Click here to listen to a beautifully-written song by Rend Collective that is based on the passage that is being referenced to here.
A prostitute learns that Jesus is in town. She comes to the house of one of the Pharisees, where Jesus has been invited to dinner, interrupts the conversation, and begins to wet His feet with her tears. She then wipes the feet with her hair, kisses them and pours the most expensive of perfume over them.
What a scent. Yes, the perfume, but more so the offering of extravagant and broken love and worship.
This woman was in debt to her sin and broken past, yet she caught ear of the rumour that there was a man who would not condemn nor dismiss, but instead love. The words, stories and testimonies she was hearing from other people – seeing with her own eyes even – were beginning to quench her most deepest of needs. Acceptance, forgiveness, a new beginning; someone who could settle the escalating debt that engulfed her.
She saw and heard the impact this man was having on them; she could now see with longing hope and expectation that this man could have a similar impact on her.
In a courageous and dangerous leap of faith, she risks being called a fool for her extravagance and judged because of her past.
Not by Jesus.
Never by Jesus.
Warmly received, embraced and forgiven, she is instructed to live in the peace that only Jesus can give. This woman heard and saw the stories of many and ended up writing one of her own, the legacy of which still inspires and comforts many more today.
There are so many stories about Jesus that are written, spoken and witnessed – be they 2000(ish) years ago during the days when Jesus walked amongst us, or today as people seek to walk their own journey of faith. What I admire so much about the story of this woman is that she used the stories of others to inspire her own. There is nothing to suggest that the excitement of these stories made her feel any less worthy of writing her own. Indeed, the very opposite happened – the excitement of what was being written around her made her see that she was just as worthy to write her own. The detail may have differed in places, but its power and beauty would be no less significant.
The stories of Jesus that resonate most with me are those which remind me that this man welcomes and embraces us all. They are the ones that sometimes feel like they are too good to be true. They paint a picture of Jesus being compassionate, gracious, hospitable, loving and redeeming to us all, despite the debt we find ourselves engulfed in. They make me want to talk and share with Him my whole life – the good bits, as well as the broken and fragmented bits where words pave way to tears.
Much like this lady with the alabaster jar.
The barrier I sometimes hit, however, is wondering if a similar story can be true for me. I see the stories written by others, yet sometimes doubt whether Jesus has the desire, the love even, to be the central figure of my own. As a result, fear of failure and disappointment often stops me from interrupting the dinner party and extravagantly pouring perfume over the feet of Jesus. I am worried I’ll look like a fool, judged for my weaknesses and rejected by Jesus. I am worried that the stories of Jesus, for me at least, really are too good to be true.
Faith requires us to take a leap beyond the doubts and fears that all too often restrain us. This story gives me the renewed courage to take that leap and let the stories of others inspire me. I must rejoice with them, encourage them to keep writing and even help and support them along the way. And alongside this, I must see that the man who shines so brightly through such stories also calls me by name, willing and longing to walk with me and help write my own. It’s a story with undeserved grace at its centre; Jesus reaching into the brokenness of my own life, taking on the debt that weighs me down and leading me on a journey of hope, redemption, peace. Each chapter drawing me closer to Him.
Whatever my own story will entail – no matter how many ups and down, and no matter how long or short – the legacy of this beautiful woman reminds me to embrace it and courageously believe that Jesus really is good to me as well.
“Great faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at his word and taking the next step” – Joni Eareckson Tada