“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, 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.” (Luke 7:37-38; NKJV)
From the above account, we can see that the woman loved the Lord. On the other hand, the Pharisees were really only interested in playing one-upmanship with Jesus; they saw Him as a rival to their standing before the Jews. The supposed host, a Pharisee, did not give any water for Jesus to wash His feet, neither welcomed Him with a kiss nor anoint His head with oil.
Truth be told, this woman was none other than Mary, whose brother was Lazarus and her sister, Martha (John 11:1-2). And, to think that she only sat at Jesus’ feet while Martha got busy serving Jesus (Luke 10:39-40)! Mary fellowshipped with Jesus at her own home, and went out of the way to the Pharisee’s home to honour Jesus when the Pharisee would not. She knew something divine about Jesus as with John the Baptist, who said that Jesus is One mightier than him; whose sandal strap he was not worthy to loose. She would only kiss His feet; nary did she find herself worthy to give Him a holy kiss.
What about us? How do we love JESUS? Are we afraid of what “they” may say to us when we express our love for Jesus? Do we fix our eyes on Jesus and dim out what the Pharisees of our day may murmur? The answer may well depend on how much revelation we have of who Jesus really is. For one thing, He is far cry from the little baby in the nativity scene at Christmas.
We can learn to love Jesus from Mary’s example. Firstly, let us love Him with our tears of grief. It’s not just feeling sorry; it has to come from much deeper within us, from our spirit. Mary knew that she was a sinner. Luke described her as “a woman in the city who was a sinner” (Luke 7:37) and so did the Pharisee (Luke 7:39). Jesus said in Luke 7:47, “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.” There are possibly not many people we would call a “sinner” even though all of us have fallen short of the glory of God. The NIV study Bible indicated she was a prostitute.
Mary was humble before the Lord (and before man) and grieved over her sins before Jesus, casting all her cares upon Him. She made a decision to repent of her sins by coming to Jesus, knowing that He can forgive her sins. She is a follower of Jesus. She knew where Jesus was. It is possible that she was there when Jesus said to the paralytic in Luke 5:20, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And, heard Jesus said before, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (Luke 5:32).”
God favours the humble. “For thus says the high and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isaiah 57:15).”
Let us never get sloppy and neglect to cut-off the entanglement of sins. As priests, we ought to cleanse ourselves and carry a dagger to cut off our sins daily.
Secondly, let us love Jesus with what is dear to us. Our hair is our crown of glory. In some culture, the people would not allow us so much as to touch their hair/head out of some superstition. Then there are parents who treasure their baby’s first crop of hair so much so that they have them made into brushes for novelty safe-keeping. And, dare I say, every woman prices her hair highly, whether braided or not.
Mary regarded Jesus with such a high honour that she willingly wiped clean His feet with her hair. It was service without servility of a high order. In our days, we can, for example, think of church members who help to clean toilets when the church is still starting out or members who attend to the wheelchair-bound inside the toilet.
We have to let go of our pride and ego when we serve Jesus, and submit ourselves to one another for the love of Jesus. Nothing we do for Jesus with a great attitude will go unnoticed by Him. We have to have a servant’s mindset. As Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, so ought we to wash one another’s feet by doing things which are slated for servants.
Incidentally, Stephen -- amongst others with a good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, was chosen to serve tables. “…And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, …(Acts 6:5).” God worked powerfully through Stephen even though he was ‘just a waiter’ in church. “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8).” Yes, he could preach, too!
Thirdly, let us love Jesus with the fruit of our labour. We work for wages which, in turn, empower us to buy the things which we need. Our love determines what we buy and how we are going to use it. You may own a superb Saab car and use it only for business and family outings. Alternatively, you may extend its use by volunteering yourself as a driver for visiting servants of God.
By her actions, Mary has shown us love in action. She knew her Lord Jesus Christ who has said that: “…The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).”
There is no lack of opportunities for us to love Jesus. Let us not live by good intentions, but by good deeds. May it never be said of us that we honour Him with our lips but our hearts are far from Him. Will Jesus see our faith daily? “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).”