A Woman Who Was A Sinner
“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. 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, 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. 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. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 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. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)
It would not be possible for us to conceive of two people more completely opposite to one another than Simon the Pharisee and this woman who was a sinner. Without question, there are many good, profitable lessons which may be gleaned from this passage of Scripture. We would be wise to lay them to heart. May God the Holy Spirit, who caused these words to be written, write the lessons of this passage on our hearts.
A Form of Godliness
Many, like this proud Pharisee, have a form of godliness, who know nothing of God’s saving grace in Christ. Simon showed much outward respect for the Lord Jesus and his disciples. What could be more respectful? He had a large, extravagant dinner party in honor of our Savior. Yet, he was utterly ignorant of Christ, his gospel and the grace of God. He had a form of godliness, but knew nothing of God’s saving power and grace. His proud heart was repulsed by the sight of this unnamed woman, who was a notorious sinner, entering his house and being so readily and openly received by the Son of God. He, like most religious people, talked about grace and forgiveness, but never experienced it. This proud Pharisee could not stomach the idea that he must enter into the kingdom of heaven upon the same ground and side by side with this wretched sinner. He was religious, but lost. He knew his doctrine, but not God. He was respectable, but not gracious. Do not be satisfied with religion. We must have Christ!
Sin a Debt
Learn this, too. Sin has made us all debtors, owing a debt we can never pay. By reason of our sin, we are all head over heels in debt to the law and justice of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our great Savior, stepped in, paid our debt; and God, for Christ’s sake, has freely and fully forgiven us our debt! The forgiveness of sins is an act of strict, unbending justice. Yet, in our experience of it, it is a matter of absolute freeness, an act of grace, pure, free grace. Christ paid our debt; and upon the ground of justice satisfied, we are freely forgiven all our sins.
The third lesson that is obvious in this portion of Scripture is the fact that the great mainspring and driving force of service to Christ is that love and gratitude which arises from a sense of great forgiveness.
How I wish I could drive this point home to the hearts of all who attempt to rouse men and women up to live for and serve Christ. The mainspring and driving force of true Christianity, the motive and inspiration for all devotion and service to Christ, that which compels and constrains believers to live in this world for the glory of God is grace experienced, forgiveness known and felt in the very soul of a man, and the deep gratitude to and love for Christ which arises from the experience of God’s free, sovereign, saving grace in our Savior. — Believers are motivated by grace, gratitude and love, not by the threat of law, the promise of reward, or the hope of recognition (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 8:9).
Who was this woman?
This woman, who was a sinner, is here held before us in the Book of God as an example for all who would honor Christ to follow. Yet, wisely and graciously, the Holy Spirit tells us absolutely nothing about this woman except these things. — She was a sinner. — She was a sinner who trusted Christ. — She was a forgiven sinner, forgiven of all her sins. — She was a grateful sinner. — She was a sinner who loved Christ much.
What did this woman do?
“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 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” (vv. 37-38).
This saved sinner made it her business to know where the Savior was and came to him there. She brought with her an alabaster box of ointment. She came with a sacrifice of faith, with which she sought to honor her Redeemer. She stood in humiliation at the Savior’s feet, behind him. She wept. She wept because she was full of sorrow, knowing that the Lord Jesus must suffer and die upon the cursed tree to put away her sin. She wept with loving gratitude because of his great love for her soul. She washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. She tenderly kissed the Savior’s feet, with lips of love, devotion and adoration. She anointed his feet in faith in anticipation of his death. In a word, as the Lord Jesus himself put it, she did what she could (Mark 14:3-9). Blessed are they to whom God the Holy Spirit gives such grace!
What was her motive?
Why did this woman do what she did? How can such an act be explained? What would inspire a poor person to make such a great, extravagant (in the eyes of men) sacrifice? She had owed much. She had been forgiven much. And she loved much.
What was the result of this woman’s love for Christ and her devotion and service to him?
She was scorned by Simon the Pharisee, ridiculed by Judas and misunderstood by her fellow disciples. Few there are who understand devotion, whole-hearted devotion to Christ. But she had not come to Simon’s house to be honored. She had come there to honor God her Savior; and honoring him, she was honored by him (1 Samuel 2:30).
This one who honored her Lord was highly honored by her Lord. When she was ridiculed and scorned, the Son of God came to her defense (v. 47). He said, “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me” (Mark 14:6). The Master assured her, before her judges and slanderers, that he had forgiven her of all her sins. -- “Thy sins are forgiven” (v. 48). Then her Savior assured her of her faith and spoke peace to her heart (v. 50).
The only way to inspire consecration and devotion to Christ is to preach Christ. The only way to promote good works is to preach free grace (Titus 3:4-9). The soul that has experienced the redemption, forgiveness and saving grace is inspired by the knowledge of God’s mercy, love and grace in Christ to love him and seek his glory. — “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Let all who read this portion of Holy Scripture be reminded and tell sinners everywhere that the Lord Jesus Christ is a great Savior, merciful, gracious, compassionate and able and ready to save the very chief of sinners.
“Sinners Jesus will receive! —
Sound this word of grace to all,
Who the heavenly pathway leave,
All who linger all who fall!
Come, and He will give you rest;
Trust Him, for His Word is plain;
He will take the sinfulest;
Christ receiveth sinful men.
Now my heart condemns me not,
Pure before the law I stand;
He who cleansed me from all spot,
Satisfied its last demand.
Christ receiveth sinful men,
Even me with all my sin;
Purged from every spot and stain,
Heaven with Him I enter in.”
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