(44) And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.(45) Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. (46) My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.Luke 7:44-46
Jesus goes on to contrast the behavior of the woman with Simon’s response to Jesus.
How Jesus was treated as he entered the home by Simon is left out of the beginning of the story. There were accepted practices of hospitality at a formal banquet like this one in Simon’s home. Not washing the feet, greeting with a holy kiss, or anointing a dusty head with oil, the reception to the house would have seemed quite cold in the cultural context of the day. One commentary put it this way:
“This is the glaring neglect of deeply ingrained laws of hospitality, operative when receiving a guest of any stature and certainly an honored guest (like Jesus) who can be regarded as a prophet and addressed as “teacher” (Luk_7:39, Luk_7:40). One may find a hint of the deliberate omission of any mention of Simon’s lack of attention to his guest in the repeated identification of the Pharisee as Jesus’ host in Luk_7:36 and Luk_7:39, apart from any narration of his actually acting as a host, but this is easily passed over.”(Green)
Jesus had described her as one that loved much because she will have been forgiven of much, and by implication Simon is loving little, because he does not understand his own need of forgiveness. This is what Jesus is pointing out when he contrasts, quite poetically, their behavior. Simon fails to do the formal, normal expressions of basic hospitality in receiving a guest. He does not wash Jesus’ feet. This woman washes Jesus feet with her tears. Jesus’ feet like most at the table would have been accessible as the posture of the day was to recline at the table. Simon’s indifference towards Jesus is compared to the passionate response of this woman.
Simon does not anoint Jesus’ head with inexpensive oil, while this woman anoints Jesus feet with this expensive alabaster box filled with oil. Simon gives no warm greeting with the kiss on the cheek characteristic of the near east even today. This woman kisses Jesus’ feet. There is a humility and a holy affection in this expression.
What point is Jesus making?
Simon’s evaluation is the common position of those who are called Pharisees. His reception of Jesus may have been influenced by those of his sect who were at odds with Jesus. His evaluation of Jesus not being a prophet because a prophet would not fraternize with sinners was bad theology and missed the point of the mission that God the Father sent God the Son to complete.
As is so often the case, there is a contrast being made between two kinds of people. Here we have the self-righteous contrasted with the penitent. We have the person doubting Jesus’ identity contrasted with the person placing their faith in Jesus. As we will see, the one who is forgiven is the one who understands their own spiritual and moral poverty and goes to Jesus for help.
This contrast brings us to a point of self-evaluation. Which person are you more like today? Even if you are not a person involved in prostitution or some other sin seen as particularly infamous crime, the truth is that we are all guilty enough of sin to be eternally separated from God in Hell for all eternity. This is not God’s desire. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Are you the person that tries to stand in their own self-righteousness, or are you the person that understands their own need for the righteousness of God and the work of God to forgive and sanctify?
Ephesians 2:8-10 speaks well to this point:
(8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:8-10
Only God, by His grace can save us, and it is God that then works on us to make us be and do all that He wants us to be and do.
- Saved or Lost, today’s application should be one of repentance.
Green, Joel B. “Luke: The Gospel of Luke.” New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997. E-Sword Bible Software.