What an amazing story this has always been! See if you don’t agree:
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 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 7:36-38
Okay, the woman has lived a sinful life, probably as a prostitute. She could never have expected to gain entrance into the home of a wealthy church leader of her day. Possibly she was the fallen daughter of a wealthy family herself (God only knows why, but those of us who’ve been there can guess) since she owned such a fabulously expensive item as an alabaster jar of perfume. Where this story is retold elsewhere in Scripture, we learn it was worth about $50,000 or more, in today’s money. Also, it was a sealed box, openable only by breaking.
So here she is, descended from wealth into wretchedness, but still clinging to this one article, knowing she would likely be ostracized and expelled, yet still hoping for and gaining entrance, for what?
Her actions are shocking. Imagine yourself, even today, washing the feet of any man you know, basically in public. And the guests present at table that day were not only appropriately shocked, but ever ready to seize the opportunity to trap Jesus. Immediately they think mean thoughts about Him: “If He’s such a hot-shot prophet, He’d be able to foretell this gal’s a loser, stained, probably contagious . . .” They griped about the waste, too.
See, the rules of the day forbade anyone touching her. Before the days of hand sanitizer, it wasn’t such a bad idea. Still isn’t. A person could get really sick, touching someone who was really sick. Just teaching a Sunday School class with a really sick kid in it can land a person in the hospital and you know it’s true. These people had all kinds of laws against spreading germs. Hand washing, quarantine, medical exams, etc., all come to us from the writings of those days. Sometimes they even had to burn their clothes.
Not to mention the fact that unmarried men and women just did not touch each other. Just wasn’t done.
Yet she pressed through and she touched Him. A lot. In a rather intimate way, washing His feet. With her tears. And drying with her hair, which was then, of course, uncovered, which ignored another rule.
Then, to top it off. she broke the $50,000 box of perfume open to use it on His feet. To anoint Him, He said elsewhere, for His burial.* She couldn’t have really known this, but she had her own reasons, I think.
You see, a woman normally had such a wildly extavagant possession to use on her wedding night.
This woman knew: For a woman like her, there never would be a wedding night.
But she walked away forgiven.
* And no one else would get the chance to anoint His dead body, since He didn’t stay dead long enough.