Similar story occurs later – Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-11
A Pharisee asked Jesus to eat with him and Jesus went into his home and reclined at the table. Here Jesus is sitting with his enemy, but not only sitting; he is reclining! He is totally relaxed around His enemy. In Jesus's day, it was the custom to lie propped on one elbow on couches with their heads near the table, and the feet out behind them. His sandals would have been taken off.
Then a women, who the Bible specifically says "was a sinner" learns that he is reclining at the table and brings an alabaster flask with (probably fragrant and expensive) ointment. This woman was not even invited and yet she came to Jesus. How bold is that! I can come before God with boldness to worship Him. She stood behind him "at His feet," which would mean she was standing directly behind his stretched out feet, weeping so much that her tears dripped from her face wetting his feet. I wonder why she was crying and what thoughts were going through her head. Was her weeping quiet or was she sobbing uncontrollably? He had to have known she was there by her closeness and the sound of her weeping. Was he feeling the tears hit His feet, patiently waiting for her to speak or act? Her next move was to take her hair and wipe the tears on his feet and to kiss his feet. She then humbly anointed them with the ointment. This ointment which is good enough for her head is only good enough for Jesus's feet. Jesus says not one word, but I can imagine him lovingly feeling her actions and this being such a tender moment.
The Pharisee was critical of Jesus allowing this "sort of woman" to touch Him, being a sinner. We learn that the Pharisee's name is Simon. Simon called Jesus, "Teacher." Is this an indication that Simon may be respecting Jesus or is it just out of courtesy? He did invite Jesus into his home, but was this because he was trying to catch Jesus doing something wrong or because he was truly curious to change his opinion and thoughts about Jesus? In addition, as we see as the story continues, the Pharisee did not follow the social customs of washing a guest's feet from the sandals on the dirty road, greet him with a kiss, or anoint his head with oil. This may be a sign he is true to the attitude of most Pharisees.
To answer the "why," Jesus tells him a parable of a moneylender canceling the debt of both, even though one debt was larger than the other, and inquiring which one would love Him more. Simon replies correctly, "the one whom he cancelled the larger debt." A person with a larger debt would recognize the depth of their sin and appreciate the forgiveness. God's grace reaches wide. The more I am forgiven, the more I should love.
Jesus then turned toward the women, as He is leaning on his elbow, now looking down his body toward his feet, pointing her out to Simon, that he had given Him no water for His feet, but she had wet his feet with her tears and wiped with her hair; that he had given Him no kiss, but she did not cease to kiss His feet; that he did not anoint his head with oil, but she anointed His feet. He continues that her sins were many which are forgiven because she loved much, but that he is forgiven little, loves little. I love that he turns to look at the women. Knowing how much I have sinned, I would feel afraid to look Jesus in the face, yet He turns to look me in the face with forgiveness. The women's tears must have turned from tears of guilt to tears of joy.
Everyone at the table was baffled that Jesus talked with an authority to forgive sins. How did he have that authority? The Pharisees believed only God could forgive sins.
Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith as saved you; go in peace." This is a loved verse by many because we can feel Jesus saying it to us. Faith is what saves us from our sins, not the actions that we do because of faith.