When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner…”
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.”
I became a Christian as a teenager during the height of the Jesus Movement in 1970. In those days, altar calls were standard in churches and sinners would come forward to pray the prayer of faith. Often people would cry tears of repentance and express other emotions. When I went to the altar, I prayed the prayer and felt nothing. I knew I had decided to follow Christ and was now a Christian, but on an emotional level, I was unmoved.
I rationalized the emotionless experience with, Well, I’m a man and men don’t show feelings, I don’t want my faith based on emotions anyways. Yet, I knew I was missing out on a vital component of spirituality and humanity. We are human, and people have feelings that form an essential part of our personalities. Luke brings this element of our faith front and center in this passage.
The contrast between the sinful woman who weeps as she worships and Simon the Pharisee who coldly criticizes standing aloof could hardly be more severe. Tears of repentance rolled off her face as she worshipped at Christ’s feet. Meanwhile, the Pharisee doesn’t offer Jesus simple courtesies. He seems to say, “Who is this young rabbi anyway?”
The judgment of the Pharisee weighs in heavily against Christ, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner” (7:39).
Simon had not shown Jesus the respect due to a household guest–compare that to the adoration the woman had showered upon Christ. The Pharisee judged Jesus as falling short of his standard for a man of God. The woman knew her need for forgiveness, but Simon was ignorant concerning the state of his soul.
Proverbs 21:4 (TPT) speaks to Simon and many of us, “Arrogance, superiority, and pride are the fruits of wickedness and the true definition of sin.” People have the terrible habit of comparing themselves to others to lift themselves in the comparison. Simon has fallen into this trap. Once entangled, he feels justified in judging the woman. Man’s judgment kills and drains us of feelings and compassion. Mercy makes room for forgiveness, and joy is the inevitable result.
Many years ago, divorce brought me to my lowest point. I felt like a failure and guilt dripped off the edges of my life. Yet, God seemed to be so near to me, like he was in the room with me and my pain. While God’s forgiveness was instant, grief haunted me. At age 50, I finally went to a counselor who taught me to grieve my losses. The therapist suggested I journal my thoughts regarding these losses and then cry for 15 minutes. I thought she must be crazier than me.
Since I had paid the counselor, I felt I should at least try her medicine. For three days I journaled each morning and cried genuine tears. Then it happened, I was set free, the tears dried up, and the grief was gone. The side effect of this freedom was a new-found ability to feel appropriate emotions.
Finally, I had discovered the rich joy of gratitude and worship. I joined the ranks of people, like the weeping woman in our passage, who love Jesus for the forgiveness he imparts and the freedom he releases.
Were it not for the grace of God I would have died a cold, lonely man. By the mercy of God, I am free to weep tears of thanksgiving.
Dave and Jonie Holland pastored churches for over 38 years before retiring in Destin. He recently released his new devotional-Bible study based on the Gospel of Luke called “Every Day Jesus: Experience the Jesus Who Ignites Your Soul.” You can get a copy of his book from his website, DaveHolland.org or by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastor Dave is available to preach in churches and conferences or to serve as an interim pastor.