September 16, 2021
A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
“If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?”
Simon said in reply,
“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven;
hence, she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Imagine yourself back in the time of Jesus, in Jerusalem. There is a street where the wealthy live and those with power. The street isn’t wide, but each home has a courtyard separated from the street by a low fence. You can see into the courtyard and across into an open-air room where the rich entertained their guests. A table was set and there were pillows that the guests could lean back on as they dined.
This was window dressing so that everyone who walked by could see how important the homeowner was by the guests attending.
In today’s Gospel, a certain Pharisee named Simon, was entertaining and had scored a real prize in the fact a very popular young rabbi, Jesus by name, was attending.
As an honored guest the host would offer water to the guests to clean the dust from their feet, give them a kiss of welcome and anoint their heads with oil.
As they were dining, a young woman who had made some grievous mistake (it isn’t mentioned here but it is interesting the Pharisee knew of it) and was woefully sorry.
She had heard that Jesus was at the home of Simon, and she needed badly for him to forgive her sins.
We have mentioned before how expensive alabaster was and the perfumed oil equally so. It was given to daughters as a gift for their future wedding. The size of the jar and amount and amount of oil was indicative of the status of her parents.
This was to be presented to her husband when she married. But this young woman brings it into the house of Simon and stands behind Jesus weeping uncontrollably onto his feet and then drying them with her hair, kissing his feet constantly. Then she breaks the jar and anoints – not his head – but his feet.
Now the lesson. Jesus asks Simon who is more appreciative – one who has much debt forgiven or the one who has a small debt.
Simon knows that a huge sum forgiven is going to be much more appreciated than a small sum.
Jesus, knowing he was invited only for the spectacle, calls Simon on his false piety.
He mentions he hadn’t been given the most common courtesies. No water to wash his feet, no kiss of welcome nor oil to anoint his head.
He compares Simon to the woman and the contrast is very plain. She had the greater debt and Jesus forgives that debt, but he doesn’t offer Simon the same because Simon is not truly aware of his sins.
We must be aware of our own shortcomings so that we can go to Jesus with all that we own of worth and offer it to him so that we too may be forgiven.
At least that’s what I heard Him say…