Her charm did not precede her, her character did. She was an immoral woman. One who was considered a prostitute. No one would look at her, no one wanted to be associated with her. She was a sinner.
She was an outcast, cast down by her folks, cast down by the society, cast down by them that used her, cast down by the cares of the world.
Her gown was of shame. Her face, darkened by her indignity. The voices in her head called her out as worthless and unwanted. Her condition was more morbid than either of us could possibly imagine. She was never to be rated, for she had nothing left to rate.
Am sure many taunted her. Women ridiculed her. Men abused her, some raped her. She was the point of reference when parents were advising their children. Many pointed their fingers at her. The sick woman, the prostitute, probably diseased. She was not a guest to welcome at any home. She was a disdain to “self-respected high ranking men.” If many had a means, she was to be purged out.
She is not described by her circumstances, or what led her to be a prostitute, she’s simply described by her ways – “Look at her, she’s a prostitute.” In the ancient Near East, girls were taught how to behave from their younger years. They were to remain virgins till marriage, they were to cover their heads, they were to keep away from gatherings that were meant for men, girls were not free to do as they pleased. These were the social mores.
Those who broke the rules were a disgrace, and this woman was a disgrace to say the least.
As I read at about her, I cannot help but see a beauty that I once had overlooked. It hadn’t hit the right cords as it did this time round.
She, a prostitute, unclean, filthy, the one with the alabaster jar, had more beauty than the Simon, the Pharisee, self-absorbed man who invited Jesus at his home, and many of his self-righteous guests.
She had more beauty than I ever imagined. Am tempted to think that she had more beauty than most of us – actually, she had a beauty that all of us should emulate.
She got to her end. Her strength had failed her. Her soul was parched. Her beauty was slowly fading and all she had, was one opportunity, to break her walls down and let Jesus in. Her pride was done, and grace was beginning.
She broke her expensive oil. One that am sure she either got as a “payment for services offered” or what she was using to allure her suitors. All in all, she let go of the one thing that was precious to her, and laid it all at the feet of Jesus.
Simon, like many of us, thought that it was simply courteous enough to let a “glorified teacher in.” He, like many of us, had placed himself high above the social ladder. He knew the Law, practiced it, lived it, and thought himself worthy of heaven. His actions, he thought, had earned him a seat next to Abraham.
He did not consider Christ worthy enough to have His dusty feet washed. He did not consider His head worthy to be anointed, He did not great Christ with a kiss. Yet, all these were culturally accepted norms, a sign of showing honor to one’s guest(s).
His superficial holier than thou cavalier, made it hard for him to discern who Christ was. The Holy Christ, the Messiah, was sited with him, reclining at his table and he was simply aloof. Nothing mattered. All he wanted was to add to his score card, probably rate who this “man from Nazareth” was and add to his list of achievements. He failed to discern the time. He failed to discern His season. He ate and drank from the cup of legalism, failing to see that he cannot attain the set standards of perfection by God, and never will, save by the righteousness of Christ.
Suddenly, the door burst open, and standing behind Christ was the unwanted guest. She startled the crowd, took them by surprise, all were mortified by her brazenness, yet her focus was never on them, but on her mission to redemption.
Her instant genuflection of coming face to face with the Redeemer of the fallen world crushed her and she dropped to her knees. Holding her alabaster jar, she considered it not worthy enough of her cradling. She broke it, anointed His feet, kissed them as she cried her eyes out and wiped Christ’s feet with her hair.
Christ’s feet were drenched in her tears. He wasn’t disturbed as everyone was, more so, as Simon was. He watched her intently, moved by her brokenness and contrite spirit. Christ was already in her, Christ was working through her, Christ was her savior!
Jesus Christ was being touched by a sinner. Not everyone was pleased. She was offending the law, she was never justified by her works, but her faith did and grace pushed back against the works of law, unwaveringly and undaunted!
Simon on his high pedestal, with zero discernment and a petrified look said in his heart, “If this Man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of woman is touching Him, that she is a [notorious] sinner [an outcast, devoted to sin].”
How I pity Simon for holding his cards so high, yet he was set on a path of destruction.
Simon, “I have something to say to you.” Jesus said.
“Say it, Teacher,” he replied.
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then turning towards the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
And then Jesus spoke to the woman: “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
“He who is forgiven little, loves little.” This statement should shutter our standards every day!
She, the immoral woman was now a virtuous woman. Her uncleanliness was gone, saved by Her Faith in Christ and His forgiveness.
She had an effervescence that I envy.
How many of us are more like the Pharisee? We look at our performance card, check it off, and believe that we are clean enough to warrant a dinner out with Christ?
We base our salvation on our merit. We “sweat” off to retain our place in heaven and in the good books of our pastors.
We look at everyone around us with a disdain, if they don’t fit into our “righteous books.” We like Simon the Pharisees and all the other guests, consider ourselves too important and think we can buy our way into Christ.
You go to church, you worship, you sing out loud, you prophesy, you pay your tithe, you give offerings – yes all these are good – but what is your intention? What are your motives behind all these? Is your obedience driven by self, approval by others or Christ?
Do you do all the aforementioned to be rated, spoken of highly, assert yourself as holy above everyone else, or is it simply because you have reached your end? That you recognize how serious God is with his unbent standards and you cannot attain them with your works?
Is your love to Christ so paltry that you think, just as Simon, that your works could earn you a victor’s crown?
What we all need to learn from the immoral woman is that her love for Christ was undeniably the gift that lead her to her salvation. She understood the meaning of grace. She reached her end, and Christ began. She loved more, and Christ gave her what she could never buy, forgiveness of her sins. He forgave her – offending all manner of justice that was to be meted out to her.
Simon thought he needed no grace, after all he was perfect, the law of capability judged him not – for he was capable of doing it all!
Let us not be too quick to rate ourselves highly. We all fall short of the glory of the Lord. Romans 3:23.
We all sin, and we cannot rid sin entirely from us.
1st John 1:8
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
We should therefore be as desperate as the immoral woman for the saving grace of Christ. She understood it, she ran after it, she took the free gift.
We are all a bundle of paradoxes. We believe, then we doubt, we hope then we get down casted. We rise up then we fall down. We forgive, then we hold grudges. We cheer on, then the hate! That is just about the human nature. But that isn’t meant to put us down. On the contrary, it is meant to remind us every day, that we need a savior!
We should press on like the immoral woman. Refuse to be cowered by the standards of the world and end to ourselves.
Just like the immoral woman, the beauty is in seeing ourselves as very small, minute, rating others and regarding others better than ourselves, to see the goodness and grander of Christ, His wonder in forgiving our sins and His awesomeness and tenderness in embracing us to His bosom. He, Christ, should break our idealism and moralism and replace it with His sufficiency – only then will we be able to grasp His beauty just like the immoral woman.
The good news isn’t good news for people who consider themselves as righteous, it’s for people who are coming to terms with their lack of being not so good and accepting that only the grace of Christ can save them.
The more I read about her, the more I see myself as wanting, desperate for Christ and his everlasting promise for me that no matter how wrecked, smitten, jaded, and unsubstantiated I might be or feel, no matter how the world rates me, there is one who has called me and qualified me despite my infallibilities. Christ!
She has what we all we should ultimately seek after – Love for Christ so deep that will lead us to obey him without having a bridle and muzzle as a mule!
I love the immoral woman’s beauty in trusting Christ with her weaknesses and failures!
I need that Faith everyday!