Love Poured Out
Jesus receives an invitation from one of the religious leaders to have dinner at his home. And Jesus accepts the invitation, as you can read in Luke 7:36
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.
You may wonder why this man asks Jesus to come to his home. Is it perhaps because, secretly, he wants to become a follower of Jesus? Let’s read Luke 7:37-38 to see what happens during that dinner
When a woman who had lived a sinful lifestyle 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.
The news that Jesus is eating at the home of the religious leader spreads throughout the town. One of the inhabitants of the town is a woman who, as Luke describes it, has lived a sinful lifestyle. This very likely means that she has worked as a prostitute. She too learns that Jesus is at the home of the religious leader. No doubt, she has heard of Jesus’ kindness though she, very likely, has never met Him in person as yet. And she decides her moment to meet Him has come. She takes the bold step of going to the home of the religious leader so that she can see Jesus face to face. However, she does not want to go empty-handed, so she takes with her an alabaster jar of perfume, which will have been very precious to her. She manages to enter the home of the religious leader and, as soon as she spots Jesus at the table, she goes to His seat. No longer being able to control her deep-felt emotions at the sight of Him, she begins to weep. Her tears fall on His feet. Not having a towel available to dry His feet with, she loosens her hair and uses it to dry His feet. No respectable Jewish woman will ever loosen her hair in public, but this woman is not interested in her personal dignity. All she wants to do is to show her love to this Man named Jesus. And Jesus allows her to minister to Him in the way that she desires to. He does not send her away. Perhaps that is because He does not know what kind of woman she is, or does He know..?
The religious leader has that question in his mind as well, as you can read in Luke 7:39
When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said 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.”
Outwardly the religious leader is very polite to Jesus, making no comment whatsoever on what the woman is doing. However, inwardly, he is very critical of Jesus, and decides that Jesus cannot possibly be a prophet since he does not even recognise what kind of woman touches Him. But Jesus is a Prophet and is, in fact, much more than a Prophet, and knowing what the religious leader thinks, He begins to speak to him, as you can read in Luke 7:40-42
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a moneylender. One owed him five hundred dinarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back. So he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Jesus addresses the religious leader by telling him a story about two people who have to pay a debt which neither of them can pay off. Jesus follows His story up by asking Simon, which is the name of the religious leader, a question related to the story. And Simon, having to be polite, reluctantly answers him, as you can read in Luke 7:43
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
The time for telling the truth as it really is has come, so Jesus begins to compare the actions of the woman with the actions of the religious leader, as you can read in Luke 7:44-47
Then He turned towards the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet. You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Jesus shows the religious leader that he considers himself a person who has little or no sin in his life, and therefore does not need to be forgiven much. This causes him to have little or no love for Jesus, for he has not shown Him any care or kindness when Jesus entered his home, since he never even bothered to have Jesus’ feet washed when He entered his home, which was a service offered to anyone considered an honoured guest. Neither had he kissed Jesus to welcome Him in his home, or poured oil on his head. But the woman knows that she is a great sinner, and in need of much forgiveness. This causes her to have a great love for Jesus, as is shown in her many kind acts towards Him. For she knows that all the religious leaders, including the religious leader in whose home she is now, have already judged her for her sins. However, she knows as well that Jesus is different. He is her only hope to find forgiveness for her many sins. And her hope is fulfilled, as you can read in Luke 7:48-49
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Jesus turns to the woman and speaks to her the words she has been longing to hear: that her sins are forgiven. She understands that she is now able to go in peace, knowing that she has been set free, and no longer needs to walk in the bondages of the past. Others around the table are not so sure what they have just witnessed. To them, Jesus is just a man, and how can a man claim to be able to forgive sins? No doubt, many who are present at that table that evening will have gone home with questions on their mind. Will they eventually have discovered the truth about Jesus? Only God knows….
This story reminds me of another story where another woman pours perfume over the feet of Jesus. You can find it in John 12. Let’s begin reading John 12:1-2
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him.
The dinner mentioned in this story is held at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus and takes place a few days before Jesus’ crucifixion. Martha has been cooking a wonderful meal and she has begun to serve the meal. She is looking for her sister Mary to help her with the serving of the food but Mary is nowhere to be seen. Where has Mary gone? She always seems to be doing other things when she is needed in the kitchen. For instance there was a time when she, Martha, was busy in the kitchen and Mary completely forgot to help her because she was listening to Jesus. Luke tells us this story in Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”
Remembering that event, Martha decides that perhaps Mary is doing something Jesus has specially asked her to do, so she better not get upset with her. In a way Martha is right for Mary is doing something special for Jesus even though Jesus has not specifically asked her to do so. Let’s read on to see what Mary is doing, in John 12:3
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
While Martha is busy serving the dinner, Mary goes to her bedroom, and goes to her secret shelf to fetch something she has kept all these years; a bottle of special perfume. This perfume represents her life’s savings and may well be all that she has, as far as any financial security for herself. But today she has come to the decision that this perfume is not to be saved up for the day that she may be in financial need. No, it is to be used for the One who has met her eternal needs by giving her eternal security. So, with the perfume in her hand she returns to the room where the dinner is being held, walks up to Jesus and without saying a word, she opens the bottle and pours the perfume over His feet. She then loosens her hair and wipes His feet with her hair. For a moment everyone around the table will have been in such a shock over what they see happening in front of their eyes that they dare not speak. It is too much to take in, for they realise that Mary is throwing away her life’s savings. Such extravagance. It is good to show care and love for Jesus. But to give away her life savings might just be a little too much of a good thing. And then to loosen her hair in public! Mary ought to know that a proper Jewish woman never loosens her hair in public. It is simply not the proper thing to do. One of them expresses this thinking in words, as you can read in John 12:4-8
But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected, ”Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone, “Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of My burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.”
Judas Iscariot speaks up. He is indignant about what has happened. After all, this perfume is worth a lot of money, which has now been wasted. But Jesus, knowing that he does not really care about the poor anyway, rebukes him for his words. He then discloses Mary’s reason for pouring perfume over His feet. For Mary has sat at the feet of Jesus and has learned from Jesus that the reason for His coming to earth is to be crucified. She knows the time of His death is near and has anointed Him for that moment.
These two stories of two different women pouring perfume over the feet of Jesus help us to see that Jesus cared deeply about both of them by receiving their ministry to Him.
One of the women, as we know, was considered a sinful woman. Yet, Jesus did not reject her. Instead, He accepted her and her ministry to Him as a way to express her love for Him. He knew she was repentant of her sinful lifestyle, so He forgave her of all her sins, and enabled her to begin a new life empowered by Him.
The other woman was Mary. She was a disciple of His and had great understanding of who He was and what He had come to earth for, because she had spent much time sitting at His feet. He received her ministry to Him because He knew by pouring perfume over His feet she was not only showing Him her love and devotion, she was, in fact, preparing Him for His death and burial.
Like these two women, Jesus welcomes your ministry of love and devotion to Him because you matter to Him as much as these two women did. Of course, you cannot physically pour perfume over the feet of Jesus as these two women did because Jesus is not physically with you. But you can show Him your love and devotion by giving Him your time, when you read the Word of God or pray, as well as when you share your faith with others, or when you serve Him in other ways that He has shown you. And you too will sense His love for you, and His approval of you, as these two women did.