When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39

Actually, Jesus wouldn’t need to be a prophet to know what kind of woman she was. In the previous verse, we read, “Then she wiped them with her hair.” Any woman letting down her hair in that culture had already indicated what kind of woman she was.

Simon had already made up his mind about Jesus before this happened. As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that Simon hadn’t given Jesus the customary welcome (verses 44-46) indicating Simon already had a negative perception of Jesus. It’s interesting that once we have come to a negative conclusion about someone anything and everything they do or don’t do reinforces that negative opinion. We lose our objectivity and they can do nothing to please us.

Jesus doesn’t confront Simon over his wrong perceptions instead he tells him a story about forgiveness. The more we understand how much we have been forgiven the more we will love. The more we understand how much we have been forgiven the more we will have empathy for fellow sinners.

Love and empathy don’t grow by our efforts. They grow from the realization of our true state before God and how much we need forgiveness. The woman in this story knew what kind of woman she was but more importantly, she knew that Jesus accepted her and forgave her. It was gratitude for her forgiveness that would change her. Simon wanted to isolate and humiliate her as punishment, but punishment doesn’t change people, love and grace do.