Somehow the woman in this story knew that Jesus had extended great forgiveness to her. Perhaps she had heard him speak of the unconditional love of a God who created her. Perhaps she had seen him heal people in far worse shape than she was. However it began, she was clearly enamored with Jesus and grateful for his forgiveness and attention. In gratitude for his forgiveness, she showered love upon him – a love so extravagant, it made others uncomfortable. Kissing his feet and washing them with her tears and her hair, as well as anointing his feet with oil – even in our permissive world today we would find such a display of affection uncomfortable. But that was one of Jesus’ charms, wasn’t it? There was very little that was comfortable about Jesus. Even the good news can make us squirm – are we comfortable with the notion that we should love our greatest enemies? What of the terrorists? What of our abusers? What of the drunk driver that killed our loved one? Do we have room for the discomfort it takes to love even them? How can I hate another for what they have done, yet expect others to forgive and love me despite what I have done? If we have at least once been forgiven for something we have deemed unforgivable, then forgiveness and love become much easier to offer to others.
And the whole idea makes us uneasy. What a gift when we can learn to sit in the discomfort of forgiveness and extravagant love, rather than futilely try to resolve it!
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”