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.…
The generation to which Jesus had come with his social gospel thought him too "free and easy" with sinners. The Pharisees thought he had no right to associate with publicans and sinners, although he did so to save them. But the wisdom of his policy would be justified by the conduct of his converts, and here we have a justification ready to hand. One of the Pharisees invited him to eat with him. He accepts the invitation, and is reclining at his table, when, lo! a poor woman "off the streets" comes in behind him, and in her penitence and gratitude prepares to anoint with spikenard his blessed feet. She had heard him preach, she had received pardon for all her sins, she could not resist this exhibition of gratitude for it. But as she is about to anoint his feet, her pent-up grief refuses further restraint, and bathes them with copious tears, and, having no towel with her or offered to her, she unties her flowing hair, content to wipe with it the beautiful feet of him who had brought her glad tidings. Having thus washed and wiped them clean, she proceeds to anoint them with the ointment. To this conduct the Pharisee secretly objects, and takes it as proof positive that Jesus is not the discerning Prophet he professes to be Our Lord's parable soon corrects the error and reveals the truth, and the poor sinner, so penitent and so grateful, is dismissed in peace.
I. GREAT SIN SHOULD NOT HINDER ANY OF US FROM COMING TO JESUS FOR PARDON. This is one of the difficulties which men make for themselves - they fancy that great sin may keep sinners from pardon. Now Jesus made it very plain that great sinners might receive pardon just as well as little sinners. The psalmist once prayed, "Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great" (Psalm 25:7), and some of the most notorious sinners ever seen have become monuments of mercy and joyful through pardon. This case before us is one in point. Jesus had so presented his message of salvation that this woman from the town embraced it and rejoiced in the thought of forgiveness. While, therefore, no one would recommend a sinner to sin in order to intensify his sense of guilt and qualify himself for receiving Christ's salvation, we would recommend every sinner to believe that the very enormity of his sins will move Christ's pity, and, when purged and pardoned, illustrate his saving power. Suppose a patient is brought to a hospital a mass of disease or of wounds and bruises: will not the very magnitude of his distress constitute such an appeal to pity as will secure his immediate admission? In the same way, great sin is an argument with the Saviour in favour of mercy, rather than any obstacle to it. Besides, we should always remember that our sense of sin is always vastly below the reality, and that we in most penitent mood have really a better opinion of ourselves than the circumstances warrant.
II. WE OUGHT COURAGEOUSLY TO PROFESS CHRIST BEFORE MEN. This poor woman needed courage to profess Christ in Simon's house. Simon and his guests belonging to the Pharisaic party loathed her. It was a place where she was certain to be scorned and perhaps expelled. But her sense of obligation to Jesus and her love for his Person were so great that she could not forego her desire to make her way to his feet. And so she steals in and gets behind her Master, and proceeds to lavish her attention on his feet. So courageous is she, that she leisurely and most carefully washes his feet and wipes them with her hair and anoints them with the ointment; so that she actually, as Godet remarks, did the honours of the house, which Simon had neglected. We need similarly to add to our faith courage (2 Peter 1:4). We ought to give our hearts free play in their loyalty to Jesus. We must profess him before men, at whatever cost.
III. JESUS WILL ALWAYS TAKE OUR PART AGAINST THOSE WHO MISTAKE OUR MOTIVES OR DESPISE US. Jesus will acknowledge our profession of him in the next world, and even in this. In the case before us we see him taking the Pharisee to task for his mistake about the woman. Simon made several mistakes.
1. About the woman being unpardonable and unpardoned: she was neither.
2. About Jesus as being undiscerning and so ignorant of the woman's state: he was more thoroughly acquainted with her than she or Simon could be.
3. About himself, as nearer God's kingdom than she was: he was really further from Christ than she. And Jesus consequently takes up the woman's cause and vindicates her character as a changed woman now and pardoned. This he does in parabolic language. The two debtors who are both forgiven have not the same sense of gratitude. Their gratitude is in proportion to their forgiveness. Hence the poor woman, feeling how much she has been forgiven, is proportionately grateful. The defence was triumphant. And in the same way will Jesus defend us if we are courageous in following him.
IV. LOVE IS THE PROOF OF PARDON. We are not pardoned because we love our Saviour, but we love him because he has pardoned us. Hence the stronger the love, the stronger must be our sense of the amount of sin we have been forgiven. Our love will grow just in proportion to our appreciation of our pardon, Hence the man who comes to believe, with Paul, that he is "the chief of sinners," will love the Lord accordingly. He will feel constrained through his sense of obligation to love God with all his being.
V. CHRIST'S ASSURANCE OF PARDON SECURES PEACE. The poor sinner's peace was threatened through the contempt of the Pharisees. But Jesus gives her special assurance, and sends her off in peace. So will it be in our own experience if we sincerely trust him. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.