Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Luke 7:36.
This to me is one of the most intimate descriptions in all of scripture. I am not talking about a romantic intimate, but a deep knowing that shows the connection of the heart between this woman and Jesus. It is just beautiful to me to read it, but when I break it down it becomes a true treasure. She is the picture of a Jesus Feminist. She is free, bold, humble, grateful, sinful, prophetic, and fully aware that his love has set her free to be.
Jesus goes to dinner. He is invited by a hypocrite and he goes, knowing full well the hearts of those who invited him. I wonder sometimes why one of the first arguments you hear against the church is that it is full of hypocrites. And why it is that people use that as an excuse not to go to church? Jesus clearly had hope for the hypocrites. He continually is telling them the truth. They don’t hear too well, but he does not avoid them, he dines with them. Often. Just like he does with the sinners. You would think that maybe he had some point to make. Perhaps they are all important to him as people. Perhaps he can see beyond the external to the hearts of men and love them still. Perhaps we are all hypocrites in one way or another, judging falsely. Some judge God, others judge men, we are one and the same. ..all sinners with haughty hearts, who think we know better than God. We are unaware of our condition because name calling is an avoidance technique and we are good at it. We are taught to compare ourselves to others from a very young age. Rarely do we consider comparing ourselves with love himself, much less align ourselves to him.
He reclines at the table. He is with them. He makes himself comfortable. It looks as if he plans to stay awhile, maybe to discuss theological issues. Maybe to have some interesting conversation. Maybe to have some debate or maybe… so they will finally see who he is. He does that you know. Gets comfortable with us, and our picture of him. He lets us put him in our pigeon hole of choice, because he knows our minds are too small to accept him as he truly is. We cannot comprehend him, unless he lets us SEE. He is the one who opens the eyes. So in reality it is not up to us to know him…it is up to him.
The woman knows this. She hears where he is. He is close, in her very own town. Notice that she does not let the fact the hypocrites are around deter her from a very intimate expression of her love. She goes to him. Walks right into what she knows will be judgment, she walks in confidence of his love for her. She knows that he accepts her fully and that she belongs to him. He KNOWS her in the deepest places and because of this she KNOWS him. She dares not to miss this opportunity to minister to him. She does that you know…ministers to God. I don’t know if we think of our worship as ministry to him, but it is. It meets his need and moves his heart.
She has an alabaster jar of perfume. The symbols here are mind boggling. The cost of such a jar is high, a year’s wages, which shows her sacrificial love for him. The jar is made of a material that they use to make sarcophaguses, or burial boxes. The perfume is used for preparing dead bodies. She is preparing him for burial because she SEES who he is and what is coming. But look again, a bit deeper this time. The vessel is white, symbolizing purity. It is delicate because it is made by a master craftsman, as a perfumer’s bottle would be. As it is broken and poured out, the fragrance is released. Can you see? It is Christ. His glory is poured out when his flesh is torn. The cost is immeasurable. It matters not how much it costs the woman, because she KNOWS his love sacrifice is for her. She is moved to tears because she SEES. She compares herself to love himself, and her heart is exposed. Rather than hide the truth with self-protective barriers, she releases it through her tears.
She stood behind him. He is her cover. Think of a child standing behind its mother when he/she is afraid. The child knows where to take cover and who will protect him/her to the death. The woman in the passage does not presume. She does not barge into the dinner and take command. She stands behind, an acknowledgement of his authority and her condition. She allows him to protect her, rather than protecting herself. She knows she is safe with him and that he is trustworthy. That fact, is not lost on her and her tears are the evidence. To be safe is one of our hearts cravings. To be known for whom we really are, and to be loved anyway is the gift of grace. The woman takes the position of a servant at his feet in humility. She is overwhelmed by his grace.
She wets his feet with her tears. I have had times in my life where I had enough tears to wash feet, have you? She is a broken woman. She KNOWS this and her tears are her offering. They express her heart…her grief at her sin, but also her gratefulness for his grace. She is undone. No longer ashamed, not caring who is there or who sees, she gives this humble gift to her rescuer. The best thing is, that he lets her. He SEES her heart and he receives it as it is.
She wipes his feet with her hair. Hair symbolizes her own glory. As humans, it is our crown, our pride. It is the epitome of outward appearance. It is how we project who we think we are to the world around us. We spend money, and time on our hair…in order to look a certain way. This is why when we lose our hair, for whatever reason, we feel humiliation. Hair is a covering and without it we feel exposed. This woman submits her pride, and lays it down in order to prepare the feet that will be pierced for her. Her act of worship washes the dirt from his feet. She knows that the perfume is pure and cannot mingle with dirt. She willing, lovingly, humbly, removes the dirt with her pain and her pride. In so doing, she leaves them there, at his feet.
She kisses them. The most intimate moment of all. She gives her affection, her total gratefulness to him…in front of the hypocrites no less. I believe, at this point she is unaware of who is in the room. She is completely abandoned, captured by his love for her. She worships at his feet. She SEES the path they will walk for her. She is aware that they will pay for her sin and she is beyond thankful. She is undone. She tries to kiss away the pain he will bear. Yet, she KNOWS he will pour out his love through his blood and so she anoints him for the task.
She pours perfume on his feet. The fragrance is released. The sacrifice made. The air is filled with a sweet scent. She demonstrates the intimacy of KNOWING Christ and being KNOWN by him. A simple act of devotion and the whole of God’s love is poured out to her. She is forgiven. She is free. She is loved and he will defend her to the death.
The hypocrites don’t get it, but that is unimportant. He will continue to try to show them what the woman knows already. She gets it because he allowed her to SEE it. A woman, was a piece of property really, not valued by the traditions of that time. She was unclean, she was full of sin, but she was bold and desperate. She was confident enough in his love for her that she stood against all that and washed the feet of her Savior…her rescuer…her everything.