Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Love and Forgiveness: The Perfume Woman

"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 7:38).

Jesus was invited by a Pharisee to dine with him. During the dinner, a “woman of the streets” entered the room with an alabaster jar of perfume. She came up behind Jesus, washed His feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with her perfume. This was possible because Jesus and the others at the dinner were reclining facing the low table, with their feet behind them. The perfume this woman used was expensive and precious. We know this because it was contained in an alabaster jar, itself an expensive container.

No one moved to stop this woman, doubtless to see what Jesus would do. Simon the Pharisee thought 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” (v. 39). Under the “oral law traditions” of the Pharisees, being touched by such a sinner would make you “ceremonially unclean.” Thus, Simon figured that if Jesus really was a prophet, He would know this woman for what she was, and would shrink from her.

The law of God, however, contained no such rule, and Jesus had no respect for the traditions of the Pharisees. Far from rejecting her, Jesus accepted her gift and praised her faith (v. 50). It was Simon who was rebuked.

Jesus, knowing his thoughts, told Simon a parable. Two men owed debts to a moneylender, and neither could pay him. The moneylender could have had these men put into prison, but instead forgave them both. Jesus then asked Simon who would be more grateful: the man who was forgiven a debt of 500 denarii, or a man who was forgiven a debt of 50. Simon correctly replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled” (vv. 40–43).

Then Jesus said that this woman was grateful because she had been forgiven much. “But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (v. 47).

The point of Jesus’ parable is not that some have been more forgiven than others. Rather it is that the more aware we become of how much we have been forgiven, the deeper is our love of Christ. Reconsider the incalculable debt paid by Christ, and ask God through His Spirit to enlarge your heart’s capacity to love the Savior.