“Then she knelt behind Him at His feet, weeping. Her tears fell on His feet, and she wiped them off with her hair.” (Luke 7:38a NLT)
This is among my favorite stories about Jesus. In verse 37 Luke says of this woman: “When a certain immoral woman from that city heard He was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume.” Jesus was eating at a Pharisee’s house. A very prim and proper religious person. I’m confident, given the context, that those eating with the Pharisee were very much like him.
The word Luke used that’s translated “immoral” can also be translated: “devoted to sin; pre-eminently sinful; especially wicked.” This is not the kind of person who would have received an invitation to this dinner.
Having this type of woman come to his house for any reason would have been an horrific disregard to protocol, violating every sensibility this Pharisee and his cronies had. But this wasn’t just any immoral woman. This woman was from their city. They knew her, most by reputation, but I suspect, some knew her from having had “business transactions” with her. I imagine there was some squirming going on when those men saw her come in.
But her mind wasn’t on embarrassing or calling anyone out for their sin. The only sin on her mind was her own, and the only Person she had interest in seeing was the only Person in that room who would welcome her. The tables then were low, so to be seated meant to have your legs and feet behind you. Had this woman knelt behind any other person in that room, I have no doubt they’d have bolted. I very likely would have.
Can you even begin to imagine how hard it would have been for you or me to sit and be worshipped in that manner? How utterly inappropriate. Does the word “impossible” come to mind? Yet, Jesus saw what she was doing as an act of worship and applauded her for her courage.
Us religious types like to protect our reputations. We couldn’t be seen associating with anyone like her for any reason, certainly not to have her pour expensive perfume on our feet and wipe them with her hair. But the beauty of Jesus’ heart shown powerfully as He didn’t move a muscle. He made no excuse. He only defended her. That’s the Jesus I love. You want to know why?
Because that woman’s sin wasn’t any greater than mine, just different. Had Jesus pushed her away, it would have been me and you and every other sinner being pushed away with her.
He was the only One in that room who really knew her and knew why she was there. Yes, she came to worship the only One who could free her from her addiction to sin. But she also came to celebrate her declaration of independence from the shackles of slavery that once held her in her former profession.
The alabaster jar of perfume, we learn in another text, was worth about a year’s wage for the average person living then. Why would she have something like that in the first place? I don’t know with certainty, but I have a hunch she used it in her line of “work.” I believe for her to pour it on Jesus’ feet was a way for her to show that the only thing on earth that mattered to her in that moment was Jesus.
Again, I can’t give you a verse to prove it, but I’m thinking when I get to heaven, I’m going to meet this humble woman and she will confirm whether or not this was the case. But I won’t be surprised if this is the same woman we meet in John chapter 8 – the woman caught in “the very act of adultery.” Do you remember Jesus’ last words to her after He saved her from being stoned? “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
Kneeling behind Jesus, pouring perfume mixed with tears on His sacred feet, wiping them with her hair, was her way of saying more forcefully than any words: “I’m doing what You told me to do! I’m Yours now. Whatever You want is what I want. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, I only care that You know what I think of You.”
That’s my prayer to the only One whose opinion matters, because He alone is the Jesus I love.
Blessings, Ed 😊