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Jesus’ grace in action

May 8, 2024

Daily Scripture

Luke 7:36-50

36 One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. After he entered the Pharisee’s home, he took his place at the table. 37 Meanwhile, a woman from the city, a sinner, discovered that Jesus was dining in the Pharisee’s house. She brought perfumed oil in a vase made of alabaster. 38 Standing behind him at his feet and crying, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured the oil on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw what was happening, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. He would know that she is a sinner.
40 Jesus replied, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Teacher, speak,” he said.
41 “A certain lender had two debtors. One owed enough money to pay five hundred people for a day’s work [or five hundred denaria]. The other owed enough money for fifty. 42 When they couldn’t pay, the lender forgave the debts of them both. Which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled.”
Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”
44 Jesus turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your home, you didn’t give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in. 46 You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has poured perfumed oil on my feet. 47 This is why I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven; so she has shown great love. The one who is forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other table guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this person that even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

“Recall the story of Jesus’ dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee, in which a woman… poured perfume on Jesus and provocatively wiped his feet with her hair. Simon was repulsed—such a woman did not even deserve to enter his house!… Why is it, I ask myself, that the church sometimes conveys the spirit of Simon the Pharisee rather than that of the forgiven woman? Why is it that I often do?” *

This story had an unseen “prequel.” Verse 47 made it plain that this was not the first time Jesus had met this woman and gave a clear idea of how he must have extended grace to her earlier. The ungracious Pharisee Simon (who felt no need for grace) was in greater spiritual danger than the grateful woman. Jesus asked Simon a piercing question: “Do you see this woman?” “Simon only saw sin, but Jesus saw the woman and her lavish display of humility, nurture, generosity and love.” **

  • Scholar William Barclay wrote, “For a Jewish woman to appear with hair unbound was an act of the gravest immodesty…. The fact that this woman loosed her long hair in public showed how she had forgotten everyone except Jesus.” *** Have you ever sensed that you are limiting your expression of gratitude to Jesus, or of grace to others, out of fear about “how it will look”? How important is it to you to care about what other people will think of you?
  • Jesus saw in the woman a beloved child of God, cause for a party in heaven (cf. Luke 15:7, 10, 32). Simon saw only a “sinner,” a person who didn’t deserve even a little attention or respect, much less love. Jesus specifically directed his story to Simon, to challenge his attitude. Spend a few moments in silence and listen. Does Jesus have anything to say to you today (verse 40)?


Lord Jesus, deliver me from the inner Pharisee who haunts my heart. Remind me of how much I need your grace, and how much of it I receive every day. Help me show it to others. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Amy Oden

Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

Jesus can be pretty rough on us good church folks, the contemporary equivalent of a Pharisee (more or less). Rarely is the good church-going person the hero of Jesus’ stories. Always trying to be right, always trying to be good, too often trying to figure out who’s wrong and who’s right, one-upping everyone.

In this story, Simon is a Pharisee, a faithful synagogue-attender and scripture-follower. He’s eager to show he is good by pointing out the sinner in the room. Jesus is having none of it. Over and over in the gospels, Jesus challenges the good, church-going folks to re-think what is “good.” He reframes the whole scene away from the metrics of goodness to the metrics of grace. “Which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:42)

Of course, the metrics of grace aren’t really metrics at all. Grace is the overflow of abundant life, poured out over all creation. The unnamed “woman from the city” in this story knew the grace that poured over her life. Simon did not.

This is all too familiar today. We good church folks – across the theological spectrum – can be eager to point fingers, put smug slogans on church marquees and preen in our rightness. One-upmanship abounds. And it squanders the gospel.

Jesus’ words pierce me, bring me to my knees in conviction. Jesus shakes me loose from my striving to be good. He offers a path of less striving and more simple loving, to let that grace pour over my life, filling to overflow. My prayer today is that Jesus frees me from the idol of being right. May I follow Jesus onto the path of love.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Yancey, Philip. What’s So Amazing About Grace? Revised and Updated (p. 301). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, “Portrait” note on “Woman Who Washed Jesus’ Feet” in The CEB Women’s Bible. Nashville: Common English Bible, 2016, p. 1301.
*** William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Luke. Revised edition. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 95).