“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said 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. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:36-50 (ESV)
This passage of Scripture is an amazing depiction of the gospel and God’s grace. Jesus is invited by a Pharisee to have dinner in the Pharisee’s home. While they are reclining at the table their dinner is interrupted by a woman that the bible describes as a sinner. She had heard that Jesus was at the house of the Pharisee so she decides to crash the party. She brings with her an expensive container of fragrant oil. Without asking for permission, this woman begins to wash the feet of Jesus with her tears, wipe her tears away from his feet with her hair, anoint his feet with the expensive oil, and kiss his feet repeatedly.
As this is taking place the Pharisee who had invited Jesus into his home becomes indignant. He is offended by what this woman is doing and by the fact that Jesus is allowing her to do it! His judgment was that if Jesus were a real prophet then he would know that this woman was sinful and he would not have allowed her to touch Him. Jesus knew his thoughts and took this as an opportunity to teach about God’s grace.
He spoke of two men who both owed a debt. One of the men owed a small debt and the other owed a large debt. Neither man could repay their debt but the creditor graciously canceled their debt. Jesus then makes the point that the one whose debt was greater would love the creditor more than the one whose debt was lesser. Jesus then draws a contrast between the woman and the Pharisee. (I love the way Jesus told parables to his audience in such a way that those who listened were able to identify with the character in the story that represented them personally.)
This woman knew that she was a sinner. However, at the same time she knew that Jesus was the Savior. This caused her to view even her most valuable possession as worthless compared to Jesus. The pouring out of the oil, crying at his feet, wiping his feet with her hair, and kissing his feet were not works to earn his forgiveness. This was her worship because she knew that forgiveness came from him and him alone. Faced with the reality of her depravity she found herself at the feet of the only one who could save her.
Jesus forgave her debt but if we stop there we miss something very important. We must ask, “Who paid her debt?” Did it just go away? How was it possible for this sinful woman to enter Simon’s house a sinner and leave a saint? The answer lies in the one who pronounced her forgiveness and salvation. He was not there just to forgive her debt, he was there to pay it without expecting her to pay him anything back in return. The Creditor who was owed so much was the very one who would balance his books by paying the debt himself.
Christ’s death on the cross satisfied the wrath of God on behalf of the sinful woman. The very one whose feet were being washed, anointed, and kissed was the very one who would stand in her place under the just punishment of God. I don’t know how much understanding she had of that, but I do know that she at least understood that he was her only hope of salvation. So her natural response was to lovingly, unashamedly, and sacrificially worship him. Her actions were not an attempt to earn his forgiveness. I believe that it was the overflow of a forgiven soul.
If we were there, would her worship have offended us? Would we have joined in the labeling of Jesus a false prophet for his interaction with such a sinner? When was the last time we worshipped the Lord out of the overflow of the grace and mercy that he has so lavishly poured out on us in salvation? When was the last time we extended forgiveness to someone who was indebted to us based on the fact that our sinful debt has been so graciously paid? May the unconditional nature of God’s love and the reality of his grace grip our hearts and transform us into His likeness.