“One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.“ (Luke 7:36-38)
The other gospels have different versions of this story; two of the gospels says she was a woman, not a sinner but just a woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume. Judas objected to the expense but Jesus said she was anointing him for burial, and would be remembered for it. The third other gospel says it was Mary, sister to Lazarus, who anointed Jesus as if for burial with Judas protesting the cost. I do have to wonder what Luke’s purpose was in having Jesus forgive her sins. All four versions speak to me in differing ways at differing times.
“Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” (Verse 39)
Note, beloved reader, he does not speak his thoughts aloud. But I think we can assume that his opinion could be seen clearly on his face. And I have to wonder too what his purpose was in having Jesus over for a meal when it does not seem like he was totally convinced that Jesus was special. And just how did Luke know what this Pharisee was thinking? I guess I have many questions about this version.
“Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (Verses 40 – 47)
And the implication is clear, that whatever sins Simon the Pharisee may have are not forgiven. Nor does Simon seem inclined to want forgiveness for his sins.
“Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Verses 48 – 50)
In order to find answers to some of my questions, I looked over some of the comments of the better known biblical commentators. I was slightly relieved to see that they were not unanimous in the perspectives and opinions on this passage. That they questioned as much as I did makes be feel less awkward about having questions. One idea that they raised was that this was not the same incident where Jesus was anointed as if for burial. It does seem interesting then to consider that not one but two women were moved to minister in this way to Jesus.
“Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.” ( Chapter 8:1 – 3)
Jesus’ person-hood and divinity seems to call out both men and women; and because of the society that Jesus lived in a mortal, men and women were called into ministry in different ways. It does seem though, beloved reader, that more women than men felt moved to minister in more personal ways. That while men followed Jesus as he journeyed and followed his teachings, women followed him to support and serve him. I will not say which is the better way – indeed I do not know if one way is better than the other. But it would behoove us to practice both types of discipleship. For we as sinners have much to be forgiven for, and so have great love for our Lord. Selah!