36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 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.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 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. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The source of our love for God, and its enemy.
Luke 7:36-50 has a beautiful picture of love, devotion, and humility. A woman labeled a sinner, ignores the etiquette of a religious house. Not only has she entered a house she is not welcome in but she also unashamedly discards her ‘societal dignity’ and openly weeps, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointing Him with expensive perfume. The host, a Pharisee, is horrified! Jesus, on the other hand, is honoured by the woman’s actions. In fact, Jesus points out to the Pharisee that he has been outdone in hospitality and love by this so-called ‘sinner’.
The difference between the woman and the Pharisee couldn’t be starker. She had the right view of herself and Jesus, while he did not. She had a deep love for Jesus, while he could hardly muster a decent welcome of Jesus into his home. At the heart of it, the difference between them is their understanding of their need for forgiveness. The Pharisee did not see any need for Jesus, let alone forgiveness. He was ‘righteous’, according to himself. The woman, on the other hand, knew she was a sinner, in need of forgiveness. She knew that this Jesus was the one who could give it. What fuelled her love for Jesus was the knowledge of the depth of her sin, and the depth of the forgiveness needed. She loved much because she was forgiven much.
The contrast pictured in Luke 7 gives us a diagnostic for ourselves and a way to fuel our love for Jesus. Has my love and service to God become stale and distant? Has my ‘self-righteousness’ caused me to trust in myself, keeping me distant from Jesus, at the other side of the table, rather than at his feet? The enemy of love for God is self-righteousness and self-reliance. But the fuel for our love is a humility, the knowledge of the depth of our sin, and the depth of our need for His forgiveness.
Do you know how much you have been forgiven? Perhaps we need to be reminded of the cross, the depth of the anguish of Christ, who died and who took upon Himself my sin and yours and reminded us of the depth of the love of God. The lengths that God went to shows the depth of our problem of sin, but also the length and width, height and depth of God’s love for us (Ephesians 3).