Scripture Reference: Luke 7:36-50
Suggested Emphasis: Jesus forgives sins.
Memory Verse: Jesus said to the woman, “Because you believed, you are saved from your sins. Go in peace.” Luke 7:50, ICB
Simon, the Pharisee, invited Jesus to come to his house for dinner. Simon did not show Jesus the simple gestures of hospitality common for that time, like greeting him with a kiss and then washing his feet. During the meal a sinful woman came into Simon’s house and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. She was sorry for her sins and Jesus forgave her.
Pharisees were a small but powerful group who tried to enforce their strict understanding of the Old Testament law on the people and who often felt they were elite. They were also strict about keeping the many unwritten traditions. Many of the Pharisees Jesus met were hypocrites in the way they obeyed the religious laws (Luke 7:30). Simon was a Pharisee who invited Jesus to come to his house for a meal.
Verse 49 tells us that there were other guests besides Jesus. Later in the story we find that Simon did not treat Jesus as an honoured guest (verses 44-47). Common courtesies of the day would have dictated that Simon offer Jesus water to wash his feet. Sometimes servants washed guests’ feet. Simon should have greeted his guest with a kiss and anointed his head with oil. Simon did not do any of those things for Jesus even though he had invited Jesus to be his guest.
In the first century people would not have sat at a table on chairs to eat a meal. A low table or mat would be placed on the floor and surrounded by low couches or cushions. Instead of sitting on the cushions, it would have been common to recline. One could rest on one elbow and use the other hand to eat. The legs and feet would be faced toward the outside so that people could sit close together without feet being in the way or near the food. This arrangement made it possible for the woman to come up behind Jesus and wash his feet while he continued to eat. The alabaster jar would have been round with a long neck. The perfumed ointment would have usually been put on the head but she quietly and humbly anointed his feet instead.
It would have been unheard of for a woman to touch a Pharisee. Besides being a female, this woman was also well-known for leading a sinful life. Most probably she was a prostitute. This made it even more disgraceful in Simon’s eyes. If Jesus would have been concerned about his reputation like the Pharisees then he would not have allowed this woman to touch him. The fact that he not only allowed it but went on to defend her shows how much he truly cared about this woman. It was not enough to strictly obey the Old Testament Law. Jesus knew that he must love people. He showed true concern and love towards this woman.
The woman had probably heard Jesus preaching before. It seems her heart was tender and she wanted to leave the sinful life she had been living. Simon did not care about the woman. All he seemed to care about was the scandal taking place. Read the story carefully and you will see that Simon did not say anything out loud at first (verse 39). Jesus read his mind.
Jesus showed compassion towards the woman by deflecting the attention off of her and putting it on Simon. In front of this important man and other important guests, Jesus shows this woman that she was important because of her repentant heart. Only God can forgive sin. This pronouncement of forgiveness reveals something significant about Jesus’ identity and relationship with God.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Bring a bowl of warm water and a large towel to class. Wash the children’s feet. As you do this talk about how people used to walk outside wearing sandals. Talk about dusty or muddy streets where animals walked. People always washed their hands and their feet before they ate. Who would want to eat with someone’s stinky feet nearby? People reclined on cushions around low tables so sometimes you sat very close to people’s feet. If I invited you to my house to eat, the very first thing I would do is give you a kiss on the cheek. Then I would either give you water to wash your feet, ask a servant to do it, or if you were an important guest, I might even wash your feet for you. Then I would give you some perfumed ointment to put on your head in case you were hot and sweaty. In today’s story Jesus was invited to someone’s house for a meal. Let’s find out what happened.
Who knows what Pharisees were? Pharisees were religious men who liked to obey lots of rules. They tried to obey all the rules in the Old Testament Law. Not only that, they obeyed other rules that other religious people made up. Pharisees talked so much about obeying rules that they forgot to think about God. It seemed that they thought all the rules were more important than God. Although following God’s rules are important, they forgot that people were more important than rules. They did not like anyone who did not obey rules just like them.
Jesus met a Pharisee named Simon. Simon invited Jesus to his house to eat. When Jesus arrived at Simon’s house Simon did not give him a kiss. Simon did not give Jesus water to wash his feet with. Simon did not offer Jesus perfumed oil to put on his head. Jesus reclined on the cushion anyway. Other very important guests were eating with Simon also.
Someone else came to Simon’s house. But Simon had not invited her. The person that came in was not someone who liked to obey rules like Simon. This was a woman who had been very bad. Everyone knew that this was a sinful woman. Why do you think she was there?
The sinful woman did not come to see Simon. She knew Simon would not help her. She was sorry for the bad things and she had done. She knew that Jesus could forgive her of her sins.
While everyone was eating, the woman came and kneeled on the floor behind Jesus. She was so sorry for her sins that she began to cry. When she saw that Jesus’ feet had not been washed, she used her tears to wash his feet. She did not have a towel but she used her long hair to dry Jesus’ feet. Then she took her jar of perfume and put it on Jesus feet.
Simon could not believe what he was seeing! He thought to himself, “How dare this woman come into my house! How dare Jesus let her touch him, much less wash his feet? Didn’t Jesus know about following rules? Jesus must not be a true teacher.” But Simon did not say one word out loud. He only thought these things to himself.
Jesus could read Simon’s mind. He decided to tell Simon a story. “Simon,” Jesus said, “once two men borrowed money. One borrowed 500 denarii and the other fifty denarii (denarii is a kind of money). After a while, the lender told the men that they did not have to pay him back. They could keep the money. Which of those men do you think loved the money lender the most?
Simon, “The man who owed the most money would be the happiest. He would love the lender the most.”
The woman was like the man who owed 500 denarii. She had done many bad things. So she loved Jesus very much for forgiving her.
Jesus said to Simon, “Simon you asked me to your house but you did not kiss my cheek or wash my feet or give me oil for my head. This woman has kissed my feet and washed them. Then she put oil on them.”
Then he told the woman, “I forgive you of all of the sins you have done. Now you can go in peace.” What do you think happened after that?
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download these illustrations and the slideshow. Be selective. Each teacher is unique, so only use the illustrations that best relate to how YOU tell the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing, so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- What was the name of the Pharisee who invited Jesus to his house to eat? Simon
- Who washed Jesus’ feet at Simon, the Pharisee’s house? A sinful woman
- How did the woman wash Jesus’ feet? Washed them with her tears and dried with her hair.
- Why did the sinful woman wash Jesus’ feet? Simon had not washed them. And also in thanks for Jesus forgiving her sins.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Help the children to draw a cross on a piece of paper. Talk about what it means to sin. Encourage students to write their sins on the cross. Be sure and do this yourself so the children know that you need forgiveness too. Allow the children to share if they would like but do not press it. Talk about how we all need forgiveness and that God (and Jesus) can forgive us because Jesus died on the cross. The discussion might lead to some good discussion. Can Jesus forgive us of any sin? Are some people too bad to be forgiven? Too good to need forgiveness? What if you are not really sorry? Finish with a prayer.
- Sing songs from the church songbook about forgiveness.
- For something fun and to help the children remember the woman washing Jesus’ feet write the following on each child’s toenails left: L-U-K-E-7 and right J-E-S-U-S. Click here for instructions here.
- Act out the story. You might want to “set a table” on the floor and have the children recline around it on cushions. One child can be Jesus, another Simon and someone can be the woman.
- Mix perfume, spice or vanilla extract in washable paint (like tempera paint). Spread a thin layer of the paint on the soles of children’s feet and print footprint pictures.
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.