Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Alabaster Box

37And behold, a woman in the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
 38and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and began to wash His feet with tears and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment.

I have heard this story told probably hundreds of times and each time I missed a key element. I had always assumed that the woman bowed down in front of Jesus and anointed His feet but that is not what the Scripture in Luke 7 says. It says she stood behind Him. Each painting or picture that I have seen this story depicted in shows the woman bowing in front of Jesus too, never behind. I think where she stood is significant. It shows her humility and her feeling of unworthiness to be in the presence of One so holy, so perfect when she knew she was not.

Even Jesus says later in verse 47 that the woman had many sins. Yet He forgave her of those sins. Why? Was it because she gave Him a gift by anointing Him with extremely expensive oil? No. Jesus tells us why this woman's sins were forgiven: it was because of her faith.(V.50) This woman knew she was unholy. She knew she needed a Saviour. She needed forgiveness so she went to the only One who could forgive her of her sins and take away the shame that she bore.

We don't know anything about this woman other than this story. We don't know what sins she had committed; we know nothing of her past. But does it really matter? Sin is sin. All sin separates us from God so it is all bad. With sin comes shame. It says that this woman stood behind Jesus weeping. She was overcome with her failures and her sins. She was carrying a burden that was too heavy but she knew that the answer to all her problems was to be found at the feet of Jesus, so she went to Him. She didn't have to say a word, He knew. She didn't have to list her sins to Him, He knew all of them. 

It was her simple act of faith that  showed all those present, at the house of the Pharisee, that she believed Jesus could forgive her of her sins. She knew who He was even though they didn't. She knew He was God in the flesh and He could save her from her sins, from her past. 

Jesus tells her in verse 50 to 'go in peace'. He could have said a lot of things but He chose to say 'go in peace' and I believe that is because when we are in sin we have so much turmoil in our lives that we can't find peace. When we are not following God's ways but are instead choosing to go our own way, we find obstacles in our path, we find problems. 

This woman had the pain and strife that comes from a life of sin. She couldn't find release. She couldn't find peace but in one act of love Jesus forgave her and gave her a new lease on life. She had a new beginning; a fresh start. I wish we knew the rest of the story. What did this woman go on to do? What happened to her? I guess we don't know because the most significant part of her life is was when she had an encounter with Jesus. That is the most important event in all of our lives. When we recognize our need of a Saviour and come to the feet of Jesus, our lives truly begin. 

44And He turned to the woman and said unto Simon, "Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house: Thou gavest Me no water for My feet, but she hath washed My feet with tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.
 45Thou gavest Me no kiss, but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet.

 46My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment.

 47Therefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."

 48And He said unto her, "Thy sins are forgiven."

 49And those who sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, "Who is this that forgiveth sins also?"

 50And He said to the woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee. Go in peace."

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