advent lettering

O Come All Ye Faithful

The Woman who Anointed Jesus

Today's Reading

Luke 7:36-50

Some stories become all too familiar that we lose the wonder of the moment.

For example, when we see the movie about the underdog team whom everybody counted out, we know what will happen. At the last minute, the impossible will take place, and they will win. It’s fun, but it’s predictable.

These motifs become so standard and so familiar that we often just expect it to happen and thus we rarely get caught up in the story.

It’s sad when we do the same with the Bible. We hear about Jonah going into the sea, and then we expect the large fish to spit him out. We see Elijah and the prophets of Baal, and we aren’t amazed when he fills the altar with water and God consumes it with fire. When Jesus goes into the tomb, we know what happens next. It’s one thing to have good biblical literacy, but there are those times that we absolutely miss on the glory of the moment.

I think this happens when we read about Jesus’ anointment at Simon’s house. This scene is depicted three times in the synoptic Gospels and also a fourth if you include John’s account of Mary anointing Jesus in a similar way during the Passion Week. For the purpose of today’s devotion, I want us to focus on the account that Luke provides.

Jesus is invited to have dinner at the house of a man named Simon. We do not know much about Simon. Matthew and Mark claim this is Simon the leper. For Luke, he describes Simon as having a connection with the Pharisees. Regardless of his background, we can see from the scene that he was probably a good man who was curious about Jesus, but still had to keep up appearances.

Out of nowhere, a woman enters the scene bringing an alabaster jar of expensive perfume. So far, so good. We shouldn’t be surprised. Then she does something so incredibly odd. This uninvited woman, who was clearly known in town for a sinful life she had lived, began to wash Jesus’ feet with her own tears.

Why? Who let her in? Why would she even think to do that? What is happening here? But it gets more shocking.

She breaks the perfume and begins to anoint his feet with the perfume.

You can almost hear Simon’s mind whirring. Wait. Does she know how expensive this is? It costs up to three months at least to purchase something like that. In fact, this was likely a family heirloom that in many ways was her only possession of any value.

Who does she think she is, coming in here uninvited? And doesn’t she know her reputation? There is no way that she will find a suitable husband. I doubt her family would take her back in. That perfume at least gave her some financial security as she gets older. And she is wasting this on Jesus’ feet? What does she think she is doing? What man wants perfume all over his feet?

Now do you get the shocking nature of this story? Her actions are ridiculous and utterly reckless. And that’s the point.

Those present felt this sense of shock, and they questioned Jesus about it.

Jesus simply answered, “Simon, someone who is forgiven more than they could imagine will love more than they can imagine.”

You see, this woman knew her life. She had no delusions of self-righteousness as the Pharisees had, and she had no delusions of self-reliance as the Disciples had. She knew who she was, and she knew that Jesus accepted her just the same.

The woman’s love toward Jesus was so much that she abandoned everything that she had, everything that she owned, everything that she was, just in order to worship her Savior.

That is what I call sacrifice, a reckless sacrifice that doesn’t hold onto anything.

As we enter the Christmas season, who are you in the room? Are you sitting with the Pharisees? Are you full of biblical knowledge and doctrinal purity but lack any heart? Are you sitting there eyeing Jesus and waiting to pounce on Him when He says something that goes against your worldview and then portray utter disdain for the “sinful” woman when she enters the room?

Or are you the Disciples? They were shocked as well. They spent all of their time with Jesus, but every one of them could easily have gone back to their day jobs. They loved being with Jesus and seeing his miracles, but none of them ever sacrificed their time to take care of getting water for Jesus’ feet.

Or are you like the woman? Are you fully aware of the depth of your sin and the vast measure of his love? Is your heart so full of gratitude that you cannot help but sacrifice lavishly for your Savior? Are you ready to abandon everything—your reputation, your friends, and your financial security—just to spend time with Him at His feet?

If we look at the scene, only one person had the correct response to Jesus—reckless love as shown by sacrifice. But there's something about sacrifices—they hurt when given, and it isn’t a sacrifice if it doesn’t hurt.

This Advent Season, ask the Lord to reveal to you your depth of need so that you can better understand the greatness of His love for you. Ask Him to help you pour out the alabaster jar in your life so that you can become a fragrant perfume during Christmas and beyond.

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