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The Sinful Woman
(Luke 7:36-50)

Last time we discussed John the Baptist and his doubt and discouragement over Jesus’ Ministry. We discussed how Jesus allowed John’s disciples to simply watch Him in action as proof of His Messiahship. Then Jesus compared Ministry style to that of John, and discussed the fact that NEITHER of them were accepted by the religious folk of that day – John was too somber and Jesus was too sociable for their taste.

Tonight we are going to discuss Luke 7:36-50 Jesus anointed by the sinful woman. This event takes place somewhere around Galilee during an outstanding time of Jesus’ Ministry. This was His second mission to Galilee during a meal at the home of Simon the Pharisee.

Luke 7:36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table.

You will recall that the Pharisees were the "religious elite" of their day, ultra conservative and secure in their self-righteousness. Simon felt that he was "honoring" Jesus by having Him in his home and perhaps felt a little proud of himself. Jesus was a very popular teacher and Simon was curious about His teachings.

Normally it was the duty of the host in those days to wash their guest’s feet, and give them a kiss of welcome on their necks. Most everyone walked, and wearing sandals caused the feet to become very dusty. After seeing to his guest’s needs, then the host would invite them to recline at the dinner table.

Now this seems odd to us today because most of us SIT down to eat, not recline. But this was normal for that day. They had a low table, usually bow shaped, and reclined on cushions around the table with their heads towards the table and feet away from the table.

Luke 7:37-38 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Now there was a sinful woman who lived in that town who heard that Jesus was at Simon’s house. There is controversy over her identity. Some say that she was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. However, we have no other evidence that Mary was sinful, although she also anointed Jesus with perfume.

Some say that she was Mary Magdalene. Others that she was the woman caught in adultery that Jesus pardoned. At any rate, "sinful" meant that she was a prostitute and very much unwelcome in a Pharisee’s house! At least, she was unwelcome by Simon. But she must have realized that Jesus would not reject her.

She came up behind Jesus weeping, and began to cleanse his feet with her tears. She had unbound her hair, which was also the sign of a sinful woman, and began drying his feet with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and poured expensive perfume on them from a long necked globular bottle made of alabaster.

Apparently Jesus showed no reaction to this woman, but Simon was seated so that he could see what she was doing. As a "polite" host, he refrained from comment, but Jesus knew what he was thinking.

Luke 7:39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner."

You can almost hear the wheels turning in Simon’s little peaked head. "Hmmmm… this guy couldn’t be a REAL prophet or he’d KNOW that this woman was a sinner and drop kick her outta here! NO way he’d let her do that to him! "

There’s no greater danger to true prophets of God than from highly religious people who have decided how God operates and have made themselves judge and jury over others. They hinder the work of God and quench the Holy Spirit on many occasions by using their own self-righteousness as a standard.

Now there are false prophets in the world, but we must be very careful when we accuse a church leader of being one! A bad call can not only harm their ministry and those who are looking to them for guidance, but can endanger your own salvation.

1 Chronicles 16:10, 21-22 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice…He allowed no man to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm." (Repeated in Psalms 105:15 "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.")

Saul was the first king over Israel, and disobeyed God many times, until God rejected Saul as king. God told the prophet Samuel to anoint David as king, and David came and killed Goliath. He was then married to Saul’s daughter and came to live in Saul’s palace.

However, Saul became jealous of David and tried to kill David. So David had to flee for his life from Saul. While David was on the run, he had two opportunities to do Saul in. Why not? Saul was rejected by God, and David had already been anointed in Saul’s place to be king.

I Samuel 26:9-11 But David said to Abishai, "Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless. As surely as the Lord lives," he said, "the Lord himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed…"

But David steadfastly refused to harm the king because he was God’s anointed one. When Saul fell on his sword and was finished off by the Amalekite, (2 Samuel 1:14) David asked him, "Where were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?" And then David had the Amalekite killed!

Isn’t this amazing? God had rejected Saul as king and David had been anointed in his place. Saul was certainly out of God’s will for his life and relentlessly tried to kill David. Yet David refused to come against one that God had anointed (Saul was also considered a prophet), and killed the Amalekite that killed God’s anointed.

We should fear God today and not come against those He has anointed for service. If they are in error, then God will discipline them. This is why I do NOT talk about other ministries in here, for fear I speak against God’s anointed and bring judgement upon myself and my family.

Luke 7:40 Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said.

Well Jesus is God’s Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah, but He didn’t destroy Simon for his ignorance. He knew what Simon was thinking and Jesus wanted to teach him a lesson. Notice that Jesus does not openly rebuke Simon directly but gives Simon time to reason it out for himself.

Luke 7:41-42 "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

Jesus used an example from daily life. A denarius was about a day’s wage, so their first debtor would have to work everyday for a year and four month’s, giving the debtor every penny, to be able to pay off the debt. The other debtor would have to work almost 2 months. But the moneylender cancelled the debts of both. Jesus is asking, which one will love him more?

The word used here for love is the verb form of agape – the God kind of love, unselfish, unconditional, more concerned with other’s needs than your own. This is a curious emotion to have for a moneylender, or a banker. Not too many people love bankers even today! Why do you think that Jesus used the word agape here?

This is a beautiful picture of God’s grace to us. We are all forgiven our sins when we confess them through God’s mercy and grace – caused by His agape nature. Our proper response to this agape, is to love God back. And sometimes those who have sinned the most, truly love God the most. They know that they don’t deserve it, that they could never be "good enough" to pay the debt for their sin.

Luke 7:43 Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

Simon must have wondered where Jesus was going with this account. His answer, "I suppose" shows an element of uncertainty. Suppose here is hupolambano {hoop-ol-am-ban'-o} meaning to follow in speech, in order either to reply to or controvert or supplement what another has said ; to take up in the mind - to assume or suppose.

I can just hear Simon thinking, "What in the world is Jesus talking about? What do debtors have to do with this sinful woman?" As Simon was puzzling it out, Jesus told him that he had judged correctly.

Judge here is krino in the Greek, and bears the connotation of being sentenced before a judge and jury. Simon had correctly or rightly judged Jesus’ parable, but had NOT judged the woman righteously.

Jesus then proceeded to give Simon the application of his example of the debtors and moneylender, thereby revealing Simon’s lack of love shown in his misjudgment of the sinful woman.

Luke 7:44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. "

Now for the first time, Jesus turns towards the woman and asks Simon an odd question. "Do you see this woman?" Well, yeah, THAT woman had Simon’s eyeballs bugging out for some time now. Apparently she kept weeping, wiping and perfuming Jesus feet. Of course Simon could see her?

But could he really SEE her? See her heart of love for Jesus and her gratitude for His forgiveness, as one who had the greater debt cancelled? The surface meaning of blepo {blep'-o} means to see, discern, of the bodily eye and to turn the eyes to anything: to look at, look upon, gaze at, to perceive by the senses, to feel, or to discover by use, to know by experience.

But metaphorically or spiritually there is a deeper meaning: to see with the mind's eye, to have (the power of) understanding, to discern mentally, observe, perceive, discover, understand, to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, contemplate, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine.

What did Simon SEE in Jesus? Oh, somebody to invite to a party to give Simon status, a curiosity, something to pass the time. Certainly not as the Messiah. He didn’t even give Jesus the common courtesy of foot washing! And certainly not as the King of King and Lord of Lords.

What did Simon SEE in this woman? An unclean sinner, certainly not welcome in HIS house! Someone not worthy of acknowledgement or any level of hospitality. After the parable though, Jesus showed Simon something he had missed. He was able to judge the parable correctly, now Jesus re-directs Simon’s attention to the sinful woman.

Isn’t it curious how often we are able to judge matters correctly when presented with a theoretical scenario, but are unable to apply the same judgement to matters dealing with our fellow human beings? We can be very religious in the sense that we can quote scripture until the "cows come home" and give very intellectual explanations of it, but are unable to apply it to our own lives?

This is the essence of hypocrisy. I can tell you what to do and "how it is", but somehow the same judgements do not apply to my heart. Or in other words, hypocrisy is blindness to your own faults and shortcomings, and the strange ability to see and condemn those faults and shortcomings in others.

How can you tell if you might be a hypocrite? If you find yourself continually condemning and criticizing others, telling them "like it is" you might be a hypocrite. If you aren’t coming to the Lord on a daily basis and asking Him to cleanse you and reveal your faults, shortcomings and sins, and repenting of them, you might be a hypocrite.

If you aren’t striving with all that is within you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, you might be a hypocrite. If you are content with your spiritual state, and believe the world would be a better place if everyone were just like you, you might be a hypocrite.

Oh Father that we might see with the vision of the Lord Jesus Christ! Cleanse our hearts of all hypocrisy and condemnation. Let your love, your agape flow to us and in us and through us to all that we encounter.

Let us not view you or others with worldly eyes – seeing only their faults and shortcomings and judging and condemning them for it. Let us see them all as men and women, boys and girls, for whom you died, shed your life’s blood, that they could be free of bondage to satan and walk in the glorious liberty of the Sons of God!

Well, Simon still does not see this woman as anything but sinful. But Jesus begins to show him how her love for Jesus is greater than Simon’s "hospitality". Simon did not pay Jesus even the common courtesies of a host, but this woman, out of her spirit of gratitude and love, went extravagantly beyond the norm.

Luke 7:45-46 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.

While Simon ignored Jesus’ basic needs, this woman went beyond foot washing. She gave him precious tears as cleansing water and her glory, her unbound hair, used as a towel for his feet. Then she anointed Jesus feet with perfume, acknowledging him as her Prince, Lord and Master. And she kept on doing this – from the time Jesus entered, kissing his feet.

You know the foot is the lowest part of the human body and is the part that gets the dirtiest, especially in a dusty land with open shoes. By placing herself at and worshipping Jesus’ feet, this woman was being as humble as she physically could, and showing adoration in the only way she knew how.

On the night Jesus was betrayed, during the Last Supper with his disciples, KNOWING that He was going to be betrayed, Jesus got up and began washing the disciples feet. Peter didn’t want to have Jesus wash his feet, but Jesus told Peter, "Unless I wash you, you will have no part with me." So the Peter wanted a bath! After doing this for all of them, INCLUDING Judas. And then Jesus gave this command:

John 13:14-17 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

One ordinance or command that Jesus gave to the Church which is rarely, if ever, practiced is foot washing. Why is this? Could it be that we are not willing to humble ourselves to each other? I have personally participated in three foot washings publicly, one on the internet, which I’m not sure qualifies.

But I found that bowing at the feet of a brother or sister and simply pouring water over their feet and drying them brought a feeling of peace and quietness of spirit like I’d not received any other way. Shouldn’t we be doing what Jesus commanded, and receive the blessing He promised us?

Then Jesus went on to say: Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." What do you think He meant by this? If you love a lot, your sins are automatically forgiven?

Ephesians 2:8 –9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.

No, forgiveness of sins and salvation is never by works, always by faith, as Jesus declares in verse 50. What Jesus is saying is that since she has been forgiven much – after confessing too much – that she loves much. But notice that Jesus says "he" who has been forgiven little – because he has not confessed or acknowledged his sins – loves little. Why did Jesus switch to "he" from "she"?

Jesus was confronting Simon with his lack of confession, lack of forgiveness and lack of love. It’s very likely that Simon being of the Pharisees trying to entrap Jesus had an ulterior motive in inviting Jesus to dinner. He was seeking to trip Jesus up and reveal Jesus as a sinner. But the opposite happened!

But we are not told what Simon did with this information. Did he humble himself at some point and receive God’s forgiveness? Or did this revelation of the true state of his heart only harden him more? We do not know.

Then Jesus turns to the woman and makes this announcement: Luke 7:48 Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

Only God can forgive sins, so the guests were understandably shocked. Notice that it says "the other guests", Simon apparently didn’t join in this discussion! He had already been rebuked by Jesus once this night, and he wisely remains silent.

Luke 7:49 The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

The other guests began murmuring and asking "Who is this?" The question of the ages! Who is this who even forgives sins? Who is this healer, prophet, wise teacher? Who is He to ME? This is THE question that we all must ask at least once in our life. And if our answer is, Jesus the Christ, the Savior of all men for all time, the way, the truth, the life, the only way to the Father of Mercy, then we receive the same peace that this woman received.

Luke 7:50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." If you don’t know this Jesus, forgiver of sin, who is worthy of praise and worship, I invite you tonight to confess your sins to him and receive Him as Savior and Lord.

Father God I believe that Jesus came to earth to die on the cross for my sins. I confess to you that I am a sinner and need your grace -–unearned love and favor tonight. Cleanse me and receive me as your child. I confess that Jesus is now my Lord and I will live forever with Him. AMEN!

Remember, whenever God gives us a revelation, the devil tries to steal it from us. Guard your hearts and meditate on what you've learned!
And put it into practice!

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Original Lesson 12/7/98
Revised: May 03, 2001.