I have always loved the story of the Sinful Woman in Luke 7. In many ways, I have identified with her and understood the great love she had for Jesus because of the forgiveness He freely offered her. She who has been forgiven much, loves much. As I read the story this morning, I noticed something different apart from the usual themes of love, grace, and forgiveness. The woman came UNINVITED.
“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.” –Luke 7:36-37
In the Amplified Classic it says, “a woman of the town who was an especially wicked sinner.”
So this woman, who was especially sinful and wicked, learned that Jesus was going to be dining at a religious leader’s house. And when she learned of this, she made a decision. She decided to show up uninvited and perform unashamedly one of the most extravagant acts of love towards Jesus. In front of everyone.
“And standing behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears; and she wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed His feet affectionately and anointed them with the ointment (perfume).” –Luke 7:38 AMPC
She stood behind Him, and began to perform this act of love. She did it before Jesus had addressed her or accepted her. In front of everyone, this woman who probably would have never set foot in the house she had entered (as we can gather from the rest of the story), came uninvited to pour out her love and her life on Jesus.
When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, Teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give Me any water for My feet, but she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet. You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” —Luke 7:39-50
Uninvited. It was a staple in the coffin of my old identity. I never did anything I wasn’t invited to do. I was too afraid of rejection and what other people would think of me. How often have I held back from obeying Jesus because I’m too afraid of what others think? How often have I held back not only from obeying Him, but from unashamedly loving Him and worshipping Him because I’m too afraid of what other people will think? How often have you held back from worshipping wholeheartedly in church? Or kept silent in front of friends or family members because you were afraid? Or how about not sharing the Gospel with someone in public because you are afraid of what other people (who are strangers by the way) will think? Ever been there? I know I have. This woman came uninvited to where she most likely wasn’t welcome, and risking rejection, was unashamed to love Jesus with abandon in front of them.
The love of Jesus is supposed to be so powerful and so overwhelming to us that it changes us. That we no longer care about what other people think because we only care about what He thinks. When a soul realizes the great love and forgiveness that God has lavished on them, how can they help but love Him and obey Him? It is the sinful selfish nature that rejects this love or thinks that it is entitled to God’s forgiveness. The love of God and kingdom of heaven are supposed to be so priceless to us, that we risk it all—our very lives not too costly a price in order to obtain them.
This woman realized something. She realized that the forgiveness of her sins were worth more than what people thought of her. She realized that even though she was uninvited, if there was a possibility of seeing Jesus, and thanking Him for doing this for her, she would try. She realized that Jesus Himself was worth far more than her costly perfume which was so wrapped up in her old identity. Because if this woman was a prostitute, she most likely would have used this perfume for her profession. But she pours it all out on Jesus’ feet, and her identity along with it. She unashamedly says, “Jesus, You’re worthy and You’re worth it. Here I am. Here’s my life. Take me and make me Yours. I pour it all out on You.” And Jesus responds in kind, “Your faith has saved you. Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace (in freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin).” –Luke 7:50AMPC
We have to want Jesus. We have to be unashamed of loving Him and longing for Him.
“If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” –Mark 8:38
We all want to be accepted and we all want to be invited. Which Jesus does. He invites us to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-10) and accepts us into the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). But once we have been invited and accepted, Jesus asks us to go places on His behalf where we aren’t invited or accepted, and share His words unashamed. Because of His great love and forgiveness towards us, He says don’t hold back (Heb.10:38). Don’t try to preserve your life (Lk. 17:33). Lose your life for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel and you will find it (Mk. 8:35). Go into all the world and invite them also (Lk. 14:23). This isn’t just and invitation for you. The Cross was a marriage proposal to the whole world (Hos. 2:19-20). Go invite them on My behalf. Love Me in this way. Uninvited and Unashamed. It doesn’t matter what people think. I have told you what I think of you (Jer. 31:3). I love you (Isa. 43:4). I showed you that through the Cross (Rom.5:8). Go uninvited and unashamed into all the world, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
“Whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.” –Matthew 10:33
Uninvited and Unashamed with a promise of rejection from the world and acceptance from God. Why do we ever seek to please the one that is fickle instead of the One who is faithful?
I’m going. Will you?
For further reading, I have included one of the most powerful retellings of the Sinful Woman in Luke 7 by Kyle Idleman. It makes me cry every time. It is an excerpt from his book “Not a Fan.”
In Luke 7, the Pharisee knew all about Jesus, but didn’t know Jesus. His heart was far from him. He didn’t know that the visiting rabbi sitting at his table was the promised Messiah that he had spent countless hours studying about. Luke tells us that while Jesus is eating at this Pharisee’s house a woman comes on the scene. They were likely eating in a courtyard area where people could watch and even listen in on the conversation. But things start to get awkward when this woman comes uninvited up to the table where they are eating. To better comprehend the tension of this moment, understand that this wasn’t just any woman. Verse 37 tells us that she was a “sinner.” More specifically, she was a known prostitute in the village. Apparently she had heard Jesus teaching, maybe earlier in the day, and something happened in her heart.
What was Jesus teaching on that had such an impact? Forgiveness? Perhaps as she sat and listened to Jesus her eyes welled up with tears as she realized that God loved her and wanted to forgive her. Redemption? Maybe as Jesus spoke she realized that God could put back together the broken pieces of her life. But then again, maybe it wasn’t what Jesus taught. Maybe it was the way he looked at her. His eyes communicated her value and worth. She wasn’t just a “sinner” to him; she was a beloved daughter. And perhaps when Jesus finished teaching she knew God loved her and he hadn’t given up on her, even if everyone else had. And she must have whispered something like this to herself: ‘Maybe it’s not too late for me. Maybe even someone like me can follow Him.’
She was desperate to see Jesus again, and she overheard someone saying that he was having dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee—a dinner she would never be invited to attend, not in a thousand years. Of course, normally she would have no interest in attending. She had felt the condemning glares of the Pharisees enough to stay as far away as possible from places like Simon’s house. But she had to see Jesus. It’s hard to imagine what it would take for her to walk into that courtyard. But she is so focused on Jesus that she forgets about herself. She is desperate to express the love and affection she feels for him. What she does next is reckless, it’s impulsive, it’s inappropriate, and it’s exactly the kind of follower Jesus wants.
Picture the scene. Jesus is reclining at the table. Instead of using chairs they would lean on an elbow that was propped up by a cushion. Their feet would be away from the table. This woman approaches and stands at the filthy feet of Jesus. The table grows silent. Everybody is watching. Everybody knows who she is. What is she doing? She looks around at the guests. She feels from some that familiar glare of condemnation. Others keep their eyes down, embarrassed by her presence and the awkwardness of the moment. But when she looks at Jesus, he seems to know what has happened in her heart. He gives her a warm smile. He seems delighted that she has come, and he looks at her with the eyes of a loving father watching his beautiful daughter as she enters the room. She has never had a man look at her that way before. She is so undone by this that the tears come, just a few at first, and then more. She falls to the ground and begins to kiss his feet. Soon, the tears are just pouring down her face. They begin to drip onto the dirty feet of Jesus. As she looks at the muddy streaks she suddenly realizes that his feet haven’t been washed. She can’t ask for a towel, so she lets down her hair. In those days women always wore their hair up in public. For a woman to wear her hair down in front of a man that was not her husband was considered to be such an intimate expression that it was literally grounds for divorce. She lets her hair down in front of Jesus and there was likely an audible gasp. She begins washing the feet of Jesus with her tears and drying them with her hair.
Then Luke says she had an alabaster jar of ointment. Most likely this refers to a flask that was often worn around the neck as a kind of perfume for women. As you might guess, because of her profession, this flask was quite important. She had used it a drop at a time many, many times, for many men. But now she empties it. She just empties the whole thing out. She will not need it anymore. She pours this flask, her life, on his feet, and she kisses them over and over.”
“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.””
“In the end the religious leader with all the knowledge is the Fan, and the prostitute who intimately expressed her love for Jesus is shown to be the Follower. Here, then, is the question you and I have to ask ourselves: ‘Who am I most like in the story?’ When was the last time you had a moment with Jesus like this woman in Luke 7 had? When’s the last time you’ve poured yourself out before Him? When is the last time the tears have streamed down your face as you expressed your love for Him? When is the last time you demonstrated your love for Him with reckless abandonment?
I’m not asking if you know about Him, I am asking if you know Him.