The corner of Simon’s lip twitched, betraying his satisfaction as derision and delight melded together in a perfect moment. All his long-held suspicions had been justified! This outlandish Galilean, not trained in the proper rabbinical schools or accredited by due, recognised process, was a total fraud! He spoke so eloquently – yes, Simon was a fair-minded man, he could concede that this Jesus was eloquent – yes (he lost his train of thought for a moment and quickly recovered it), he was certainly eloquent enough, talking about God and holiness and the nature of true righteousness as if he had the last word to say on the subject. And he spoke as if he knew better than the Pharisees, the true guardians and protectors of the Law of Israel, as if he, this nobody from Nazareth (Nazareth? Seriously? Could anything good come from there?) … he caught his train of thought again … this upstart Nazarene really believed he knew more about holiness than those who had dedicated their whole lives to studying, and scrupulously obeying, all the minutiae of the Law. And, unfortunately, the common people, with the itching ears of those who found the Law a burden rather than a privilege, would rather run after this Jesus and listen to him and ignore the careful wisdom of the Pharisees
Yet now he was caught out on the most elementary principle of all. All serious students of the Law knew that a man who sought holiness should have nothing to do with women (except his own wife, who should know her place). Women were a snare and a temptation, unholy daughters of Eve the original temptress. No man who was serious about God would allow a strange woman to come physically close to him, let alone touch him. It was a matter of principle. Hadn’t he read the passages in Proverbs about the dangers of the Adulteress? And how could a man make any claim to be a prophet of God, and not immediately see that this was a sinful woman, a woman whose moral failings made her unfit for decent company? Yet here was Jesus, quite unperturbed, while this wicked woman wept all over his feet, wiped them with her hair and then poured perfume all over them! What was he thinking? Surely her hair flowing loose in public was enough to show her indecency? Yet as Simon watched closely, there was not the slightest hint of disdain on Jesus’ face. Instead, he seemed to look at her as if she were wonderfully precious.
Then Jesus raised his eyes from the woman and looked straight at Simon. Suddenly Simon felt a bit less sure. But then Jesus started telling a story about 2 men who owed different amounts of money, and both had their debts cancelled. What did that have to do with anything? He seemed to think it was all about love. Next he was reproaching Simon about a lack of the finer courtesies owing to a guest – did Jesus seriously imagine that a man such as Simon would stoop to wash the feet and anoint the head of someone like himself? Protecting one’s status was also a matter of principle. Somehow, in Jesus’ eyes this wicked woman had given him the very courtesies that Simon had denied him.
Then, to complete the outrage, Jesus turned and said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” Who did he think he was? Only God could forgive sins: that, too, was a matter of principle.