The Forgiven Woman: An Outpouring of Grace

Luke 7:36-50

Suppose we crash a party—circa a.d. 30—when Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner, knowing his guest of honor would draw a crowd.

Women weren't permitted to serve or consume the feast while men reclined at the table. The poor were allowed to hang around the periphery, collecting food scraps that fell to the floor.

Among the less fortunate was "a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town" (Luke 7:37). Since her name and specific sin aren't mentioned—prostitution, scholars say—we can pencil in our names and sins as we watch this scene unfold.

Undone and Unbound

Knowing Jesus would be there, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume. Perfume being expensive, her jar would have been small and easily hidden.

Did she mean to anoint the Lord's head, as had Mary of Bethany (Mark 14:3), who was chastised by the disciples for wasting what might have been sold? Or did this unnamed woman plan to donate her alabaster jar and its contents to support Jesus' ministry financially, as Mary Magdalene had done (Luke 8:2-3)?

Whatever her intent, she drew near to him. Then, undone in his holy presence, she wet his feet with her tears. Sorrow for her sins flowed from her heart. Gratitude for his acceptance poured from her eyes.

So brave, this woman, standing in a crowded room of men—former customers, some of them—silently confessing her sins. Watching her, I, too, feel the sting of tears. Could I stand before a group of men who "knew me when" and make such a painful admission?

Having soaked Jesus' feet, she knelt and wiped them with her hair. She was embarrassed, perhaps. Or simply wanted to serve him. Unbound tresses were a serious breach of social custom, but our sister didn't care; Jesus was her sole concern.

Observing her extravagant display, I'm ashamed of the times I've restrained myself during worship—should I lift my hands? sing with abandon? kneel for prayer?—too concerned with others' opinions and not focused enough on my Savior.

Scandalous Devotion

What this courageous woman did next was shocking. She kissed Jesus' feet. A scandalous act. But glorious.

Again, I'm cut to the quick. In 24 years of knowing the Lord, have I done one risky thing to express my love for him? Knocked on a stranger's door to share the gospel? Served food at a rescue mission?

Forgive me, Lord. For holding back. For giving you anything less than everything.

This woman withheld nothing: Opening her jar, she anointed Jesus' feet with her costly perfume. The scent that marked her as a prostitute—paid for by the many men who'd used her—was now poured out as a love offering for the one man who respected her.

Pointing to her humble example to teach his host a lesson, Jesus assured Simon, "her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much" (Luke 7:47).

Her devotion wasn't stated, it was demonstrated. In turn, the Lord poured out grace as fragrant as any perfume. The scent still lingers whenever a woman falls at his feet, confesses her sins, expresses her love, and receives his mercy.

Even today, beloved. Even now.

Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of 24 books, including Embrace Grace: Welcome to the Forgiven Life (WaterBrook). She lives with her husband and their two teenagers in Kentucky. Visit her website: www.LizCurtisHiggs.com.

Digging Deeper

1. Worship can be expressed in many ways. What examples do these verses from Psalms offer: 95:6; 150:3-5? How might you "let down your hair" in worship?

2. Like this woman, we can know our sins are forgiven. How do the following verses assure you of God's grace: Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:7-8; 1 John 2:12?

3. The last verse of this story—Luke 7:50—serves as a benediction. What is the role of faith in our salvation? How might Ephesians 2:8-9 help answer that important question?


Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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