Jesus was a mould-breaker. He acted in a way that risked his public reputation; he built up a notoriety for being around the ‘wrong’ sort of people; he allowed people to get close to him who had no rights to be associated with a rabbi of any description – let alone someone who claimed to be so much more; he raised up into leadership those whom society rejected and considered least: not least, women!
This isn’t about women: this is about a God who raises up society’s rejects. He goes out of his way to transform the broken, marginalised, discarded, apparently useless, worthless members of our society and turns social mores upside down in the process. Beginning with what you see. The Pharisee could only see the woman defined by her situation, her past and her history. Jesus sees her courage and boldness in stepping into a place from which she should be excluded. She risks violence and deportation from the Pharisee’s house. Jesus sees her potential; her future; her faith.
The woman worships, drawing near to kiss the Son sacrificing her everything: the alabaster jar of perfume potentially represents her life savings. She hits the: ‘close account’ button and withdraws it all. It was all a robust expression of her love. She was notorious in the town for her way of life and about to become notorious for her reckless shows of love for Jesus. Surely, an altogether different and better notoriety?
Jesus breaks the silence; capturing the thoughts that were secretly harboured. He tells a simple story. Her story. The anonymity of the woman allows us to enter into the story for ourselves. He tells your story and mine. We’re the ones who are forgiven. We’re the ones who are invited to draw near and move towards the God who gave himself for us. We are the ones invited to move towards to kiss. Because we are the ones who have been forgiven much. The one who has been forgiven much, loves much. Jesus really does have authority to forgive us all that is past. It’s the reason He came. The reason He lived. The reason He died. This is, by the way, another example of Jesus claiming to be God by virtue of playing the ‘authority to forgive sins’ card, which the Pharisees pick up on in verse 49.
There are other women. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, who appears to be at the other end of the social scale, Susanna and many others giving financial support. Jesus transformed cultural expectations of the role of women; may we do likewise in our own.
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Read the story again and this time try to position yourself in it. Where do you find yourself. Do you identify with the woman who is forgiven or, the Pharisee who is quick to judge. What do you see? What does Jesus say to you? (v.50)