The Book of Luke, Jesus’ Encounter With the Woman at the House of the Pharisee, Part II – Lesson 94
Luke 7:36-50, And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. 40And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Luke provides in his account of this event an interesting contrast between two people who were zealous to see our Lord Jesus.
Simon the Pharisee found it easy to see Jesus and converse with him in the comfort of his home while eating a meal together, but it was not so easy for a woman whose ill reputation preceded her.
Simon as a Pharisee was socially acceptable, however a woman like this, in the mindset of the Pharisee, was to be avoided at all costs for the Pharisee believed that holiness was arrived at by being physically separated from sinners like this woman.
The word Pharisee is a Hebrew word which means separate.
Pharisees worked at perfecting a separation from sinners, an isolation from sinners lest their hands get dirty.
I would suppose that Simon had already heard of the reputation of Jesus as being a friend of publicans and sinners!
This of course was not acceptable to a Pharisee because any closeness to a sinner would corrupt his personal holiness.
So therefore throughout the Gospels we see this conflict between the Lord Jesus Christ who loved sinners and the Pharisee who despised sinners.
And as part of this conflict you can easily see why Simon was repulsed by the act of this woman and the receiving of her by the Lord Jesus.
The reception of a woman such as this was unheard of in the world of Simon.
According to his view, Jesus would have to shun this sinful woman in order to remain holy.
Simon spake within himself we are told:
Only God knows when you speak within yourself, and God told Luke that Simon spoke within himself.
This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
So for a woman such as this, getting close to Jesus was no easy matter, especially getting close to him in the house of a Pharisee.
Her sinful life, most likely known to all who lived in her town, made it difficult for her, a woman, to seek out this man, Jesus.
We were told in previous verses of Luke 7 that the fame of Jesus as a prophet had spread throughout the region and I believe we can properly conclude that this woman had heard about the Lord Jesus and his wonderful works and his love for the people.
Perhaps she had been on the streets of the city when she came upon Jesus as he preached to the multitudes.
From her reaction at Simon’s house something had occurred prior to this dinner which caused great weeping on her part.
We are not given what message she heard from the Lord but it was a message which made her face herself and her sin.
Certainly it was a message that communicated God’s love for her and his command that she repent of her sins and turn to God though the Lord Jesus Christ.
For His words reached her soul and must have resulted in repentance.
His words could never be forgotten for they brought her to acknowledge her sinfulness before a pure and Holy God.
She loathed herself for her sinfulness and had to go to the Lord Jesus Christ to get things right.
This is the pattern which all sinners follow who come to Christ and are forgiven.
It is a recognition by the sinner that his heart is deceitful above all things and is desperately wicked and that there is no hope within himself.
This recognition of a heart that is identified as deceitful above all things and so offensive to a holy God is so lacking today and that is why we see so few truly saved with life changing results.
But this wicked woman had obviously come to herself, had truly repented, and decided to follow this man and leave behind the life she had led.
Taking her alabaster box of ointment, more likely perfume, she went out to find this preacher of the good news.
Somehow she learned that Jesus was to have dinner at the house of Simon, and she therefore used this opportunity to see Jesus.
It was normal to the culture of that day that a dinner like this would be open for uninvited guests to come and observe.
These uninvited guests would sit by the walls around the dinner crowd listening to the conversation and even joining in at times asking and answering questions.
It is apparent that the woman was at the house before Jesus came for we are told in Luke 7:45 when Jesus addressed Simon the host: Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
She was there, ready and waiting and she brought with her her alabaster box of perfume.
Whatever for, she had formerly used the perfume, was now behind her and she was now eager to use the perfume for the most decent of purposes, that of anointing the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ in an act of worship.
It appears that this woman came prepared to perform the lowly task of anointing the feet, a task usually saved for the lowest of servants.
As the Lord entered the house of Simon, normal hospitality would have it that Jesus should have been greeted with a kiss, His feet would have been washed, and His head anointed with oil.
We must remember that the culture of Jesus’ day was a culture where these personal intimacies were normal.
We are a culture that observes a much wider distance between people in normal conversation but in that day it was not so.
Remember what John wrote in:
John 13:23-25, Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 25He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
And also the norm of washing another’s feet was given to us by John in:
John 13:5,6, After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
So it was normal for a guest to be tended to in a somewhat intimate manner, concerning a kiss, an anointing, and feet washing and Jesus said as much in Luke 7:44-46.
And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
What a rebuke this was to Simon, the dinner host, and what a commendation it was to this woman, the sinner.
For these things, a kiss, the washing of the feet, an anointing of the head with oil, were expected for a guest coming to the house for a meal and fellowship.
Why it was not done we do not know.
Was it a social blunder or was it a planned snub of the Lord?
Did Simon the Pharisee have difficulty going all out for this man who had said that the men of this generation were like children. Was he afraid he would get his hands dirty?
Did he invite Jesus because it was expected of him to do so as the leading religious official of the town?
No doubt a great part of Simon’s motivation was to “check out” Jesus.
Was this man really a prophet? Was His message to be believed?
And how did His message compare with that of the Pharisees?
Was He a threat, or an ally?
Just who did Jesus claim to be and what was to be done about Him?
Should He be resisted, opposed, put to death, or should he be ignored?
These may have been some of the questions in Simon’s mind, suggesting some of his motivation for having Jesus over to dinner.
We don’t know the reasons but we do know he did not share the proprieties or good manners of the day with Jesus.
He gave him no kiss, he gave him no water for his feet, nor did he anoint his head with oil.
But God used Simon’s neglect and brought instead a woman who truly worshipped the Lord with her heart and gave His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, much more than the mere formality of a Pharisee’s customary observance of etiquette.
This shows us that the Father will have worship for his Son!
You can count on it! Simon did not worship the Son, but this woman, the sinner, did.
And how much better and from the heart was the attention of the woman versus the form that Simon would have observed.
And what a rebuke it should be to us who come to church and give lip service to God instead of true worship from the heart.
But this woman probably expected that Jesus’ feet would have been washed by one of Simon’s servants.
After His feet were washed, the woman would then likely have planned to anoint His feet with the perfume she had brought.
But in Simon’s house there was no washing of feet as custom demanded.
There was no tending to this important guest as she had expected.
But she did not let the unwashed feet of our Lord keep her from what she had intended to do.
She dared not kiss Jesus on the face, as Simon should have done, but she could kiss His feet, His unclean feet.
She had come with no basin, no water, and no towel.
But, emotions in her welled up to the point of producing tears which flowed onto the feet of Jesus doing the job that Simon, as host, should have done.
The picture is of a woman weeping profusely, shedding tears enough to wash the dirt from the unclean feet of our Lord.
She used the water of her tears to wash His feet, something she could hardly have planned in advance.
Martin Luther called her tears “heart water” for they were an outpouring of what was in her heart.
This heart water dropped down on the feet of Jesus.
Then, bending down with her hair let down and while continually weeping, she kept on wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair, kissing them and from the already broken jar, she poured perfume upon them.
There was no towel available to her, so she used her hair to dry her tears from Jesus’ feet.
Imagine this ladies, you who are so careful about your hair, this woman humbled herself to actually use her long hair, her glory according to 1 Cor. 11:15.
She used that glory to dry the tears that fell from her eyes to the feet of Jesus, the part of the body that is considered most lowly.
She did not do this quickly, so as to quickly finish an unpleasant task but she persisted on kissing the feet of the Lord Jesus.
Verse 45, Thou (Simon) gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
This woman’s worship of Jesus was at a great cost to her.
It cost her the expensive vial of perfume, and the humility it took to kiss, wash, and dry the unclean feet of the Lord Jesus.
A greater price to pay was that of facing the scorn and rejection of the self-righteous Pharisee and the other dinner guests at that meal.
There was no look of condemnation from the Lord Jesus Christ but
it is most probable that she suffered the distain of all the others guests.
Simon’s disdain was revealed by his inner thoughts which were known by the Lord.
39Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
“What in the world are you doing here?” must have been shown on the faces of the Pharisee and his guests.
Perhaps rather than listening to the words of the Savoir they kept their eyes on this great sinner washing the feet, kissing the feet and anointing with perfume the feet of this man that had come to dinner.
It was a disgusting site to see as far as this Pharisee was concerned.
What a waste of good perfume, perhaps was included in his musings.
Did he, like Judas, think it would have been better sold and the money given to the poor or did he imagine the former uses of the perfume as this woman practiced her trade?
Isn’t it normal for unbeliever’s to think of worship of the Lord as a waste.
Better to do something for man than to worship God without restraint!
But I must see Jesus was her mission and that desire to see and to worship the Lord Jesus Christ was greater than any fear of the Pharisee or his guests.
If thy right arm offend thee cut it off, Jesus said.
There must not be anything that would keep a man or woman from God, even to the point of cutting one’s own arm off if it was in the way of the worship of God!
Can fear of the scorn of others be enough to keep a sinner from eternal life?
How foolish a position to take for that position will keep a man or a woman from the greatest position there is, the position of being at the feet of Jesus, worshiping him as the Son of God in a forgiven state.
No doubt receiving their scorn was a high price to pay, but to her it was worth it in multitudes of times over for her sins were now forgiven.
Certainly she knew of the distain for her presence at such an grand occasion, but she listened to the words of Jesus and found peace.
Where the other guests simply saw a despised sinner pour her tears and her perfume on this man, Christ looked and saw a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Don’t you suppose that sight made him happy to have come to dinner in spite of the self-righteous Pharisee.
Luke 15:10, Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
He saw in the pouring out of that perfume a forsaking of the old life which so depended upon the lure of the fragrance of that perfume.
In that pouring out she was saying, Lord I will never again need this for the old life is dead.
And he said Thy sins are forgiven, Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.
Though her sins were as scarlet they were now as white as snow!