The account in Luke 7 is an important one to say the least. Jesus uses what happened in this story to contrast two differing ways of acknowledging Him. Let’s take a look. The setting for the event and corresponding story is the house of a Pharisee. A Pharisee is a member of a Jewish sect that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, adherence to oral laws and traditions, and belief in an afterlife and the coming of a Messiah. Jesus was invited to the Pharisee’s house to eat. A woman who must have been well known as a sinner in the city came into the Pharisee’s house. To be so easily recognized the woman must have been a well known prostitute. For such a woman to have entered the house of a Pharisee would have taken great courage, great foolishness, or great desperation.
Notice the woman’s actions: the woman entered the house bringing with her an alabaster flask of fragrant oil. She doesn’t address Jesus or dare look Him in the eyes. She comes up behind Him and then she begins to cry. She is apparently very broken. But, as she cries, her tears begin to fall on the feet of Jesus. As a woman of her trade, she was used to looking men in the eye to allure them with her eyes. But, her eyes are not looking at Jesus. They are on His feet, her head is down, her tears are flowing. She approaches the Son of Man in complete contrition and wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair. In her station of life, this woman used her hair as a tool. She braided it, washed it, and used it to allure men. Her hair had been stroked by many men. She is willing to show her contempt and repentance by using her hair to clean the dirt from the feet of Jesus.
She kisses Jesus’ feet. This is a woman used to giving out kisses. But, these are not kisses of lust and greed – these are kisses of subjection and recognition. She lowers herself and recognizes the worth of the One to whom she gives affection. She anoints Jesus’ feet with fragrant oil. Proverbs, chapter seven tells of how a prostitute would use fragrant perfumes to make her bed smell good for her trysts. This woman took the perfume used in her sin and poured it out on the feet of Jesus.
Now, notice the response of the Pharisee: the woman offends his religious sensibilities. He has no compassion for her broken state. He feels no compulsion to help her. He is offended by her show of affection, submission, and her use of the tools of her trade to exalt Jesus. He is also offended at Jesus for not being like he is. He is angry that Jesus doesn’t stop this display. He believes that the woman’s very presence defiles his home and the evening. Then, Jesus begins contrasting the Pharisee and the woman. In this contrast, Jesus teaches us the nature of true holiness and the foundation of true change.
Jesus asks the Pharisee a question: “Do you see this woman?” Remember how many times Jesus told the Pharisees that they were blind? They could see without seeing. No, the Pharisee couldn’t see what was happening in the kingdom of God. He could only see according to his fragile and unbiblical sense of spiritual worth. Jesus goes on to contrast the two “welcomes” given Him – the welcome of the Pharisee and the welcome of the woman. It was common courtesy in those days to wash the feet of your guests, especially guests of honor. It reflected common courtesy and respect to welcome a friend or guest with a kiss of love and respect. It was also common courtesy to anoint an honored guest with fragrant oil to refresh and prepare the atmosphere for a joyful experience.
The Pharisee did none of these things for Jesus. These were expected graces to be shown if a rabbi entered your home. Yet, nothing of the kind was prepared at Jesus’ arrival. Jesus told a story that reflected the nature of the problem. The man who doesn’t recognize Jesus will not do these things. Neither will the one who doesn’t recognize himself. The Pharisee thought too lowly of Jesus and therefore, too highly of himself. The woman thought highly of Jesus and therefore lowered herself.
He who doesn’t recognize who Jesus is will not recognize his own sinfulness, respond accurately to Jesus’ holiness, nor love Jesus enough to have a relationship with Jesus make a difference in his life.
Psalm 36:1-2 (NIV)
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Our goal is to build a life in Christ that is not determined by the culture but the Scriptures. The culture “infects” us with ideas, goals, and paradigms that create a form of “Christianity” that is actually contrary to what the Holy Spirit builds within us. It may come as a shock to many but God […]