One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.” – Luke 7:36-38.

We don’t know much about the sinful woman highlighted in Luke 7. We don’t know her name, her age, or her history. We know only that she was bad for a season. To be specific, it is believed she sold her body for money. Because her sinful lifestyle was common knowledge, people whispered about her, eyed her with disdain, and avoided her company. Except Jesus. 

Here’s the story: Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to a large public dinner. Then “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life ” showed up at Simon’s house. (Luke 7:37) She came alone, bearing a “beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume….Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.” (v. 38)

Jesus didn’t pull away, recognizing this heartfelt expression for what it was—worship, pure and holy. Simon the Pharisee had seen enough. He said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” (Luke 7:39). He was unimpressed with Jesus. Jesus knew the man’s thoughts, and so responded with a story about two men in debt to a moneylender. One owed a lot, one owed a little. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?  (Luke 7:42) When Jesus asked Simon, “Which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:42), the Pharisee had no choice but to confess, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” (Luke 7:43). Too right, Simon.

The Lord affirmed the man’s answer, then turned toward the sinful woman, even as He continued speaking to Simon. This is my favorite part. “Look at this woman kneeling here….” (Luke 7:44) Simon saw a sinner, period. He didn’t see her as a person, nor had he noticed or understood her acts of worship for what they were.

But Jesus missed nothing. He saw her. He saw her sordid past, her humble present, and her glorious future. He quickly described all the ways she’d honored him—unlike Simon—then finished with this startling announcement: “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47)

Discussion Questions:

  1. With which person in this story do you most identify, and why?
  2. What might we learn from this story about approaching Jesus?
  3. Why did Jesus let her continue, since by all appearances what she was doing was scandalous?
  4. How is Simon different from the woman? How is she better than he? Who do you think is the worse sinner here, the woman or Simon?