Requirements For Faith 2 - The Sinful Woman
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Chan Gin Kai
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:36-39)
While Jesus was having dinner with a Pharisee named Simon, a woman “who lived a sinful life” approached him. Now everyone has sinned, so she must have been notorious for Luke to describe her that way. Most people believe she must have been a prostitute.
Some believe the sinful woman to be Mary Magdalene though there is no evidence of this, and this is also a separate incident from that of Mary of Bethany (John 12:3). But regardless of who this woman was, she showed great faith and that saved her.
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)
A Courageous Heart
It would have taken incredible courage for a ‘notorious sinner’ to enter the house of a self-righteous Pharisee uninvited. The eyes that would be on her, as she walked in, head bowed, hoping not to be recognised. The judgmental thoughts when they see who she was and know what she’d done. Would they berate her? Would they throw her out? The shame and fear must have been overwhelming, but she faced them as she was determined to get to Jesus.
It takes courage to have faith, to put our confidence in what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). We’ve got to face our sinful past, and not run away. If our own doubts and shame do not get to us, outside factors might. We’ll be laughed at for our belief, persecuted for doing what’s right.
A courageous heart is required for faith that withstands opposition.
A Broken Heart
It was a touching scene, and really heartbreaking. She wept inconsolably as she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. All her years of regret and shame, all her pain from physical and verbal abuse overwhelmed her in a flood of emotions. She humbly wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair and kissed his feet before pouring perfume on them. She was truly and totally broken.
Jesus pointed out the contrast to Simon the Pharisee.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. (Luke 7:44-46)
Jesus was denied the common courtesies that a host would provide a guest in their culture – washing the feet, a greeting kiss, and anointing the head with oil. Simon didn’t do what he was supposed to, but the woman did what she wasn't expected to, at an even humbler level. She used tears instead of water, her hair instead of a towel. She kissed the feet instead of the cheek, and poured perfume on the feet instead of the head. Her brokenness compelled her into action that was not asked of her.
A broken heart is required for faith to take action.
A Grateful Heart
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:41-43)
Jesus told a parable to explain the difference between the woman and the Pharisee. In essence, the one who is forgiven more is more grateful, and consequently loves more. This is common sense of course, but as we all know well, common sense is not common.
Those who are forgiven more will be more grateful. Does it mean then that we would all need to have led very sinful lives before we can show more gratitude? The answer is, NO. We have all sinned, and the smallest of our sins is deserving of hell. We may think our sins are small, but in the eyes of our Perfect God, they are terrible.
We need to compare our sins to our blameless Jesus, instead of the rapists, murderers and dictators we read about in the newspapers. We must not look at our promiscuous friends, lazy colleagues, or quarrelling neighbours and get proud of ourselves. Jesus is our example.
When we see the real magnitude of our sins and realise how much we have hurt God, we will understand how much we have been forgiven. Our gratitude will grow, and along with that, our love.
A grateful heart is required for faith that reciprocates love.
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".