The Pharisee and The Prostitute


There is a story in the four Gospels of a woman, who was identified as a “sinful” woman, who went to Jesus, washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed his head with expensive perfume.  Jesus was at the home of a Pharisee named Simon.  Simon had invited Jesus to eat with him.  It doesn’t say why he did so because Jesus and the Pharisees were at odds with one another.  Jesus preached love and forgiveness and the Pharisees were all about keeping the law to the letter and to them Jesus was a blasphemer because he claimed to be the Son of God.  Maybe he wanted to find out a little more about this man and use whatever information he could get and take it back to his religious counterparts in an effort to trap him.  Maybe he was trying to satisfy his own curiosity as to who Jesus really was.

In the middle of their meal while Jesus was reclining at the table, this “sinful” woman, a known harlot, prostitute, whore, or whatever word you want to use in this situation, came in and began crying, using her tears to wash Jesus’ feet and using her hair to dry them.  Afterwards, she took an alabaster box of expensive perfume and began anointing Jesus’ head with it, filling the room with it’s scent.  Simon the Pharisee, watching this event unfold was not amused, to say the least.  He began criticizing Jesus by attacking his claim of being the Son of God.  He said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-that she is a sinner.”

This is the problem with a lot of “church” people these days.  I can’t say I’m free of guilt in this respect.  Sometimes it’s so easy to let what we’re thinking to quickly slip out of our mouths instead of keeping our comments to ourselves.  Simon, being part of the religious sect in that day, was one who probably grew up going to temple and was instructed in the Levitical Law, so he found it so easy to criticize this woman who was considered part of the lower class because she was a prostitute.  It’s the same with a lot of us who grew up going to church and having parents who taught us the Bible.  We don’t know what it’s like to grow up without that godly influence and we find it easy to look down on those who don’t act like we do or who live a life that is steeped in ungodly activities.  Those of us who did have the godly influences in our lives should not think of ourselves as better than those who didn’t.  It has nothing to do with us or anything we did, but it was God’s grace and His grace alone that blessed us to be able to have that godly influence.

In this story of the Simon the Pharisee and the “sinful” woman, Jesus knew the difference between the two.  Simon based his religiosity on his works.  He saw himself as better than the prostitute because he kept the Levitical Law while she was the scum of the earth because of who she was.  But, this woman came to Jesus broken in spirit because she heard him teach and through his teaching she came to realize her sin and as part of her worship to him, she performed this act to show her love for him.  It’s just like the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  The Pharisee stood in the temple praying thanking God that he was not like the lowlife tax collector, while the tax collector was on his knees beating his chest and crying “Have mercy on me a sinner.”

As Christians, we have to remember that at one time we, too, were lost in our sins, and even though we may not have had the upbringing that others have, if we had died before we came to Christ, we would be on our way to hell no matter how “good” we were.  Our salvation was not and is not based on how well we act or how many commandments we keep.  Our salvation was bought and paid for by Jesus when he died on the cross, not because we did anything to deserve it, but because God loved us.  His love for us is based on His goodness, not on ours.

We must be careful how we treat the lost.  We must not treat them as the Pharisees treated the sinful woman or the tax collector.  Our attitudes and our actions can either push them away or draw them in toward Christ so we must be mindful of what we say and what we do.