Jesus . . . loose women--side by side, those two look strange. But we remember Jesus going out of his way to meet the woman at the well--a woman everybody knew was no Mother Mary, having been ‘with’ at least six different men--he certainly seemed to have a soft spot for sinful women. The gospel writer Luke describes a dinner where Jesus had been invited into the home of a Pharisee. Dinner at a Pharisee’s home? Wait, weren’t these the guys who were constantly looking down their pious Jewish noses at Jesus? Yup. Same ones. Weren’t these the ones who were trying to trap him and discredit him in conversation? Yup. Same guys.
Imagine you come to the party a little late. As you enter the dining area, you see Jesus reclining at the table in middle-eastern style. A woman walks in, approaches Jesus, and kneels near his feet. Right then, he should stop her, but he does not. Peculiar. Luke says she is ‘a woman who has lived a sinful life’ so clearly she is not a dinner guest, but has found her way to Jesus nonetheless, longing to be near him.
Remember that by now, word is out about this miracle-working, compassionate teacher who even has the power to forgive sins--she has to get to him! Before she goes, she grabs her most prized possession, a vial of expensive perfume.
Once to Jesus, the nameless woman begins to weep over her life, wishing she could change her bad choices…then as her tears fall, she wipes them with her hair, even pouring her precious perfume out on Jesus’ feet. (The perfume was valued at a year’s wages) What a scene it is!
People are looking from side to side and Mr. Simon Pharisee thinks to himself that if Jesus really is who he claims to be, He knows about this woman’s character and will rebuke her so that he is not defiled by her demonstrative behavior. But instead Jesus addresses the man with this vignette: Simon, I have something to tell you. . . two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, (a denarius was a coin worth about a day’s wages), and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which will love him more? Imagine the pause that hangs over the guests as they ponder such an analogy. Jesus then sums up his visit to the Pharisee’s home - you didn’t even offer me water to wash my dry dusty feet (a common courtesy), and yet this woman has shown me her heart and given me her all.’ Jesus turns back to her and says, Your sins are forgiven you. I’m thinking you can probably cut the air with a knife at this point.
Question: Why did openly sinful people want to be near Jesus? What a fascinating thing! It seems neither logical nor reasonable. Put another way: How did Jesus, the only perfect person in history, manage to attract the notoriously imperfect? Jesus was the friend of sinners. They liked being around Him and longed for His company.* Amazing. His perfection drew people--it did not put them off. Are we who profess his name today like that?
As I take in this scene, several thoughts run through my mind. Of the three players--the Pharisee, the woman and Jesus--with whom do I most identify? Am I most like the Pharisee who appears to be generous, but instead am given to comparison, criticism and judgment? Am I more like the woman who knows I have much to be forgiven and humbly seek out the One who can forgive and change me? Or am I like Jesus who looks for the best and sees what a person can become? Do I offer others the benefit of the doubt? Do I forgive easily? Hmmm.
In this account we do well to ponder Jesus’ ready acceptance to be around the very people who were dogging his every step, the Pharisees. Heck, I do not usually choose to be around people who do not like me. Jesus’ brilliant analogy made it clear that we who have much to be forgiven ought love much and extend that love and grace to others. Then there’s the woman’s extravagant outpouring of her most valued possession to express her great love for Jesus. Nothing short of beautiful.
The lights go down on the scene with Jesus saying to our lady: Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
A prayer: O Lord, studying about your interaction with people means so much! How good, how kind, how wise you were . . . wait, how good, how kind, how wise you are! I am like the woman, recognizing my need for your forgiveness and cleansing and I really want to be like you, seeing the best in others, offering grace and when wronged, extending forgiveness too. I want to walk in the grace I have received. Amen.
Song of reminder and worship: Promises Never Fail - I know your plans for me are good . . . I know you hold my future and my hope. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tw5HDkJTS7I.
I am praying for you, Friends~
*The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. You must have this on your bookshelf.