She was a woman of repute. Of ill repute. A woman “of the city” and evidently a woman known (in the biblical sense) by many in the city. That she crashed the dinner party at the Pharisee’s house was shocking. But that she had the means to purchase an alabaster flask of ointment wasn’t all that surprising. For they all knew that she had loved much.
She perhaps had originally purchased the jar of perfume as a carpenter might purchase a hammer or a saw. As a tool of the trade. An investment in her business. But she had purchased the mixture of aromatic spices with the wages of sin. For she had loved much.
So when she started to approach the banquet table there may have been a bit of a gasp in the room. As she seemed to move towards the Teacher in particular, it might have peaked some curiosity. How would an encounter between a holy Man of God and a sinner of the city play out?
She approached the Teacher as He reclined at the table. But then stopped at His feet. And what she did next, no one really expected. For she loved much.
. . . and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment.
(Luke 7:38 ESV)
And the Pharisee thought to himself, Scandalous! How inappropriate!
Not that a brazen sinner would approach the One who had claimed to be the Son of Man, for she had approached many men in her time. Not that she would waste such extravagant perfume, for she was likely regarded more for her beauty than her brain. But the Pharisee was incredulous because, he reasoned, “If this Man were a prophet, He would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” He was blind to the woman. Unable to see that she was loving much. Unable to fathom why.
And while the room fills with the aroma of perfume, as the woman continues to minister at His feet, Jesus addresses the Pharisee with a short parable. The story of two debtors who owed money to a moneylender. One owed 50 days wages. The other needing to turn over his daily pay for the next 17 months in order to settle accounts. But both were forgiven, in full, their debt by their creditor. “Now which of them,” asked Jesus, “will love him more?”
The Pharisee reclined with Jesus in order to test Jesus. The woman wept at His feet, and washed them with costly perfume, because Jesus had tested her. By His grace, through His Spirit, He had shown her her sin. Had revealed to her her need. Had shown an unconditional, redeeming love to her in a way that no one had ever before. For He was ready to love her unto death, “even death on a cross” (Php. 2:8). Forgiving her sins. Cleansing her soul. Raising her in newness of life. Loving her much.
And in return, she loved much.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven — for she loved much.
(Luke 7:47 ESV)
The woman of the city was not forgiven because she loved much, but that she loved much was the result of her forgiveness. Her humiliation at His feet, and the extravagance of her offering, wasn’t what purchased her redemption, for only the shed blood of the Savior could do that. But her tears, her humble act of foot washing, the extravagance with which she poured out her perfume, were a response of unbridled worship and thanksgiving. Having been forgiven much, she loved much.
Knowing the debt I have been forgiven, might I ever love much, as well.
Because of God’s grace. Only for God’s glory.