“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and He preached the Word to them. Some men came bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus, and after digging through it, lowered the mat, the paralyzed man was laying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘son, your sins are forgiven’. Some of the teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that this is what they were thinking in their hearts, and He said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things?’ Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you get up, take your mat and go home. He got up, took his mat, and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘we have never seen anything like this.”
Jesus fame for healing was well known throughout that area. As He was proclaiming the Kingdom He often showed some of the blessing of that coming time. The news of His return produced large crowds who pressed to see Him to the point that the house was filled and a crowd waited outside blocking the door so that no one could enter. A paralytic man lying on a mat was being carried by four of his friends. When they could not get near Him through the door they brought him to the roof of the house, which was flat, and could be reached by stairs outside the house. The roofs were made of twigs mixed with sand and mud. When they made a large enough hole, they lowered the men down with ropes.
The Scribes were probably there to spy on Jesus and report back to the Sanhedrin. When Jesus saw the faith of the five men He said that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven. The teachers of the Law who were sitting there said that only God can forgive sin. Knowing their thoughts Jesus asks which is easier, to say to the man that his sins are forgiven or to tell the man to walk? Jesus was saying that no one could actually see the man’s sins being forgiven, but could see the man take up his bed and walk. Since both would take Divine power, He could show that He could forgive sin by making him walk. An imposter could say his sins were forgiven and no one could prove him wrong, but could not make the man walk.
“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisees house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping; she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
“When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘if this man were a prophet he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’
‘Tell me, teacher’ he said.
“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender; one owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debt of both. Now which one of them will love him more?”
“Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.
“Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house, you did not give me any water for my feet. But she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.’
“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven!’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins. Jesus said to the woman, ‘your faith has saved you, go in peace.’”
Here one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his house for a meal, and Jesus accepted the invitation. He was probably invited out of curiosity and was not extended the common courtesies of the culture. Houses were often built around a courtyard in that climate. Formal meals were served in the open courtyard with guests reclining on couches around a low table, U-shaped. They lay on their left side, heads propped up with their left hand and they used their right hand to eat.
Their feet were bare, with knees bent with feet outward, so that servants could easily wash their feet, which was furthest from the table. Usually there were uninvited guests standing about observing. With a guest of honor it was open to the public and cushions were provided around the border of the courtyard for visitors. From among these visitors came a woman with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume on a thin rope around her neck as jewelry.
In verse 38, we see that she could easily approach Jesus, intending to anoint Him with the perfume. But as she saw His dusty, unwashed feet, as the common courtesy had not been given to Him, she could not control her emotions and her tears fell on His feet. Unconcerned about public opinion, she wiped them with her hair. It was a shame for a Jewish woman to let her hair down in public. She literally kept continuously wiping His feet with her hair, “her adornment.”
Then, in her deep devotion, she kept kissing His feet and anointing them with perfume. Normally the perfume would have been poured on the head, but she poured it on His feet as a sign of humility and devotion. To attend to the feet was a lowly task only assigned to the lowest slaves and to use such costly perfume in such a way was considered extremely improper.
At some point this woman trusted in Jesus and turned from her sinful ways and she was expressing her love and gratitude. When the host saw what was happening and who the woman was he said to himself, “if this man were a prophet, he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.” In verse 39 her act of devotion was interrupted and criticized by the host’s thoughts which were known to Jesus.
The Pharisee would not even mention Jesus by name, a sign of contempt. Then Jesus spoke up and answered his thoughts. Jesus told the Pharisee that there were two men who owed money to a certain moneychanger. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. A Denarii was about a day’s wages. Neither of them could pay him back so both debts were cancelled. Then Jesus asked who of the two would be the most grateful? Simon answered the one owed the most. Then Jesus applied the teaching. The Pharisee had no concept of his own sin and pride and assumed that Jesus was no prophet because He tolerated this show of emotion from such a woman. Jesus showed that He did know what kind of woman she was but also what kind of person he was. He did not extend the ordinary courtesy of offering water to wash the dust and dirt off a guest’s feet after walking the dusty roads in sandals.
It was customary to kiss a guest on both cheeks. It was also a common courtesy to provide some olive oil to sooth and moisturize the head and face after walking in the hot sun in that dry climate. These were humiliating words for Simon to hear in front of his guests, as these courtesies were strictly held in the Middle Eastern societies. Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “When I entered your home you did not give me water to wash my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet repeatedly. You neglected the courtesy of oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. I tell you, her sins have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. Then He said to the woman, ‘your sins have been forgiven, your faith has saved you, go in peace.”
Lack of faith in Him left the Pharisee in his sins, but the harlot entered the kingdom, as He had said to the Pharisees in Matt. 21: 31: “the Publicans and harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you.”