In Luke Chapter 7, we read the account of Jesus dining with a Pharisee, in which a woman ‘of the city’ (most likely a prostitute, see the Pharisee’s reaction in ) comes in and begins to weep openly while washing the feet of Jesus – with her hair. Now, at this time in history, people generally wore sandals when they were walking around, and the area was very dusty, dirty, and just generally filthy, so to wash someone’s feet was considered a significant act of servitude. This woman was not only washing his feet (unsolicited, mind you) but she was doing it with the hair on her head () and with her tears to boot.
The woman knew the depth of her own sin and was demonstrating her own inability to do anything about it.
And all the Pharisee could focus on was how much sin the woman had. The Pharisee questioned the situation; why would Jesus allow a woman of her… stature to do such a thing to him? Surely, He was above this!
But Jesus turns it around on him. Through the use of a small, but very powerful parable, He demonstrates that those who are at the very rock bottom – those who’s lives have fallen apart due to the rampant proliferation of sin in their lives – are the ones who are most aware of how much they need forgiveness. And when they receive that forgiveness, they are the most grateful, knowing that they are powerless to make it right, to remove the blight from their own lives.
The Pharisee, who is righteous in his own eyes – he follows the law to the letter, using loopholes and interpretation to make sure that he is right – cannot see where he has fallen away. But the woman, who has experienced the depths of her sin, is made softer, more malleable, and can readily forgive others. She is crushed by her own unrighteousness, and knows that she is unable to do anything by her own hand to reach forgiveness.
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39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” (ESV)
38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. (ESV)