There is a story in Luke 7:36-50 that reveals an interesting account of forgiveness. One of the Pharisees, named Simon, had invited Jesus to have dinner with him. Simon wanted to essentially check into this so-called “Messiah,” and if in fact, Jesus was a prophet.
Earlier in the day, some random woman had gotten word that Jesus would be there, so she decided to show up at the dinner table, completely uninvited.
Now this particular woman was regarded as a “sinful woman” (although we are not told specifically what she had done to earn that title). One could only imagine what it must have been that caused her to be rejected by her community. Yet, the uninvited woman, who heard that Jesus was to be present that night, braved the judgment of others to show up. She even brought a jar of expensive perfume just so she could clean and touch Jesus’ feet.
As Jesus has welcomed this woman at the table, Simon was outraged that He would allow such a disregarded woman to touch Him. Especially if He was a prophet, no less, and completely aware of her sinful nature. As the woman used the perfume to anoint his feet, she weeped and kissed them. We are told that she even used her tears to wet his feet and her hair to wipe them clean.
Now imagine that concept right there. Kissing the dirty, smelly feet of someone you have only heard about. And using your hair nonetheless, to wipe them clean. This woman’s worship of Jesus came at a great cost—the expensive jar of perfume, the humility to care for the lowest part of the human body, and most importantly, her dignity at the scorn and further rejection of others like the Pharisees. (In that time, the religious leaders liked to separate themselves from others, particularly as they viewed themselves as much holier.)
So even though everyone else present at the table shot the woman dirty looks, Jesus did not. In fact, Jesus embraced her presence! He did not turn her away.
Friend, you may have done some horrible stuff in your life, but if you come to Christ as you are, He will surely never turn you away!
Jesus responded to Simon with a story of forgiveness…
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Now, without getting into another analysis of the relationship between the Pharisee and Jesus, let’s center in on the woman herself, because I think an important concept is conveyed here—those who are forgiven, love most. It is the beauty of God’s grace.
The woman was shunned by her community because of her sins, and might have expected to be shunned by Jesus as well. But Jesus shows the Pharisee that even this woman—a terrible, lowly, unholy individual—outdid Simon in the greatest way possible just by pursuing Him. Yes, she was a greater sinner, but the greater lover as well.
From the example Jesus provides in His story and the events that played out at that day, the concept of forgiveness and love here are clearly shown.
An analysis by Bob Deffinbaugh for Bible.org provides additional insight…
“…it would appear that Jesus is telling the woman that she is forgiven because she loved much. It is not difficult to accept the statement that those who are forgiven much, as a result love much. It is difficult to accept the statement that those who love much are forgiven much. To love because you are forgiven is a natural response to grace. To be forgiven because you love is works. There are thus some who would teach that on the basis of this text we must love in order to be forgiven. This makes forgiveness the product of our works, rather than a gift of God’s grace.”
So let us be clear as to the basis for one’s forgiveness. It is not works. Forgiveness is the GIFT of God, granted to those who have FAITH, who understand that through Jesus, we are granted an opportunity to join Him at the dinner table. The woman must have believed that if she came to Jesus as a repentant sinner, Jesus would not send her away.
We are so lucky not to be turned away by God simply because we goofed up, messed up, or continue to do so in our day to day lives. As long as we continue to seek forgiveness by pursuing Him and putting Him first, He will allow us to be present with Him. You just have to look past all of the shameful regret, or pride, or faults, or self-righteousness that the devil likes to continually remind us of, to truly experience the love Christ provides.
It’s clear that Jesus likes to keep hanging out with these types of awful people—people like us, the sinful woman, and not so much the self-righteous like the Pharisees. After all, what do those people need Jesus for if they are supposedly clean and worthy of God’s love?
But you and I, well, we need Him more than ever. And He loves us all the more if we are willing to look past our own uncleanliness, just to worship at His feet.
So I want you to remember this as you go through the week. Let us be more like Jesus here. If there is someone you came across who is unworthy of your love, perhaps because of how you view them, try to love and embrace them even more—regardless of their faults or crimes towards you. Yes, it will be easier said than done, but pray to God to provide you the strength you need to achieve it.
Let your kindness inspire those to be kind towards others. Let your love be an example of Jesus’ love for us. And perhaps at some point, it could inspire them to pursue God’s love tomorrow, even if they are not considered Christian by your own standards today.