One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
After talking about a variety of things in the LSG, our conversation began to focus on this sentence: “her sins have been forgiven, hence she has shown great love.” Showing love is a response to the forgiveness and grace given us by God. We don’t earn forgiveness or grace with our love, we respond to grace with love.
We wondered whether it’s fair to assume that people who are not demonstrative are not forgiven, loving people, but that ended up getting put aside when we realized that the issue isn’t about going over the top showing love for Jesus–though that can be important–but the issue is simply in loving, period. The woman showed great love, in her way. Simon the Pharisee, however, does not appear to be even being a good host, let alone being loving. His demeaning words about the woman show that he has little love for people unlike him.
So the good news for us in this text is that we cannot earn our forgiveness–it’s given before we can ask or do anything. The challenge for us in this text is to live lovingly in response to the grace we’ve received. What does that look like?