The Offenses of Jesus: The Women, part 1

There are several instances that Jesus has an opportunity to reveal the hearts around Him in his encounters with women.  It is amazing how Jesus consistently breaks the cultural barriers to show His love and honor to the women in His life.   I’ve heard it said that Christianity is demeaning to women.  Well, if it is, it’s not what Jesus modeled for us.

For example, the story of the woman found in Luke 7:36-50.  Jesus has been invited to the home of Simon the Pharisee for dinner.  In verse 37, the Amplified version says that “a woman of the town, an especially wicked sinner…brought an alabaster flask of ointment (perfume).”  She comes to anoint Jesus.  Her love for Jesus is so great that she can’t stay away, even when she must come into the presence of people who despise her.  She can’t even face Jesus.  She comes up behind him and starts weeping, wetting his feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair.  She kisses His feet and anoints them with the ointment.

Here is where the offense is made.  The Pharisee sees all of this happening and says to himself, “If this man was a prophet, he would surely know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him – for she is a notorious sinner (a social outcast, devoted to sin).”  (vs. 39)  Jesus replies to him, even though he never voiced his opinion, with a story.

A certain lender of money [at interest] who had two debtors: one owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they had no means of paying, he freely forgave them both.  Now which of them will love him more?  Simon answered, “The one, I take it, for whom he forgave and canceled more.”  And Jesus said to him, “You have decided correctly.” (vs. 41-43)

Jesus takes the opportunity to honor this wicked woman.  He turns to her while still talking to Simon.  He points out to Simon that she is the one who is lavishing love, while he did not even give the common courtesies of the day – water for his feet, a kiss of greeting, and oil to anoint His head.    “Therefore I tell you, her sins, many [as they are], are forgiven her – because she has loved much.  But he who is forgiven little loves little.” (vs. 47)

There are so many things that strike me about this passage.  First, the woman.  She is so bold.  Her love for Jesus compels her to Him, no matter what others will think.  She is lavish and extravagant with her love; expensive perfume, her own tears and her unbound hair.  She doesn’t let the criticism of the Pharisee stop her.  Her love must be expressed.  She knows the love Jesus has for her.  It is done in response to Jesus, not in order to receive anything from Him.  The result?  She is saved and takes with her the peace of Christ.  “Your faith has saved you; go (enter) into the peace [in freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin].” (vs. 50)

Jesus is amazing in this passage.  He is not the least bit upset or embarrassed by her behavior.  He lets her continue what she is doing.  He knows He is worthy of these acts of love.  He receives them with grace and compassion. He stops whatever was going on at the party to address the situation.  He doesn’t tell her to come back later.  Simon is offended that Jesus would let this notorious woman touch Him.  The Pharisee didn’t treat Jesus with honor that He should have received.   Is Jesus offended?  No, he uses the moment of Simon’s offense, and reveals the hardness of his heart.  Jesus gently leads the Pharisee to the truth with the story of the debts forgiven.  To Jesus, it was all about love and forgiveness, not “political correctness” at the dinner party.

Jesus allowed the woman to express herself just as she wanted.  He accepted the anointing she gave Him.  He understood the intent and received it.  Although she starts out behind Jesus, He turns to her, even as He speaks to Simon and tells His story.  There is no question that Simon gets the meaning of the story.  He answered correctly.  The one who is forgiven much loves much.

This is one of my favorite stories.  The Lord has used it in my life as a reality check.  I must admit that I have stood in the place of the Pharisee.  It’s easy for me to forget how much I have been forgiven.  The truth is that Jesus had to die for both the Pharisee’s sin and the wicked woman’s sin.  Sin is sin, and any of it separates us from God.  Just because I may not have been a “notorious sinner” doesn’t mean I don’t need forgiveness.  I would paraphrase what Jesus said for my own life:  The one who remembers how much she is forgiven, loves much.  The one who forgets how much she’s been forgiven loves little.

I knew I had lost my “first love” with Jesus when I saw other people with a greater passion for Jesus than I had.  I was jealous.  I would read the psalms of David and think, “What an emotional man.”  I would listen to people like Beth Moore and think, “Wow, she really loves Jesus.”  I wanted that.  I had been living an emotionally dead faith.  This story woke me up to the reality that I had become ungrateful for the forgiveness I had received.  Only by remembering the value of the forgiveness given, could my passion for Jesus be revived.

I know this post is a lot longer than my others.  Thanks for hanging with me today.  I just can’t say enough about this story.  Just as with Simon, Jesus gently offended my mind to reveal my heart.  He rescued me from my emotional prison and freed me to love Him.  He is worthy of all the love I can give.