The Pharisee and the Woman

I want us to see a fascinating story that Luke shared with us:

One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him” –Luke 7:36-39

Cool isn’t it? So, this Pharisee invited Jesus over for a dinner and he probably figured he was being a real spiritual guy inviting the current celebrity of the day. But some woman, who wasn’t even invited, shows up because she had heard that Jesus was there, and pours some real expensive perfume on Him.

Well that took some guts, don’t you think? But the revealing thing is that the super-spiritual host had some hidden traits within his heart. One thing we should see here is that our heart and mind are of greater importance to our Lord than our words or deeds. Our innermost places desperately need daily purification, and part of the process is recognizing and confessing judgmental, impure, or critical thoughts before they can make their way to our mouths and our actions.

Look at that: this tendency was very deep-seated in the Pharisees heart because we read, “he said to himself . . .” That’s important for us to see because the Lord hold us responsible for the we say to ourselves, our hidden thoughts.

Now notice that the mere fact that Jesus allowed this woman to wash His feet (with her tears), was enough to cause this Pharisee to wonder whether or not Jesus was a prophet. The Pharisee said that Jesus obviously didn’t know what kind of woman she was. The original wording is rather interesting. Where we read, “what kind,” it actually comes from two Greek words: poios, meaning “what,” and dapedon, meaning “soil.” The Pharisee was literally saying that Jesus “has no idea the dirt she comes from.


I have news for you: Dirt is dirt, and all of us have it no matter where we come from. Jesus doesn’t  see one kind of dirt as any dirtier than another. However, one thing I can assure you of, His blood is able to cleanse us from the stain of any kind of dirt.

Jesus looks at the Pharisee and says, “Simon, I have something to tell you (v. 40). Well I bet He does . . .

Then the Pharisee responds, “Oh? Tell me.” (I wonder if was really ready for Jesus to tell him . . .?)

Jesus told him a parable of canceled debts. Two men owed money to a lender. One owed a whole bunch of money, the other a small amount (at least in comparison), but neither one of them had enough money to pay what they owed, so the lender canceled both of their debts.

Then Jesus asked Simon (the Pharisee) to figure out which man appreciated the generosity of the moneylender the most? Now the answer seems obvious, but you can tell the Simon was reluctant to answer the question and said, “Well, I suppose . . . the one who was forgiven the most.”

Jesus said, “You have judged correctly” (v. 43). (Yeah, well, Simon had been judging all along, it’s just that this was the first time he judged correctly).

Then Jesus makes it personal and compares how Simon and the woman had responded to Him. The whole time He describes Simon’s actions by what he did not do. You see, one of the surest signs of a “Pharisee”–whether ancient or modern day–is that life is characterized more by what they do not do than what they do.

“No Simon, you didn’t sleep around. You didn’t take bribes. You didn’t drink heavily. You didn’t externalize your depravity. But as well, you didn’t give Me any water for My feet. You didn’t give me a kiss. You didn’t put oil on My head. You didn’t see yourself as a sinner, and you didn’t receive My gift of grace–but she did! Ever since I arrived she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You didn’t give me a greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You didn’t give me anything for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it?”

Then He packs the final punch in verse 47: “She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” Not because that’s the way it has to be, but because that’s the reality of our human tendency.

But that isn’t the greatest lesson in this story! He looks at this woman who laid on the floor broken and grieved, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

If you, like the woman in our story, have surrendered your life to Jesus; poured your heart out to Him; willingly laid bare your whole life before the Lord; yet find yourself meditating and grieving over the “yuck” of your life that you can’t imagine how the Lord could possibly use you and question your own calling, then you to imagine the Lord pulling up a chair right in front of you and looking you square in the eye, saying, “Your many sins have been forgiven–for you love much. Go in peace.”

My prayer for you is that you can realize the power and purity of our Lord’s indwelling righteousness because it is the only thing you can rely on.

Doulos Studies

(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)

I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.

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