She wanted to go.
She was compelled – both drawn and driven.
She was also afraid.
She knew what they would think. She knew what they might say.
They might turn her away, order her out. Perhaps they would publicly humiliate and ridicule her.
Once again, she would be scorned. It would hurt.
The opportunity, she finally decided, would be worth the risk.
She must see him again. He must somehow know her true heart. She must thank him.
She would go.
How she got into the house is anyone’s guess. The invitation list to this dinner party was a long and impressive Who’s Who of the city. It’s leading lights – lawyers, doctors, city officials, educators – would be assembled in Simon’s home.
They would come to see him, The Teacher. He was a celebrity – everyone was talking about him. They said he worked miracles, healing the sick, raising the dead, calming storms at sea and feeding thousands with nothing but a boy’s sparse lunch.
They were curious – they wanted to get a look at him.
Simon, a leader among the Pharisees, was surprised Jesus immediately accepted his dinner invitation. After all, Simon was a harsh critic of this strange rabbi and Simon’s colleagues shared his skepticism.
Jesus was popular among the “common people” – the checkered heathen class – the publicans loved him. This alone would have been enough for the religious establishment to rail at him. His unorthodox religious claims and teachings only deepened their hostility.
Jesus reclined at the dinner table, talking with the other guests. Reclining at meals was the customary posture of the time and place. His bare feet extended slightly beyond the end of the couch.
Suddenly she appeared.
She’d been there, in the back, silently waiting. Now she mustered the courage to quietly step up behind Jesus. She was an attractive woman, in her 40s. Her long dark hair framed a worn and sad face. Yet her eyes shone with a mix of anticipation and anxiety.
There was an immediate murmur among the guests. They instantly recognized her, this infamous woman of the streets. How did she get in? What is she doing here? We know Simon didn’t invite her!
Why is she standing behind Jesus? What is she doing?
This is an embarrassment! Simon, do something!
But no one said a word. No one moved. Shock had stilled the room.
The woman held a “beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume” (Luke 7: 37, NLT).
Luke tells us that she knelt behind Jesus at his feet. She began to cry. She noticed that her tears fell on Jesus’ feet so she took her long tresses and began to wipe his feet with her hair.
Not saying a word, this notorious woman simply knelt and wept at Jesus’ feet. She then began kissing his feet and gently putting perfume on them.
In fact, the woman remains both silent and unnamed throughout Luke’s story.
As he observed the gentle silence of the offensive scene before him, Simon thought about it. If this Jesus were truly the prophet people say he is, “he would know what kind of woman is touching him.
She is a sinner!” (Luke 7:39, NLT).
“A sinner! And an especially despicable one at that! And she’s touching him!”
Obviously, he’s not a prophet but an impostor. A true man of God would not let this harlot anywhere near him.
We’ve nothing to fear from Jesus, Simon thought.
Jesus, the reader of all thoughts and intentions, answered Simon’s mind.
He told Simon a brief story about two debtors who couldn’t pay their lender. One owed the man 500 pieces of silver, the other 50. The lender kindly forgave both debts.
“Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Jesus asked Simon (Luke 7:42, NLT).
Simon, irritated and impatient, answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt” (verse 43, NLT).
“That’s right”, Jesus said.
Jesus looked into the woman’s tear-filled eyes and gently smiled.
“Look at this woman kneeling here” (verse 44, NLT). Jesus spoke to Simon but also to the other guests.
He speaks to us too.
He invites you and me to see this woman – to truly see her in a way Simon didn’t – and to learn from her something of the Christmas story.
Reminding Simon of his failure to offer him even the customary courtesies upon his arrival that night, Jesus contrasted Simon’s disregard with this woman’s extravagant devotion.
What Simon dismissed as trivial Jesus underscored as central.
Jesus looked again at the woman.
“I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love” (verse 47, NLT).
Forgiveness is the cause, love the effect.
The woman knew this, Simon not at all.
Love and forgiveness, Jesus pointed out, are directly proportional.
“A person who is forgiven little shows only little love” (verse 47, NLT).
Despite the Pharisees’ objections, Jesus forgave this woman – fully and forever.
She had the courage to crash a party and she met her Savior. He gave her extraordinary gifts – forgiveness, joy, peace and a new life.
This woman remains nameless because she’s universal.
She’s everyone who has ever been profoundly moved and joyously transformed by the embracing grace of Jesus. She’s everyone who has ever stood in need of God’s forgiveness and the assurance of his love.
She’s you and she’s me.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem to take away our sins – “far as the curse is found”.
He was born “to raise the sons of earth” -and the daughters too – “born to give them second birth”.
Christmas reminds us that God’s grace is greater by far than all our sins.