“Now one of the Pharisee’s 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 7:36-38 NIV
There she was, the outcast in the home of the Pharisee. The sinner in the home of the religious. The imperfect, transparent, woman in the home of the pompous, man with hidden things in his heart. But none of that mattered to her.
She was there to see Jesus.
Can’t you just picture her? Sneaking her way into the home that she was probably unwelcome in. Everyone in town knew who she was. They all knew her sin and judged her harshly for it. They all probably saw the alabaster jar that she carried and scoffed, mumbling under their breath to each other about how she had “earned” the money to pay for it. I’m sure that Simon, the Pharisee who’s home they were all in noticed her approach and his feathers ruffled, but her eyes were focused. Her heart was resolute.
I don’t know what had compelled her to come, what she had heard about Jesus or what had made her heart catch at his name, but come she did with her treasure and tears in tow. It must have taken so much bravery to enter that house, the one filled with her neighbors and those who judged her but she knew that grace lay inside those walls and she had to be near it.
It seems that all of her confidence and bravado faded as soon as she was near Jesus though because the Bible tells us that she simply stood behind him. She was overcome with humility, overcome by the fact that she and her sin were in his presence and she faltered. She didn’t announce her presence or tap him on the shoulder. She didn’t introduce herself or say a simple “excuse me Jesus.” Instead, she stood behind him, staring at his feet that would hold the nails and his back that would take the lashes and she began to weep uncontrollably.
Perhaps she was embarrassed. Perhaps she was overcome and all she could think to do was to bend down, to bow down and to let her tears fall on Jesus’ feet. Her vision must have clouded, blurred by her own tears but she grabbed for her alabaster jar, opened it and poured its contents out, all over Jesus’ feet. And then, in a gesture that is so heart-breakingly beautiful, she takes her hair — her long, beautiful hair — and wipes Jesus’ feet, her tears, the perfume, all of it, with it and then tenderly, through her sobs, she kisses them.
We’ve heard the story before. We know about this woman but have you ever thought about how awkward this moment must have been? How uncomfortable for people like that to be around a person like her, to watch a woman come in and weep and clean Jesus feet with tears and hair and perfume that was worth as much as a year’s worth of wages (Mark 14:4)? Everyone must have wondered what was going on, must have suppressed insults or laughter or disgust but not Jesus. In my mind, he sat there with his eyes closed, smiling in pleasure. In my mind, he takes a deep breath, inhaling the scent of beautiful perfume and salty tears and exhales while he feels her love. The sound of her weeping is precious to Him and He wouldn’t dare to stop her. To hinder her worship and adoration and love.
“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you 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 — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7: 44-47 NIV
“For she loved much.” That’s what Jesus saw. In the home of the religious elite, the thing that stood out as noteworthy and righteous was the love of this sinful woman. Love that was pure and fragrant and powerful. Love like perfume that saturated the room with it’s presence, that’s overtook the dirt and grime and stench of whatever was in her life before, love that compelled her to humility and sacrifice and the baring of her very heart. That’s what Jesus saw and it was precious to him.
That’s what He asks of us. To love much. To love deeply with all that’s within us. With our tears and our treasure. With our past and our future. With our egos and our reputations and our vanity and our image. To love much.
The Bible tells us, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) and I think this story is a perfect example of that. Here is a woman who’s heart was in just the right place. She knew where she had been and what she had done. She knew heart ache and embarrassment and desperation and she knew that she needed Jesus. She was willing to make herself small in the eyes of people so that her love for him could eclipse it all.
Do we do that? Do we love him with all we have to offer? She took everything she had of worth; her treasure, her beauty, her pride, her reputation, her very emotions and poured them out for Jesus. What would happen if we did the same?
What if we gave it all, everything our hearts had to offer and we just kept pouring it out for Him? We kept offering it to the dirty and forgotten parts of this world, offering our love and sacrifice to them like she did to His feet? What if we didn’t care if serving Him was messy and required sacrifice and heartache? What if our pride and vanity were forgotten and we let it all get saturated, dripping, sopping wet with the stuff of loving and serving him?
Because it’s not supposed to be all easy, all fun and games, all clean and tidy and simple. Sometimes — a lot of times — loving Jesus much means giving whatever we have and looking like fools while we do it. It means offering our best for Him, pouring ourselves out for him, letting our hearts break for the things that He loves because His grace has washed over us and His love has overtaken us and we’ve seen and felt and known His goodness and we know that even our best is nothing compared to even His feet.
Because Christ’s love, the love that took him to the cross, to the nails, to the whipping and spitting, and thorns for us, compels us. It deserves much from us.
So what will we give? What will we pour out for Him and His Kingdom? We all have something and He wants to use it for His purposes. Let’s search our hearts and find the thing that we can offer. Let’s find where we can love Him more, where we can sacrifice bigger, feel deeper, and love harder. Let’s give it all like the sinful woman in the Bible and let the fragrance of our love fill the earth like perfume.
Let us love much.