Bible Reference: Luke 7.36-50.
Heart of the Story: All four New Testament gospel writers recounted Jesus being anointed by a woman; however, details of stories differed. Luke’s gospel described an event early in Jesus’s ministry in Galilee. The woman was a prostitute.
Back Story: In Luke’s record, Simon, a Pharisee, asked Jesus to come to his house for a meal. Jesus entered Simon’s home and reclined at a table. Although Jesus was in the country side all, or most of, the day, Simon didn’t offer Jesus water to wash his hands or feet. Simon’s failure to offer an invited guest water to wash or have servants wash the guest’s feet was a discourtesy in 1st century Israel. Essentially, Simon said, “True, I invited you for a meal, but I don’t feel any need to honor your presence in my home.” Simon’s discourtesy could have been because he, like other Pharisees, was hostile to Jesus’s person and ministry.
Story Line: A woman in the city, an infamous sinner (likely a prostitute), brought a flask of oil/ointment into the room. Standing behind Jesus, the woman began to wash Jesus feet with her tears. The woman felt the strong contrast between her own sinful life and Jesus’s life. She was unable to contain her emotions, her tears fell. No towel was available to dry Jesus’s feet after she washed them. The woman dried Jesus’s feet with her hair. Then, the sinful woman anointed Jesus’s feet with the oil she brought.
Pondering Relationships: Very likely, the ointment used to anoint Jesus’s feet by the woman in Galilee wasn’t the costly perfume used in Bethany. The Galilean woman used ointment (Greek word murōn) which was oil (likely olive oil) mixed with spices or scents. In contrast, Mary who anointed Jesus’s head in Bethany used pure nard, an expensive perfume. Nonetheless, the sinful woman gave Jesus the best she had.
Jesus’s host, Simon, thought to himself: if Jesus was really a prophet (at the time Galilean’s believed Jesus was a prophet) he would know that this woman was a notorious prostitute and not allow her to touch him. Jesus knew Simon’s thoughts and attempted to teach Simon a lesson in forgiveness. He told a story of two men, both of whom owed another man money. One man owed a great deal of money, while the other’s debt was appreciably less. The man owed the money forgave the debt of both men. Jesus asked Simon which man would be most grateful to have their debt forgiven. Simon answered that most likely it was the man who was forgiven the highest debt.
Jesus agreed and told Simon that the one who is forgiven little, loves little; but, the one who is forgiven much, loves much (Luke 7.47). The woman who washed Jesus’s feet sinned much and was forgiven much; consequently, her gratitude was profound.
Reflection: Do you ever wonder if Simon the Leper got/accepted Jesus’s message. If so how did Simon change his behavior. Do you believe that the prostitute changed her behavior?
Copyright August 11, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth