I almost stumbled over her as I brought in another platter of food for the table. She must have slipped in when no one was looking. She knelt to the floor behind the Rabbi as he reclined at the table and started kissing his feet.
And crying all over his feet too, her tears falling fast as she quietly wiped them off with her hair. It was hard to tell whether she was crying in grief or joy, she was so quiet. But there were many tears and the Rabbi’s feet were much cleaner by the time she was done.
She hadn’t stopped kissing his feet either.
Then she pulled out that jar of perfume. She broke it open, poured it all over the Rabbi’s feet and then went back to kissing. I’ll never forget the scent that filled the room. And that’s when my master, Simon, noticed her. He stood from where he’d been reclining at the other end of the table and looked across at the woman, a scowl on his face.
I knew what he must be thinking: that this woman’s reputation was all over town and if the Rabbi were really a prophet of God he’d know that.
The Rabbi spoke.
“Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly.”
Simon soaked up the praise like a sponge dipped into a warm bath. He remained standing, a proud smile growing wide on his face as he looked around the circle of guests, his head nodding as he accepted the Rabbi’s approval.
But the Rabbi wasn’t finished with Simon the Pharisee. He looked at the woman behind him and asked:
“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my 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—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Simon was clearly stricken. It was true, he’d failed in the most basic hospitality for his most honored guest. Then a sneer twisted his lips as he heard the other guests start to mumble.
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Again he nodded at the guests, this time joining them in questioning the Rabbi’s arrogance. He must have felt that his “honored” guest was now humiliated and would stop speaking such nonsense.
The Rabbi surprised us all when he turned again to the woman:
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The woman rose tall, towering over the guests, us servants, Simon even as he sank to the floor. She walked with a nobility in her step, peace on her face, a smile that brought joy to every heart she passed by on her way out of the house.
It made me cry.
It made me want to kiss the Rabbi’s feet.
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!” …
for the Lord has comforted his people, …
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:7-10.)