17 Feb Jesus Anointed By A Sinful Woman Luke 7:36-50
When one of the Pharisees (Simon) invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
Ok, so this was a large dinner party given by Simon. It was the custom at these things that the guests lie down on the floor at a table. They would prop up on their left elbow and eat with their right hand. It was also the custom at that time that the poor of the town could come and eat the crumbs that fell from the table. They were not allowed to recline at the table, but it was not uncommon for the poor to maintain a low profile and scurry around unseen to gather the scraps.
A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.
It was the custom in that day to anoint someone’s head with perfume as a sign of respect, so it’s possible this sinful woman brought the jar of perfume with her to do simply that, anoint Jesus head. Whatever her plans were, they flew out the window the second she saw him.
But this woman was particularly sinful. She was notoriously sinful and everyone in town knew of her. We assume she was a prostitute and evidently a successful one, if they all knew her. But this story never really says what her sins were, so it represents all of our sins. She also has no name in this story, so she represents all who sin and humble ourselves before Jesus.
Regardless, she was speechless as she drew closer to Jesus.
As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.
This woman began to cry as soon as she came near to Jesus’ feet. In fact, it says she wept. She cried so hard her tears were pouring onto the feet of Jesus. She couldn’t stop. She was overwhelmed by His pure presence, by His holiness, by her own shame. She fell to her knees and then bowed her head so low her tears were pouring onto His feet.
Have you ever felt yourself in the presence of the Lord and you began to cry uncontrollably? The love that God pours over you is so powerful, so loving, so forgiving, that you cry just knowing that you are loved, and you are forgiven, in spite of every mistake you’ve ever made. To know that you are welcome, and not shunned, can be an overwhelming feeling.
Jesus did not shoo her away. He didn’t embarrass her. Instead he recognized the pure motives of this sinful woman as she baptized his feet with her tears. He saw through to her soul in this moment and received her pure and holy worship.
Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
In that day women were never caught with their hair down. It would have been a huge no-no. Women always had their hair pulled up. But when she began worshipping at Jesus feet and washing them with her tears, she let her hair down in complete abandonment and wiped her tears with her hair. Out of love and passion, she gave all she had at the feet of Jesus and kissed his feet again and again. His dirt-covered feet were washed and anointed with tears and perfume; her prized and expensive perfume in an alabaster jar.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
You can just see Simon saying this. Standing there all high and mighty with his wealth and reputation, looking down on this sinful social outcast, and equally unimpressed with Jesus for not seeing what she truly was.
Jesus knew Simon’s thoughts and he turned to him and said . . .
“Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?
Simon saw only a despicable woman who was groveling at the feet of Jesus. He never saw her as a person or recognized her act of worship. But Jesus saw her. He saw her horrible past. He saw her glorious future. He saw her as a child of God, a woman with a repentant heart who recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Then Jesus said to Simon:
I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
This woman never uttered a single word and yet her love for Jesus was so profound and so perfect. Maybe she heard Jesus speak on a hillside one day and she wanted to just meet him. Maybe she came to pay her respects and anoint his head with perfume, but instead found herself in tears at his feet worshipping him and anointing him with love. She didn’t need anyone to tell her she was a sinner. She already knew it. She knew her lifestyle. She knew her sins. She knew what people thought of her. She saw the dirty looks from the people in the streets every day, while those same men sought her out in the darkness for their pleasure. Every single thing bottled up inside of her poured out at Jesus feet.
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Now I’m sure that by this time everyone in the room is aware of what is going on. The perfume is wafting through the air, the woman has been crying at Jesus feet for some time and Jesus schools the dinner host on what love is.
So the story says: The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus got their attention! Simon the Pharisee didn’t invite Jesus to dinner because he liked him or followed him. He wanted, along with his friends, to assess him and try to figure out what he was all about. That’s why Simon never offered Jesus water for his feet, or a kiss on the cheek which was an ordinary custom of greeting then.
No, Simon did not offer Jesus any respect other than a place at the table, but the woman, this sinful woman, honored and blessed Jesus and worshipped at his feet. At the end:
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
It was by the power of Jesus that her sins were forgiven, but it was by her confession and faith in Jesus that the door of Heaven was opened to her and she was forgiven.
What was the difference between the sinful woman and Simon the Pharisee? Why did Jesus treat them differently? Because she knew she was a sinner. She humbly fell at Jesus feet with a heart full of regret and sorrow. She believed in him as Savior. Whereas Simon was full of pride. He relied on his reputation and his place in society and had no need for a savior, no need to see his own sinfulness.
Jesus was addressing all of us when he spoke to the woman at his feet. “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” When we acknowledge our sins with a repentant heart, then forgiveness and love can lead us to a place of peace that only God can provide. And forgiveness is widespread. As God forgives our sins, so we must forgive the sins of others and not hold their transgressions against them. Jesus taught this concept in Luke 11 when he said, “pray like this, and forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who has sinned against us.”
Forgiveness and love are reciprocal. As God forgives us, we forgive ourselves and others. Even when that feels hard, or even impossible. It’s anger, fear or hatred that causes us to hold on to unforgiveness. But when we let love fill our hearts, the peace of God comes alive in us.
Please let this beautiful story resonate in your heart. We are all the sinful woman, and when we fall at the feet of Jesus and open our heart to him and ask him to forgive our sins, our life begins to change. We are honest with Jesus and that gives him the ability to change us and give us peace.