January 27, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 7)

Submitted by Frances K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Luke 7:37-38

37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

This woman is noted as one “who had lived a sinful life.” One can only imagine the kind of colorful life she had been leading up to this point. Yet, upon hearing that Jesus was in town, this woman went to see him and brought him an alabaster jar of perfume. There are two things to note here about this woman:

1) She had lived a sinful life, yet it was important to her to come before Jesus. She made it a point to come to him, even going to a Pharisee’s house.

2) In order for a woman to have an alabaster jar of perfume, it must have taken many years to collect–one tiny drop at a time. This must have been her most precious possession; it must have been all that she had. Yet, this is what she brought before Jesus and poured it on him.

As she came before Jesus, her initial response was to stand behind him at his feet, weeping. This was such a humble response–one that portrays a broken and contrite heart. She took her proper position before Jesus because this woman had the correct view of herself as a broken sinner. This act of wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair, then kissing them and pouring perfume–this is not something done lightly or easily. It’s not something most people would do—not even his own disciples who were with him. Yet for this woman, it was a sign of deep affection, one of genuinely honoring Jesus. Because she knew clearly the kind of sinful life she had led, and because she knew herself to be a sinner, this is how she presented herself before him.

This brings me to consider how central this truth is in my life day in and day out. How often and how deeply am I struck by the fact that I am a sinner? How personal is this realization–that I had “lived a life of sin” and am in desperate need of forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration? Though this is my own personal experience of Jesus, day in and day out as life continues on, I easily lose sight of this important reality. The truth is that I am a sinner and I have been rescued from my own life of sin. I know this to be true, yet there are many days when in my own pride and self-righteousness, I think that I am ok. I think that I can fix or undo the wrong I’ve done, the mess I’ve created, and I want other things I do to compensate for my issues and my sins. But this is folly, such foolish thinking because there is nothing I can do to help myself. That is why the forgiveness I’ve received from Jesus is so amazing. For this, I need to have infinite gratitude for. My understanding and appreciation for the forgiveness of my sins needs to grow and deepen with each passing day. I am the same sinner today as the day I received salvation over a decade ago. The truth that I am a sinner is needs to be the most central fact of my life each and every day.

The alabaster jar poured out – this was a sign of this woman’s appreciation and gratitude towards Jesus. She had lived a sinful life, but Jesus is the one who was not only able but willing to forgive her. The kind of love, compassion, and mercy she received from Jesus was not something she could just accept and move on with in her life. Daily she must have been reminded of her life of sin, but the amazing thing that happened– being forgiven, cleansed, and restored–truth she could not forget. That is why she brought him the best of what she had. Actually, she brought to Jesus all she had.

One would think that this is such a sacrifice. And it is, of course. Yet, there is something so appropriate about her response. Yes, she’s given something really expensive; she’s done something considered “wasteful” in a sense. Most may be thinking, “Really? All that perfume…on Jesus’ feet, of all places?” We need to consider what it is that she has experienced and received. She’s received forgiveness of her sins. She’s been given new life. Given what she has gained, this act of bringing to Jesus her most precious possession is only a natural response. What would her life have been otherwise? She would have continued in her life of sin. She would have been more and more ruined, pained, and destroyed by her sinful life. Yet because of Jesus’ forgiveness, now she is restored. Her humble state of coming before Jesus at his feet, kneeling before him, bringing him all she has displays her heart that truly understands that she is a sinner and her heart that is full of gratitude for how she has been saved from her life of sin.

This humbles me. I can often think that I am giving a lot of myself to God. I offer my time, money, an able body, and whatever resources I have to serve God in ministry.  I have to evaluate my purpose and my attitude towards this. Sometimes this giving, this sacrifice is done out of an obligatory heart or fueled by a desire to be accepted, recognized, or praised. Or at times, I have the attitude that I am giving a lot, or have this “too much” mentality. What I offer to God needs to come from the basic understanding that I am a forgiven sinner and offering up my life is the only appropriate way to respond to the love and mercy I’ve received. I am to give to God and offer my life to him as a reflection of my gratitude to Him. I cannot quantify in any way what or how much I give. It doesn’t work that way.  Jesus’ life was poured out in the cross for my sins. The only way I can respond is to offer up my life entirely for His purpose. I have to bring before Him the best of all I have. Not just a part or a fraction, or what is easy or convenient, but rather, all of me–all of my time, all of my money, all of my body, mind, heart, and emotions, and all other resources and blessings I have received and enjoy as a result. Because I am a recipient of such love and forgiveness, I need to all the more be loving and gracious toward others as well.

The song “Alabaster Jar” comes to mind as I think about this text because it clearly depicts the sentiment of this woman and what she did as a response to Jesus’ forgiveness granted to her. This too is my prayer that I will daily offer my life to the very one who died on the cross to forgive me, remembering that the sacrifice of His life gives me the opportunity to live for Him.

This alabaster jar
Is all I have of worth
I break it at your feet, Lord
It’s less than you deserve
You’re far more beautiful
More precious than the oil
The sum of my desires
And the fullness of my joy!

Like you spilled your blood,
I spill my heart as an offering
To my king
Here I am, take me
As an offering
Here I am, giving every heartbeat
For your glory take me?


You gave your life for me
So, I will live my life for you??

Dear God, thank you for rescuing me and forgiving me from my own life of sin. I realize that nothing I can offer can repay the debt I owe for your sacrifice on the cross for my sins. Thank you for looking upon my life with compassion and mercy. Please help me to deeply understand and know my identity as a sinner before you and to have that proper posture before you. I want to live each day with a humble and grateful heart for the forgiveness I have received.

Submitted by Kevin J. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

One image I was struck by was the extent of the woman’s display of love for Jesus. From the text we see that the woman came to the Pharisee’s house to meet Jesus with the alabaster jar of perfume in hand, most likely with the intention of anointing Jesus. However, as she approached him, his presence evoked emotions in her that were perhaps unexpected. It says she began weeping, and instead of trying to gather herself, she responded in a way that was more than appropriate. In response to the Pharisee’s criticism of allowing the woman to touch Jesus, Jesus lays out how the woman loved him from wetting his feet with her tears to wiping his feet with her hair and finally pouring perfume on his feet. The Pharisee, on the other hand, was so fixated on the woman’s “sinfulness” that he failed to recognize the woman’s beautiful acts of devotion and the degree to which she loved Jesus.

What allowed the sinful woman to be so uninhibited and unabashed in her display of love and gratitude towards Jesus? I think it came from her recognition of who Jesus was, the Son of God who came to forgive sins, and who she was, a sinner whose greatest need was forgiveness. It was very clear to this woman that she was a sinner; she was very much in touch with the centrality of sin in her life. It was fundamental to who she was and how she saw herself, which is critical to a deep, meaningful relationship with Jesus. In my relationship with Jesus, I am the closest to him when I am humble and honest about all the depravity inside–all the anger, pettiness, jealousy, pride, impurity, laziness, self-centeredness and lack of love–when there is no pretense and when I’m not trying to put up a front that my life is in tip-top shape, neat and orderly but when I am admitting I am a mess in need of much grace and help. When I am taken back to the point of my salvation where it became crystal clear to me that my greatest need was to be forgiven of my sins, and when I remember that Jesus has done exactly that.  This is when I am able to love Jesus like the woman did.

The woman’s raw emotions in Jesus’ presence show an absence of pride and image-maintenance that I often struggle with and find so difficult to uproot. The more I try to conceal or even deny the brokenness inside, the more I deprive myself of what I need and want most at the core of my being–complete forgiveness and healing.  It’s like this Pharisee who instead of washing Jesus’ feet alongside the sinful woman, stood there disdaining her and failing to confess and maybe even seeing his own depravity. He missed out on a golden opportunity at relating with Jesus, and this is what I do every time I deny my central identity as a sinner.

My attitude needs to shift in understanding how much I have been loved and forgiven by Jesus. Without this, acts of love and devotion can often seem like tasks to simply do and get done at best, and obligation and even drudgery at worst. When I lose my sense of awe and wonder of how much I have been loved by Jesus and the depths of the sins I have been forgiven of, I often find myself asking “Haven’t I done enough?” when I should be asking is “What more can I give?” I often put artificial boundaries around the extent to which I will pour out my life as a love offering to God. Though I may be faithful to do what is asked of me, I will often go no further than the extent of my stated expectations and responsibilities, and so disqualify myself from experiencing that deep sense of forgiveness the woman must have felt when Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” A life of constant love is a life that continues to deepen in gratitude and understanding of what it means to be completely forgiven of the sin that is so much a part of my life. It then becomes a cycle where that joy and peace of knowing I’ve been completely forgiven serves as a catalyst to continue loving God and the people He has placed in my life. As I try to love people and run up against failures and insecurity in my ability to love, it is through this window where I see how small my heart is and how it’s really at the mercy of God that I’m even given opportunities to love at all. As I experience love from God in this way, I am filled with gratitude and challenged to love much, just as this sinful woman did.

PERSONAL PRAYER

Heavenly Father, I confess that I often give less than I can, and that I don’t want to see myself as a “sinful” man in dire need of forgiveness. I pray that I would be humble and honest about the sins that define who I am, and as a response to the complete forgiveness you offer through Jesus, live a life of extravagant love like this sinful woman who refused to hold anything back. Please help me take advantage of the daily opportunities you grant me to love much. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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