Readers of the Gospels marvel at Jesus’ ability to move with ease among the sinners and outcasts. Having spent time around “sinners” and also around purported “saints,” I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think he preferred their company. Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them. In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged him, and sought to catch him in a moral trap. In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus.
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! Here is how Jesus responded in that tense atmosphere:
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for me feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
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? – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?