It’s that time again…time to speak at Morning Break (ladies ministry), only this time I had very little time to prepare. Yikes!
It’s no mistake that scripture records the transformation of a few “fallen women”. Satan likes to use lies that connect to our femininity, our sexuality and our self-esteem to keep us bound so that we won’t live a life free in Jesus. And we won’t be free to worship Him. It takes a mighty God to break the lies and transform our lives. Jesus was often a magnet to the weary, the thirsty and the broken. I think all of that is why I’m drawn to today’s woman. She knew she had nothing to lose and everything to gain…
Today’s lady appears in Luke 7, and is referred to as “the town harlot”, “a notorious sinner”, and an “immoral woman”. She knew what people thought of her, had heard the whispers and witnessed the rude stares.
Simon, the Pharisee, also had a reputation too. He was educated and pious, likely a well-respected member of “high” society.
This woman learns that Simon the Pharisee was hosting a dinner party at his house, and Jesus had been invited. We do not know what prompted her to come to Simon’s home but she came bringing her most prized possession in an alabaster jar.
Alabaster jars were common containers for perfumes and oils. It would have been made of soft stone, light and creamy in colour, and small. So small she could hold it in the palm of her hand. The jar itself was not expensive, but rather what was shielded inside. It likely contained all the perfume she owned – imported pure nard, all essence, no alcohol, extravagantly expensive. But she wasn’t wearing the perfume to draw attention to herself. Her attention was solely fixed on the guest of honour.
“…and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears”. Perhaps from a well so deep inside her that it had never seen the light of day, tears pour out in an endless stream. Her dark shame, anger, disappointments, hurts…all the scalding words, looks, rejections…spilling out, leaving her vulnerable, exposed, and repentant…no longer caring who saw or what they thought. Caring only that Jesus saw her, knew her, forgave her, and loved her. Not only did Jesus not reject her, was not disgusted at her boldness or her tears, but He accepted her worship. His grace increased her devotion.
With her head bowed in reverence and submissions, she drops to her knees and unbinds her hair. According to social custom, doing so in public was so provocative, so abhorrent that it could be grounds for divorce. She used what may have been her greatest beauty, one of her “charms” to dry his feet. Jesus did not recoil from her touch but received her adoration. She performs one of the most intimate and innocent of acts – she kisses his bare, stone-bruised feet. Her unabashed affection and total humility are breath-taking.
“…she kisses them and she poured perfume on them”. It was too late for restraint. With purpose, she pours the contents of her jar over his feet, every priceless drop. You see, these jars of perfume had no lid. They were opened by breaking the box and then all the perfume had to be used. She didn’t just open it and use as little as possible, as we would do with expensive perfume. She used the whole thing and freely chose to do so.
Jesus was aware of the commentary and the looks all around Him, even from his host. Simon said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is”. But Jesus knew Simon’s heart, so he tells Simon the story of two men. Both owed a money lender a sum but neither could repay it. The money lender cancels the debt of both. Which would be more grateful? “Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the biggest debt cancelled.'”
“Do you see this woman?” Jesus asks Simon. Simon saw her, but for what she was, not who she was…
“I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair.” It was customary for a host to offer water and a towel for guests to cool and clean their tired and dusty feet. In fact, providing water was a minimal gesture of hospitality.
Jesus continued, “You did not give me a kiss but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet”. A brotherly kiss on the cheek was a common greeting. Between host and the honoured guest it was a symbol of homage or submission. This sinful woman not only kissed Jesus’ feet, but kissed them repeatedly though she was neither a relative nor a close friend. Her kisses were not erotic but were a sign of devotion and repentance.
“You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet”. She not only broke open her jar, she shattered the mold of how worship was to be done – passionately, personally, and with humble adoration.
By pointing out the things she did right and the things Simon should have done, Jesus managed to affirm her and admonish him at the same time, without stripping either of their dignity. The contrast of their actions spoke loudly for themselves. A woman, who embodied everything the Pharisee hated, earned a 4-star hospitality rating…in Simon’s home.
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much”. Without a word she expressed repentance. Without a sound, she cried out for forgiveness. Without a syllable, she spelled out the desire of her heart: to love him. Perhaps she had already given up her life of sin. After all, the evidence of a changed heart knelt at his feet.
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you…go in peace”. Forgiveness is always personal with Him. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but forgiveness comes to each of us, individually, when we demonstrate our readiness to accept it. We only need to ask.
We don’t learn any more about this woman, but I believe she left that house with her head held high, her heart and life changed forever. God’s most profound miracles are in our hearts and lives. I’m a living miracle. The only excuse I have for any victory or joy or hope in my life is the supernatural redeeming power of Christ. Moving a mountain is nothing to God compared to changing a destructive life.
Romans 8:1 says “therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. God will not turn away from you.
You are loved. You are of infinite worth. God demonstrated the greatest love for us when he sent Jesus to die on a cross. It was personal. The apostle Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord). (Rom. 8:38-39).
In the book, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the main character, Hester, committed adultery and as part of her punishment, she had to wear a scarlet letter. By the end of the book, Hester’s actions displayed a transformed life, and everyone thought the scarlet letter meant “Able”. In a way, I have also worn a scarlet letter and some could look at me and say that my letter stands for “Able”. But I know I am only able because God has transformed me and empowers me. My letter actually stands for something else – Adored by God.
Turn away from the noise of the world, renew the state of your heart at the feet of Jesus and worship the One whose opinion of us really matters.
Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs
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