All over town, the word was spreading: "Did you hear? Jesus of Nazareth has accepted Simon the Pharisee’s invitation and is going to have dinner with him tonight."
All of Capernaum was probably buzzing with the news. Would Jesus confront this Pharisee in his own home? Would he perform yet another miracle? Would the Pharisee challenge Jesus’ teachings?
One woman, known to be a prostitute, heard about this invitation and decided to go to Simon’s house—uninvited—to anoint Jesus with perfume. She knew she was risking further shame and condemnation from Simon and the others who scorned her, but her desire to be with Jesus was strong enough to withstand their withering looks. When Jesus looked at this woman, he didn’t see her in the same way that Simon did. He saw a woman who was in deep need, but who also loved deeply and was capable of great faith (Luke 7:36-50).
Simon respected Jesus but didn’t think he needed what Jesus had to offer. In fact, he wondered how this itinerant preacher could possibly be a prophet if he couldn’t even discern how sinful this woman was.
This wasn’t the first time that Jesus saw people differently. When a woman who had been hemorrhaging for years sought healing by touching Jesus’ cloak, he asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" His apostles wondered what Jesus meant, since the whole crowd was pushing and shoving all around him. But Jesus knew that power had gone out from him, and when he discovered who it was, he said: "Daughter, your faith has saved you" (Mark 5:30-34). Similarly, when a centurion—whom most Jews would have derided as an unbelieving pagan—begged Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus replied: "In no one in Israel have I found such faith" (Matthew 8:10). All three of these unlikely individuals came to Jesus with faith, and Jesus did not reject any of them.
Who Is Jesus? This story of the Pharisee and the sinful woman invites us to examine our own attitudes. Do I see that Jesus has the power to heal me, forgive my sins, and fill me with God’s love? Or do I treat Jesus respectfully, but still prefer my way over his when we disagree? Do I rejoice when anyone comes to Jesus, because I know that we are all sinners in need of his mercy and grace? Or do I think some people are not worthy?
As we read this month’s articles, let’s be sure to take on the woman’s attitude. Unlike Simon, let’s confess our need for Jesus and tell him that we want to follow his every word. Let’s also try to look at other people—especially those who may not measure up to our standards—with the same love and compassion that Jesus had when he saw the sinful woman. And finally, let’s be sure to repent of our own sins so that Jesus will tell us: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke 7:50).