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At the Feet of Jesus

There is a passage in Luke that highlights the actions of an unnamed woman. Actions that point to a heart of true repentance and faith. This short story is found in Luke 7:36-50. 

If you are not familiar with the story, it begins with Jesus being invited to the house of Simon the Pharisee. A God follower, a rule follower, a man very aware of the necessity of the need for repentance, but whose heart, perhaps, was more focused on never needing repentance in the first place. After all, he was not a ‘sinner’. As a Pharisee, he was known for following the letter of the law. And because of that he “rejected the plan of God” (verse 30) for himself. Some think that Simon was truly interested in what Jesus had to say.  Maybe. We are not told why he invited Jesus to dine at his house.   Jesus accepted the invitation. He went into Simon's house and reclined at the table. (In that time it was customary to recline, or sort of half-lay, at the table when eating and conversing). Here was another opportunity to teach the blind. 

And then it happened.

“... a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil.”

Simon thought to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him—she’s a sinner!” 

But Jesus, knowing Simon’s thoughts, began to address his heart issue with a story.

“Simon, I have something to say to you.” 


I wonder if Simon had a fleeting thought at that moment…wondering if Jesus had just heard his very thoughts? But he replied, “Teacher,” he said, “say it.” 

Jesus told this story: 

“A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denari and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” 

Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.”  Jesus replied, “You have judged correctly.”  

Then Simon basically got the dressing down of his life from Jesus. When I read this passage I hear Holy authority and a tone of righteous indignation in Jesus’ words. Can you hear it? 

Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she, with her tears has washed my feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet from the time since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil, but she has anointed my feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little. Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

If you are not familiar with the customs of this time, you might not get the whole picture. Most people wore sandals in Palestine or even went barefoot. So when a guest entered your house it was customary for them to leave their sandals at the door. You would greet your guest with a kiss, and offer water to your guests to wash their dusty feet when they entered your house. A towel to dry them. And oil to anoint his/her head.  This was often a service provided by the lowliest servant in the house. This service to the guest was not so dirt wouldn’t get tracked. There were no white carpets in the homes then. This was a refreshing way to begin your visit. 

Simon neglected to provide these basic common courtesies to Jesus as a guest in his home. Maybe this shows that Simon was questioning whether this Jesus was who He claimed to be. Maybe he didn’t want to be seen accepting Jesus as a truly welcomed guest in his home? Perhaps covering his butt…Ummm…I mean bases. After all, there was a growing antagonism toward Jesus from many of the Pharisees of the time.  Can’t be too careful. 

It is interesting to note that we don’t know if or how Simon finally responded to this dressing down he received from Jesus. Yet Jesus gives us a glimpse of both hearts, through their response and their interactions with Him.  

Simon did not provide…                        

  • The customary kiss

  • Water to wash Jesus’ feet

  • A towel to dry Jesus’ feet

  • Oil to anoint Jesus’ head

What a stark contrast we see with the ‘sinful woman’...

  • She kissed His feet continually 

  • She washed His feet with her tears

  • She dried His feet with her hair

  • She anointed His feet with oil

The focus so thoroughly shifts to the heart of each individual involved. In the end, Simon seems a bit clueless. There is no indication that He accepts Jesus as the long-anticipated Messiah at this time. How sad. 

But the woman who was a sinner? She knew it, she knew they knew it, and she knew she was in the presence of the One who had the power to forgive her sins…though they were many.  

I imagine that at some point previously she had heard Jesus teach. Watched His miracles. She knew at her very core that this was the One her soul desired. She watched Him as He graciously welcomed sinners into His fold. And she was a sinner in need of forgiveness. 

Her response was a broken and contrite spirit. In his book How To Pray When You don’t Know What to Say, Elmer Towns writes, “... we must have a weeping heart before God. If our eyes are always dry, it means that our soul is also probably dry. And a dry heart eventually becomes a hardened heart.”  Her tears were the very avenue to a softened heart before God. Those tears were not the result of a repentant heart…no, they were thesign of a repentant heart. These were the actions of a woman who fully realized her forgiveness. She loved Jesus so much because she had been forgiven much! 

How do I know this? Because Jesus’ response to her was this, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”   Go in peace. In the original greek this actually says, “Go into peace.”  This would be her new existence. 

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison andmount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 4:6-8, AMPC  

Her heart and mind remained focused on the feet of Jesus. Seven times His feet are mentioned in this passage in Luke. Seven. This number signifies completion, or divine fulfillment. Wow! I’m not even sure of all the implications of this little nugget of information. But I know that when we fall at His feet in worship, we have positioned ourselves to receive forgiveness. We have positioned ourselves before Almighty God, the lifter of our head…the One who restores us. There is no room for pride at the feet of Jesus. We are at His feet to learn from Him…about Him…and about ourselves in relation to Him.  And we have positioned ourselves to participate in the celebration of eternal life received through the good news of Jesus Christ. 

We are most complete when we have positioned ourselves at the feet of Jesus. 

So where are you friend? Who do you relate to in this story? One who has sinned much? Or one who has spent the majority of life striving for sinlessness, yet missing the mark? 

Repent then, and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped away, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…

Acts 3:19.

Lord, make us women who are not afraid to fall at your feet. May our tears break down the wall of pride in our hearts so that we can clearly see the sins that are present in our life.  Soften our hearts so that You can use us to reach out to others with open arms and open hearts. May they see the love of Christ in our words, and in our actions. Lord help us to weep tears of accept your that times of refreshing may come. ~ Amen


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