25. Woman with the alabaster box
ONE of the Pharisees [Simon] desired him that he would eat with him. And Jesus went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood weeping; and began to wash Jesus’ feet, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
Now the Pharisee [Simon, the leper] spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known what manner of woman this is; for she is a sinner. Jesus said unto him,
Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee:
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors; the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.
Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
Simon answered, I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. Jesus said,
Thou hast rightly judged.
He turned to the woman, and said unto Simon,
Seest thou this woman?
I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loveth much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
And he said unto her,
Thy sins are forgiven.
They that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? Jesus said to the woman,
Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Scripture: Luke 7:36-50
Meditation 1 of 1:
Is your love extravagant or miserly? No one who met Jesus could do so with indifference. They were either attracted to him or repelled by him. Why did a rabbi invite him to a nice dinner and then treat him discourteously by neglecting to give him the customary signs of respect and honor? Simon was very likely a collector of celebrities. He patronized Jesus because of his popularity with the crowds. Why did he criticize Jesus’ compassionate treatment of a “bad woman” — most likely a prostitute? The Pharisees shunned the company of “public sinners” and in so doing they neglected to give them the help they needed to find healing and wholeness. Why did Mary approach Jesus and anoint him at the risk of ridicule and abuse by others? Mary’s action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus and her gratitude for forgiveness. She did something, however, a Jewish woman would never do in public. She loosed her hair and anointed Jesus with her tears. It was customary for a woman on her wedding day to bound her hair. For a married woman to loosen her hair in public was a sign of grave immodesty. Mary was oblivious to all around her, except for Jesus. She also did something which only love can do. She took the most precious thing she had and spent it all on Jesus. Her love was not calculated but extravagant. In a spirit of humility and heart-felt repentance, she lavishly served the one who showed her the mercy and kindness of God. Jesus, in his customary fashion, never lost the opportunity to draw a lesson from such an incident. Why did he put the parable of the two debtors before his “learned host”, a rabbi and teacher of the people? This parable is similar to the parable of the Kings servant (see Matthew 18:23-35) in which the man who was forgiven much showed himself merciless and unforgiving. This man was completely callous because he could neither believe in love,accept it or give it. Who is to be pitied most? Those who cannot receive love or those who cannot give love? Jesus makes clear that great love springs from a heart forgiven and cleansed. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), “for love is of God” (1 John 4:7). The woman’s lavish expression of love was proof that she had found favor with God. The stark contrast of attitudes between Simon and the woman of ill-repute, demonstrate how we can either accept or reject God’s mercy. Simon, who regarded himself as an upright Pharisee, felt no need for love or mercy. His self-sufficiency kept him for acknowledging his need for God’s grace. Are you grateful for God’s mercy and grace?
“Lord, your grace is sufficient for me. Fill my heart with love and gratitude for the mercy you have shown to me and give me freedom and joy to love and serve others as you have taught.”