39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
1901 ASV Translation:
39 Now when the Pharisee that had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, that she is a sinner.
I. The Pharisee's Perception(s).
A. Luke had asked his reader(s) in 7:37 to "behold" the fact that the "sinner" came into the house of the Pharisee and treated Jesus as she did. Now, in 7:39, he tells us that the Pharisee "beheld" the woman's behavior. Interestingly, the result of the Pharisee's "beholding" is precisely the opposite of what Luke wanted Theophilus to do as a result of his beholding.
B. The focus is upon "the Pharisee, the one who called Him" and what he "spake, saying".
1. The focus upon "calling" is Luke's way of referring again to the high hypocrisy of this self-righteous adversary of the Truth. He "called" Jesus specifically to undercut His words.
2. The double reference to "speech" is clearly redundant except for one issue: emphasis.
C. The consequence(s) of the Pharisee's "beholding".
1. He began talking to himself.
2. His inner speech questioned Jesus' identity as a "prophet".
a. His "reasoning" was that "prophets" know "who" and "what manner of persons" they are with whom they have to deal. Jesus proved that He did have this capacity as He called Simon to account, so his "reasoning" was not "off".
b. His "unspoken" (at least unrecorded by Luke) reasoning was that "prophets" would not allow themselves to be "touched" in the way the woman was touching Jesus. Jesus, if He had followed this aspect of Simon's "logic", would have never accepted Simon's "summons" since the man was His adversary, not "merely" a "sinner". Thus, in this he was clearly mistaken.
II. The Pharisee's Error(s).
A. He clearly made a distinction between himself and the "sinner" in terms of whether Jesus ought to have anything to do with him, or not.
1. His "knee-jerk" assumption was that Jesus "ought" to come to his house for a meal.
2. The second aspect of his assumptions was that Jesus "ought not" to permit the "sinner" to "touch" Him.
3. The root of these assumptions was one: a moral difference exists between us; I am "worthy" and she is not.
B. He clearly did not make a distinction between the woman's reputation and her current actions.
1. The woman's actions were "over the top" of what most people would have considered doing, but they were not "according to reputation". At this point in Jesus' life, He was an extremely "high-demand" personality Who was surrounded by people who would not have allowed Him to get sexually involved with her in any case. Thus, if her behavior had been "according to reputation", she could not possibly have hoped to achieve anything by it. Her actions were entirely too "public" to succeed in that direction. So, the Pharisee should have at least wondered why she was doing what she was doing and considered that her copious tears and abject humility revealed something.
2. Except for Judas, there is no indication that Jesus was a "friend" of "sinners" if they showed no evidence of interest in the message of hope through repentance. It is true that Jesus was "approachable" in the sense that He did not exude the self-righteous "I am better than you are" attitude of the "religious", but there is no evidence that He had set about to undermine the biblical truth that evil companions are to be shunned. In every setting of Jesus' ministry we find Him being both "gracious" and "confrontational" in regard to "sinners". This very account reveals Jesus "accepting" an invitation from one who hobnobbed regularly with those who called Him a glutton and a drunk but also "confronting" him for his lack of repentance. This is the true picture of Jesus: willing to be gracious, but not willing to leave impenitence unconfronted.
C. He seemed to have an "agenda" to demonstrate in some manner that Jesus was not a "prophet" (at least to himself, if not to others). Agenda issues drive our thoughts even when we are unaware that they are doing so. That Simon's thoughts ran to "this man cannot be a prophet" instead of to "would a prophet accept the tearful ministrations of one known to have been a sinner?" indicates an inner antagonism to Jesus rather than a genuine interest in understanding Him.
1. The Pharisee did have a "public" responsibility in regard to Jesus and His influence in the religious setting of that city. Religious leaders are responsible to guide those in their care. But genuine guidance requires a thoughtful investigation of the truth and is destroyed by knee-jerk assumptions and a predisposition to be antagonistic.
2. The Pharisee also did have a "private" responsibility in regard to Jesus: to consider His message without automatic aversion. Where is the flaw in the "God will forgive you if you repent" message? It was John's experience that those who responded to his message asked him how to do a better job of living. Where is the evil in that? The old argument that "you are making it too easy" was fundamentally demonstrated to be false. The requests of the penitent did not express a desire for "ease". It was those who rejected the necessity of repentance that continued to live as they had, not the penitent.