Then turning toward 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 wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss 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 are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
This little scene takes place in the midst of a dinner party given by a Pharisee named Simon the Leper.
Now, let's stop right there and unpack who this man was. He was a Pharisee, which means that he was part of a religious/political party that had a lot of clout within the ruling council in Jerusalem. They were also sticklers for The Law, and prided themselves on their ceremonial righteousness. Now, if the nickname can be taken at face value, this man was indeed unique. Either he had managed to retain his rank as a Pharisee even though he had leprosy (which was considered an unclean disease, and therefore an effect of sin), or more likely, he was a man who had been healed of his leprosy by Jesus and was restored to his former position as a Pharisee because he was no longer unclean, no longer considered a sinner.
Let's assume the latter is true, and that Jesus is dining at his house because they are in some way celebrating his restoration. Earlier in the passage (verse 39) Simon is musing to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
You know, I think Simon actually thought that he was doing Jesus a favor by inviting him to dinner at his house! And how many times have I cried out to God in my distress? And once he comes and heals me I try to hang onto my tattered dignity as if he had not. Simon's reputation as a Pharisee had been ruined by his contracting leprosy. He was an outcast in Israel because of it. But once the healing occurred he seems to have taken the disease as a sort of "badge of honor" and worn it proudly. Philippians 3:19 (NLT) says, "Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth." Simon threw a big party and invited all his friends. While Jesus was probably the "honored guest," there is no question that all the back-slapping was directed at Simon "the Leper". "Wow man... you sure dodged that bullet! Welcome back, you leper!"
We are never in the place where Jesus wants us until our sin is a horror and a shame to us, and his gift of healing draws from us such tearful affection toward Jesus that, even in public at a dinner party, we cannot help weaping and kissing his feet. Oh! To have such a realization of my sin!
Jesus doesn't sidestep the woman's past in the slightest way. He says it plainly: "her sins, which are many..." But notice that Jesus never brings up Simon's sin. He cannot, because Simon has no real recognition of what his sin really is. It was never the leprosy. Simon's sin was his arrogance and pride of place and position. And, whether Jesus had healed him of some skin disease or not, this man's pride was intact and his position (in his own eyes) was secure.
I have dodged no bullets in my life. My sin has been squarely and gently placed before my eyes so often. But God has been gentle with me. And have I repaid his love with my affection or with my pride? All too often I have gloried in my shame when I ought to have been horrified. But make no mistake! The woman is not on her knees before Jesus because she is ashamed! She has somehow gotten past the horror and is in this posture of utter abandoned love because of the profound sense of forgiveness she feels for all that Jesus has done for her. She already knew his forgiveness -- he didn't need to announce it to the dinner guests. She knew it, and that is why she was at his feet. In the words of the old hymn:
More love to Thee, O Christ! More love to Thee!
Hear now the prayer I make on bended knee:
This is my earnest plea, more love, O Christ, to Thee.
More love to Thee, More love to Thee.
-- Elizabeth Prentiss (1856)