My friend, Simon, the Pharisee, was having a grand party that day. All of the really important people of the Temple were there… the priests, the servants, the scribes. Everyone was having a great time.
Then the one from Nazareth came in. We all kind of looked and stared at him. We really weren’t sure what to make of him. We had heard he had performed miracles. Just the other day, a young boy was being carried out of town on a funeral stretcher. His mother was in tears. Everyone agreed that parents shouldn’t have to bury their children. So, word has it that this Jesus came up and spoke to the dead lad, who immediately sat up and hopped off the mat.
Many were finding his views convincing. And, it didn’t matter if the people were religious or not. The day before that, up in Capernaum, a Roman soldier had pleaded with Jesus to heal his servant… but the centurion didn’t even ask Jesus to come touch the man or pray for him. He, a Roman officer, said he had faith to believe that Jesus could even heal the servant from a distance. “Just say the word, I know he will be healed.” Jesus made a big deal of the Roman’s faith. Since when do Roman soldiers care anything about the One True God? Turns out the servant was healed. By Jesus? I do not know.
Anyway, so all of us from the Temple were here at the party. My friend, the Pharisee, must have decided to invite this Jesus fellow… just in case, you know? Just in case this man was someone special after all. Some said he was a prophet. And yet, most of us have, frankly, been pretty confused by him. It seems like sometimes he follows the laws of Moses; most of the times, he has his own rules, or no rules at all. People all around the Galilee have been swayed by him, that’s for sure.
During dinner we were all reclining and eating and laughing when she came in. No one invited her. I’m certain she had never been to Temple before. She had a reputation… and not a good one. She went right over to the prophet and fell at his feet in tears. Those sitting nearby got up and gave her distance. No one wanted to admit we knew who she was, and yet everyone knew exactly what she did for a living. Reckless, she was. She knelt there and sobbed uncontrollably, her tears falling on his feet. She then did something that only a man’s wife would do in private: she let her hair down and she wiped her tears with her curls.
Then, if that wasn’t awkward enough, she took the vial of perfume that hung around her neck – all the women of her profession had one – and poured it out, emptying it completely on his feet. And she did that thing with her hair and was kissing and washing His feet with her tears and the last of her perfume.
This went on for several minutes until Simon, our host, had had enough. He spoke out loud to no one in particular, but said what we were all thinking: “If this man was really a prophet, he’d know who was touching and kissing his feet and that she is a sinner!” I thought, “If he was a respectable man he’d dismiss her immediately!”
The teacher caught Simon’s statement and posed a riddle in return. “Suppose two people who owed a lender money,” he started. “One who owed 50 days wages, or about $10,000 to the lender. The other owed him almost $150,000. To both, the debts were forgiven.” Then he asked the Pharisee directly, “Who will love the banker the most?”
Simon answered as we all would have, “The one with the biggest debt.”
Jesus said, “Exactly!”
The Nazarene went on this rant about how Simon didn’t offer Jesus any of the customary things a host should offer a guest who enters his home… he didn’t offer to wash his feet… he didn’t greet him with a kiss… he didn’t offer oil for his head. All of the rest of us had received those gracious gifts from Simon as we entered. And yet, Jesus was not presented with these things. We all felt embarrassed for Simon as the prophet suggested that the woman, that woman, was somehow better than our host because she did all of those things for him.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, Jesus then spoke to the harlot directly. He told her, her, that her sins were forgiven.
Who is he that he can forgive sin?
Then he concluded by telling her that her faith has saved her! Just like the Roman centurion earlier in the week!
But what about us… us who serve our regular times in the Temple… us who keep the laws of Moses… what about us who give our money… us who pray the right ways and eat the right foods and who have memorized Torah and keep the Sabbath? Surely we are more religious than she is!
Then He added this blessing over her: “Go in peace, daughter!”
Peace!? But she is such a sinner!
The first-person story of a friend of Simon, the Pharisee, from Luke 7.
What can we learn from the sinful woman? She was bold, humble, intimate and put her past behind her. How about you?
For 2015, may I encourage you to choose to imitate this woman. Although her actions were admirable, it wasn’t her deeds that saved her. It was her heart. Choose to be a true Follower of Jesus.
This sermon can be found at www.vimeo.com/115604707.