Simon and the Sinner

            Simon probably thought he was a hero because in his house on this day there sat Israel’s most famous Son, the rabbi from Galilee. As was the custom when a notable person was invited to a meal, there was an open house. The problem was that it was open to anyone. Simon could not have expected her to show up. But there she was and then she did what she did. As the Bible tells us, "A woman in the city, who was a sinner when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head and she kissed His feet and anointed them with fragrant oil "(Luke 7:37,38 NKJV).

            This notorious sinner had the nerve to not only enter Simon’s house but to actually touch Jesus! Imagine the scene. Kneeling behind Jesus where He inclined for the meal, those present watched in stunned silence as her body heaved its sobs, her tears causing makeup to streak her face, then flowing like a small river on the feet of Jesus. She could see that His unwashed feet were muddied by her tears. Her hair, which should have been up as a sign of modesty, hung down to His feet and without hesitation she used it to wipe them. The tears were not enough. So the gift she brought to present to Him that day was opened, its fragrance overpowering every other odor, covering His feet not only with tears but this precious oil. Now His feet were clean and she, amazed she hadn’t been pushed away and unheeding the eyes fixed upon her, could not stop until she covered His feet with her kisses in a sign of utter subjection.

            Simon’s reaction was one of judgment for both Jesus and this woman. Didn’t He know what this woman was? Surely a prophet would be able to tell.

            Knowing his thoughts, Jesus told a simple parable of two men who owed debts, one for a lesser amount, one for a greater. Both men were unable to pay but were forgiven completely. Could Simon not understand the point of the parable that grace is as humanly unattainable for a “righteous” man like him as it was for this sinner? But no. He missed the point and missed the grace.

            So having tried to get him to understand through parable, Jesus now confronts Simon directly. "Do you see this woman? I entered your house and you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil… "(Luke 7:44-46). Simon ignored even the basic courtesies and was shamed by a woman, a sinner, who came to heavily invest herself in loving Jesus, giving to Him and caring little about anything else. Simon approached Jesus with a casual informality while this woman had worshipped Him with her whole heart.

We are often more like Simon than the sinner. We know who Jesus is, we try to honor Him but we can do it in such a way as to treat Him as less than Lord. I wonder how many of us go to the Sunday meeting without whispering a prayer beforehand inviting Him to be among us? I wonder how many throw bits and pieces, scraps if you will, into the offering? I wonder how many are content to go home feeling good about a meeting where there has been no evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence, where no lives are changed or touched and the world left unchanged? We have had our time of fellowship, sung our songs and done our bit but Jesus was never properly honored let alone truly worshipped. Like Simon, we assume because we are there it is enough. We can be casually indifferent so that we are more intent on judging what went on in the meeting than coming humbly to the feet of Jesus to offer Him our best.

And in it all we can miss the point of the parable that we are as unable to pay the price as the worst sinner in our town. Our pockets are empty and there is no line of credit. We stand next to the Hitlers and the Stalins and the Jeffrey Dahmers in desperate need of grace. No resume’ or public relations firm can put a better face on it. Sin has bankrupted us. Hear the words of Jesus spoken not only to the woman but to us: "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace." We rejoice with the writer of the old song that says,


            Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe.

            Sin had left a crimson stain,

            He washed it white as snow.