(36) And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. (37) And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, (38) And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. (39) Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. (40) And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.Luke 7:36-50
(36) And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.
The pharisees were dealt with quite a lot by Jesus, but often you will see them say “certain of the Pharisees”. Not every pharisee had equal disdain for Jesus. You see people like Nicodemus come to Jesus admitting that what they saw Him doing caused them to pause, and even to acknowledge that God was with Him.
Here Jesus comes to the house of a pharisee to eat with him. Hospitality in the ancient near east was a big deal. This would have been a significant thing to have Jesus over for a meal as a pharisee.
(37) And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
What an incredible scene we see unfold! Luke describes this woman as one “in the city, which was a sinner”. Her sin was evident to many in the room by reputation. She had heard that Jesus was in the house of this pharisee and came, not with a need for healing, but with a desire to be forgiven and to honor Jesus. This is evident by her bringing an alabaster box of ointment and by her behavior following. This alabaster box of ointment would have been very costly.
Some have made the claim that this woman was a prostitute because of her being known as someone with a sinful reputation, by her subsequent actions, and the pharisee’s response to her as almost an infection to the dinner party. The word “pharisee” literally translated means “one who is separated’, or “a separatist”. Their view of themselves was to be separated from sin and from sinners. So, to have “a sinner” who up in his house would have been socially awkward.
(38) And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
We would not see what this woman is doing as normal for sure, but we certainly would not have seen it as something sinfully sexual. Yet, in that culture, for a woman to have her hair down was seen as improper. To touch a man in public would have been highly inappropriate. To kiss a man, and to pour ointment on him would have been seen this way as well.
The contrast between the pharisee and the woman is stark. He is ceremonially pure, and at least acknowledges Jesus as the same by asking Him into His house. This woman is clearly seen as impure and would normally not been asked to dinner. This would have been something that forwarded what many thoughts about Jesus that was expressed earlier in the chapter:
(34) The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!Luke 7:34
She will be further contrasted by Jesus Himself. For now, let us notice her actions contrasted with the response of this Pharisee.
(39) Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
This Pharisee’s reaction is not surprising knowing the normal position of the Pharisees. This woman was not seen as someone who could be redeemed or reformed. She was seen as someone to be separated from and avoided. She was seen as a problem, an infection, irredeemable and deplorable.
Jesus accepting adoration from this woman made the Pharisee doubt Jesus’ position as a prophet. The Pharisee must have seen him as at least potentially being a prophet up until this point because he would have taken some grief from those who clearly denied Jesus claim to being the Messiah. But at this point He doubts Jesus’ status because Jesus accepts this woman’s costly expression of worship.
Jesus saw the woman as someone who needed forgiveness and who was rightly offering Him worship. The Pharisees view of the woman was of someone more sinful and unacceptable to God than himself. His view of Jesus’ acceptance of this lady was that it made Jesus less than what He ought to be, maybe even a sinner Himself.
We must be careful in our evaluation of other people. We may see some people as beyond the forgiveness and reach of God. We may see ourselves as better than others.
Jesus had clearly communicated His position to come to reach the lost, poor, broken, blind and captive. The truth is that this described everyone in the room but could only be received by those who acknowledged their own need, who acknowledged their own spiritual poverty.
We must view ourselves and others rightly, as those who need Jesus and His offer of forgiveness.
Do you understand your own need for Jesus? Do you see others the way Jesus does?