For Mother’s Day, the Rev. Jared Burt, senior pastor of Taylors Valley Baptist Church, spoke on the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears.
In the text, Luke 7:36-50, a Pharisee invited Jesus into his home for a meal. The woman brought a flask of ointment and stood at the Lord’s feet weeping. She wiped his feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
The Pharisee, whose name was Simon, took offense and thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him.”
Jesus then told Simon the story of a moneylender who forgave two debtors, one of a large debt, the other of a small one. Which of them will love him more, he asked.
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”
Then Jesus pointed out that the woman had paid him more courtesy than his host.
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven — for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
We don’t know why the Pharisee invited Jesus to his house, Burt said. Maybe it was social pressure. Maybe he wanted to test this popular young teacher.
“What we do know is that he was kind of tolerating Jesus,” he said.
The Pharisee did not observe the common courtesies of the day, yet the woman from the street gave Jesus a warm welcome, Burt said.
“I bet if you were in that room you could feel the tension,” he said.
The woman came prepared with the ointment, but her seeing the cool reception given to the Lord might have been what brought on her tears, he said.
The three key figures in this story, the woman, Simon and Jesus, each had a reputation, Burt said. Her act must have been awkward for everybody in the room, and Simon was probably not the only one who felt “up in arms,” Burt said.
But Jesus received the woman’s attention with kindness.
“I don’t know what your background is … if you come to Jesus in faith he will receive you,” Burt said. “He will not shun you.”
The woman knew she had a great debt to pay, but Simon thought he was in good standing with God, he said.
“It’s not about checking off a list,” he said. “It’s about: Are you a person who has a relationship with Christ?”
Christ came to us on a rescue mission, Burt said, and touched on the parable about the prodigal son in Luke 15, “one of the most powerful stories in the Bible.”
The wayward son didn’t come to full repentance when he was feeding the pigs, Burt said. It was probably when he was headed home and his father saw him from a long distance and ran to him. It was the father’s love that overwhelmed the son, Burt said.
Getting back to the first story, Burt related how the other dinner guests doubted Jesus’ authority to forgive the woman of her sins.
However, Jesus reassured her: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The woman showed up at a Pharisee’s house so she could get to Jesus, Burt said. She found grace and forgiveness because she believed.
“If you come to him in faith, you will find the same grace and compassion she received from Jesus,” Burt said. “His grace did not expire 2,000 years ago. Today people’s lives are changed all around the world.”