Jesus, a Pharisee and a Sinner
In Luke 7:36-50, we find a very interesting story. It’s where a woman, whom Luke addresses as a sinner, anoints Jesus’ feet with ointment and washes his feet with her hair. All this happens while Jesus is eating at the home of a Pharisee. There’s some interesting things to note here. The first of them is that Jesus is dining with a Pharisee. These were political/religious leaders of the Jews who were very intent on keeping the law of Moses. The majority of them were against Jesus and likewise, Jesus had some of his harshest things to say aimed at the Pharisees. Yet, here He is dining at his home. It’s interesting that most scholars say that Jesus was very much aligned with the Pharisees in their thoughts about holy living and their conservatism. However, Jesus wasn’t in line with their hypocrisy. We see here that Jesus was willing to eat with anyone, including those who opposed Him.
Jesus treats this woman with respect and doesn’t dismiss her. He doesn’t seem bothered by her past actions, nor does He ask her about her background. Considering that Luke says she was a sinner, it’s possible that she had a reputation. The Pharisee, host of the party, believes that if Jesus knew who she was (or how bad she was) that he would have pushed her away. Why? Why does it seem that people with religious ideology are so afraid of sinners? More importantly, why does it seem that so many Christians are put off by sinners? Have we forgotten what Jesus has saved us from? Have we forgotten that we are all sinners in need of a Savior?
Notice that she ministered to Jesus and was commended for it. A ill-reputation sinner ministers to the Son of God. Yet, in the church, one sometimes has to go through classes, be a tither and jump through other hoops before you can serve. Why can’t we just allow people a place to belong before they believe? Why can’t we forgive others before they are forgivable? Why can’t we offer a place of safety for those needing a shelter. While I am not advocating that pastors just throw anyone in a leadership position, what I am saying is that Jesus didn’t put people through rigorous steps in order to minister to Him.
Simon, the Pharisee, wasn’t expecting this out of Jesus. He believed Jesus to be a prophet, and as such would have known what and who this woman was. He thought that Jesus would’ve responded differently. Don’t we do the same? We expect God to act differently towards sinners because they are sinners. We act the same way — if God really knew who and what this person has done, then He would act differently towards them. But God does know who and what sinners are, and yet He loves them anyway (because we are all sinners). He isn’t put off by our sin. Since Jesus is the picture of God then we must look at the way that He treated sinners as the way that God treats sinners.
In this instance, Jesus treats a sinner with grace, mercy and forgiveness. He allows her to minister to Him and isn’t put off by who or what she is. Her sin doesn’t phase Him. It doesn’t put Him off. This is part of the problem with the American church. We’ve been taught that God cannot look at nor tolerate our sin. That’s not true. Jesus came to live in the midst of our sin. He came to live in the midst of our mess so that He could fix it through the cross. Jesus hung out with sinners. He didn’t dehumanize them (like Christians sometimes do). He treated them with respect and dignity. He didn’t point out to them that they were a sinner. Notice that Simon the Pharisee was quick to point out that this woman was a sinner and that Jesus should not have allowed her the opportunity to minister to him. Isn’t that what religion does? It divides people into us vs. them. It divides us into the “godly vs. the sinner”. It divides us up and makes us forget that we are all in need of a Savior. We are all in need of Jesus.
The Pharisee was quick to point out that she was a sinner. Jesus was quick to see her as one that needed to be found and saved. The Pharisee was quick to judge and condemn. Jesus was quick to offer forgiveness, grace and mercy. The Pharisee was full of pride. The woman was full of humility. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
May we who have put our faith in Jesus begin to see and treat people the way that He did — with respect. love and dignity. May we stop labeling people by what they have done (or haven’t done) and just loving them as fellow human beings.
How do you see people?