The Pharisee And The Sinful Woman

By R.W. Fritz

Luke records the thought that “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God” (Lk. 7:30). We observe, however, that not all Pharisees were hostile against Jesus. Nicodemus sought Jesus out and other Pharisees invited Jesus to dine (Jn. 7:44-52; Lk. 11:37; 14:1). Others besides these were privileged to eat with Jesus too (Mt. 9:9-11; Mk. 2:14-15).

Mary, Jesus and the Prophetic Office

Public opinion was that Jesus was a prophet, as we see in the miracle of the raising of the widow’s son at Nain (Lk. 7:16). It seems that Simon sought to disprove public opinion by inviting Jesus into his house (Lk. 7:36). Here he would have the opportunity to try, test, prove, pass judgment upon and possibly entrap Jesus, which the Pharisees often tried to do (Lk. 11:53-54; 20:20). He reasoned that if Jesus were a prophet he would have known about the woman who touched him (Lk. 7:39).

This woman was unclean in the sight of the Pharisee. The Pharisee reasoned that Jesus should not have allowed this woman in his presence, and certainly would not allow her to touch him if he were really a prophet.

Some think this sinful woman was Mary Magdalene, others Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus (Lk. 10:3842). Part of the reason is the similarity in some points in two cases in which a man named Simon is the host at a meal to which Jesus was invited and at which Jesus was anointed by a woman named Mary (Mt. 26:6-7; Mk. 143; Jn. 12:3).

The Pharisees knew that prophecy was a part of the Messianic office (Isa. 11:2-4; 1 Kgs. 14:6; 2 Kgs. 1:1-3; 5:26; Jn. 2:25). If Jesus was a prophet, he would know she was a deeply sinful woman and would not allow what was transpiring.

Jesus Answers Simon With A Parable (Lk. 7:40-43)

The parable itself shows two debtors who could not pay the lender the amount owed him (Lk. 7:41-42). Both were relieved (forgiven) of their debt. One was more thankful and, as Jesus illustrated, loved him more as a result of greater forgiveness. This represented the sinful woman, pointing up that she loved Jesus more than the Pharisee did. This, of course, Simon already knew. But more so, it showed that Jesus knew his heart. Jesus had gotten right into his mind! He was a prophet! Jesus is a prophet!

Notice another obvious difference between The Pharisee and the woman: The sinful woman used the opportunities to seek forgiveness and salvation. Foolishly, Simon was missing his opportunity to have such sweet fellowship with Jesus and to learn of and to know Jesus. Jesus was receiving worship from this woman while the Pharisee looked on in disgust, doubt and disdain. In his rejection of Jesus, Simon refused the fellowship and oneness with Jesus which this woman Simon considered so bad, fully enjoyed.

Simon’s answer to Jesus’ question (Lk. 7:43) was more than just an answer; it was an indictment, a judgment against himself, just as David made in his confrontation with Nathan (2 Sam. 12:1-7). It is obvious that Jesus is not concerned with the past of this penitent one, but the present. What is the woman right now? However, he seriously scrutinizes both the past and the present of the one who self-righteously sees sin in others yet does not consider his own shortcomings and sins and refuses to repent of sin and seek forgiveness.

Jesus now turns all eyes on the woman as he teaches Simon (Lk. 7:44-48). See the contrast (Lk. 7:44-46):

You gave me no water – She gave me tears.

You gave me no kiss — She gives me tender affection.

You gave me no oil – She gives me intimate honor.

Simon failed, the woman passed. The woman had many sins, but now they are forgiven while Simon’s sins are retained (Lk. 7:47-48). Now who is the sinner?

Christ’s Concern For Sin and Sinners

Christ’s words indicate his willingness to save. His forgiveness is most ample. It is able to cover the sins of the entire past life of each person and the sins of the whole world (Jn. 1:29).

The woman’s actions showed studied consciousness of her need. It showed belief in Jesus and love for Jesus and her love motivated what she did about Jesus and to Jesus.

Let me say again and emphasize this – Jesus is not concerned with the repentant person’s past, but with the present. However, he seriously scrutinizes both the past and present of the one who refuses to repent and turn from sins to seek forgiveness.

Reasoning of the Guests

The guests at this gathering were quite taken back when Jesus said to the sinful woman, “Thy sins are forgiven” (Lk. 7:48). They questioned within themselves, “Who is this that forgiveth sins also?” (Lk. 7:49) They are perplexed, knowing that the Pharisees rejected the ability Jesus had in the spiritual realm. And yet, look at his forthright boldness in declaring this woman’s sins forgiven! On one hand there were the leaders of the Jews who were rejecting Jesus the press of the leadership. On the other hand, proof that could not be refuted – the actual miracles of Jesus over against the puny jabs of his enemies. “Who is this that forgiveth sins also?” Not only does this man perform miracles, but he also forgives sins! No one but God can forgive sins (LK. 5:21). Who and what does this make Jesus? Is not Jesus then a prophet and God?

Who Is This Jesus?

Who do you think Jesus is? Presumptuous? The Pharisees certainly thought he was. There is no sure word of comfort to these. But he speaks words of sweet joy and comfort to this woman (Lk. 7:50). As the religious Pharisees saw the situation, she was the least likely to succeed. Yet right here before the eyes of all, Jesus had forgiven this woman’s sins. Jesus can forgive your sins too if you are not yet a child of God or if you are a Christian who has sinned. He was able and willing then and he is able and willing now.

What Have You Done?

It matters little what you have been in time past. What matters is what you are now. Jesus told that dear woman many years ago, “Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace” (Lk. 7:50). Many a time Jesus has told someone that his father had saved or made him whole (Mt. 9:22; Mk. 5:34; 10:52; Lk. 8:48; 18:42). Likewise, Peter the apostle told the people of his day, “. . whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43Y. Then in verse 48 “he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. ” What would this do for them? Let Peter tell us. In Acts 2 some believing Jews asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38). What Peter told those believers to do for remission of sins and to be saved coincides with what Jesus said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Do you want your past sins forgiven? Do you want to be saved? Then do as Jesus and the apostles told those others of our dispensation to do.

What About The Erring Child of God?

Are you one who has been baptized, but who has sinned and now you want forgiveness? Peter tells us how to receive this blessing from God. He told one who sinned after his conversion, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thing heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22, 12-13). He would say the same to you, today. Will you do what Jesus asks of you? Are you like the Pharisee who just looked on in disbelief while Christ saved those around him? Do you choose to go to hell rather than receive the blessing from Jesus? Don’t hold back like the Pharisee did. Be like the sweet sister who “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” (Lk. 7:38). Yes, be like this woman and know that Jesus says to such people, “Thy sins are forgiven. . . Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Lk. 7:38,40).

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 22, pp. 683-684
November 19, 1987