Thursday, November 14, 2013
Who Was the Sinful Woman ?
Peter Paul RUBENS; c. 1618; oil on canvas; the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
In Luke 7 we have the following story.
Jesus was invited to the house of Simon, a Pharisee. He accepted the invitation and the story begins with Jesus reclining around the table with the other guests.
His feet would have been tucked up behind him, as He sat facing the table.
A woman slipped into the room .. She was immediately noticed.
First, because she was a woman coming into a room where only men were welcome.
Second, she was known in the city as a sinful woman.
Being known as a sinful woman in those days would most probably have meant that she was a prostitute.
All eyes are on Jesus to see what He would do, especially when the woman let down her hair (uncovered it) - a very immoral thing to do in the company of men!
Jesus continued the conversation as if He was oblivious to the woman kneeling behind Him.
She was weeping, washing His feet with her tears, anointing them with fragrant oil and drying them with her hair.
The men were aghast that Jesus allowed the woman to touch Him. They tried to make allowances for Him, judging Him even as they did so. They thought, He can't be a prophet or He would know that this woman is a sinner.
Jesus, knowing their thoughts, answered them with an accusation of His own ... "When I came into your house, Simon, you did not show me the courtesy of washing my feet, or greeting me with a kiss or anointing my head with oil... but this woman has not stopped washing my feet with her tears, and kissing them ... She is a woman of many sins, but they are forgiven her ! and the one who has had much forgiven, loves much !"
Turning to the woman He spoke healing to her grieving soul ... "Your sins are forgiven you. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!"
Who is this sinful woman ? Can we possibly know ? Many say no .. some suggest she is Mary Magdaline but few offer any support or reason for their opinions.
I believe we are told who this woman is.
Look at John 11:1,2 Here John is telling the story about Lazarus, when he became sick. He identifies him by the town he lives in, which is Bethany, and his two sisters Mary and Martha.
Then, he further identifies Mary. He says that she is the one who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair.
Many say that John is referring to the time Mary anointed Jesus for His burial, but at this point that was still in the future. John is telling the story of Jesus in a chronological order of events, and it does not make sense that he would identify someone by an event that has not yet happened ! It only makes sense if he was referring to the past event in Simon, the Pharisee's house.
If it was indeed Mary of Bethany, who was the sinful woman, she takes on a whole new depth of character. We now understand why we continually see her at Jesus' feet ! "She who was forgiven much, loved much!"
We see Mary, like Mary Magdalene - two women freed from their past by Jesus.
We know Mary Magdalene's past only by the supplied detail in identification -- "out of whom went 7 devils" And Mary of Bethany is not named in the story of her first encounter with Jesus... only linked back by an identifying mention.
When we are forgiven, our past is gone ! Jesus sees only what we become in Him ! Our testimony begins the day we are forgiven of our past !
Isn't that the most freeing thing ? To not only be forgiven , but that we are no longer measured or limited by our past ? We have truly become new creatures... all things have become new !
It is interesting that every time we see Mary she is at Jesus' feet.
1. When she was at His feet in repentance for her sins.
2. When she was at His feet in sorrow.
3. When she was at His feet learning.
4. When she was at His feet in service - anointing Him for burial.
Mary gives us cause to reflect in light of the example she is to us.
Do we come to Jesus - knowing that salvation and forgiveness is ONLY in Him ?
When life becomes brutal, when bad things happen, when we are broadsided by grief or tragedy do we run, throwing ourselves at His feet for comfort ? or do we blame Him, turning away from the God we so desperately need ?
Do we seek truth at Jesus' feet ? or do we listen to the voices of this world that are so eager to give us advice?
When we do our acts of service... are our eyes on Jesus? Is our motive only to serve HIM .. or do we seek self-gratification, reward, praise of men?
Mary is also an example to us in another way.
Three times she was accused , three times she humbly remains silent, three times Jesus Himself defends her!
1. When Simon and his friends accuse her of being a sinful woman -- Jesus words are ... "She did what you did not... her sins are forgiven .. she loves much!"
2. Martha accused her of not doing her duty ... Jesus defends her saying that she has chosen the best part, sitting at His feet!
3. Judas accuses her of wasting money , of misusing her resources. Jesus tells them to leave Mary alone, she has done a good thing !
So often we look at Mary only as one of two sisters. We can hardly speak of Mary without completing the duo , Mary and Martha.
But I think looking at Mary on her own gives us much to think about, and find that she is someone who is a wonderful example as a life given in love and dedication to Jesus alone !