Shame followed her, clung to her like an odour that seeped into her very bones. She knew she was known as a ‘sinner’ everyone knew what she did, but no one knew what she carried, no one knew of the cancer in her soul eating away at the life that remained. She heard that He was at Simon’s house. It was the talk of the town and the rumours had circulated all day that he might be visiting, and she decided she would make it her business to go see Him. But as she approached the home of the respected Simon the Pharisee, her shame became heavier, the disapproving looks and weight of their scorn almost causing her to turn and run. Something propelled her forward and soon she had crept into the house and found the candlelit room where the men were reclining to eat. In an instant she went from unsure to certain. She has never ever met a man like this. She was transfixed by his words, his demeanour and most of all His gaze. He didn’t look at her like other men did, as they devoured her with their eyes. He didn’t look at her with disgust like the women who avoided her and kept their men at a distance. He simply and completely looked into her soul and his gaze was overwhelming pure and all encompassing. It was like He saw EVERYTHING, he knew EVERYTHING about her and yet his gaze never wavered.
Compelled by his acceptance she moved to his feet, he didn’t shun her, he was aware that she was there. The air felt thin, time stopped and she began to cry. Her tears dripped on his feet, tears of sorrow, regret, pain, suffering, anger, remorse, repentance soon it was the ugly crying that you never want anyone to see and the tears mixed with the dust on His feet became mud. In an attempt to clean up the mess she was making she unfurled her hair, an act so intimate and shocking that those in room who had barely noticed her before, were unable not to stare. She used her crowning glory as a towel to wipe his feet and then completely transfixed with a love so pure for this man, she began to gently kiss his feet. An act so innocent, so intimate; an act of worship. Then she slipped out her bottle of expensive perfume, it was the most valuable possession she owned and poured it liberally on his feet as she continued to rain down her kisses.
This sacred moment was broken by the abrupt, arrogant voice of Simon insinuating that this was an unsavoury encounter because he saw her shame, in fact that’s all he saw, her shame. Simon accused and dismissed Him because He accepted her. He was gentle but He was not timid and he responded with a story about debts owed and debts forgiven, one man owed 50 days pay, another 500. Unequal amounts owed, equal forgiveness but His question delved to the heart, Who would love the moneylender more, he who owed more, or less? Simon reluctantly answered the one who owed more. He then turned looking at the woman while still addressing Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?” she cringed expecting her shame to be ridiculed and paraded in front of the mocking room. Instead Jesus said, “Simon I came to your house as a guest, you didn’t offer me water for my feet, but this woman she bathed my feet with her tears and wiped them clean and dry with her hair. Simon you didn’t greet me with a kiss when I came in, but this woman has not stopped kissing my feet. Simon you did not put oil on my head, but this woman has poured perfume on my feet. I tell you her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” The air is tense, Simon is stung by Jesus words, the guests are uncomfortable; how could He defend this woman? How dare he challenge a righteous upstanding man like their host Simon in defence of this woman.
Jesus speaks to the woman for the first time directly and says, ‘ Your sins are forgiven, your faith has saved you; go (live) in peace.
She stands up taller than before and walks from Simon’s house. It doesn’t feel like walking more like floating. She is lighter. He looked into her soul, that piercing gaze saw her sin, he looked on her shame and he forgave me. Her debt cancelled. Her shame gone. Her life retrieved and mended. No. A new life gained. A second chance to live beyond shame.
What an encounter. Jesus responds just as we expect Him too with grace and mercy and compassion and love towards this woman. What is unexpected is the woman’s desperation to move beyond her crippling shame to a place of total adoration and worship of Jesus. She experienced much forgiveness, she responded with abandoned love.