One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so he went to the Pharisee’s home and as usual reclined on the sofa to eat. And it happened that a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that he was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought a precious jar of perfume and stood behind him at his feet, weeping. She wet his feet with tears, she dried them with her hair and kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.
The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching and thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what sort of person was touching him; isn’t this woman a sinner?”
Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, master.” And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave me no water for my feet when I entered your house, but she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t welcome me with a kiss, but she has not stopped kissing my feet since she came in. You provided no oil for my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.
Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others sitting with him at the table began to wonder. “Now this man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The account of the anointing of Jesus’ feet by the weeping woman is as challenging as it is moving and beautiful. It is worth noting that although Jesus is talking to Simon, he has actually turned towards the woman. “Do you see this woman?” he asks. And his words are deeply significant. Simon looks at the woman and sees only her sinful reputation. Jesus sees beyond the woman’s past into her grieving, remorseful heart. Jesus sees the woman in her wholeness and sends her on her way with unconditional forgiveness; Simon’s response to the woman’s unrestrained attention to Jesus is mean-spirited, because his ‘seeing’ of her is superficial.
The word ‘respect’ means, ‘second seeing’. Second seeing is a deeper seeing, a deeper regard. Jesus knows that the weeping woman has braved what she knows will be Simon’s displeasure at her presence in his house, because her need to approach Jesus is greater than her fear of Simon. Her tears are tears of remorse and longing, because her passionate embrace of the truth of the ministry of Jesus causes her to want desperately to be close to him. Second seeing recognises the complex, longing, wonderful, reality of God’s creation. This is the gift Jesus gave the weeping woman, the gift withheld by Simon. The gift of deeper seeing. This is the gift we can offer to others this Christmas.