Do You See this Woman?
A Reflection on the Woman who Anoints Jesus’ Feet
Glasses clatter, trays are passed, aromas of grilled fish, freshly baked bread, and rich stews fill the air. Laughter and conversation echo down the street. And amidst all of the religious leaders and wealthy elitist men lazily stretching out their legs around the table enters a brave but timid woman. She puts on a strong front but in truth she's shaking down to her core.
What would they all say? Would they kick her out? Or worse? Men like them have been known to stone women like her.
But she has to get to Jesus. Who knows how long He will be in her town before He hits the dusty trail again? She has heard that this man brings healing and peace to the suffering. Even to those who’ve made a mess of their lives. Even to rejects like herself. This is her chance.
As soon as she enters the dining room, upon simply seeing Jesus, her tears begin to flow. Any effort to hold them back is in vain, and they run down her face. The tears quickly turn into racking sobs of pain. Shame. Betrayal. Suffering. Loneliness. Sin. Reputation. Self-loathing. Completely unaware of the shocked scoffs and gestures signaling that she is clearly unwelcome, she makes her way through the crowd until she is right beside Jesus.
Just being in His presence drops her to her knees as the tears continue to flow. Should she say something? No. She has no words.
In great love and a flood of inexplicable emotion, she takes the treasured jar of perfume out of her bag and pours it on his feet before she even has time to gather her thoughts or compose herself into something more acceptable. This jar cost her savings, but it represents a life she wants to leave behind forever.
She pours out every last drop. The dirt and grime on Jesus’ feet mixes with the liquid to create an oddly fragrant mud. Having no towel, she lets down her long brown hair and wipes his feet with her locks. She can’t stop kissing His feet. These beautiful feet that bring healing and peace to broken people.
And in the background, through the fog of emotion and heavy wafts of perfume, as if in a dream, she becomes vaguely aware of the conversation going on around her. The Healer is telling one of the wealthy men about a debt being forgiven. Hope begins to rise in her chest. Will he forgive me like that?
She hears Jesus point out her presence. Are you kidding Jesus? Why!? Of course they see me! All eyes turn on her. Although she is used to people looking at her, this is different. Their eyes burn into her skin, through her skin, as if to her very soul. She feels more exposed than ever before. Pressing her lips against his feet and hiding her face under her long brown hair, she holds her breath. What is he going to say about her?
Wait, what? Is He approving of what I’ve done here? He’s not embarrassed by the scene I’ve made? “Her many sins are forgiven?” Did he really just say that? Does he know what I’ve done? Did he just tell all these judgmental rich religious men that I’m forgiven and healed and free? Is he really releasing me from my past? Is that possible? And peace! What is that! Oh how I’ve ached for that but have never know what it was that I’ve been aching for! Can He actually give it to me? Do I dare believe that!?
Yes, dear friend. He is. He does. He can.
And He does the same for you.
We don’t know this heroic woman’s name, but Jesus sure did. The men at the party perhaps knew her name, but they cared for more about her reputation and their rumors than they did about her name. Perhaps we aren’t told her name because her story is our story. Different details, but the same need for Jesus. What makes her story so remarkable isn’t her sin, but her acute awareness of her need for a Savior. Oh how I want to be like her!
Because the original text implies that she was a prostitute, I believe her past was one of trauma and abuse. No woman ever has chosen a life of prostitution. Almost always, a lifetime of abuse, followed by addiction leads her to this point. Trying to numb the pain of her life, there often seems to be only way way to pay for the addiction. After being treated like trash for years, she likely doesn’t think she deserves any better life; but she certainly didn’t choose it.
So Jesus asks us a profound question: do we see her? Sure, she’s on the floor weeping and making a huge scene, but do we see her? Can we see beyond our rumors to the heart of the woman that is in need of love, friendship, understanding, kindness, compassion? Or are we too blinded by our judgements to see anything beyond a reputation?
I’m so grateful for Jesus’ challenge to see differently. To see people.
And then, Jesus sends this woman on her way healed. He doesn’t ignore her sin but He forgives her sin. He affirms her as a beloved, valuable human being. He gives her peace. She came to the dinner party in fear and trembling, and she leaves in the peace of God that will guard her heart and mind from all the accusations and condemnations that will still likely be thrown her way.
He does the same for you dear friend.
What are you bringing to Jesus today? Can you be like this dear woman and pour it out at his feet without picking it back up again?
Do you hear His voice when he tells you that your sins are forgiven? Do you believe him?
This dear woman could not have walked out in peace that day if she didn’t believe Jesus when he told her that her sins are forgiven. We can only experience the peace of God when we rest in the forgiveness of God.
Walk in that peace today, dear friend.
I see you.