Updated: Jun 27, 2022
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INTRODUCTION. In this parable Jesus was invited to the house of Simon the Pharisee for a meal. The homes of the wealthy usually consisted of several rooms opening onto a courtyard where meals were eaten in the warm weather. People of that day usually reclined when eating, leaning on the left elbow with the right hand free and the feet stretched out behind.
Rabbis (masters, teachers) were constantly followed by people eager to hear their words. It was not at all unusual for people to follow them into a house and stand behind them while they were dining in order to learn from them. In this story a woman who was a sinner entered Simon's house and stood behind Jesus while He dined. She brought with her an alabaster box of ointment as a gift for Jesus.
Simon was a Pharisee who was very careful to keep the law and looked with contempt on anyone who did not. Yet Simon did not extend the common hospitality of the day to Jesus. When a guest arrived, a servant stood at the door with water to wash the guest's feet. While the guest reclined at the table, a servant dropped a little scented oil on the guest's hair or burned sweet incense around his head for a short period. When a Rabbi came to dine, the host greeted him with a kiss of peace. All of these acts of common hospitality Simon did not do for Jesus.
As the woman stood behind Jesus, she was overwhelmed by emotion and began to weep. When her tears fell on his feet, she loosened her hair and wiped them dry. Next she kissed his feet and anointed them with the perfume. The woman acted from a deep sense of love for Jesus. She was painfully aware of her sinful condition and wished to express her gratitude to the one who had freed her from the bondage of her sins.
For Simon this incident was extremely embarrassing. If the money to buy the ointment came as a result of the woman's sinful life, the gift was an abomination (Deut. 23:18). Untying her hair in public was very immodest, and touching one of his guests was regarded as an act of defilement. Jesus knew Simon's thoughts and thus told him the parable.