Lessons From Jesus And The “Woman Of The City”

It is written:

Luke 7:36-50-Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

One of the things that I love about Jesus is the way that He loves and accepts those whom society often rejects. Indeed, Jesus’ acceptance of sinners stands in stark contrasts to the way that the religious people of His day often treated outcasts! Consider, for example, this scene being played out for us in Luke’s Gospel.

Jesus is having dinner at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. The Pharisees were one of the more famous Jewish groups, and this man had taken the time to invite Jesus to dine with Him. What a remarkable example he set (at least in this regard)! While they are eating, Luke tells us that a “woman in the city” enters the scene.

Now, the phrase “woman in (or of) the city” was a euphemism in the first century world for a sexually indiscriminate woman, likely a prostitute.

Notes Green:

“She is a sinner in the city—that is, a woman known in the city as a sinner. Undoubtedly, this characterization marks her as a prostitute by vocation, 87 a whore by social status, contagious in her impurity, and probably one who fraternizes with Gentiles for economic purposes.” (Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, 7962-7966 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

Notice that this woman was comfortable coming to Jesus. It is interesting that (from a contextual point of view), this incident occurs shortly after Jesus had preached:

Matthew 11:28-30-Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This woman years for the peace and forgiveness that Jesus has promised. What a beautiful scene we see unfolding!

Now, here is a question: do we as Christians offer that Great Commission to sinners and encourage them to turn to the Savior? Or, are we like the Pharisee who has a self-righteous air to himself?

Does the message that we preach as Christians (whether in our daily lives, or in our conversations, or on Facebook and other forms of social media) show the love of Christ to those in the world? Or, are we likely to turn people away by insolent attitudes, words, and posts?

Now, there is something else interesting about what this woman does. The Bible tells us that she anoints Jesus’ feet with “an alabaster flask of fragrant oil.” Speaking of this, one researcher has noted:

“The traditional translation of the initial phrase describing the woman is, “And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner…. ” Some early Arabic translations, including Hibat Allah Ibn al-`Assaf, read, “And a woman who was a sinner in the city…. ” This translation is grammatically legitimate. Through these Arabic translations we can see that this is the way many Middle Eastern Christian scholars understood the text in the first millennium of the Christian era. These Arabic translations present the woman as actively engaged as a “sinner” in the city. This emphasis reminds us of the two separate aspects of the phrase in question. We are given crucial information about her life-style-she was a sinner plying her trade in the city. This emphasis gives the story an extra cutting edge and is quite likely a part of the original intent of the text. At the same time, her community is identified. She is dwelling in the city. Simon (as we will observe) knows perfectly well who she is. She is a part of that community (although an outcast from its religious groupings)….Edersheim, another Hebrew Christian, fills in the details. He translates “ointment” ment” as “perfume” and writes, “A flask with this perfume was worn by women around the neck and hung down below the breast.” Such a flask was “used both to sweeten the breath and perfume the person” (Edersheim, Life, I, 566). It does not take much imagination to understand how important such a flask would be to a prostitute. Her intent is to pour it out on his feet (she does not need it any longer).” (Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke, 3152-3191 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

This woman (some believe it is Mary Magdalene, but there is no hard evidence to support this claim) blesses the Lord with fragrant oil that she had used for her sinful trade. She showed her repentance, and the Lord demonstrated His forgiveness and His acceptance.

For some reason, Christians are among the first to be identified like this Pharisee, Simon.

Years ago, a Christian who was heartbroken by her struggle with lesbianism told how some of her family had rejected her. She had chosen to live a celibate lifestyle, but she was not perfect; and in a moment of weakness, she had sinned sexually with a friend. Being a baptized believer (Mark 16:16), she repented before the Lord, and sought out prayer from a close friend (1 John 1:9; James 5:16). Her repentance, however, did not stop some in her family from labeling her “abomination.” To this day, some have still not accepted her. Nevertheless, she continues living for the Lord, staying celibate and encouraging others to seek God first.

I am reminded of another lady of whom I was told who had become a sex slave. Her boyfriend pimped her out to other men in return for drugs. What many did not realize was that she herself was addicted to drugs that her boyfriend fed her. If she ever tried to resist, all he needed to do was take away her drugs until the pains of withdrawal hit. When hearing about this lady, some Christians just rolled their eyes, shook their heads, and wagged their finger when they saw her. So many had not taken the time to speak with her. Instead, they refused to show grace and mercy. Some tried her in the court of Facebook world, where she was cruelly and powerfully found “guilty.” Sadly, it was Christians who had taken it upon themselves to be the self-appointed jury in her case.

Christians, we need to do better.

Friends, if you have struggled with sexual sin (no matter in what ways), please know that the Savior loves you and calls you to Him. He will provide forgiveness for you, just as He graciously did for this woman, when you turn to Him.

Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We at the Couchtown church of Christ will do whatever we can to help you. Please call on us if we can help you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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