Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Woman Who Risked Everything

She crept into the dining room, hoping to be invisible, trying not to let anyone see her but the one she had come to see. Looking around, the young woman found the one she sought. It wasn't Simon the Pharisee, dressed in religious finery and obviously the host. Her tired eyes found the
teacher Jesus, who had turned religion on its ear by preaching a God who sent mercy for his people. He was reclining, calmly and with a warm smile for the other men around the table, on the far side of the room next to Simon. Trembling, she stepped carefully between the feet of the other diners, as they all pulled away from her, and knelt at the feet of Jesus.

He was her last hope. Her sins had caused scandal in her family and friends, and given her a scarlet reputation in the village. She hid from the religious people in town, fearing they would decide to stone her. Even the merchants didn't want to sell her food openly. Now she was approaching this rabbi, hoping that what she'd heard was true, that he would offer her some way to regain her dignity and feel alive again.

He was her last hope. As she knelt over Jesus' feet, sobbing, her tears flowed in streams down her cheeks and slowly washed away the dust. She kissed his feet and clung to them desperately, hoping and praying he would not thrust her away like any Pharisee would have. Rubbing his feet with her hair to dry them, she took an expensive flask of rare ointment and poured it over his feet, rubbing it in with her hair. The room was filled with the rich fragrance of her devotion.

He was her last hope. She had heard that Jesus talked about forgiveness. Not the kind you had to pay for with sacrifices in Jerusalem,or alms for the poor that would grant her favor with the Almighty, the God of Israel -- real forgiveness, just for the asking. But she was filled with fear. She couldn't look up to meet his gaze. If Jesus scorned her approach, her life was no longer worth living.

The teacher Jesus spoke, addressing his words not to her but to Simon. He told a brief story in the style of the day, an everyday story that made a point about debt and forgiveness and love. Simon had to admit that one who was forgiven much, would love much. Jesus then indicated her. "Do you see this woman? She has washed my feet with her tears and anointed my feet with ointment. Her faith in my Father is great, and her love for my Father and now for me is great."

Then he turned to her, and with one hand lifted her chin so he could look into her eyes. "Woman, your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Now you can live your life in peace." Once more her tears flowed in earnest as she realized he had spoken the words she so longed to hear. The bitter knots melted away from her stomach and she stood up in joy! As she left the room, she was standing upright and looking into the faces of the astonished guests, and past them to the women of the house, all looking on in wonder. She laughed with mirth for the first time in many years. She was finally free!  She danced all the way home to begin her new life of joy and thankfulness, and love. She had risked everything, and won!  (See Luke 7:36-50).

This woman's story is yours, and mine, and the story of everyone we know. You and I, too, are forgiven by Jesus (2 Cor 5:19, 1 Tim. 1:15, 1 John 2:2) even before we asked (Romans 5:6-10). Can you encourage someone today by telling them their sins are forgiven and that they can have peace?

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