The Pharisees were a religious sect in Jesus’ day. They claimed to strictly observe religious law and would condemn others who did not measure up to their views. if you’re looking for a modern day comparison, think legalistic groups: Fundamentalist Baptist or strict Church of Christ/Christian Church.
One member of this Jewish cult, the Pharisees, invited Jesus over for dinner. It was obvious by the way the Pharisee treated Jesus, that he believed himself to be a better person than this “drunkard and gluttonous” Jesus who associated with the low-life in society (Matthew 11:19). A proper host in that culture would have made sure his guest was comfortable upon entering his home, by providing a way to clean up before the meal, but the Pharisee didn’t bother (Luke 7:44-46). Why should he even consider worrying about caring for the needs of this “Jesus” who is below him in social status? This “Jesus” was inferior and should feel privileged to eat at his home.
As Jesus is at the table in this man’s home, a woman who is described as “sinful” is so overwhelmed that she begins to cry and wash Jesus’ feet with her tears. After wiping his feet with her hair, she then put expensive perfume on his feet. When the Pharisee begins to offer his condescending judgment upon this woman’s show of honor, wasting of valuable resources, and Jesus’ allowance of such an evil person to be near him… Jesus rebukes the Pharisee. Jesus makes an interesting statement:
“…her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” -Luke 7:47
Jesus’ response was a direct shot at the Pharisee’s self-righteousness, by drawing attention the woman’s humility… in the face of his pride.
If we believe that we are somehow good enough that we do not need God’s forgiveness, then we will never experience a close relationship with Him. We can never be passionate about a God we don’t need. As long as we can look at another person as being “dirty” or “sinful” in comparison to ourselves, then we will never experience the full realization of the love that Jesus has offered.
We are all that “sinful” woman. The condemning Pharisee was no more holy than her and neither are we. It’s actually the opposite. The “sinful” woman was in a better position with God as she was face down before Jesus acknowledging her sin and weeping for forgiveness.
If we are to truly be passionate about God, we must first understand who we are in relation to Him. We must understand that each of us, regardless of our self-proclaimed “holiness” or length of time in the faith, is merely one wrong decision away from being “that woman” in this story. Every one who claims to follow Jesus should recognize that we are only one moment of letting our guard down away from being that megastar pastor who had a hidden homosexual relationship, we’re one bad joke away from being labeled a “bigot” toward someone, one moment of anger away from being violent. A truly honest Christ-follower could never utter the phrase “I would never ______ like THAT person did”…
…because every true follower of Christ knows that they are constantly in need of God’s grace and mercy in their life.
When we truly understand our desperate need for Jesus we will approach Him humbly, just as the woman in this story did. When we come to the realization that God loves us despite our imperfections (no matter how small), then we will love Him passionately… and we will desire to live out that love for others… because we will begin to see ourselves in them. We will begin to see people as God sees them, instead of valuing them or rejecting them based on their successes or failures.
If we believe we don’t really need much of God’s forgiveness, maybe because we have lived a pretty decent life… then we will never really know God… Because we’ve decided we don’t need Him.