? What questions would we ask?
In the times of Jesus, people can gain influence by having certain people come into their homes. Jesus dines in Peter’s home in chapter four after teaching in the synagogue. Because Jesus chooses Simon’s home, Simon becomes a celebrity. Jesus did not eat in the home of the Rabbi of the synagogue. For Jesus to choose Simon’s house is an honor to Simon.
At the end of chapter seven, we find Jesus is invited to eat with someone. Eating is a normal event. Because the story makes its way into the Bible makes it an out of the ordinary event. Something very memorable happens. It is so memorable, one of Luke’s sources tells Luke about the dinner event, and Luke decides it is worthy of putting in his letter to Theophilus.
Let us take a moment to picture what an event like this might look like. Imagine a large room with a table filling most of the room. There are no chairs around the table. Invited guests, sit on the floor around the table, and eat with their hands.
Having a dignitary to your home to eat is an event. Often, the host will invite town people to come and sit around the edges of the room. The door to the home is left open, and people come and go. They do not eat at the table, but they come to see the important people, and they listen in on the conversation.
What is interesting about this dinner is the person who invites Jesus to his home. Jesus is invited to dine with Simon, who is a Pharisee.
In Luke’s gospel, Pharisees prove to be a major force of opposition to Jesus and His teachings. They work together and try to eliminate Jesus with their accusations.
It is not out of character for Jesus to refuse the company of Pharisees. Early in His ministry, John’s gospel records that a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to him at night. Some Pharisees become followers of Jesus.
Let us think deeply about this situation. If a certain group of people continually accuse us of sin for months on end and then invite us to their home, will we go? Most likely, we will refuse the invitation. Why would we subject ourselves to an evening of verbal abuse and accusations? Pharisees are known enemies of Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus accepts the invitation. We can learn a great deal about Jesus, putting aside His personal interests for the sake of the gospel. Jesus is willing to have an audience with anyone. Jesus says He came to this earth for a purpose, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
To fully understand the story, we need to talk about Jesus’ feet. When entering a home, shoes are removed to prevent tracking waste from the streets into the house. It is considered rude to put your smelly feet towards other people. As Jesus reclines at the table, He will show good manners by putting His feet behind Him.
A good host will help the guests feel comfortable by having a servant wash their feet. At the least, they will provide water and a towel for the guests to wash their feet. Also, a good host will give oil for the hair of the guest. The oil gives the hair a nice appearance and reduces itchiness.
The story becomes interesting and worthy of inclusion in Luke’s gospel, not because Jesus eats with a Pharisee, but because of an unexpected guest.
A woman of the city learns that Jesus is reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. The woman is a known sinner. The entire town knows of her reputation, and it is not a good one, but one which is immoral.
Imagine being a sinner, knowing Jesus is a prophet, knowing the house she is going to enter is that of a Pharisee and deciding to go anyway. She is willing to be vulnerable to insults, murmurings, and shame so she may place herself at the feet of Jesus.
The woman brings an alabaster vial of perfume and stands behind Jesus at His feet. She weeps openly, and wets His feet with her tears, and wipes them with her hair. She kisses Jesus’ feet and then anoints His feet with the perfume.
Her devotion to Jesus is extraordinary. Despite the shame of her sin, she willingly draws attention to herself with her act. She plans to anoint Jesus with perfume, but it is very unlikely she plans to go to Simon’s house and start weeping in front of all the special guests. She is overcome with emotion. Her love of Jesus is open and on display. And she doesn’t appear to care what others think.
Jesus is greatly honored by her testimony of devotion and love. Jesus receives her worship. Imagine how Jesus feels about her actions and how honored He is by her devotion.
When is the last time we were so willing to publicly display our love for Jesus? Are we willing to subject ourselves to open ridicule and shame in our declaration of love for Jesus? Are we willing to let the entire city know how much we love Jesus? We have a difficult time speaking about Jesus to others. The open display of her love of Jesus puts many Christians to shame.
Let us look to this sinful woman as a great example of someone who is willing to openly love Jesus no matter what others may think.
We are not surprised by the reaction of Simon. He, like many Pharisees, doubt Jesus is a prophet. He says to himself, likely under his breath, but loud enough for others to hear, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”
Simon believes that any prophet in their right mind would know this woman is a sinner. The entire town knows. How could this possibly escape Jesus?
What Simon does not know is Jesus is aware that this woman is a sinner. Jesus came to earth for the purpose of sinners. Jesus does not run away from sinners; Jesus runs to sinners. Jesus comes to save sinners. Jesus welcomes sinners.
What about us? Are we like Jesus? When sinners approach, do we run away? Do we see sinners who appear lost in their sin as possibly being redeemed? Do we talk like, “I’m not like them.” Do we see some sinners as being beyond hope?
The way we need to see sinners is that we are more like the woman than we like to think. Some of us are like Simon, who openly talks about sinners under his breath. We need to stop criticizing sinners and reach out to them for the sake of the gospel. The people in Simon’s town probably thought the woman was so deep into sin that she was beyond redemption. We need to see sinners as Jesus sees sinners, not as Simon the Pharisee sees sinners.
Jesus hears Simon and answers. “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
Simon replies, “Say it, Teacher.”
Jesus tells Simon a parable.
Jesus tells of a moneylender and two people who borrow money and are in his debt. One owes five hundred denarii, and the other owes fifty. A denarius is equal to a day’s wage. So the one with the lessor debt owes around two months of wages, and the other is in debt for two years of pay. Both are unable to repay the debt and the moneylender graciously forgives them both.
Jesus asks Simon, which of the two will love the moneylender more? Simon answers Jesus and says, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” Jesus responds by saying that He judges correctly. The one who has the greater debt will love more.
The point Jesus is making is that everyone owes Jesus a debt and Jesus graciously forgives debts. Our debt is one that we are unable to repay. Jesus is referring to our sin, which is a debt that we cannot pay. The Bible teaches that what we owe for our debt of sin is our life. The only way to pay the debt of sin is eternal death.
How can we repay a debt of sin? We cannot pay the debt of eternal death. But, when we believe Jesus is our Savior, He pays the debt we owe. Jesus gives His life and pays the debt we owe because of our sin. And, Jesus gives us eternal life. It is as if we never owed the debt in the first place. Jesus erases our sin from our record.
The money lender in the parable graciously forgives. Gracious forgiveness is undeserving.
We do nothing to deserve Jesus to pay our debt. Jesus forgives our debt because He is gracious. We receive from Jesus life, and none of us deserve the payment Jesus makes. The reason Jesus came to this world is to pay the debt of our sins. It is His mission, given to Him by God because God loves us.
Do you believe Jesus forgives our debt? If not, do you know that you will have to die eternally because of sin? Put your faith in Jesus. He will forgive your sin because He paid the price of our debt on the cross.
Jesus, in front of all the guests, rebukes Simon, His host. He turns toward the woman and says to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Jesus calls out Simon for being a poor host. Simon did not give Jesus water to wash His feet, yet this woman washes His feet. It is incredibly embarrassing for Simon. She treats Jesus better than the host of the dinner engagement. She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and wipes them dry with the hair on her head.
Jesus continues. Simon did not greet Jesus with a customary kiss of greeting. Yet, this woman, who Simon despises, kisses Jesus’ feet. Jesus also brings to Simon’s attention that he did not anoint His head with oil, another custom which shows honor to the guest. But, this woman anoints Jesus' feet with something even greater than oil; she pours perfume on the feet of Jesus. Her perfume is costly compared to the oil which Simon may have given Jesus.
Her act of honoring Jesus far exceeds Simon. Simon intends to honor Jesus by inviting Him to dine in his home, but he fails to show honor to Jesus. He does not show any love or honor to his guest. It appears the person Simon wants to honor is Simon.
Simon judges himself by his own standard. Simon answers the parable correctly, which proves he knows the principle of forgiveness and love.
Simon expresses that if Jesus is a prophet, He would know this woman. Simon’s comment is intended to judge Jesus with the truth, but instead, the truth judges Simon. He is the one who falls short, not the woman. The woman is the most honored person in the house of Simon. Simon the Pharisee is seeking to bring honor to himself by inviting Jesus to dine, but the truth of Simon’s actions reveals his failure to honor the Son of God.
Jesus tells Simon, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
What about you? Do you understand the truth of what it means to be forgiven by Jesus? Do your actions reveal the truth that you know? Do your actions and words reveal that you are self-righteous, like Simon, or that you are forgiven, like the woman?
God sees our actions. The truth of what we believe is revealed by how we honor Jesus with our lives. If we love Jesus, we will demonstrate our love, even in situations where we may be embarrassed.
Jesus concludes the evening with an amazing proclamation. He said to the woman, “Your sins have been forgiven.”
Think of the audacity of Jesus’ statement and what it sounds like to everyone who is present in Simon’s house. The people of the town know this woman is a sinner. It is her reputation. They see her on the streets. They know of her exploits. Those who are reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?”
They have every right to ask that question. How can Jesus say to her, “Your sins are forgiven”? Just like that? Jesus overrules the means of forgiving sins spoken of according to the Law of Moses. He does not tell her to bring a sacrifice to a priest. He does not tell her to offer prayers at the Temple. No need to bring a sacrifice; it is okay; you are made clean. Who does Jesus think He is? To all who are present, they can easily draw the conclusion that Jesus puts Himself above the Law of Moses. How can that be, Jesus?
We understand from Luke’s previous passage (Luke 5:17-26) that Jesus as the Son of Man is given all authority. He has authority over the demonic realm, sickness, and sin. Jesus once again speaks of His authority over sin.
Jesus tells the woman why her sins are forgiven. It is because she demonstrates faith. He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Faith in Jesus is how we are saved. In the times of the Old Testament, from Adam all the way to today, in the New Testament, faith is how God grants the forgiveness of sins.
The woman at Simon’s home demonstrates faith in Christ. Jesus tells her that her faith saves her.
What about you? Do you put your faith in Christ? We are all sinners. We are all guilty of breaking God’s laws and commands. The only way we may have our sins forgiven is to put our faith in the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. If you do that today, Jesus forgives your sin just as He forgave the sins of the woman in Simon’s home over two thousand years ago.
The deeper our understanding of sin, the more we may understand grace and forgiveness.
A shallow understanding of sin will result in a shallow love of Jesus. If we think we have little sin to forgive, our worship of Jesus will be lacking.
The woman at Simon’s home shows an extraordinary understanding of the forgiveness of sin. She goes to Jesus despite the great risk of public ridicule and shame. She values Jesus more than she values what others may think.
Let us be a people who prove we believe we are forgiven much by loving much. Let us not be ashamed of loving our Savior. Let us be a people who weep openly at the feet of Jesus because we are thankful that He gives His life so we may live forever with Him in glory.