I love a surprising twist in a movie. The recent version of “Murder on the Orient Express” has one. The inspector gathers information and slowly puts together the suspect’s identity, but it’s not who you imagine. I also love the plot twist in this gospel story that comes by way of a surprise personal detail. Jesus went to dinner where a woman poured out her ointment on his head. Some in the house were shocked by who she was and what she did. “The Pharisee who had invited Jesus…said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him. He would know what kind of woman she is. She is a sinner!” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you” (Luke 7:39-40). Jesus told him a parable about two servants who owed money: one owed the master ten times as much as the other servant, yet both were freely forgiven.
Luke tells the same story but with a twist. The woman came to the Pharisee’s house. We don’t know her name, only her love. Filled with new hope, she brought her treasure to pour it out on Jesus. A spoonful would have satisfied customary requirements but not her own desire to give. She never saw Jesus as a guest but as God. Then, we are told that Simon the Pharisee was a leper! “And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head” (Mark 14:3)
Simon the Pharisee had been a leper but it seems that Jesus had healed him previously. In that society being a leper was the worst thing to happen to you, as their social ostracism was far worse than for a prostitute. Prostitutes could at least still be part of the community whereas a leper was banished from all relationships, and lost all social standing and hope. Now he was healed, Simon was once again accepted and respected in town. Simon had actually been restored from something ten times worse than the woman. He was the guy in the parable who should have loved ten times as much. But while the woman responded with grateful worship, Simon had forgotten how sick he was and He had lost his gratitude.
While some were shocked at her giving, Jesus defends her by saying “What she has done will be told anywhere the good news is preached all over the world” (Mark 14:9). I’ve been all over the world, yet I’ve never heard the two told together? My guess is, that wherever the gospel of the grace of Jesus is preached, the women’s action, illustrates the expected response. Grace evokes gratitude. Or perhaps her outpouring at immense cost, is the best illustration of Gods costly outpouring of grace, upon us. Certainly, if thankfulness and worship don’t flow from our hearts, we haven’t truly met the Person of Grace or understood His shocking outpouring of forgiveness and favor upon us. The woman was grateful but Simon took grace for granted.
Friends, we can’t change the story of how Jesus touched our lives, but we can choose which of these two characters we will be like.