What do you see when you look at people? Do you see them as rich or poor, well dressed, or badly clothed? Do you see them as clean and tidy, or as dirty and unkempt? Do you see them as intelligent and clever, or do you see them as lacking in education and without ability?

Jesus asked a question in Luke 7:44. He was speaking to a Pharisee in whose house he was dining. A woman of the city, a sinner, managed to gain entry to the house and stood behind Jesus as he was reclining. She was weeping, and began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed his feet with ointment that she had brought with her in an alabaster flask.

The Pharisee said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7: 39). The Pharisee knew who she was. He knew what sort of woman she was; she was a sinner! He overlooked his own shortcomings. As a host, he had behaved abominably towards Jesus, his guest.

Jesus began to tell the Pharisee a parable about two debtors who owed different amounts to a moneylender. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both of them and asked the Pharisee, “Now which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:42). The Pharisee replied, “The one, I suppose for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” 

Jesus answered him and said, “You have judged rightly,” and then asked, “Do you see this woman?” Jesus saw beyond what the Pharisee saw. The Pharisee was quick to judge and to condemn the woman — she was a sinner. Jesus saw into the heart and the character of the woman.

When we see people, we must look behind the external. We need to move beyond the immediate. We need to look inward to the real person. 

We might be surprised, shocked even, if we knew what some people’s first impressions are of us. They may not see who we are, at our core. May we not make the same mistakes as we see others. Do you see this woman? Really?

Colin R. Vine