Simon the Pharisee, A Woman and Forgiveness

"Then one of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him. And he went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat." (Luke 7:36)

Simon a highly respected man in the community lived in Nain, Galilee. He was well known in the region as a God-fearing man. He was a Pharisee. He gave alms to the poor, helped the sick and regularly opened his house to feed the needy and the sojourner.

It was on one such occasion when Simon had opened his home that he invited Yeshua to share in the meal. He had heard that Yeshua, an itinerant Rabbi /Teacher, was visiting his town.

Simon would have been aware of the conflict between his colleagues and Yeshua, but healthy discussion and debate were customary among the Pharisees. Indeed, disagreement was no reason to deny hospitality.

And there was something intriguing about Yeshua of Nazareth. Simon would have heard the reports claiming that many of the large crowds that followed Yeshua had been healed by Him. One report in particular would have been of special interest – the raising of a widow's dead son to life. Simon possibly knew of the widow and her only son because they lived in the same city. He possibly knew of their circumstances and meagre existence, and he may even have helped them, in keeping with mitzvot (good works).

But this miracle, raising the dead to life, had the trademarks of a Divine calling. It was similar to the one performed on the widow's son at Zarephath by the prophet Elijah. Indeed, could Yeshua be a prophet? Was it possible?

Those invited had gathered at Simon's house. Yeshua was there. He looked like your average Jewish man. Indeed there was nothing about His appearance that indicated He was anyone special. As the Scripture declares, "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2)

Then the woman arrived. Simon would have known her because she also lived in Nain. There is no reason stated why Simon allowed her entry, even though he knew of her sinful life. Perhaps she had been among the numerous others for whom Simon also provided hospitality, or had helped. Nevertheless, her presence among this group of guests appears to have made him feel awkward – she was a sinner. Simon may have been relieved that, at least, she was not sitting down at the table with the other guests.

Then she stood behind Yeshua holding an alabaster flask of fragrant oil. "…and she began wiping his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head…" (Luke 7:38)

Simon watched – stunned. How could this be? Why was this woman weeping and washing the feet of Yeshua? What had He done to her to make her weep so?

Surely, if Yeshua were a prophet He would not allow her, who was unclean, to touch Him. If He was a man of God then surely He would know that she was a sinner!

"And Jesus answered and said to him, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' And he said, 'Teacher, say it.'

"'There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him more?'

"Simon answered and said, 'I suppose the one whom he forgave the more.' And he said to him, 'You have rightly judged.'

"Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss my feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with fragrant oil. Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.'

"And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' And those who sat at the table with him began to say to themselves, 'Who is this who forgives sins?' Then he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.'" (Luke 7:40-50)

Simon had provided for the needy on many occasions, but he could never help them sufficiently to set them free from their individual predicaments. He had seen those whose circumstances were more than just physical. They needed more than a meal or a coat, they needed every aspect of their lives to be transformed – a chance to start anew. Sin had taken hold and kept them at a distance. Simon could do nothing to remove their sin.

Now here was the woman. Simon knew her sinful life, but now she was forgiven. It was as if she were starting a new life. Forgiveness had removed the weight of her guilt and sinful past. Simon could see that she was now free to live – not as a woman who is a sinner, but a woman who is forgiven. She no longer had the status of "a sinner", she would now be known as, "the woman whose sins are forgiven".

Surely, her tears were tears of joy and the perfume a sacrifice of worship because her sins which were many had been forgiven. Here then is the happiest state of all – one whose sins are forgiven. As King David declared, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." (Psalm 32:1)

Those at the table rightly questioned, "Who is this who forgives sins?" The ability to forgive sins, and for the judgement of sins to be nullified, are Divine characteristics belonging only to God. Thus Yeshua, being the Son of God, was given the authority to forgive.

Simon was a man highly regarded, a Pharisee, and yet he could not save the woman. He could not say, "Your sins are forgiven," because he did not have the authority. Simon's authority was limited to offering hospitality, and other good works, which he did. Yeshua, however, had the authority to say, "Your sins are forgiven."

If the woman had come weeping and washing, and drying Simon's feet, he still could not have said, "Your sins are forgiven" because he did not have the authority.

The woman, by honouring Yeshua, identified Him as the One who could; thus her faith toward Yeshua saved her, and she was released with a new life – "Go in peace."

Undoubtedly, God was at work in Simon and the woman toward the one goal, namely, the praise of His glory. Those who witnessed it then, and those who would hear the account in the future, would know that the Father is the only true God; and His Son, Yeshua, whom He sent was able to forgive sins.

Yeshua said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me has everlasting life." (John 6:47)

And as Peter testified before the Council in Jerusalem, "The God of our fathers raised up Yeshua whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to his right hand to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 4:30-31)