Luke 7:40-47 (NIV) Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two men 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 canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“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–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Jesus saw the hearts of both the Pharisee across the table from Him and the sinful woman kneeling and weeping at His feet. He could see the deep repentance in the woman’s broken heart, and the judgmentalism that had the Pharisee’s heart bound as with iron bands. And in this situation, He also saw a teachable moment.
The parable that He told to the Pharisee talks about the gratitude that normally comes because of having a debt forgiven. But the real point is that the state of the heart enables the forgiveness in the first place.
The contrast between the Pharisee and the sinful woman could not have been starker, and Jesus could not have painted the contrast more clearly. The woman had a heavy load of sin that she was carrying and that needed to be forgiven. The Pharisee’s sin balance was significantly lower than hers because of his strict adherence to the law, but it is significant to note that it was not zero. But the lightness of his burden and his own comparison of himself to the woman made him feel as if he were fine with God, which really wasn’t the case.
The woman knew she was lost, that her burden of sin was unpayable by any means available to her. Thus she could only come to Jesus, whom she clearly saw as God’s representative, and plead for undeserved mercy.
The disparate actions of the two told their stories. The Pharisee didn’t even extend to Jesus, the representative of the kingdom of God, the normal courtesies of civil society by offering Him water to wash the dirt off of His feet (and yes, Jesus noticed). But the woman filled that void, washing His feet with her tears of repentance. The Pharisee didn’t offer the social nicety of a drop of scented oil for Jesu’s head. But the woman filled that void, anointing Jesus’ feet with a sacrifice of fine scented oil. The Pharisee offered Jesus no kiss on the cheek in greeting as was customary in that culture. But the woman filled that void, kissing His feet.
Thus the Pharisee, because of his little sense of his own sin and need for forgiveness, felt and demonstrated little love for Jesus. The woman, consumed by her guilt and deep sense of unworthiness before a holy man such as Jesus, demonstrated great love to the one she sensed could offer her forgiveness, even before that forgiveness was offered.
Father, no matter who I am, no matter where I am in the my faith walk, I can see two necessary things here. First, I must never forget where I came from, where I was when You found me, and how much You forgave me for. That will keep the fire of my love for You always burning brightly. Second, I must always keep my heart soft before You, so that I never grow proud, and cold, and blind to any sin that might creep into my life and cause me to grow judgmental of others. Help me in both of these, Lord. Amen.