Thoughts on Luke 7:36-50.
Now, when you read this story, there will be no word "prostitute" found. So, how did I come to call her a prostitute? One main reason...she has a reputation. She was known as a sinner. Simon the Pharisee knew her reputation as a sinner (v. 39). The author knew her as one who lived a sinful life (v. 37). One secondary reason, found in a commentary that I cannot now recall, is that her hair is unbound (thus the wiping of Jesus' feet). This, it was written, was a sign of the kind of person she was.
What I must first admit is that I cannot dogmatically say that she was a prostitute. It just seems that a woman who is known as a sinner, especially among Pharisees, must have done something that is obvious, public, and heinous. Second, prostitution is not the only sin whose repentance would be so beautiful. This story would be just as powerful with a murderer, a child molester, or a thief...or a gossip, a religious hypocrite, a backbiter, or a tax evader. In fact, just fill in the blank with your great weakness...that chink in your spiritual armor...that place where the enemy knows he can attack. She was at His feet, and she was a sinner...specifically, she was a ____________. See, it's still a beautiful story.
The love this woman displays is wonderful. It's emotional, humble, and sacrificial. Emotional: she's a wreck...can't hold it together. She's crying rivers of tears, so much so that she feels bad that her Savior's feet are getting wet. So, she bows to wipe them off. The hair that had attracted customers was now a tool of worship before the Savior. Humble: She's at His feet...kissing His feet, wiping His feet, anointing His feet. She is down, and down is where she ought to be. Not only because of who she is (and who we are), but because of who He is. Down at the feet is a humble place...it's the place of a cheating spouse who's begging for forgiveness. It's the place of a respectful servant in the presence of a king...or in this case, a King. Sacrificial: The perfume she uses is worth about a year's salary in that day. As she poured out a year's salary on Jesus' feet, it's as if she is pouring herself out at His feet. Have we poured ourselves out that way? Could anyone say that we are sacrificing for the sake of Christ?
With all this in mind, I can't help but wondering something. How had this prostitute come to experience the forgiveness of Jesus? She obviously had done so because Jesus explains her actions by saying that she has been forgiven much. Again, nothing dogmatic here, but when I let my imagination wander, any number of possibilities come to mind.
1. Maybe she was an escort on the arm of a well-to-do tax collector who had been sitting around the table when Matthew invited all his friends over for dinner. There at dinner, she saw in Jesus' eyes something she had never seen in a man's eyes before...compassion, tenderness, mercy. He spoke at the dinner table of God's free offer of forgiveness, and in that moment, the candlelight reflected off something in her eyes...tears. Pain over sin and joy over forgiveness rushed over her soul, and she was set free from her sin.
2. Maybe she had just quietly slipped out of a client's home and began down the street when she saw a crowd began to gather. A prophet from Galilee was going to speak. He said many words that were like arrows to her heart that day. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." A life that satisfies? Is that really possible? "Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Poor in spirit is right...there is no more lowly creature in this town than me, she would have thought. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." No thoughts...only tears. The comfort of God's forgiveness overcame her that day.
3. Or maybe she was around when the widow whose son had died was being carried through the streets (earlier in Luke 7). Jesus saw the pain in the widow's eyes and called out to the boy as if he were sleeping. "It's time to get up, son." And the boy got up. This Jesus had raised the dead. Suddenly, it hit her. She was dead inside...a life of selling her body and soul to every man that offered had killed all that was in her. A life of ignoring God left her dead. But this Jesus...if He could raise this dead boy, maybe he could raise my dead...soul. The tears flowed freely as she watched his every move. She watched him talk to John's disciples, and then she watched as he went into Simon's house. She knew Simon, and she had been berated by him a time or two...but she knew Jesus was in there. So, she grabbed last month's earnings, an alabaster jar of perfume, and went in...tear-stained face, shoulders slumped in humiliation, to love her Savior.
Whatever the case was, she had been radically and drastically affected by the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. It wasn't a buzz word to her...it wasn't a Sunday School answer...it wasn't a slogan for her next t-shirt. It was her reality, and in that reality, she fell at Jesus' feet.
Are we this motivated by the forgiveness we enjoy in Christ, as this prostitute did? If not, let us remember that we are the prostitute. We may often feel well-to-do like the Pharisees, but we are the prostitute, and we have been forgiven much. It would do us well, at times, to remember the depth from which we have been rescued. Paul told the Corinthians to do it...do you remember what you were when Christ found you? You had prostituted yourself to the God of me, selling your soul to materialism and greed and lust and hate and slander and gossip and lying...lovers of self and not lovers of God, lying in the ditch of spiritual condemnation, face down in a pool of your own sin. That's where you were when the Lord's gracious hand swooped down and rescued you.
Don't you ever forget it...you were a prostitute, and now you're a child of God because of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. And don't go thinking you're forgiven because you've preached all these sermons and led Bible studies and written a theology-laden blog and avoided looking bad in the eyes of others. You are who you are by the grace of God, and don't you dare forget it.
It is only the full knowledge of this kind of forgiveness that leads to the love this woman shows Jesus. Now that you've seen her...imagine a church full of prostitutes with such passion for Christ. This is who we ought to be...we are to be motivated by the forgiveness of God in Christ so that we are passionate prostitutes praising our great Savior.