“Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you not see this woman? 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.” ~Luke 7:44-47
If you read Luke 7 in its entirety, you’ll see that Jesus is dining at the house of a Pharisee when a woman comes in. She’s a sinner. We don’t know what her sins are; perhaps like so many of us, she has too many to be classified by just one. Jesus even refers to her many sins in the above verse. When she comes in, she merely stays at His feet. His presence moves her to tears, and she uses them to wash his feet. She uses her hair to dry them, and then pours out her perfume on them.
Pouring out perfume doesn’t seem all that significant, but usually perfume was valuable. There were no banks or money at the time. Her perfume may have been her whole inheritance, or possibly for her what the contents of our bank account would be for us. And how did she use her treasure? By pouring it onto the feet of a stranger.
Her attention to Jesus was met with criticism from one of the Pharisees. He allowed it to spark doubt in his mind, thinking ‘if this man were a true prophet, he’d see what a sinner she is.’ Not only did he doubt Jesus’ wisdom, but he judged this woman by her sins and deemed her unworthy to be in the presence of Jesus.
Jesus’ response is the verse I quoted above.
At first glance, the Pharisee has a point. This woman was a sinner. She had no greatness in her that made her worthy of Jesus Christ. What did she have? A desire to be in His presence. A desire so strong that when she came before she was moved to tears. And it was enough. Jesus didn’t turn her away. He didn’t judge her for her sins or tell her she was unclean or unworthy. He saw her desire to be with Him. Regardless of her lifestyle, regardless of her sins or dirt, He saw the sincerity of her desire and the sincerity of her tears. He saw her love for Him. And it was enough. She didn’t need to confess or clean herself or change her clothes or renounce her lifestyle. She came before Him just as she was. And for Jesus, that was enough. She, a sinner, who had no merit but the love and desire of her heart, was enough for Him. And she was welcome in His presence.
So am I, and so are you. We don’t have to dress up, or look a certain way, or get our lives together first. We don’t need to pass ‘Go’ and collect $200 first. We just need to show up, exactly as we are, with whatever we have to give. So often, we let our circumstances push us away from God. It’s almost like we’re thinking “God I didn’t really live up to Your expectations today, so I’m not going to spend time with you today. See you tomorrow.” As if we can hide! But for some reason we think that way. We think we need to be worthy or to redeem ourselves first. And that’s not how it works. We, the sinners and the unworthy, are welcome in the presence of Jesus any time. If we desire to go to Him, we can. Praise God for that. How many kings do you know who let the common beggars into their courts at any time they wanted to enter? How many beggars would be allowed to formally go before their king while still dressed in their rags? Yet that’s exactly what Jesus does for us – He is there, His door is open, and we are welcome exactly as we are.
As for this woman, maybe it was the peace of His presence, so unlike the tumultuous world around us, that moved her so powerfully. Maybe she had a moment of true repentance. Maybe she felt His love, and perhaps was unfamiliar with love of that magnitude. I’m not sure. All I know is that His presence had such an effect on her that she was weeping at His feet. She didn’t even need to look upon His face or make eye contact to feel the holiness of Him. She wept at His feet. Then she used those tears to wait on Him. She washed His feet. She used her own hair to dry them. She didn’t have water or a cloth; we don’t how affluent she was, but either way it wasn’t her home so she certainly didn’t have it on hand. She was so moved that she gave everything she had: her tears, and her hair. And then she gave Him the one thing of material value that she did have on hand – her perfume. However hard she’d worked, whatever she’d done to earn it, paled in comparison to Jesus. And so, onto His feet the perfume went.
That’s an amazing story, when you think about it. This was not a woman who went in for righteousness and lots of time at the church. This was probably not a woman who gave much thought to tithing, and possibly not much thought to God. Maybe she had an underlying desire to live a different life, but she came to Him a sinner. So clearly, whatever her underlying desire was, nothing had sufficiently moved her to change yet. Her sinful self, with that underlying desire to be in the presence of Jesus, was enough to get her in the door. Not until she was in the presence of God did she know that this was more valuable than her perfume. And she was right. His presence brought out the best in her, and she waited on Him with love in her heart. She loved Him instantly, and strongly enough to give her wealth to his feet. He, in turn, gave her forgiveness. You know what comes with forgiveness: renewal, peace, salvation even. He gave her a new life. He even brings it one step further by saying that he who has been forgiven little loves little. What He means is, it’s because this woman is a sinner that she is moved so much. It’s because she is ‘unworthy’ that His acceptance and forgiveness is that much more powerful to her. His strength truly is perfected in our weakness.
Let’s praise God for that. A new life waits for us in His presence. In His presence and in His love is a life more valuable than any material possession we have. Whether we have nothing but our own tears and hair, or whether we have priceless perfume, He has more for us.
So I invite you today to go to Him. Bring yourself even further into His presence. Forget the cares of the day or mistakes you’ve made; forget how you look. Just go to Him. Give Him what you have, be it little or much, and see what He gives your spirit in return.
And just to inspire you more, here’s a song that’s in my head today: