The Tabernacle Scroll

Issue 134

“Therefore I tell you her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little” [Luke 7: 47, NIV, emphasis mine].

All four gospels give an account of a woman anointing Jesus’ feet with ‘very expensive oil’. In fact, he was twice so anointed, and at different times, because two different women were involved in this event. In Matthew (26:6-13), Mark (14:6-11) and John (12:1-11) the woman who does the anointing is clearly identified as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus. Luke (in chapter 7: 36), simply identifies her as ‘a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town’. That they were separate events explains why the records show that Jesus responded differently when his critics confronted him about this anointing.

In all of the accounts, the critical issue raised by the Pharisees, the disciples and some others was that the action of the woman was careless and wasteful. It is therefore interesting to observe how Jesus viewed the actions of these two women.

When we read the accounts depicting Mary of Bethany’s action, we see that it is in the context of Jesus’ impending death, the last supper, the feast of Passover & the betrayal. Mary, having perceived Jesus’ mission better than anyone else, was demonstrating foresight in anointing him for his burial. Jesus pointed out to the critics that her loving action was memorable for this reason.

Jesus’ anointing by the sinful woman, however, is in the context of his early years of ministry. She must have witnessed his miracles and heard him preach. As a result, she repented and decided to live a new life. Jesus commended her loving action because it sprang from the joy of knowing God’s complete forgiveness. She had acknowledged the enormity of the sin from which God released her, and for this, she was truly grateful. Jesus therefore reassured her. He commended her faith, and blessed her with peace. I believe that what Jesus commended in this woman is the key to perfection in love.

In Paul’s treatise on love (1Cor.13), he describes it in both positive and negative terms. He says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” and so on. However, we have fallen into the trap of striving to achieve those qualities, which, Paul says, are clearly the evidence of love. We say, “I must be more patient; I must stop envying, I must stop boasting” etc. We adopt the ‘Lets’ work harder!’ motto. In so doing, we set up yet another treadmill. There is an easier way. It is the sinful woman’s way. If we want to love wholeheartedly, we must ask the Holy Spirit to show us how much God forgives us! The rest will follow!

            Devotional                                                                                                                            Preach The Word The Word with Pastor Joseph Rodrigues