I Cannot Believe What (I think) I’m Seeing.

Dinner with Simon the Pharisee

I can envision something like that happening to Jesus as he dined with Simon, the Pharisee.¹ In Jesus’ day, and even today in many cultures, sharing a meal with an individual is a significant act, because the shared meal carries with it something of an approval, if not an outright endorsement of them as a person. Thus it is important to choose carefully those with whom one agrees to dine.

Setting the Stage for an Interruption

Two verses into the record of this event we learn that there is a woman in town who is actively living a sinful life.⁵ We are not given her name, and are told nothing specific about the sin in her life, but it is clear that her sin is a matter of public knowledge. From the language of the text, it is likely that this woman is shunned by society, and it is equally likely that she is forbidden to participate in the local synagogue activities.

Cultural Particulars

Years ago, I had the honor of ministering to students at Kansas University. While in that university environment, I was privileged to become friends with a number of gentlemen from the East, and through them to gain valuable insights into the Middle Eastern culture and the worldview that makes it what it is.

  • She has let her hair show.
  • She is messing with the feet of one of my invited guests.
  • She is kissing his feet, sobbing all over them, rubbing his feet with her hair.
  • And now she has doused him with the luring perfume of her trade!


The first lesson we can draw from this event is that circumstances mean little to nothing. We can see something taking place right before our eyes, and have a very clear read on what is occurring, yet be completely mistaken about what we think we see. This has happened to me, and in all likelihood it has happened to you as well. Well-meaning men and women see or hear something, and draw harsh conclusions based on what they believe to be happening. In reality, they are as far from the truth as was Simon was when he drew his conclusions regarding this woman.

The Rebuke

Jesus, knowing what was going on in Simon’s head, responded to his thoughts with a parable.

The Decision

While Jesus is making his host and everyone else in the room uncomfortable with his unorthodox behavior, he commits the pinnacle of all violations by telling the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”¹⁵



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