One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 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, 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. 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.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 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. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
So, after reflecting on this story individually, we got to discussing it with our group. We talked about who we associate with and how we should live more like Jesus and be a ‘friend of sinners.’ But, the question that got my mind in a bundle was when the workbook asked who we identified with most from the story. My immediate reaction was that I relate with the Pharisees because well…I know that no matter how hard I try, I am always judgmental. It’s in us all and as a self-aware person, I recognize that I can be judgier than I should. But, then the more I thought about it, the more my guilt came rearing its ugly head and I felt myself relating to the prostitute. No, I have never sold myself for money…in case you wondered. I have, however, done a multitude of other questionable things in my past that if written down in list form, could put me on a playing field with a ‘woman of the town’. We all sin. Everyday. There is nowhere in the bible that explicitly says “no sin is greater than the other” but there are plenty of times, like this story, where Jesus has pointed out that each sin great or small, requires the same forgiveness.
Except…we never actually stop sinning. I am constantly like the prostitute because…I just can’t stop. It’s like an addiction. An Addiction to Sin. I might not be selling my body or stealing money or killing people, but I do sell my mind and time to wasters like the internet and social media, I do steal moments of selfishness and avoid helping others to do what I want to do and I am killing people’s spirits and joy when I resort to bad moods and anger instead of practicing grace. I spend the majority of my day either sinning (because I’m human) or feeling guilty about things just like that. So, just like the woman, I am completely unworthy of His love and forgiveness. The fact that I am forgiven and made worthy through Him is amazing! I mean, WOW! So…isn’t that exactly what the woman was feeling? Love and joy, repentance and humilty and a whole lot of gratitude. Of course she’d want to serve Jesus the best way she knew how…isn’t that what we should all want to do?
Also, as I think about it, I am actually worse than the woman because I know better! I know better and I STILL do it! And there it is. I know that I am saved through faith. I know that I am a forgiven child of God and not only to I still fall into sin, but I still find myself feeling unworthy. Again…I should know better! Which makes this next part so hard to admit but here I go…
So, I’ve already related to the prostitute for being a wretched sinner with a sense of awe and unworthiness for the Lord and I can also relate to the Pharisees and their judgey-ness of her. But the more I put myself in the story, I realize it’s not just her that I would be judging. I would be judging Jesus for letting her be so inappropriate. Here’s this man who is supposed to be this great Teacher and he’s letting this woman expose her hair, adorn him with rich oils and rub and kiss his feet. Like they said, doesn’t he know what kind of woman she is?! Ignore her profession, she’s still a woman and he’s still supposed to be this sinless holy man. How hypocritical, as an outsider, would it seem for him to be condemning the religious leaders for partaking in inappropriate behaviors in the name of God, and here he is getting rubbed up by a lady of the night. What kind of man is THIS? I can totally see where these Pharisees are coming from with their piousness and assumptions.
I realize that this judgement I have is totally a product of my society, but even more so, humanity in general. How many men, or women, do you know could be tempted like that and never falter? Would you trust your spouse to travel around with hookers in their posse like Mary Magdalene? Ummm Nope! It’s impossible to believe that this man, this Teacher, this Son of God, was never tempted to bite the apple per say. It’s unfathomable…unrealistic even. I’ve heard time and again how the thought is just as bad as the act of sin. It’s uncomfortable and oh my goodness does it make you feel guilty! I can’t even count my sins much less every time I’ve been tempted to sin! So, for years I’ve been feeling guilty anytime I was tempted to cheat in high school or fantasized about getting revenge or watched a Tom Hardy film.
I mean, I can see where these ‘high priests’ would easily take offense to someone, claiming to be the Son of God and then letting some impure woman rubbing and kissing his feet. It fits the lesson my family drilled into my head growing up about avoiding situations that tempt you into sin as well as those situations that look to others like you’re sinning. I never quite grasped the later…or the former for that matter but I did try. Not just with sexual impurities, either. I don’t hang out with racists. One because they are generally a-holes but also, I don’t want to be associated with that mentality. Because that’s how I was taught.
Well, after this great night of discussion and reaching the conclusion that we need to live more like Jesus and become a “Friend of Sinners”, I went home and did my daily devotion…that I had JUST started that week. Well, as if God heard all my ponderings and worries, he sent a little reminder in the form of Hebrews 4:14-16.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
So there you go! This is the most fantastic part about knowing Jesus! He knows what we’re going through. He lived it! Granted, he was without sin but, he still knows what temptations lie out here for us. We don’t have to be wracked with guilt and fear every little misstep because we are surrounded by His grace and mercy and he knows us and still loves and forgives us. How great is it to have a Savior that we don’t have to be fake around? We are His beautifully flawed and sinful creations and He wants us to greet him with that same worryfree awe just like that woman! So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Pharisees!