She Was a Great Sinner

Mark Liddle resides in Birmingham Al. with his wife Tara and seven children. He is pastor of Dominion Baptist Church.– Article in booklet form free of charge from:

Dr. Luke relates the true story of a sinful woman who crashed a dinner party. The dinner had been planned by a strict religious man who had brought Jesus Christ to his home in order to ascertain the true character of the itinerant preacher who had gained notoriety in the land. What possessed such a woman to enter uninvited, amaze and disturb the guests, and then become the topic of conversation? There is every evidence that the grace of God possessed her soul bringing about her extraordinary actions.

The Grace of God Awakens Men to the Glory of Christ

She was a great sinner. She was the kind of woman you avoided if you wanted your reputation unsullied. The whole town knew of her. Some men knew her from their dalliances with her of varied sorts, no doubt. Simon knew her and despised her and staying far from her so that he would not be contaminated by her.

Recently she had heard of a man who the people said was a great teacher and who spoke with authority. Crowds followed him. She was comfortable with crowds. There was anonymity in a crowd, especially away from town. It is obvious from Luke’s account that she had come to know of the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps there were some serious minded people who tried to turn her to God and had invited her to hear Him speak. (Saints that seek to win souls are precious in God’s sight.) Perhaps, like many, she wasn’t especially receptive at first but hearing unusual reports of this man she decided to hear Him for herself. She listened, but what she heard was not what she had expected. His words were full of grace and truth. They exposed her sinful rebellion and yet held out the hope of a return to God.

Simon had heard of the teacher as well, and his curiosity had been peaked. He was a strict man in his religion, one who was not easily persuaded by itinerant preachers. He had not been particularly impressed with a prophet named John who had offended him by his scathing criticisms of the established religious parties in Israel including Simon’s own. He felt it his duty to find out what kind of man Jesus was and what kind of theology He was propounding to the masses. Thus, he decided he would invite Jesus to his house for dinner, question Him, and gain a firsthand report to give to his denominational colleagues.

Thus it came about that Simon asked Jesus to dine, and the invitation was accepted. So Simon made all things ready at his home. He invited others to dine with Christ, perhaps family and others of his sect. The meal was properly set; and Christ, arriving from his travels on the dusty road, was given a place to recline while eating. Simon kept his greeting short but polite, for he knew not whether he was partaking with a true teacher or false. He commenced questioning this Jesus of Nazareth. His queries were purposed to clarify in Simon’s mind whether or not Jesus was orthodox according to Simon’s denominational biases.

Apparently, Simon’s visit with Jesus had been gossiped in the town. After all, he must have felt quite magnanimous to invite such a controversial figure to his home. He surely felt he was condescending to give the Man a chance to give an account of Himself. In God’s providence, it came to pass that the woman who was a great sinner heard that Jesus was at the house of Simon. By this time she must have thought much upon His words concerning the kingdom of God and God’s command to repent and believe upon Jesus for salvation. She knew her life was miserable; but it was her lot in life, and she had made the best of it – until now. The Light of Truth had begun to dawn upon her heart concerning the vileness of her character. She must often have been accused of ruining men and families, but Jesus had awakened her soul to the real offence -- her cavalier handling of God and the Scriptures and the danger to her own eternal well-being. For the first time in her life she believed her condemnation before God was just. She knew she belonged in hell; yet Jesus had spoken of the forgiveness of sin. He had said God had authorized Him to forgive sins. Suddenly, there was hope! So the plan was quickly formed in her mind to get to Jesus -- not in a crowd, but face to face that she might plead for the pardon and forgiveness of sin He had preached about.

The Grace of God Makes Men Bold and Earnest

When she had heard that Christ would be at Simon’s home how her heart must have leapt for joy -- and sank at the same time. He would be right at her doorstep, as it were, but she knew she would find no welcome at Simon’s house. Indeed, she would surely be thrust from the doorposts! Still, the grace of God powerfully works in the soul compelling men to Christ, so she would find a way to Jesus. No obstacle would put her off. Let Simon frown and disapprove – she must go. When grace takes possession of a man’s soul, they care little what other men think. Their mind is centered on their utter need of Christ and the fastest route to His presence. Her earnest desire was to reach Jesus with a gift. She settled upon her alabaster box of ointment. Her gift was an ornate container holding expensive perfume which she had, no doubt, used in her trade with men to entice and delight; yet now these items would be devoted to the honor of Christ. When the day arrived she set out with heart pounding and great trembling. She prayed she would be able to get past servants and family to deliver her gift to Jesus. She arrived at the home she never had previously thought to enter and boldly blundered her way into the dining area, planting herself at the foot of the couch where Christ reclined.

The Grace of God Makes Men Humble

Without hesitation, she took the inferior position at Jesus feet for her heart was humbled within her. Simon’s disapproval was completely forgotten, and she was absorbed in the presence of her Savior. She did not know what to say. It was all too much for her tender spirit. She was sin personified, while He was all holiness and compassion. She could not look upon His face but cast her eyes downward only to be astonished at the sight of Jesus’ unwashed feet. In a moment she knew that the least courtesy given to all travelers had not been offered to her Lord. Immediately, her heart was broken over her own sin and over the careless attitude men had toward this One full of purity and grace Who could alone pardon sins. Long she had lived without God and without hope, but now her Savior was before her revealed in Christ! She sobbed uncontrollably.

The Grace of God Makes Men Ingenious in their Service to Christ

Tears of repentance and tears of joy for the pardon and forgiveness of sin mingled together. As she wept over the feet of Christ, her tears created rivulets in the dirt stained feet of her Savior. She would have asked for a basin and water to properly execute the duty of hospitality and love, but she knew she would be rebuffed by Simon. Instead, she blessed God who had moved her soul to weep seeing she had water enough to bathe His dusty feet. A towel was needed as well; but none was offered, and she dared not ask. Rather, she uncovered her head and loosed her long hair using the silken tresses to wipe the tears and dirt off His precious gospel feet. Ah, the grace of God makes a soul ingenious in serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace will find a way; and that way is never too low to serve, never too menial for those who know themselves to be the chief of sinners.

The Grace of God Makes Men Affectionate to Christ

Having cleansed His feet as best she could, she began to pour out her affection to Christ by kissing His feet. Not once nor twice did she offer her love, but continually. Her need to show affection to Jesus felt insatiable. When the grace of God exposes a soul’s corruption, and makes a soul convinced of its unworthiness to approach unto God, and yet when that soul is graciously admitted into His sinless presence, what amazement and adoration overwhelms the soul! “’Twas grace that taught her heart to fear and grace her fears relieved.” Boldly, she kissed His feet over and over because (1 John 4:18) There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.

The Grace of God Makes Men Generous

This love that is shed abroad in the heart of great sinners is an extravagant love. She emptied her alabaster box filled with fragrant ointment, pouring the contents out to sooth and perfume the Savior’s travel weary feet. That which she had used to trade in sin was given over fully to be used to honor and delight the God-Man. The converted sinner finds there is no expense too great to lavish upon the Lord Jesus Who lavished Himself upon the sinner by pouring out His life’s blood that the sinner might be saved from the curse of sin.

The Grace of God Rejected by the Self-Righteous

Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spoke within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touches him: for she is a sinner. Meanwhile, Simon is confounded. The text of Scriptures notes the astonishment of Simon and his household upon this woman’s unruly arrival and undignified display. Simon could hardly believe his eyes! Such was his apparent shock that he was temporarily paralyzed in his response and unable to bring himself to have her thrown out. How he must have been indignant at this interruption of his purpose, this intrusion of pollution into his household! Apparently, all in the room are most discomfited by this sinful woman -- excepting Christ. Cold professors of religion find awkward such warm displays of love which pour forth from true-hearted believers. Yet, Christ is not made uncomfortable nor is He embarrassed. He continued to eat and converse unaffected by this extraordinary display of affection which He often experienced from His sincere followers. Christ loves the sacrificial adoration of His pardoned saints and welcomes their most humble offerings of affection. 

Simon is livid though silent, speaking angrily within himself. He decided to use the horrific affrontery as an opportunity for another test of orthodoxy for “he spoke within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touches him: for she is a sinner.” Simon believed that Christ should send her away with disgust in a similar manner to the disciples who had tried to send away the children or the woman of Canaan who came crying to Christ for mercy (“…his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she cries after us.”) Simon would never allow such a woman in his presence, much less touch him – and with her hair! In his estimation she was not just part of the rabble that knows nothing; she was worse -- hopelessly polluted by debauching sin!

But Christ knew who this woman was. He also knew that it was not who she was that mattered at all, rather Who He was. He had promised that ALL who came to Him heartbroken over sin and heart rejoicing over the Savior would find a warm reception. At this point the Lord Jesus, Who knew the thoughts of Simon, began to tell a story. Christ would school Simon concerning his own spiritual condition compared to this woman whom Simon so obviously despised.

The story Christ told was simple: A money lender had loaned money to two different persons. To one he lent 500 pence and to another only one tenth of that amount, 50 pence. “If they both are suddenly forgiven that debt: which would love the money lender the most?”, Jesus asked of Simon. Rightly, Simon answered, “The one who has been forgiven the most.”

While Simon knew the correct answer to Christ’s parable, he missed Christ’s point. The application of this story was that the woman who knew herself to be a great sinner loved Christ much because she knew she had been forgiven much. Simon, who did not think of himself as a great sinner, loved very little. Christ had much value to the woman who was a great sinner; but Christ was of no value to Simon who did not believe himself a great sinner.

Jesus turned from Simon to the woman. “Do you notice this woman, Simon?”, He asked. Notice her! It was all Simon had been able to see since she had entered his house filling him with loathing for her intrusion and unsightly display of emotion and devotion to the itinerant teacher! Christ makes a pointed contrast between her behavior and Simon’s. It is the contrast between a lost religious man and a redeemed child of God.

The Grace of God: Received or Rejected?

Simon had not shown the least hospitality to Christ for he gave Him no water for His feet. But this converted sinner was glad to perform the menial act of washing His feet. When you receive the grace of Christ, you will gladly perform the most menial duties in the name of Christ. It will be your joy to serve in any way possible. (Romans 12:1) “……. your reasonable service.

Simon had not given the kiss of greeting to Christ evidencing his lack of affection. But this converted sinner had not ceased kissing Him evidencing a robust affection for Christ.

When you receive the grace of Christ, you will possess a strong affection for your Savior and deep bonds of love toward the saints who make up the congregation of the Lord. (John 13:35) “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Simon had not anointed the head of his guest to refresh Christ from His journey. But this converted sinner had anointed His feet with her very own costly perfume.

When you receive the grace of Christ, you will believe that all you are and all you have belongs to the Lord and that there is no sacrifice too costly to offer to the Lord . (1Cor. 6:19-20) “… ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”

What is Christ’s conclusion?

(Luke 7:47) 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.

See how closely love and faith are linked together? Can we believe in the cross of Christ where He reconciled us to God by taking the punishment for our sins and remain unmoved in our affections? God Forbid! If we have been saved from eternal ruin then we shall have eternal gratitude and devotion to the One Who saved us. (1 John 4:10-11) “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

The grace of Christ saved this great sinner. God shed abroad His love in her heart. From then on she turned away from her life of sin and joined the company of the saints that gathered weekly to worship the one true God. She went into the world to share with others what great things the Lord had done for her soul. This grace in the heart of a saint will be displayed as warmly affectionate, ingeniously serving, and sacrificially generous such that all the world will “…know them by their love…” Was Simon and his friends convicted of their lack of love and service to Christ? No! (Luke 7:49) “And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgives sins also?”

Sadly, they were still prejudiced against the Lord Jesus. All they could do was to find fault. They came to hear God’s word from Christ’s lips, but they brought with them their unbelief and pride. They could not see past their own notions of God even with the Son of God sitting right before them. Oh, dear sinner, the Son of God is set before you in the Scriptures. Have you received the Grace of Christ or will you persist in your own ideas of how to save your eternal soul? Your problem with Christ is not an intellectual problem as you proudly suppose but a moral problem of rebellion against your Creator.

The truth is that God accepts only His beloved Son and those that are hidden in Him by faith and love. (Luke 7:50) “And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

Dear soul, has your faith saved you? These are the grandest words that could be heard from the mouth of the Savior! The faith of Christ saves! Christ is the only valid object of faith.

Christ is a faithful Prophet to expose our self-deceit and bring conviction of sin and repentance.

Christ is a faithful Priest who offered Himself up to God a perfect sacrifice for sin appeasing God’s wrath posed against us. Christ is a faithful King ruling over our hearts.

Has your soul rejoiced in the work of Christ and do you belong to Him?

Hear his words: (John 6:37) “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:40) “And this is the will of Him that sent me, that everyone which sees the Son, and believes on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”