Parables of Jesus for the Modern Pilgrim.
This parable comes in a scene of lavish love that changed my life 14 years ago. Even though it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, my eyes were opened to the condition of my heart. I pray it will do the same for you.
Put yourself in this scene:
Jesus told this parable to enlighten Simon the Pharisee. His heart had become dull to the great gift of forgiveness.
Simon, who was a religious leader in the town, invited Jesus to his home for dinner. This event must have been a showy occasion. I imagine all the “best” people were there to hear the man everyone was flocking after. But apparently, Simon did not have any real respect for Jesus. He neglected to provide even the most common courtesies to Jesus as a guest. Jesus overlooks it until Simon begins to cast judgment on another uninvited guest in the room, the sinful woman.
Wherever Jesus went, the crowds followed. When it became know that Jesus was at Simon’s home, the woman crashed the party. She didn’t care that everyone knew her less-than-stellar reputation. She had an encounter with Jesus that changed her. She was compelled to take the opportunity to thank him and fall at his feet.
Notice the humility of her posture. She is behind Jesus at his feet, crouched low. She is weeping, and the tears fall on Jesus’ feet. She wipes them with her hair. She anoints Jesus’ feet not only with perfume but with her kisses as well. This scene is a tender, intimate act of worship.
Simon’s thoughts betray him. Jesus must not be a true prophet because he is allowing this sinful woman to touch him. He will be unclean!
Jesus know’s Simons thoughts (uh oh), and says, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” Jesus has a story to tell, and he wants it known that it’s directed at Simon.
Two people owe a moneylender a debt. One owes a lot more than the other. But it doesn’t matter how much because neither one can pay it back. The debts of both people are forgiven. Now the pointed question, “Which one will love him more?”
Simon answers, “The one who owed the larger debt.”
Jesus says, “You have judged correctly.” I can almost hear Jesus say…you have been judging incorrectly, but now you’ve got it right.
I love the detail that Luke puts into this scene. It’s as if he wrote the blocking from a script.
Jesus turns to the woman but keeps talking to Simon. Jesus wants to give her all the respect she deserves. She doesn’t need to cower behind Jesus. All that the woman does is in response to her great love. She does for Jesus what Simon, his host, should have done – but she does it extravagantly, from her heart.
Finally, Jesus calls out Simon’s rudeness. The woman is held up as the example. Yes, she has had many sins, but they have all been forgiven. For this, her love of Jesus is great.
- Simon didn’t wash Jesus’ feet – the woman washed them with her tears.
- Simon didn’t give Jesus a kiss of greeting – the woman can’t stop kissing Jesus’ feet.
- Simon didn’t anoint Jesus’ head with oil – the woman pours her alabaster jar on Jesus.
Jesus assures her of his love and forgiveness and sends her on her way in peace.
Lessons for the Modern Pilgrim
- A religious spirit can make us forget all that we have been forgiven. No matter how many sins we’ve committed – one or one thousand – they separate us from God. We quickly judge people for their visible sins. We are no different. Let’s not judge people because they sin differently than we do.
- We can’t ever repay Jesus the debt we owe. We all need grace. It is a gift no matter what the size. It covers all our sin.
- It is our awareness of grace that affects our love for Jesus. The more we realize/remember how much Jesus has done for us, the more we love.
- Accepting that loving forgiveness sets us free to worship. The woman’s example is an inspiration. She had no fear of who was watching and how it would look. Her great love compelled her to action.
This story changed my perspective forever. I saw myself in Simon. I had forgotten how much I had been forgiven. My love for Jesus was small.
I asked the Lord, “Please help me love you more.” He taught me to remember.
I have been forgiven; I am being forgiven; I will continue to be forgiven.
Let that translate into:
I loved Jesus.
I am loving Jesus.
I will continue to lavish love on Jesus.
…and I don’t care who knows it!