The anointing of Jesus by the sinful woman is a real, uncomfortable, beautiful, messy, meaningful, awkward, and heartfelt exchange of love in a much grander love story.
I’m a sucker for a good love story. Movie or book, corny or serious, love stories captivate me. Gifted authors and directors make the individuals in the audience experience the emotions of the story as if they were actually a part of it. These love stories can make audience members feel joy, and these stories tend to make them think of special relationships that they have in their own lives. Spouses, family members, or close friends may come to mind when a person experiences a particularly compelling love story.
As good as some of these stories often are, these Hollywood films and best-selling novels usually aren’t true. But there is a different kind of story, a true story, that captivates me in an even greater way. The anointing of Jesus by the sinful woman is a real, uncomfortable, beautiful, messy, meaningful, awkward, and heartfelt exchange of love in a much grander love story.
The people in this woman’s daily life deemed her sinful, and they looked down on her because of it. As a woman and a “sinner,” she didn’t receive love or respect from her people. Those considered to be the “best” in her Jewish culture (the religious leaders) shunned her. Inwardly, she was broken. Despite the fact that she would not have been welcome because of her undesirable status, the woman made her way to a banquet at the home of Simon (a Pharisee). Many scholars argue that this woman was Mary Magdalene, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. If so, she would have known Jesus’ teachings and would have even witnessed as Jesus miraculously raised her brother Lazarus from the dead.
Because of the time she spent with Jesus, she believed that he was the one to give her the much-needed love, forgiveness, and restoration that she sought. And she wanted to give everything to Jesus. As she stood behind him, she started to weep. She then began to clean Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. She then took an extremely expensive perfume (worth one year’s wages!) and poured it on Jesus’ feet. The woman wanted Jesus to know about her abundant love for him.
About a week later, Jesus would live out the greatest love story of all time. In his greatest act of love, he died on the cross for the woman that everyone else had rejected. In his greatest act of love, he died on the cross for the very people who put him on the cross. In his greatest act of love, Jesus died for you and me. Today, we won’t respond to Jesus’ love for us by wetting his feet with our tears. We won’t respond by cleaning his feet with our hair. We won’t respond by anointing him with expensive perfume. But we can respond to Jesus in a meaningful way. How will we respond to Jesus? How will we respond to the greatest love story ever told? How will we respond to Jesus’ greatest act of love? The “sinful” woman responded to Jesus’ love by sacrificing one of her most prized possessions and whatever dignity she had left. How will you respond?