December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 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. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.’”—Luke 7:36–39 (NIV)
In today’s passage, we see the value system of two different people at a dinner thrown for Jesus. First, “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life.” How did she even get into this party? Well, the manner in which these feasts were held, there wasn’t much to hinder anyone from coming.
This woman brought with her an alabaster jar of “fragrant oil.” The implication here is two-fold: 1) It was an extremely valuable item, likely worth around a year’s wage, and 2) it was attained through her “sinful life.” She came to Jesus with the intention to anoint His feet with the perfume, but as Cambridge Commentary describes, “As she bent over His feet her tears began to fall on them, perhaps accidentally at first, and she wiped them off with the long disheveled hair, which showed her shame and anguish, and then in her joy and gratitude at finding herself unrepelled, she poured the unguent (perfume) over them.”
She wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair, which is what slaves of the day did for their masters. It also means her hair was uncovered in public, violating Jewish customs. Then, she kissed His feet and anointed them with likely the most valuable thing she had.
Do you see it? To this woman, Jesus was infinitely more valuable than anything else! Joseph Barnes wrote, “The kiss was an emblem of love and affection. In this manner she testified her love for the Lord Jesus, and at the same time her humility and sense of sin by kissing His feet. . . . A sense of all her sins rushed over her mind; her heart burst at the remembrance of them, and at the presence of the pure Redeemer; with deep sorrow she humbled herself and sought forgiveness.”
What about Simon? Well, Simon didn’t wash Jesus’ feet when He came in, which was customary for someone to do for their guests. Simon was also appalled that Jesus allowed this woman to touch Him. Why such an extreme response? Because to Simon, this woman’s touch would have made Him unclean and defiled. This shows us that Simon clearly didn’t see himself as a sinner in need of salvation, which is why he didn’t value Jesus as he should have. He saw himself above that and above this woman, whom he saw as worthless.
Friends, when we elevate ourselves above others or “think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought” (Romans 12:3 NIV), we lose sight of both the inherent value of everyone as image-bearers of God and of our own sinfulness that puts us on level ground with everyone.
So, what’s the big lesson here? Well, for believers, at some point in time, whether we remember it or not, we were this woman! We’ve all been in desperate need of the forgiveness of sins that comes through faith in Jesus. And because of this, because Jesus took our sins upon Himself and paid the price for our salvation, we’re now made right with God, called children of God, and have been given eternal life! This should cause us to be filled with compassion for those who are still broken and lost and to see them and treat them not as Simon did (which so many of us are often guilty of doing), but as Jesus sees them . . . as He saw you and me before we were washed clean by His blood.
Pause: Consider the value system through which you see Jesus, the things of this world/your possessions, and how you see others (both believers and non-believers). How do you see those who live in opposition to the gospel and to Christian values? How do you see those whose lifestyles are sinful and go against the Word of God? Do you see them as Simon saw this woman or as Jesus saw this woman? When you’re confronted with this, do you remember where you were before you came to Christ?
Practice: Write down a list of all your neighbors whom you know by name. Note the ones whose names you don’t know. Next to their name, write down what you know about them. Over the next few weeks, it’s important that you begin to not only try to get to know a little about them, but also that you see them and treat them in the way Jesus does/would.
Pray: Father, thank You that Your Word reminds us, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3–7 NIV). I pray I would never lose sight of where I’d be without Jesus and that this would compel me to love and live with compassion, patience, and kindness toward all those who are far from You. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.