A Pharisee invited Jesus to have dinner with him. So Jesus went to the Pharisee’s home and got ready to eat.
When a sinful woman in that town found out that Jesus was there, she bought an expensive bottle of perfume. Then she came and stood behind Jesus. She cried and started washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The woman kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.
The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this and said to himself, “If this man really were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him! He would know that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to the Pharisee, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Teacher, what is it?” Simon replied.
Jesus told him, “Two people were in debt to a moneylender. One of them owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. Since neither of them could pay him back, the moneylender said that they didn’t have to pay him anything. Which one of them will like him more?”
Simon answered, “I suppose it would be the one who had owed more and didn’t have to pay it back.”
“You are right,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:36-43)
For Jesus, nothing ever happened by accident. Jesus knew that a disreputable woman would come to the party, he knew what she would do, and he knew how the Pharisee named Simon would respond. In fact, Jesus was counting on it.
Pharisees were one of the four major sects of Judaism in the first century, sort of like modern denominations within Christianity. The Pharisees were considered the progressives of their day. They believed that the Bible included all the books of the Old Testament, not just the five books of Moses. They believed in angels and demons and Satan. And they believed in the resurrection of the dead. They took the Bible very seriously and they believed that it was critical for the people of Israel to obey the laws of God completely and consistently in order to avoid a repeat of God’s judgment.
So when Simon saw a sinful woman touching Jesus, he was appalled. How could a prophet endure the presence, let alone the touch, of such a human being? Jesus used the situation as an opportunity to instruct a well-intentioned but misguided individual about the wonder of God’s love and forgiveness. Simon took God for granted. Sometimes, like Simon, we need reminding about how great it is to have God’s forgiveness.