Anglican Morning Devotion, 30 October 2021 Anno Domini
A ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion of Churches Worldwide
“And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew 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 did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” (LUKE 7:36-39; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
In the above text, we have revealed a contrast of two different dispositions – the first of a poor sinner, and the second of a proud Pharisee. Which of the two do you feel appeals most to the heart of our Lord? Which of the two pulls more strongly on your own heart strings? If you answered the poor sinner, you are in the right heart to understand this devotion.
One’s personal space is not so much observed in the eastern lands as in the western countries. It is not unusual to be sitting by the walled garden and have visitors, sometimes total strangers, walk in and begin a conversation. It is likely that a man of the position of Pharisee (a prominent clergy of the day), however, would seldom entertain a guest such as the woman of ill repute who entered his home to attend to her most blessed friend and savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. She came not in pride, but in humble contrition.
The penitent woman wandered in from the street to anoint the Lord near the beginning of His ministry just as the beloved Mary of Bethany did within days of His crucifixion to anoint Him for His burial.
The woman who came to Jesus that day did not come without forethought or with brash presumption. She was compelled to come and perform this service to the Lord out of a deep love and gratitude to Him as Lord to one for whom the world had little regard except for rejection and indignation. Like the woman at the well, she had no man to care for her though she knew many men who had used her. In those days, an unmarried woman had little means of providing for her needs. As a result, some turned to prostitution. But Jesus was One for whom she could demonstrate the most endearing love without shame or condemnation.
The woman came with an expensive alabaster box of ointment and with an abundance of tears of even greater value. She had shed many tears over her sad and despairing life. Like many women of the Hellenistic period which was fashionable in Israel of the day, she may have kept her tears in a tear bottle which would be buried with her at death. It is noteworthy that her tears were sufficiently abundant to wash the feet of the Lord. Giving her tears to Christ released her of the burden of which the tears were evidence. She anointed His feet and not His head unlike Mary of Bethany who anointed His head as well for a final seal of His Lordship at the end of His ministry. The penitent woman anointed, instead, the feet of Jesus for His ongoing ministry. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” Isaiah 52:7
The proud Pharisee observed this seeming spectacle in silent thought. He viewed such allowance by the Lord as to allow such a sinner to even touch Him was proof that He was no prophet. But Jesus, who knows the heart of man better than man himself knows it, read His thoughts as clearly as the words of this devotion. Jesus addresses the Pharisee: “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?” (Matthew 7:40-42) Of course, the Pharisee could see the picture drawn in the parable by the Lord. He supposed the one of whom much was forgiven would love more. He used a politically correct response as a partial shield of his own ingratitude. Then our Lord brought to the surface the reality of this precious woman who loved Him so as to serve Him in such a humble manner:
“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 hairs 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. 47 Wherefore 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.” (Matthew 7:44-48)
Our Lord knows the end from the beginning of our lives and its story. Like the author of Amazing Grace (John Newton) who was a drunk and a dealer of slaves, and ended as a dedicated minister to his Lord, He sees us for what we shall become under His Lordship and not the depravity in which we had previously existed in our lost state.
Another important lesson we learn in this account is to judge by the heart and not the outward appearance as Jesus counseled. There is no division between the lost sinner and the saved saint that cannot be resolved by one word – GRACE! As one highly esteemed minister of the 16th century said about the lost sinner, “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.”