The present passage contrasts the attitudes of a sinful but repentant woman and the self-righteous. It needs to be studied carefully, for self-righteousness is a serious sin. It is both common and damning.
Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner. Note several things. Simon invited Jesus to his house, but he did not extend to Jesus the common courtesies (Luke 7:44-46). He was rude to the Lord. He was not even sure Jesus was a prophet, much less the Messiah (Luke 7:39).
Why then did he invite Jesus to his house? We do not know; nothing is said as to why. The best speculation is that Simon enjoyed the company of celebrities, and he had heard so much about Jesus that he wanted to meet and talk with Him on an informal and friendly basis.
Jesus ate with both sinners and religionists (Pharisees) (Luke 5:29-30). No one was excluded from His attention or love, even when they lacked the common everyday courtesies and respect (Luke 7:44-46). He sought every man.
The house of Simon was a house of the rich. The rich always had an open courtyard, usually in the center of the house; that is, the house was built around an open courtyard. Sometimes the host would allow the public to stand around in the courtyard and listen to the discussions, in particular when a rabbi or some celebrity was the chief guest.
Notice the attitude of the repentant. The woman was a sinner, a prostitute. She demonstrated what a sinner has to do in coming to Jesus.
She sensed a desperate need. She was either convicted of her sin while hearing Jesus or else she had heard Him before and came under heavy conviction. His plea for men and women to repent and prepare for the Kingdom of God pierced her heart. She knew she was a sinner: unclean, lost, condemned. The guilt and weight of her sin was more than she could bear. She ached for forgiveness and cleansing, for freedom and liberty.
She approached the Lord despite all. She knew that the public scorned and gossiped about her, and the so-called decent people wanted nothing to do with her. What would Jesus do—He who said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest….” (Matthew 11:28-30)?
She knew that if she was recognized, the Pharisee might throw her out of the house. He knew about her (Luke 7:39). She thought about the situation, and her thinking turned into hope, and her hope into belief. Surely He who offered such an invitation would receive her.
Before anyone could stop her, she rushed to Jesus and stood behind Him at His feet. (Remember, in the East people reclined to eat. They rested on their left arm facing each other around the table with their body and feet extending out away from the table.)
She surrendered to the Lord in utter humility. Standing there, she was overcome with conviction and emotion. She fell at Jesus’ feet weeping—so broken that tears just flowed from her eyes. She unwound her hair and wiped and kissed Jesus’ feet. Seldom has such love and devotion been shown Jesus.
There was only one thing that could make a prostitute enter a Pharisee’s home—desperation. She was gripped with a sense of lostness, of helplessness, of urgency.
The loosening of her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet was forbidden of women in public. She must have been so desperate she was totally oblivious to the onlookers. The point is this: she was surrendering her heart and life to the Lord, begging Him to forgive her. She was so broken she was unable to speak, but Jesus knew her heart. Words were not necessary (Luke 7:47-48).
She loved much, giving her most precious possession. Perfume was highly valued by women of that day. Apparently, by describing the perfume as he does, Luke is stressing the expense of the perfume and the great sacrifice she was making. It was probably the most costly possession she had, so she was giving it to her Lord. However, there is something more important here. Note what she did with the perfume. She anointed her Lord; anointed His feet in a supreme act of humility and love and surrender.
The behavior of the self-righteous man revealed several things.
1. The man was considerate, but self-righteous. Note, he only thought these things; he would not say them publicly lest he embarrass his guests. (How like the self-righteous!)
2. The man considered himself better. He felt he was better than the sinful woman, so he would never allow her to touch him. He would keep his distance, ignore, and have nothing to do with her. But note something else. He considered his judgment and knowledge, opinions and behavior to be better than others. He expected others (Jesus) to judge and act as he did. He thought that if Jesus only knew who the lady was, then He would reject her.
3. The man sensed no need for forgiveness and repentance. He thought of himself as good enough in two areas.
a. He was good enough in religion. Note he was a Pharisee, a man who had given his life to practice religion. If anyone was ever good enough, he should have been.
b. He was good enough in behavior. He was well behaved, decent and moral, just and equitable, respected and highly esteemed. He was not immoral; in fact, he would have nothing to do with immorality. He had not and never would commit a sin that would be publicly condemned. Therefore, he felt as though he had done nothing for which he needed forgiveness.
Jesus told a parable about two debtors. Note several things that say much to the self-righteous.
1. Jesus announced that He had something to say, something critically important. Undivided attention was needed. Every self-righteous person needs to listen and listen closely.
2. Jesus was a prophet and more—He was the Son of God; therefore, He not only knew the people who were sitting around Him, He knew their every thought. Note that from this point on, Jesus was answering the thoughts of Simon. Simon had never said a word about Jesus not knowing who the woman was nor about his own question about Jesus being a prophet. Simon had only been thinking these thoughts “within himself” (Luke 7:39).
Jesus is the Son of God; therefore, what a man thinks pales into insignificance when facing the One who knows all thoughts, including what one really thinks and feels within. Jesus knows the truth of every thought and feeling within a man. If a person is self-righteous, Jesus knows it. If a person is repentant, truly repentant, Jesus knows it. No one hides anything, no feeling, no thought from Him.
3. The meaning of the parable is strikingly clear. A glance at the verses and points in the outline show this. Note how clearly the parable illustrates the grace of God in freely forgiving sin (salvation) (cp. Ephes. 1:7; Ephes. 2:8-9; John 2:1-2).
What was the overwhelming need of the self-righteous? To really see Jesus, who the repentant say He is. Note what Jesus asked Simon, “Seest thou this woman, this repentant?” The repentant had much to teach the self-righteous about Jesus. The repentant really sees Jesus, who He really is.
1. Jesus was the One who deserved more than common courtesies. The host usually showed respect by providing water for the guests to wash their dusty, sandaled feet. The kiss was the accepted greeting among friends, and oil was usually given for honored guests to refresh themselves after travelling under the hot sun. It was expensive, so it was usually reserved for honored guests.
a. Jesus deserved more than common respect (water); He deserved a worshipful respect. He was seen as Lord and was respected as Lord by the repentant. He was the One who alone could meet the needs of the human heart; therefore, He was the One who was to be worshipped. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
b. Jesus deserved more than a common greeting; He deserved a humble, brokenhearted greeting. He was approached with a sense of unworthiness and humility. The repentant saw the worthiness of Jesus and grasped something of His awesome person as the Son of God and as the sovereign Lord of the universe; therefore, He was the One to whom all men owed their allegiance, the One who alone had the power to forgive and accept men. The repentant saw Jesus as the One who alone could help her, the One who alone had the power to help, so the repentant approached Jesus and greeted Him with a deep sense of humility and unworthiness. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
c. Jesus deserved more than a common gift; He deserved a sacrificial gift. He was seen as the hope and Savior of one’s life, so the repentant gave Jesus her life, all she was and had. The repentant surrendered her life and gave the most precious gift she had to anoint her Lord. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
2. Jesus was the One who had the power to forgive sins. Three simple facts are imporant here.
a. The woman’s sins were many. Jesus did not overlook her sins, nor the seriousness of them. After all it was her sins and the sins of others that brought about His humiliation, His having to come to this sinful world and to die for the sins of men. However, He forgave her sins despite their awfulness. Every sinner should note this carefully.
b. Self-righteousness sensed the need for little forgiveness; therefore, the self-righteous loved little. The self-righteous had only a formal, distant relationship with God. His relationship was cold, having only a small sense of sin and sensing only a little need for forgiveness. It was enough to have Jesus present at his table (the table was about the only place many acknowledged His presence).
The self-righteous approach to God…
- has only a little sense of sin; therefore senses only a little need for forgiveness.
- is blinded to man’s state of sin, to man’s true being, that of being short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
- has little sense of the need for special mercy and grace, is blinded to God’s Sovereign Majesty and Person.
- has only a formal, distant relationship with God, has little personal relationship with God.
- gives little honor to God, makes little sacrifice for God.
c. Jesus forgave sin. He had the power to forgive the sins of this repentant.
3. Jesus was the One whom people needed to ask about.
4. Jesus was the One who did save the repentant. The woman believed Christ to be the Savior, the One who could forgive her sins. Therefore, Christ saved her.