Luke 7:36-50 (GW)
One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. Jesus went to the Pharisee’s house and was eating at the table.
A woman who lived a sinful life in that city found out that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house. So she took a bottle of perfume and knelt at Jesus’ feet. She was crying and washed His feet with her tears. Then she dried His feet with her hair, kissed them over and over again, and poured the perfume on them.
The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this and thought, “If this man really were a prophet, he would know what sort of woman is touching him. She is a sinner.”
Jesus spoke up, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
Simon replied, “Teacher, You are free to speak.”
So Jesus said, “Two men owed a moneylender some money. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. When they could not pay it back, he was kind enough to cancel their debts. Now, who do you think will love him the most?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled.”
Jesus said to him, “You are right!” Then, turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “You see this woman, do not you? I came into your house. You did not wash My feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss. But ever since I came in, she has not stopped kissing My feet. You did not put any olive oil on My head. But she has poured perfume on My feet. That is why I am telling you that her many sins have been forgiven. Her great love proves that. But whoever receives little forgiveness loves very little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” The other guests thought, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!”
“At Jesus’ feet …” This is a phrase we hear a number of times in the Gospels.
So many people placed themselves at Jesus’ feet for many reasons – those who asked Him for something, those who were expressing their love, thanksgiving, excitement, honor or worship. There were people who placed themselves at Jesus’ feet to submit to Him or to turn over their lives in service to Him.
(There were those who threw themselves at Jesus’ feet in prayer. There was Jairus who fell at Jesus’ feet pleading for Him to heal his daughter who was dying. There was a woman who did the same thing begging for Jesus to heal her daughter who was demon-possessed. There was a demon-possessed man who was showing submission to Jesus’ power and authority, and after being relieved he sat down at Jesus’ feet out of love and respect.
There was the time when Jesus healed the 10 lepers. When the Samaritan returned he threw himself at Jesus’ feet to give Him thanks. Then there was Mary in Bethany who sat at Jesus’ feet to listen to Him teach, and another time fell at Jesus’ feet in sadness when He arrived after her brother Lazarus had died. Then there were the Mary’s who hugged Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him when they saw Him alive on Easter Sunday morning.)
In the Gospel reading today we hear about a woman who had lived a sinful life who knelt at Jesus’ feet. She was expressing repentance, submission, and faith. At Jesus’ feet she offered her love to Him in service. This woman also found salvation at Jesus’ feet.
We can learn from this woman who placed herself at Jesus’ feet, and we can learn from the man – Simon, the Pharisee – who refused to do such a thing. Simon, the Pharisee, had invited Jesus to a banquet. (Simon did not see his need for a Savior because he felt he lived a good life. He had not committed the kinds of sins that the woman who crashed the party had committed. As a churchgoing, taxpaying, upstanding member of the community, he thought everything was fine between him and God.)
Simon the Pharisee thought he had no reason to place himself at Jesus’ feet in repentance. He compared his goodness to other people and had not compared himself to God. Simon did not understand that God demands perfection in thought, word, and deed. Some even think that if you do enough good, it will make up for the sins you have committed. God will love me because I am not as bad as these others. Satan suggests all those ideas to keep us from falling at Jesus’ feet in repentance. We may not have broken God’s laws as openly as others.
But with pride like this filling our hearts we will not find eternal life. Pride prevents us from falling at Jesus’ feet for mercy.
Now take notice of the attitude of the woman who had lived a sinful life. The actions mentioned in the Gospel that she did were not hindered by what others thought about her. She focused on her Savior from sin. Because of all her sin, there was only one person who could help her. She had not come to make a scene, she came to Jesus’ feet in deep repentance.
Does our ego or self-image keep us from kneeling down in humility at the Cross seeking repentance? Are we too proud to plead for forgiveness?
Have you lived a pretty good life? Is it good enough to earn us a place in Heaven? Have you lived a life better than 90% of the people in this county? That is not worth anything in God’s sight. Maybe we claim to love God. But does He hold first priority in your life? Have we used His holy name to curse or swear? Are we honoring His Word with regular Bible study and attendance at worship? Do we need to go through the rest of God’s Ten Commandments to see why we need to fall at Jesus’ feet? Whether or not we have been fully aware of our sinfulness, let us now throw ourselves down at Jesus’ feet in repentance.
It was the realization of her sinfulness that humbled the woman we heard about today to seek the forgiveness. That moved her to throw herself at Jesus’ feet. While this sinful woman was at Jesus’ feet she heard words of forgiveness.
In the short parable Jesus told to Simon the Pharisee Jesus described the situation of every sinner and God’s love for every sinner.
When it came to sin and salvation Jesus spoke to Simon the Pharisee who felt that he had not sinned as badly as the woman. The parable Jesus told made the point that whether a person has sinned a few times or many times, publicly or privately, he has accumulated a debt that he cannot pay back. Simon’s outwardly good life was not enough to set things right with God. He thus had more in common with the sinful woman than he would admit. He was born sinful just like her. At whatever time that he sinned in anger, or jealousy, or envy, or lust he was in the same level as the sinful woman. He was equally condemned to eternal punishment.
Jesus offered hope to Simon the Pharisee and there was hope for the sinful woman, and there is hope for you and me. As Jesus put it in the parable: When they could not pay it back, he was kind enough to cancel their debts. That is a beautiful picture of God’s undeserved love. He will cancel the debt of each sinner who repents seeking mercy for Jesus’ sake.
We see how God cancels our debt when we look at Jesus’ feet and see the scars of the nails from when He hung on the Cross. God did not ignore all the times we have broken His law. When a law is broken there is a punishment deserved for breaking it. The just punishment for breaking God’s Commandments is death. So Jesus’ feet is evidence that our sins have been paid for.
All who place themselves at Jesus’ feet hear His words of comfort, encouragement, hope, and healing. That is what the woman heard. We too will hear God’s word’s of forgiveness every time we repent of our sins.
After the woman found mercy at Jesus’ feet, she placed herself at His feet in service. Jesus pointed this out when He noted what she had done in thankfulness. He said to Simon, “You see this woman, do you not? I came into your house. You did not wash My feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss. But ever since I came in, she has not stopped kissing My feet. You did not put any olive oil on My head. But she has poured perfume on My feet. That is why I am telling you that her many sins have been forgiven. Her great love proves that.
Simon was so stubbornly stuck on himself he did not provide even the common courtesies of his day toward his guests. But the woman who had lived a sinful life, did all these things for Jesus. She took on the job of the lowliest slave. Why did the woman do these things? She like the one in the parable had a huge debt canceled. Her many sins forgiven moved her to place herself at Jesus’ feet in service to Him, to show her attitude of thankfulness to Him.
To avoid any confusion about the relationship between forgiveness and service to God we need to think carefully about the verse where Jesus said: I am telling you that her many sins have been forgiven. Her great love proves that. But whoever receives little forgiveness loves very little. Were the woman’s sins forgiven because she loved Jesus? No. When it is raining do we say that a window is wet because it caused the rain? We need to look at this verse in light of the parable Jesus just told. He said that the moneylender simply canceled the debt of the creditors. It was because of the grace and mercy the woman was shown that she put herself at Jesus’ feet in service to Him.
When we place ourselves at Jesus’ feet He frees us from our sin and enables us to serve Him. We receive the opportunity to show thankfulness for His love toward us in service to Him. Paul wrote about this in II Corinthians 5:14-15: Clearly, Christ’s love guides us. We are convinced of the fact that one man has died for all people. Therefore, all people have died. He died for all people so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for the man who died and was brought back to life for them. Why do we fall at Jesus’ feet ready and willing to serve Him? In thankfulness for His love for us.
Jesus’ feet are in Heaven. How can we serve Him? Let us remember what Jesus said on the night He washed His disciples feet. (John 13:14-15) So if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example that you should follow. Although we place ourselves at Jesus’ feet to serve Him, we get up and serve each other out of that love for Jesus. Are we willing to wash one another’s feet in love as we forgive each other, encourage one another, and offer service to one another?
“At Jesus’ feet” many different people fell down. Some landed there in desperation. Some placed themselves there at His feet to worship Him or give Him thanks. Whether it was in submission or sorrow, in prayer or praise, service or sacrifice, al were welcomed by Jesus. This woman who had lived a sinful life placed herself at Jesus’ feet for several reasons. At Jesus’ feet she laid her sins in repentance, she heard words of forgiveness, and she offered herself for service. At those precious feet she found salvation. Your sins have been forgiven. … Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!”
At Jesus’ feet there is no better place for us to be. Let us lay our sins in repentance at Jesus’ feet. There we will receive words of forgiveness. At Jesus’ feet let us place ourselves in His service. Amen.