It looked like another night of degradation, of providing sexual favors to men who’d preach her into hell the following Sabbat – men who enjoyed her presence at night but denied knowing her by day. Miriam hated her life and was beginning to hate herself.
She overheard some women talking about Simon the Pharisee inviting Jesus of Nazareth to dinner. “They say he can do miracles and even claims to forgive sins. Some say he is a blasphemer and others call him Messiah.”
Miriam’s heart leaped by the sound, “My sins could be forgiven!” It is too late to go to the Jordan River, for John the Baptist was already put in prison. Any man holy enough to forgive sins would never forgive a woman like me.
She followed the women along Main Street. They entered the courtyard where Simon lived. People from all over town were hurrying to see this miracle worker. Miriam slipped in, pulling a shawl over her hair. You could let your hair down with men, but never in a house of a rich man like Simon. Little by little she wormed her way into the center of the courtyard which opened to the massive inner house.
The assembly reclined on Roman couches arrayed around a low table. Servants busily brought in food and drink. She could see the dinner companions speaking, but the noise of the crowd was too great for her to hear what was said. She pressed toward the prophet, and soon found herself looking down at two very dirty feet.
As she looked from the feet to the face of the man, she realized that this was the guest of honor. She was horrified. Simon had been unspeakably rude to this man. They said he walked the countryside, but to enter the house of a rich man without his feet being washed was a cutting insult.
She could see the condescension in Simon’s eyes. And yet Jesus was completely nonplussed. He very calmly and graciously spoke to all the dinner guests. He seemed to be enjoying the food, the drink, the company, and giving no notice to the contempt being shown him. Lost in her thoughts, she was shocked when Jesus turned and looked at her. It was just a glance but she could tell that the man knew her, REALLY knew her. Had he picked her out of the crowd – knew her heart, and, could it be loved her? This Prophet, this Messiah knew her trade and she found herself in tears.
Now all the eyes in the room were on her. And as the recognition appeared on the faces of the men, the women turned to her with judgment, hatred and condemnation. SINNER!! But Jesus eyes followed the crowd and looked at her, and smiled, a heart that showed nothing but peace, acceptance and love. In unspoken words it said, “It’s going to be okay.”
As Miriam bent over, covering her face with her hands, she again saw those dirty feet. She knelt and caressed them, and looked for a bowl and towel. There were none to be seen and no help was being offered. She reached for her shawl to help wipe his feet. As she pulled it off her hair fell down. She heard a gasp among the crowd and saw Simon sneer in her direction.
She threw the shawl on the floor to wipe up the dirt and tears that had fallen. Some of her hair fell on his feet and left a clean spot. She kissed his feet again and again and began to scrub his feet with her hair. It was the most undignified, improper thing she’d ever done – in public- but she just didn’t care. She anointed his feet with ointment mingled with tears. They had insulted this prophet and shamed him. He did not rebuke her – he just smiled.
Somehow she felt an intimacy and love for this man she’d never felt for another. He looked at her like a man would look on his mother or daughter – like family and she suddenly felt comfortable. When Simon saw what happened he thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known what kind of woman this was that touched him, for she is a sinner”. Jesus answered and said, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher”, he said.
“Two men owed debt to a money lender. One owed 500 silver coins, and the other 50 coins. Neither one could pay. The lender forgave them both. Which of them did the lender love the most?
Simon said, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” “You have judged correctly”, Jesus said. “I came into your house. You did not give me water for my feet, but this woman has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not greet me with a kiss, but this woman has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she had poured perfume on my feet. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. He who has been forgiven little loves little. Then Jesus said to her, Your sins are forgiven . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace”.
She stood, bowed and muttered a thank you that he probably couldn’t even hear. She was so choked with emotion, she just couldn’t speak. But he looked on her again, obviously delighted at her reaction. He seemed to enjoy her forgiveness as much as she did. Now, he could see straight into her heart, and she didn’t care. Her heart was clean. He could look all he wants for there’s nothing there to be ashamed of.
You may want to read the whole story found in Luke 7:36-50. Forgive little bits here and there of my imagination that was added to the story. “O the marvel and joy of salvation”. Read Psalms 51.