There was an urgency in her step despite the heaviness of her heart. This would take all her courage, but her mind was set. She was very determined by nature – she would not have survived otherwise. Perhaps she had heard of Simon’s intention and it angered her, but it was mostly something much deeper and much more personal that compelled her to take from its special place at home the exquisite alabaster jar of expensive perfume. Who knows how she came by it. Needless to say, she had chosen the most precious thing she owned to say what she struggled to express with words – her repentance.
And here she was with it clutched tightly to her chest, making her way to Simon, the Pharisee’s house. If he or his servants got to her first she could expect nothing but violent ejection. Imagine: a woman of the night gate-crashing the dinner party of a highly respected religious leader!
He wasn’t a welcome guest. Yes, he had been invited, but not welcomed. He was there so his host could insult him, mock him. Simon was a Pharisee, full of himself and full of the lesson he wanted to teach this rebel about what he really was. So there was no warm kiss of greeting, no thoughtfully prepared water to wash the dust from weary feet, no courteous anointing of the head with olive oil. Just a metaphorical slap on the face. Such contempt!
In she slipped, silently, secretly – the intruder. Carefully, she edged her way through the mingling guests preparing to take their places at the low table. She arrived at Jesus’ feet and immediately he turned his head to look up into her eyes. A smile of tender encouragement. Then she realised! He had come to Simon’s house, despite insult, to meet her. He had watched her through the years of sordid living; he had felt her wretchedness; he understood the burden she carried. He had seen her pick up the precious jar; he knew she ached for forgiveness. The knowledge overwhelmed her. With uncontrollable ease, for the first time in years, the tears flowed and flowed as the weight of remorse brought her to her knees.
She leaned forward to wash his feet: priceless perfume for a priceless saviour; but it was the scolding tears of shame that first touched his skin. Tears, indeed, beyond price. Her hair tumbled forward and she used it to wipe the dampened dirt away. As she dried the travel scarred feet, she kissed them tenderly over and over, lovingly doing what Simon had no love in his heart to do.
She did love – and she worshipped. She spoke no words. But Jesus saw deep into her soul and forgave all the dirt that she couldn’t wipe from her own life. The intolerable burden of guilt, self-loathing and regret all washed away as he gave his forgiveness and peace – his exquisite perfume of forgiveness.
(See Luke 7, verses 36-50)