Luke 7:35-50 (ESV)

[36] One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. [37] 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, [38] 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. [39] 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.” [40] And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

[41] “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. [42] When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” [43] Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” [44] 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. [45] You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. [46] You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. [47] Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” [48] And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” [49] Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” [50] And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Simon, a Pharisee, invites Jesus to his house for dinner. The norms of the day allowed uninvited guests to attend such a function in order to listen in on the conversation and no doubt as Jesus was the guest of honour, many from the community would clamour to be there. This explains the presence in the house of a woman that Simon would not normally allow anywhere near him. We are not told what this woman’s sin is that has Simon so upset but people have assumed it was prostitution or some form of sexual immorality, perhaps adultery. But we do not know. Perhaps the assumption that it is sexual says more about us than it does her.

In any case she has caused quite a stir, in Simon at least, because of her adoration of Jesus. Simon’s problem is that Jesus allows the woman to touch Him. This is a very old mistake that people still make today. Since we are commanded to separate ourselves from sin we conclude that there are certain people that we are commanded not to associate with. Many Christians have concluded that God does not want us to have friends who commit certain types of sin. It is certainly true that we should not allow ourselves to get into situations where we will fall into sin. Recovered alcoholics would be very foolish to hang around in pubs. But we need to very careful that we do not confuse the sins that we are commanded to avoid, with the people who do not avoid them. We are called give the Gospel to lost people. How we can do that without interacting with them is a mystery to me.

On the other hand, the tone in the Christian community now is hardly that of over isolation. Many believers commit the opposite error of living as if there is no difference at all between the practises of believers and those who are not. There is such a thing as sin and we are to take great care that we maintain a daily life of consistent holiness, which includes separation from sin. The old adage “in the world but not of the world” is very appropriate.

The Master of this, of course, was Jesus Himself. This is why the woman in this account is so intent on demonstrating love to Him. He has shown that He accepts her. Without condoning sin or sinning Himself, Jesus has loved people who are social outcasts. He has been loving to the hated. He has touched, as He does here, those who no one else will touch. This lady is broken by the love of Jesus, loves Him in return, puts her faith in Jesus (verse 50) and is in heaven today because of it.

Note that in the parable Jesus tells Simon that the point is that the woman is represented by the person who has sinned much. Jesus does not pussyfoot around her sin. He simply shows that His grace is greater. Simon, in the account, is the person who owes little. Simon’s sins are not small, but he thinks they are. He does not believe that he needs much forgiveness. And he gets his wish. Simon does not love Jesus as much as the woman does because he does not see that he needs Jesus.

If he knew that the grace that was lavished out on this woman was exactly what he needed, he would have responded differently to the whole thing. He would have been glad that the woman was there. He would have made sure that many more just like her had the opportunity to get to know Jesus. He would have rejoiced at the expression of love shown by her and that Jesus let her touch Him.

Do you believe that Jesus’ grace to you is immense? And if you do does it translate into wanting other people to know Him as well? And do you interact with the sinners in your circle in such a way that they know you care about them even though you do not agree with how they live or what they believe? We should live in such ways that the self righteous are offended at who we let touch us, while not being open to the charge of committing the sins that have separated them from God and from which we have been saved. May God give us grace to be Jesus to a lost world.