86. Prophet

The account of Jesus at Simon’s house is one of the most intimate and moving stories about Jesus. A woman, who literally falls at the mercy of Jesus, finds the mercy and love for which she longs.

Luke 7:36-39

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

Reflect

Jesus had gone to dinner with a Pharisee called Simon. Clearly, at the beginning, Simon was open to this rabbi called Jesus, and recognised that Jesus was a prophet. He was expectant about hearing what Jesus had to say, and I dare say he was excited about the prospect of hearing from a real, live prophet. But things didn’t go as Simon hoped. A woman came in off the street – clearly recognised by Simon as a sinner – and this woman did the most extraordinary thing. She let down her hair (something you didn’t do in front of a bloke in public) and started to touch Jesus quite intimately. She washed his feet with her tears, wiped them away with her hair, kissed them, and then finally scented them with perfume – all things you didn’t do to a bloke in public or private (unless it was your husband). And all this time, Jesus didn’t say anything! Simon’s eyes must’ve been popping out of his head. But more than that, he must’ve been crushed, because this guy Jesus clearly didn’t know how inappropriate her actions were. Therefore this guy called Jesus couldn’t have been a prophet after all.

But this woman’s response was the most wonderful reaction by someone coming face-to-face with Jesus. Clearly, she knew what she was going to do. She’d planned to anoint Jesus’ feet with the perfume. We know this as she’d brought the jar of perfume with her. Anointing someone with perfume in this way was a powerful symbol that you recognised their importance. However, when she got there, she was so overwhelmed that all she could do was kneel at his feet and cry – the emotion pouring out of her. Seeing her tears on his feet, all she could think of was to gently wipe them away with her hair. Only then was she composed enough to open her alabaster jar of perfume and anoint the feet of Jesus.

Through this woman, and in Simon, we come across two people and two starkly contrasting reactions to Jesus – one public, emotional and intimate, the other private, intellectual, and distanced. When we approach Jesus, do we intellectualise it? Do we say, “God, if you knew who approached you, you wouldn’t give me a second thought,” or do we fall on our knees, weep, and pour ourselves out at the feet of God?

Do

Today, why not do something radical? Find a quiet spot, get on your knees and don’t say anything. Just ‘be’, in the presence of God.

Pray

Holy God
Forgive me when my response to you
is cold, indifferent, or unemotional.
Let it sink in who you really are,
what you have done for me,
and what you think of me.
I kneel before you, a sinner,
knowing that I owe you everything.
This day and for ever.
Amen.

Think

Why do you think the woman just went for it, without asking the permission of Simon or Jesus?