"The woman who loved Jesus most"
1. Among the legendary stories about Abraham Lincoln is the account of his visit to a
slave auction. He went to observe, not to participate. He watched the unspeakable
indignities of selling and buying human beings. His response was a mixture of disgust,
sadness and outrage.
As he stood there a young woman was brought to the block, her eyes and body language
screaming defiance and hatred. She had been used and abused by her previous owners and now
it was going to happen all over again.
The bidding began and to everyones amazement, Lincoln offered a bid. As the price
went up, so did Lincolns bids until the auctioneer declared him the buyer. He paid
her price and then went over to where she was being held. All her animosity was focused
straight at him. He looked at her and simply said, "Youre free."
Dripping defiance and distrust, she said, "Yeah, free for what?" Abraham
Lincoln answered, "free to do anything you want to do; free to go anywhere you
want to go." Her appearance changed as she took in his words and realized he
meant what he said. Lincoln repeated himself: "Youre free . . . free to go
anywhere you want to go." She answered, "then Im going with
2. Her emotions are much like those in a true story from the life of Jesus, reported in
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the
Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in
that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster
jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet
with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man
were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she
is a sinner."
Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
"Tell me, teacher," he said.
"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,
and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the
debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came
into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her
tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the
time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she
has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been
forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives
sins?" Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
I. The sinful woman who lost control Luke 7:36-38
1. The occasion was a dinner party in the home of a well-to-do Pharisee. If the
house was typical of the homes of wealthy people in those times, it was built in a square
around a courtyard.
Entertaining was done in the courtyard with dinner guests reclining on couches around a
low table. They laid on their sides, heads propped up with their left hands, feet bare and
using their right hands to eat.
Such dinners were often open to the public. The host provided cushions around the
perimeter of the courtyard so that uninvited visitors could have a place to sit, watch and
listen. Lots of people might come if the dinner guests were especially famous or
2. One of the local residents who came that day to see Jesus was a person described as "a
woman who had lived a sinful life." This is a softer way of saying that she
was the town prostitute. She made her living selling her body to men. You may surmise
whatever you want about her and her background. She may have entered prostitution out of
abuse or out of economic necessity or because of some psychological need or sexual
passion. Whatever her background and reasons, she was morally indicted as a sinner. She
knew that what she did was wrong and she did it anyway.
3. Some people probably thought her showing up was as bad as it could get. They
didnt want her there. She was an embarrassment. But they hadnt seen anything
yet. What she said and did was nothing short of astonishing.
4. She came up behind Jesus, by his feet.
We dont know why she came so close or what she intended to do but she lost it.
Standing behind Jesus she began to cry until she was sobbing and the tears flowed
and fell like water from a fountain. Such crying is never silent. With the tears came
the sobs and everyone looked her way. She cried so much so fast that Jesus feet were
soaked with her tears. She fell to her knees and instinctively did something she was never
supposed to do - - - she reached up and unfastened her long hair so that it cascaded down
in front of her. Then she used her long hair like a towel to wipe Jesus feet dry.
Most of the guests were shocked. They didnt want her there in the first
place. She made a scene with her crying. She broke one of the cardinal rules of society
for women when she let down her hair. Only young girls wore their hair down. Women bound
up their hair for everyone but their husbands. Loose flowing hair was a sign of sexual
impropriety. And, even today, who would use hair for a towel, especially to wipe a
As if all this were not enough, she held Jesus feet and kissed them.
Then, she took out an alabaster container and poured perfume all over Jesus
feet. Many women wore these small alabaster flasks on chains or strings around their
necks. Alabaster is a soft stone, comparatively easy to carve into a container. It was a
form of jewelry to make women look attractive. Perfume was very expensive and used on
special occasions or as the familys emergency savings account. It certainly was
never to be wasted.
She lost track of everyone and everything else in the presence of Jesus. She
forgot where she was. She didnt think of what was acceptable and unacceptable
behavior. It was as if no one else was there except Jesus. She was awed by him. She was
overwhelmed by him.
5. Her behavior was shocking. She was out of control.
II. The self-righteous man who criticized Luke 7:39-40
1. The host was harshly critical - - - not so much of the woman and her behavior but of
Jesus for tolerating what she did. He didnt say anything out loud but he thought
to himself, "If Jesus were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what
kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner." He discredited Jesus because he
didnt know how bad this woman was and because he allowed her to touch him. In his
mind it proved Jesus was no prophet and certainly not the Messiah.
2. It makes us wonder why this man invited Jesus to his home in the first place.
He could have been an admirer. Maybe he thought so highly of Jesus that he
wanted to be his disciple. His highest honor was to have Jesus come to his home for
But this seems unlikely for he did not treat Jesus very well:
1. A good host would have offered water to wash Jesus feet - - - roads were dusty and foot
washing was as common then as taking off shoes at the Parade of Homes is today.
2. A good host would have greeted Jesus with a kiss, just as is still commonly done in so
many cultures today.
3. A good host would have put some olive oil on Jesus head as was the frequent
custom for guests at that time.
No, this host was no admirer of Jesus of Nazareth.
He could have been setting a trap. Many of his Pharisee friends were conspiring
to trick and trap Jesus. The whole thing could have been a set-up to frame Jesus and take
No, this is probably not the way it was because the host called Jesus "Rabbi"
which seems unlikely if he were out to destroy him.
He could have been a collector. Some people get their sense of self-importance
from who they know. It can be an ego and reputation builder to have an important and
famous guest to your home.
(Early in our marriage Charleen and I had a guest book to be signed by those we
entertained. I asked someone who was something of a celebrity in our world to sign the
book. He wrote his name followed by a Bible reference: "Acts 28:2." After our
guests left I quickly looked up the verse in the old King James Version of Bible, anxious
for a compliment from such an important person. Acts 28:2 said, "and the barbarous
people showed us no little kindness." We quit using the guest book.
3. From what we know about this mans thoughts and behavior, he considered himself
to be pretty good. He pegged himself as better than Jesus and certainly better than
the sinful woman. He was good and they were bad. Its a fine feeling to reckon
yourself better than others, especially when those people are famous and important. In
fact, we often take a measure of delight in the failings and fallings of our leaders and
celebrities because that makes us look and feel more righteous.
III. The story of two debtors Luke 7:41-43
1. Luke 7:40 says that Jesus answered the man. Interesting, because the man
hadnt said anything. He just thought it. Jesus heard his thoughts and replied with a
parable about two men who borrowed money they couldnt pay back.
2. Borrower #1 owed 50 denarii. Since a denarius was about a typical days
wage, he owed two months gross income to the moneylender. For most people
thats a lot of money. How much would that be for you?
(Keep in mind that he probably borrowed the money because he didnt have any
money. Now he still doesnt have any money and he owes two months income.
Hes really in a hole that he probably cant get out of.).
In those days, debtors were often beaten and imprisoned. In fact, imprisonment for debt
was and is such a common practice around the world that the United States constitution
forbids such imprisonment. Our alternative in bankruptcy. There are currently almost 2
million personal bankruptcies per year in America - - - in Jesus day they would all
have been beaten and sent to jail.
Also, imprisonment didnt pay the debt. You were left in jail until the debt was
paid. This took a debtor from bad to worse. The assumption was that his family or friends
would pay up to get him out.
3. Borrower #2 owed 500 denarii. That was at least 20 months income. Not only was
Borrower #2 deeper in debt, he was deeper in trouble. The chances of a relative or friend
getting him out of jail was little or none. He would likely be imprisoned or enslaved for
the rest of his life.
4. In Jesus parable the lender did something that no one had probably witnessed
in real life. It was fiction. It was so unlikely and farfetched that Jesus had to make
it up. The lender canceled both their debts. They were debt free from then on and
absolutely free. They must have been two very happy former borrowers!
5. The parable led up to a question for Jesus host: "Now which of
them will love him more?" The host didnt have to be a rocket scientist to
answer this question. It was obvious: "the one who had the bigger debt
canceled." The less forgiven the less the gratitude and love. The more forgiven,
the more the gratitude and love.
One of the most memorable experiences of my teenage years happened one Sunday
afternoon. My father had a magnificent new red Chevrolet convertible. I had a little
Volkswagen Beetle. My Dad let me drive his car to a friends house. I took a back way
down a twisting rock-lined mountainous road. The speed limit was 45 mph but a friend told
me its impossible to maintain 45 mph on that road and stay in the right lane. I knew
I could do it. I was wrong. My friend was right. Going around the curve I crossed the line
just when another car was coming up the mountain. I took out the side of that car from
headlight to taillight. I smashed up the front of my fathers car so it couldnt
be driven. The police came. I called home. My father came immediately in the VW. He told
me to go on to my friends house in the Volkswagen and he would deal with the police
and the car. He never mentioned the accident to me again. Years later I found out that his
insurance rates doubled for the next three years because of me. He never asked for the
money. He never told me the cost. I was grateful. I am grateful.
The less forgiven the less the gratitude and love. The more forgiven the more the
gratitude and love.
IV. The significance of forgiveness Luke 7:44-50
1. But Jesus was talking about something far greater than smashed up cars or
bankrupting debts. He was talking about sins of the soul and forgiveness from God.
2. Jesus reminded his host that he hadnt treated Jesus very well. He
didnt give Jesus water for his feet, a kiss of greeting or a little olive oil for
his head. Why not? Because he didnt think he needed to be forgiven. Because he never
sought nor received great forgiveness from God.
3. The woman gave Jesus the best she had. She loved Jesus! She was devoted to him.
She didnt care what anyone else thought. She was overwhelmed with gratitude. She
gave him her most precious and valuable possession. All because her great sins had been
4. The rest of the guests were stunned by all that happened. They asked the
right question: "Who is this who even forgives sins?" The answer was
obvious. Only God can forgive sins. God had come to dinner that night. God had forgiven
her sins. God had received her love and devotion. God had come to earth to save sinners.
His name is Jesus.
1. But lets bring this story into our story. What do you think of Jesus? What
do you give to Jesus? How do you feel about Jesus?
2. If you love him so much that sometimes you lose control . . . .
If you love him so much that sometimes it seems as if there is no one else in your life
Jesus . . . .
If you want to give to him your most precious possessions . . . .
You must have received great forgiveness and you know it.
3. If you are more like the host . . . well, dont be like the host. Let us
all admit our sin,
accept Jesus forgiveness, and love him with all of our hearts, minds, souls,
9/20/98 Wooddale Church, ©Copyright, Leith Anderson.