No sin of the past can keep you from God’s love!
Authors often use the literary device of irony to let the reader know more than the characters know. In daily life, we use irony in everyday speech. If you spill spaghetti sauce on your new white shirt and say, “Oh, great,” you don’t mean that it was great, you mean it was bad. At one point the biggest dog in Britain was named “Tiny.” That’s irony. Sometimes irony depends on the situation. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a seafarer is stranded in uncharted seas at risk of thirsting to death while, ironically, surrounded by water: “Water, water everywhere / Nor any drop to drink.”
In Luke 7, when the “sinful” woman lets down her hair and anoints Jesus’ feet, the Pharisee who was hosting the event becomes sure (in his own mind) that Jesus must be no prophet since He didn’t know “what sort of woman this is who is touching him….” Ironically, Jesus not only knows who the woman is but also, while He is showing the woman grace, He supernaturally reads the Pharisee’s judgmental thoughts.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, ironically, it was the religious leaders who were most prone to miss Jesus’ true identity. The very ones who should have most readily recognized the Messiah didn’t understand Jesus at all and, instead, were threatened by Him. It’s ironic that Simon thinks Jesus’ permissive attitude toward the woman’s anointing proves that there is nothing divine about Jesus when, in fact, Jesus is demonstrating the true nature of God’s heart – radical, forgiving love.
Perhaps the greatest irony in the highly textured, irony-laden story is this: Simon the Pharisee is convinced that the woman is a great sinner and that her sin should keep her from Jesus, but actually, Simon is the greater sinner and is the one who remains distant from Jesus. The sin of prostitution or adultery or whatever public scandal had characterized the woman’s life pales in comparison to the smug, prideful judgmentalism of the Pharisee. To God, the greater sin is unbelief – an unwillingness to receive God’s grace.
The moving story accentuates the nature of God’s unquenchable grace. God doesn’t focus on the sins of your past in order to exclude you from fellowship with Him. God focuses on the power of forgiveness wherein you, by the gift of Christ, are invited to scandalous intimacy with the Savior. You and I don’t deserve to even get near God and yet, through Jesus’ gift, we have been positioned in the Heavenlies with Christ Himself. Now that’s ironic! And that’s the Gospel!