The 21st Sunday After Pentecost October 13, 2013
2 Corinthians 7:6-10
3, 318, 342, 436
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.”“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
In Christ Jesus, who saves sinners, dear fellow-redeemed:
Would you look at that! Hey, look over there! Mom and Dad, look at me! Out of amazement, excitement, or urgency, we get attention by crying out: “Look!”
The Holy Spirit does much the same thing throughout Scripture. “Behold!” the angel told the shepherds, “I bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). Matthew writes, “Behold! the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). Luke when recording the events of Easter writes, “Behold! two men stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:4).
Many times God alerts our attention in just this way. Behold…! Look…! For our consideration today, He says: LOOK! A SINFUL WOMAN! Though the Words recorded for us we are able to observe the woman from I. Simon’s view and II. Jesus’ view
We begin by meeting this woman and observing her actions while Jesus was a dinner guest with a Pharisee named Simon. “Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat, and behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair on her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.” [v.36-38]
The woman was a known sinner in the city. What specific sins she had committed, we are not told. However, she was guilty of some open sin which was known to the people of the city and therefore she had a bad reputation.
To get a better picture of how these events unfolded it helps to keep in mind the eating customs of Jesus’ day. The people would lie around a low table, their bodies resting on cushions, their elbow resting on the table and their feet extending out toward the wall. This is how it was possible for the woman to stand behind Jesus and at His feet.
The actions of the woman did not please Simon. “Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” [v.39]
The Pharisees in general had a complaint about Jesus. He was a friend of sinners and associated publicly with them! They said, “Look! a glutton and a winebibber [drunkard], a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” [Luke 7:34] Can you hear Simon grumbling to himself? He looked at the woman and saw her as an outcast—an evil sinner, far beneath his own dignity and righteousness. If Jesus really knew who and what she was He surely wouldn’t have anything to do with her either!
Simon was too occupied filling his eyes with what he saw in the woman that he couldn’t see what was in himself. Simon would have admitted that he was a sinner because even Pharisees acknowledged that everyone sinner…but not like her! As a Pharisee Simon was well respected and honored in the community, but look at her! Simon was caught in the trap of comparison and pride. He compared his low opinion of the woman’s sinfulness to his high opinion of his own goodness and looked upon her with contempt.
Have you ever looked through Simon’s eyes? We need to look at ourselves. If we brashly condemn Simon for his view of the woman, and rejoice that we aren’t like him, by that very act we are proving ourselves to be just like him.
The sin of self-righteousness, pride, and the despising of others clings to us along with all of our other sins and our Old Adam. It’s easy to say, or at least to think: “Well, at least I’m not like so and so.” Or, “Did you hear what she did. Oh! to think of it!”
The reality is that each sinner is just as guilty as another. It only takes one sin to condemn us to Hell. “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery, also said, “Do not murder.”Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:10-11).
Simon had probably never done the kinds of things this woman had done; but that didn’t change his sinfulness. Even if Simon had not sinned in the same ways as the woman, he certainly had sinned in other ways and was just as guilty. The sins of the woman were well known, Simon’s sins may have been far more secret but they are no less condemning.
Each of us has our own weaknesses and pet sins into which we fall. One man’s temptation may mean nothing to another, but Satan knows our weaknesses and uses them to tempt us. If it is not greed, then perhaps arrogance; if not arrogance, perhaps anger; if not anger, perhaps unchaste thoughts and activity; if not one, then the other; if not sins in what we do, then sins of what we don’t do but should be doing; if not sins in what we do, then sins in what we say or think. We can be sure that the sin we see in others is also present in us. Paul writes in Romans, “…in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1). Paul also clearly states, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
If God would have looked at everybody with Simon’s view, we would not be here today, we would not have the Bible, we would not have a Savior, and therefore, we would have no salvation in which to rejoice. Once sin entered the world, God would have had to look at us and say, “They are known sinners. What have I to do with them?” This is not the view we see from God’s eyes. Rather, “God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God saw lost sinners through the eyes of His grace and sent Jesus to save our sinful race. It is those eyes of compassion and love which is shown in Jesus’ view of the woman, as we shall now see.
Simon had not spoken his thoughts out loud, they were to himself. Jesus demonstrates that He knows all things by commenting on Simon’s thoughts. He knew exactly what Simon thought about the woman and what he felt so he told Simon a parable to correct him in his thinking: “And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” [v.40-44]
After telling the parable, Jesus went on to look at Simon’s own behavior. In order to be polite host to a house guest, it was not necessary to wash the guest’s feet which would be hot and dusty from walking. To be polite it was not necessary to give a kiss of greeting, or anoint the guest with oil. Yet, these were all part of the usual custom and indicated special care and affection and hospitality—especially to an honored guest.
Simon did not offer water and towel for Jesus’ feet. The woman did so, but not ordinary water, it was the water of her tears and she wiped them dry with her own hair. Simon did not greet Jesus with a kiss. The woman did so, but not just one and on the face. She kept on kissing Jesus’ feet! Simon did not anoint Jesus with oil. The woman did so, but not with ordinary oil on the head, rather she anointed the feet of Jesus with more precious scented oil. The actions of Simon and the woman were very different. However, it was not the actions themselves that were important, but what they demonstrated about the individual’s attitude toward Jesus.
Simon had indeed invited Jesus to his meal which was certainly an act of kindness, but notice how he regarded Jesus. He didn’t think him important enough to give special consideration when Jesus entered his home. When the woman came, he said to himself, “if this man were a prophet he would know….” And Simon simply addressed Jesus as “teacher”—respectful, but not out of the ordinary. Simon didn’t believe that Jesus was anything more than a popular teacher. He didn’t recognize Jesus as the promised Prophet (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15) and Messiah. Simon was not alone in his impression of Jesus. “…those at the table with Him began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’” [v.49]
Simon didn’t have any particular affection or love for Jesus because He didn’t see Jesus for who He was. Simon didn’t recognize his sickness of sin nor his great need for Jesus who is the only cure for sin. The woman did recognize these things and that led her to actions that were far different.
The woman was a sinner, she knew it and she felt it. Her tears fell on Jesus’ feet. Literally, she “began with tears to rain on His feet.” It was a thunderstorm of repentance. For a woman at that time to unfasten and let down her hair in the presence of men was a humiliation. Yet this woman, in her Savior’s presence did not hesitate to wipe up her tears with her hair. After drying Jesus’ feet, she repeatedly kissed them and poured the fragrant oil on them and in so doing worshipped her Lord and Savior.
Simon didn’t think Jesus knew what kind of a woman this was, but Jesus knew exactly who and what she was and for that reason acted as He did. Jesus the Son of God came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). All people are lost in sin. Jesus died for the sake of all people. He died and won forgiveness for the worst murders, the adulterers, the tyrants, the crooked businessmen, the terrorists, the most corrupt and all others who might be classified as “evil.” With these we also are included, for like them we are sinners and like them Jesus died and won forgiveness for you and me. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself…” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
There are those who, like Simon, don’t recognize their Savior, are angered by Him, and continue on in their own way. There are those, who like the woman, by God’s grace have been brought to faith and look upon their sins with shame and horror and cling to their Savior for deliverance. The thief on the cross had led an openly sinful life. In the end, he repented of his sins and turned to his Savior in faith. What was Jesus’ response to this criminal? “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Jesus told Simon, “…her sins which are many, are forgiven, for (so that) she loved much.” [v.47]. The woman felt the joy of having many sins forgiven and she showed great joy by her great love toward Jesus. Just as the man in Jesus’ parable had great joy at his large debt being forgiven. She knew what she was—a sinner. She knew she needed help, she trusted in Jesus for that help, and for the help He gave she loved Him dearly. It is the perfect illustration of what the apostle John would write years later in his first letter, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Start counting your sins and recall how many times you have turned away from the Lord and done things against Him. Add up the sins that others are aware of and those only you and God know. What joy there is and what love swells in us toward Jesus, to hear from Him the assurance that our sins are all forgiven.
Jesus sent the woman away with these words. “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” The woman had come to Jesus repentant of her sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness. Through the trust and faith she had in Jesus her Savior she had already received the forgiveness for all her sins. But like any penitent sinner, it is those words of assurance from Jesus which gives joy and peace and confidence. Jesus declared, your sins stand forgiven, that won’t change! Believe it! and go on in your life with the peace I give to you.
Oh how different was Jesus’ view compared to Simon’s. It is the Savior’s view toward sinners that brings us peace. We too can go on in our lives confident and joyful that Jesus’ assurance to the woman is our assurance. We are at peace with God for no longer are our sins condemning us. We are at peace in the world because no longer is this our true home but “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
It is important to look and remember the sinful woman as we go about out daily lives. We will certainly want to recognize sin for what it is both in ourselves and in others. Just because we are all sinners doesn’t mean we should ignore it. Rather, by using God’s Word we expose the sin to ones committing the sin and with God’s Word, urge them to repentance. As we do this it should not be through the eyes of Simon but through eyes which recognize their own sinfulness and point out the sin, not because of pride and self-righteousness, but out of love and concern. We do well to carry Jesus’ words with us, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41).
Do we condemn abortion, homosexuality, and all manner of immorality? Yes we do, and rightfully so, for Christ did too and these things are wickedness and sin against God. But let us do so looking through Christ-like eyes and with a Christ-filled heart—exposing and condemning sin with the prayer that the guilty be led to repentance and trust in the Savior. Jesus died for them as well. Do we point out the sin in our Christian brothers and sisters? Yes we do, and rightfully so, for so did Christ. But always with an eye and a desire toward repentance and turning away from the sin, not an eye filled with boastful condemnation as if we had done no wrong.
Look! A Sinful Woman!
Look! I am just like her.
What deeds I have done against the Lord.
What joy He has brought me by paying the debt I couldn’t afford.
What love she shows at the Savior’s feet weeping.
What love He shows, me in His arms gently keeping.
Look! A woman forgiven in peace departs.
Lord, look on us! Forgive! and dwell in our hearts.
In Jesus name, Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.