The other day I was reading this wonderful encounter between Jesus, a Pharisee, and a sinful woman. As always, Jesus continues to destroy my preconceived notions and challenge my spiritual realities. Here’s the passage:
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said 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." And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "Say it, Teacher."
"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly."
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." And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Then those who were at 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." – Luke 7:36–50
As I read this passage, I was reminded of the contrast between an acknowledgement of the greatness of Jesus and the acknowledgement of the depth of our transgression. In this story, the Pharisee doesn't love much, because he doesn't think Jesus has done that much for him. However, the woman loves much, because she realizes how unworthy she is to have his love and forgiveness.
Thinking about us, I wonder if it is possible that we sometimes make too little of Jesus, because we make too little of our sin. Our response to Jesus will often be proportionate to our understanding of the egregiousness of our sin.
So, when we see broken, sinful, shame-filled people who are devastated by sin, calling out to and clinging to Jesus, do we roll our eyes and blow it off? Or, do we acknowledge that Jesus is the one we all need? Additionally, do we recognize the depth of our own sin and the desperation with which we need Jesus? Do we love Jesus much because we have experienced much love?