“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47
One of my favorite love stories is found in the Bible. Granted, it is not a typical love story but what a true demonstration of love it depicts. I love a good love story. Hence, Hallmark movies tend to rank high on my to-watch list. Yet this love story is one that resonates long after you turn the page. Lean in close and I’ll tell you the story.
Picture the scene: Jesus was dining at the table of a Pharisee one day when this woman entered. She was not a socially acceptable woman. She was known to be a sinner, most likely a prostitute. As Jesus was reclining at the table, the woman came up behind Him and began to wash His feet with the fragrant oil from an alabaster jar. The oil was quite expensive, approximately two years’ worth of wages. As Jesus sat there, her tears poured over His feet from her weeping. She let down her hair (a societal no-no), and began to dry His feet with her tresses. She was kissing His feet and anointing them with the fragrant oil. The Pharisee, arrogantly and to himself, questioned Jesus’ true identity, because if He was who He said He was then He would have known the sinful woman that was touching Him. Jesus, in the way that was His way, responded to the thoughts of the Pharisee by presenting to him a parable. Jesus told Simon, the Pharisee, the story of two men who owed a creditor. One owed a small sum while the other a much larger sum of money. Yet the creditor graciously forgave both the debts. Jesus then asked Simon the Pharisee which of the two debtors would love the creditor. Reluctantly, it seems, he answered that the one who was forgiven the greater debt. Jesus then directed His attention to the woman at His feet. He told Simon the Pharisee that when He entered the home, Simon did not provide water for Him to wash His feet. Neither did he offer Jesus a kiss of greeting. Jesus pointed out that he also did not anoint His head with oil. But the woman, she had not ceased to kiss His feet. She washed His feet with her tears. She anointed His feet with her fragrant oil. Jesus then said that her many sins were forgiven. As a result of His generous forgiveness, she loved Him so abundantly in return.
Imagine being the Pharisee in that moment. What was he thinking? We don’t know how he responded to Jesus. Was his life changed? Did his heart soften? May we always be changed by our encounters with Jesus. Imagine being the woman. Oh how the parable Jesus told must have resonated within her as she couldn’t help but hear His words as she kissed His feet. She knew she was the one with the greatest debt of sins. She was so overwhelmed by love for her Savior that she blasted through the societal norms. She didn’t allow what others would think or how they would respond to her to prevent her from lavishing her love and gratitude upon Jesus. She recognized her great need of a Savior and her need of forgiveness. And she withheld nothing from Him.
Each time I read this story, my heart nearly bursts with joy, with tears, with gratefulness, and with solidarity. I am that woman. Her love story is my love story. I love Jesus so much. I know how undeserving I am of His grace, of His love, of His forgiveness, of His friendship. Yet He loves me anyway. He went to the cross anyway. He died anyway. He forgives me anyway. Loving Him is an overflow from a heart fully aware of just how much I have been forgiven. This woman in this story, she is an example to all of us. Her love for Jesus overshadowed any form of hostility or judgment she would face. I want my love for Jesus to overshadow everything else. Who cares what others think or how they will respond? Oh that my life would be poured out in much the same way as this sinful woman poured out her love, her tears, her gratitude, and her fragrant oil over the feet of Jesus. She heard the judgmental whispers of the others present. She kept washing His feet anyway. She knew they were discussing her reputation and who she had been. She kept kissing His feet anyway. The sinful woman didn’t fear what others would say or think of her. She withheld nothing from Jesus–neither her heart nor her resources. And she accepted His forgiveness and peace. In our modern, comfortable Western culture, we want a Christianity that is comfortable, a Christianity that doesn’t cost us anything. We can even set up tithing on a weekly or monthly basis without ever having to think about the act of giving. May our hearts become like that of the sinful woman, ever aware of the cost of the love of Jesus to us. And let our lives pour out love to Him. When we realize how precious the blood, how costly the love, and how rich the forgiveness of Christ, then we cannot help but love Him with all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds, and all of our strength. Others may have forever deemed her the sinful woman, but, in her heart, she was forever the forgiven woman. Loving Jesus will be the greatest love story of our lives. We want a Savior. We want one who will fight for us. We want a hero to our story. We want the happily-ever-after. We want the knight in shining armor. Jesus the Nazarene is that hero. Jesus protects us. Jesus rescues us. Jesus loves us unconditionally. Jesus died for us. Jesus redeemed us. And Jesus is coming again for us. This is the greatest love story of all time.
Happy Valentine’s Day!