Luke tells the story of a woman who, I must admit, reminds me a lot of myself. Let’s set the scene:
Jesus has gone to the home of a “wicked” man – a tax collector. He is having a meal with the man, probably sitting at a table waiting for food to be served while talking about society, culture, and the man’s struggles. This woman walks in.
She’s not invited; she’s a dinner crasher. Despite the host being a hard, prideful man, his home is somehow open enough to enable her to enter. She walks in timidly, knowing this was not her place and fearing, perhaps, being found out; yet she knows there is One here who she desperately needs to see. It is Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah. Or, in her culture, the Rabbi.
He’s been walking around for awhile, talking with people, performing miracles, radically challenging Hebrew culture and social norms. If anyone can bring power and healing to her life, it MUST be this Jesus. As a woman, a sinner, a super-sinner, living in relative poverty, she needs a new way. And she believes He is it. It’s worth the risk…if she can just get in.
So she does. She walks into this man’s house – a member of the government, hated by the people, yet hosting the Rabbi. Did she just walk in the front door and yell, “Hey peeps! Wazzup?” No. Did she knock? Surely not; she was the type of woman who would not have been let in. She must have creaked the door open and tiptoed in. Her hands cradled a jar of expensive perfume, probably expensive beyond her means and quite precious. She knew she would need it.
So she tiptoes in, inching ever closer to the table where sits the Man she knows can purify her, can save her. In her head, she probably believed she would walk in, walk right up to him, and beg for mercy. Instead, something interesting happens. Luke says she kneels behind Jesus.
It doesn’t seem the best way to get your prayers answered or your needs met, does it? I don’t think she planned it that way. I think she walked into that room and saw Him, saw everything she believed in right before her very eyes, saw that it was, indeed, true, that her heart sought (and found) the Savior. That realization overwhelmed her, and she fell to the floor behind Him.
The very next verse says her tears covered His feet. She knelt behind Him,
yet her tears fell on His feet? He must have turned around! It doesn’t tell us how the host reacted immediately. Did he call someone to bring this sinner woman out of his house? It doesn’t say that. Luke simply continues with the story as if the host stands off in the corner, waiting and watching to see what the woman will do, what her game is. She proceeds to anoint Jesus’ feet with her expensive oil, then wipes them clean with her tears and her hair.
A short debate ensues as the host cannot believe Christ’s hospitality. This was a sinner woman, the most wicked of the wicked! She probably was shunned by the community, an outsider, dirty. It does not say her sin was sexual, but based on the culture of the time and his strong reaction to her history, she was probably an adulteress. A whore.
Yet Jesus sensed her presence. He heard her fall to her knees before even reaching Him. And he turned around. He turned to her, allowing her the ritual for which she had come (though with Christ, it was unnecessary; He doesn’t require ritual for forgiveness), then honors her with salvation.
That’s probably how it will be when I meet Him. Even as my heart trusts, believes, and knows that Jesus is the Son of God, that God is real, that God redeemed me and set a place for me in Heaven, I imagine I’ll walk through those pearly gates on tiptoes, looking for the One I have so long sought. And when I catch a glimpse of Him and it all is truly, truly real before my very eyes, I will fall to my knees and cry. Tears of repentance, of anticipated ransom.
God will turn to me and let me take whatever ritual I need, whatever my flesh tells me is necessary for His gift, even though it is not necessary. Then He will say those most beautiful words to me and to all who gather in witness:
“Her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven.”