The Story of the Night Jesus was Touched by a Thankful Heart
“And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
Many years ago, in the mountains of Georgia, there lived a poor widow. She had a few acres of ground where she raised berries, and one thing and another, and made a little money keeping chickens and selling eggs. She also took in washing and did other humble work for a living. The one bright spot in her dreary life was a very intelligent son who surpassed everyone in the district school. The mother worked hard to get the money to send him on to college. The son also worked hard to make good grades in college. Finally, he graduated with high honors, and won a gold medal for special excellence in study.
When it came time for him to be graduated he went up to his mountain home, and said,
“Mother, you must come down and see me be graduated.”
said his mother.
“I have nothing fit to wear, and you would be ashamed of your mother before all these grand people.”
“Ashamed of you!”
he exclaimed with his eyes full of love.
“Ashamed of you! Mother, Never! I owe everything I am to you, and you must come down. What is more, I will not be graduated unless you come.” At last she yielded. He brought her to the town. When the graduating day came the mother went to the commencement exercises in her plain calico dress, her neat, but faded shawl, and her simple mountain bonnet. He tried to take her down the middle aisle where sat the richest people of the town, and friends of the graduating class, but she refused, and insisted on sitting way off under the galley. The son went upon the platform and delivered his graduating address.
He was handed his diploma, and received his medal. No sooner had he received the gold medal than the son walked down from the platform, and made his way to where his mother sat and there, admist the applause of the audience, he pinned the gold medal on her faded shawl, and said, “Mother, that belongs to you. You earned it.” The sacrificial life and love of a family member is certainly something to be grateful for.
There are many other things that we can appreciate in life, and value, not the least of which is the forgiveness of sins. With that in mind, the invitation is extended to open the Scriptures to Luke 7:36-50 as we consider Christ, who, one night so long ago, was touched by a thankful heart.
During the days of the earthly ministry of Christ, there existed a group of people known as the Pharisees. The Pharisees were religious conservatives.
They believed in angels.
They believed in the doctrine of election.
They believed in a bodily resurrection from the dead.
The Pharisees thought that the Law of Moses should be honored.
They were determined to keep all 613 codes of the Mosaic Law. To this end, they “separated” themselves from all others.
What the Pharisee did not believe, as a group, was that Jesus Christ could be the promised Messiah. Most were convinced that Jesus was just another religious charlatan or something worse.
Fortunately, not all the Pharisees were convinced that Jesus was just a man. An individual named Simon, for example, was willing to suspend judgment in order to discover for himself whether Christ was whom He claimed to be: the Son of the Living God. With that goal in mind, one day Simon issued an unusual invitation, for a Pharisee. He asked the Lord to come and eat with him. And Jesus accepted the gracious invitation.
Christ went into the home of the Pharisee and sat down. Actually, the Lord reclined around a low table, for that was the normal way to eat a meal at this time. Usually, a Pharisee was to be found in the upper echelon of society, and therefore among its more wealthy. It would not be wrong to surmise that Simon lived in a house that had been built around an open courtyard in the form of a hollow square. It was here, in the courtyard, with a garden, and a fountain, that meals would be eaten in warm weather. It was also according to custom that people passing by the house were free to come in at random if they knew that a Rabbi was present, which helps to explain the unexpected guest. Our passage says, that suddenly, a woman that was in the city, walked into the area where Jesus was eating.
There are many unknown factors about this woman, but what is known is significant. We know that the woman had a terrible reputation. She was in all probability a prostitute. She was living a wicked lifestyle, according to the Law of God, according to the standards of society, and even according to her own conscience. But the woman did not like the way she was living. She wanted to change. She wanted to be different. Her problem is the problem of all people, and that is how to find deliverance from the pollution, and power of sin.
From a human perspective, the woman needed a Savior. In Christ so she found the One who could purchase her from the slave market of the flesh into which she had fallen. From a divine perspective, a secret sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit was already taking place in the heart of this woman, for while she did not say a word, her actions spoke of a broken heart.
Notice the extravagant expression of repentance. The woman stood weeping at the feet of Christ. His feet were exposed, because of the reclining position. As the teardrops fell profusely splashing upon His holy feet, suddenly, the woman fell down, and began to wipe them with the hairs of her head. That too was significant, for no Jewish woman would appear in public with hair unbounded. It was considered to be a grave act of immodesty.
On the day of her wedding, the bride bound up her hair, never again to appear with it unbounded. The fact that this woman wiped the feet of Christ with her hair, reflected her lack of concern with anyone but Him. But the woman did not stop there. Around her neck she wore a little phial of concentrated perfume that was very expensive. Without hesitation, in an impulsive act of heartfelt love, the woman poured forth this sacrifice upon the feet of Jesus. And Christ did not stop her.
Jesus was not embarrassed by this excessive display of love. The Lord also anticipated the expected reaction of the Pharisee, who was watching all that was going on. The Pharisee renewed his doubts as to the deity of Christ. He began to think of Jesus as very common, for he said within his heart, “This man.” In verse 40, when Simon speaks, he will be more respectful but in his heart he refers to Christ as “this man.” The Bible says that God looks upon the heart.
Next, the Pharisee questioned the Lord’s spirituality, by saying, “if He were a prophet, he would have known what manner of woman it was that touched Him.” And then with contempt he added, “she is a sinner.” With these words, Simon imposed his own standards upon Christ. It is clear that he would never let such a woman touch him, and that is sad. The Pharisee did not understand the depths that redeeming love will reach, so that sinners can sing,
“Shackled by a heavy burden,
Beneath a load of sin and shame.
Then the hand of Jesus touched me.
And now, I am no longer the same.
He touched me. Oh, He touched me.
And Oh, the joy that floods my soul.
Something happened, and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.”
Several years ago, during one of his many crusades, Billy Graham told of visiting an AIDES patient in a hospital. Mr. Graham made a point to tell the worldwide audience that he hugged the man with AIDES in the name of Christ. He wanted him to know that God still loved him. Mr. Graham was not wrong to tell the man with AIDES of the love of God, and the hope of redemption that can be found in Jesus Christ.
Writing to the Church of Corinth, in the first century Paul listed the sins of men with this warning. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
With that fearful warning, the apostle went on to say, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:9-11). Despite the fact that Simon meditated on these things in his heart, the Lord knew exactly what he was thinking, and decided to share a simple sermon for Simon. Jesus spoke of two men who were in debt. One owed five hundred pence, or about $220, while the other owed fifty pence, or about $22. For that time period, the sum of each was significant, and neither man could pay what was owed. Since the debt could not be collected, the lender forgave both men their debt.
No legal action was threatened.
No pressure techniques were applied.
No excessive penalty was to be charged to the account.
No new loan at a higher interest rate was suggested.
No bill consolidation loan was encouraged.
The moneylender did the unthinkable. He forgave them both, because it is the nature of grace to treat people equally. Having set the stage, Jesus asked Simon for an insightful inquiry. “Simon, whom do you think will love or appreciate the money lender the most?” And Simon rightly answered, “I presume, he to whom the greater favor was shown.” One might think that the simple story, and the obvious implication would be enough correction for Simon, but the Savior was not through with Him. Jesus continued to press His point for several reasons.
First, even religious people do not easily understand spiritual truth. It needs to be repeated time and again.
Second, the mind of man is clever in its justification of actions that needless hurt others. Simon had injured Christ, in the sense that he was socially insensitive. Simon had not offered the most basic social amenities to his honored Guest. There had been no water for His feet, there had been no kiss of welcome,and there had been no anointing oil.
What Simon did do was to question the integrity of Christ, and then His essence. He did this in the secrecy of his heart, thinking that no harm would be done. Now Jesus would expose the inward corruption of the religious heart for time and for eternity. In this way Simon the
Pharisee learned a spiritual principle: “He to whom little is forgiven loves little. But to whom much is forgiven, loves much.”
Simon, had been forgiven his sins, which, in comparison to the woman’s, were little. He was not as grateful as he could have been. But the woman was very grateful. She knew the depths of depravity. She did not pretend to be anything less than she was, a sinner in need of a Savior.
There are people today who are like the woman in Simon’s home. They desperately want to tell someone, “I have sinned, and I am sorry.” All across this country are individuals who would give their wealth, and all that they own to take back one foolish act, or one night of illicit passion. The skeletons of sin are rattling around in the closet of the mind, despite the passing of years. The desperate question is secretly asked, “Where can I go to find forgiveness?”
The divine answer is, “Calvary. Go to Calvary.” God has promised to meet with people at Calvary. The way of the Cross-leads to salvation and peace and forgiveness. Those who have sinned the most will be most grateful for Christ, and the sacrificial work He has done on behalf of others. Such individuals will want to touch Jesus with a thankful heart.