A man named Simon, a devout Pharisee, hears that Jesus is nearby, and plans a dinner party for Him and several fellow Pharisees at his house. He goes out to listen to Jesus’s teaching, and when He is finished for the day, goes up to speak with Him. “Rabbi, I would like to invite You to dine with me this evening. I have invited several other guests as well, who wish to speak with You and hear what You have to say.” Jesus accepts the invitation and they set out for Simon’s house. Simon has heard rumors that Jesus does not keep all 613 strict Pharisaical laws, and wants to see for himself what this unconventional Man will do. The custom among the Jewish people is for everyone to remove their shoes upon entering a home, and to have their feet washed. Since everyone wears sandals, and the streets are strewn with animal droppings here and there, it is not just a nice custom but a health precaution. But tonight, Simon offers his guest no water to wash His feet with. Another custom is to anoint the head of an honored guest with oil, and to kiss him, as a sign of respect. For Jesus, this would also show that Simon believes in His claim to be the Son of God. But he refrains from bestowing this honor upon his guest as well. Jesus, knowing Simon’s heart, is neither surprised nor troubled by this absence of respect. He follows Simon into the house and to the table, where He reclines with the other guests, already assembled. The supper begins pleasantly, with polite conversation, and the food is very good. But soon, the atmosphere changes abruptly.
A woman enters the house. This is not unheard of, for it is customary for Jewish homes to be left open to show hospitality to those in need. But this particular woman will not be welcomed if anyone notices her entrance. She quietly slips inside and makes her way to the dining room. She looks around at the guests reclining at the table, shaking but determined, searching for one face. Aha! There He is. Silently, she comes up behind Him, kneels, and begins to cry. She takes His feet in her hands and washes them with her tears. When she is satisfied that they are clean, she dries them with her hair and kisses them. And then, she takes an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, pure nard from the scent of it, breaks it open, and pours it over His feet. The guests at the table have been frozen in astonishment at the audacity of this woman. But now, the breaking of the jar seems to break the ice that has frozen them in place. Simon rises to confront this woman, thinking to himself, “If this Rabbi were truly the Son of God, He would know that this woman is a prostitute and would never allow her to defile Him like this!” But Jesus calmly beats him to the punch.
Jesus turns to Simon and addresses him, saying, “Simon, I want to ask you a question.” “Of course, Rabbi, anything You wish,” Simon replies, inwardly seething but trying to maintain a calm exterior. “If two men were both unable to pay a debt owed to a certain businessman, one a debt of $500 and the other a debt of $5,000, and this businessman decides to just let it go, and forgives their debts, which man would be more grateful?” Simon responds, “Well, obviously, the one with the greater debt.” Jesus nods and smiles, turning toward the woman still weeping on the floor behind Him. “This woman has been forgiven a very large debt. Yes, I know exactly who she is, and who she was before she came to me for forgiveness of her sins. Because she has been forgiven of a very great sin, she has a lot of gratitude in her heart. She has shown this by giving Me more honor than you did at My arrival. She has washed My feet – not just with water, but with her tears, and dried them not with a towel but with her hair. She has bestowed a kiss, not on My hand or face, but on My feet. And she has anointed My feet with perfumed oil. It is not because of what she has done today that I have forgiven her, but the repentance and belief of her heart that propelled her to come to Me for forgiveness. I have forgiven you for your sins against Me, even though you have not asked for this. But even if you had, this is a little thing for you, not even a thought in your head. And so you do not love Me as this woman does.” Turning to her, Jesus says to her, “Again, I tell you, your sins are forgiven. You may live now as a new woman, free from your life of sin, with peace in your heart.” And all the guests, watching the unorthodox scene, wonder, “How does He have the power to forgive sins? Only the LORD Almighty can do this. Could He be who He claims to be?” Simon, feeling humiliated, sits there fuming at this arrogant Man, believing Him to be a charlatan.