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TEXT: Luke 7:36-50

SUBJECT: Women of the New Testament #4: the Woman who was a Sinner

If we follow Luke's chronology, the next significant woman to emerge in the New Testament is unknown by name--but well remembered by those scarlet words, "the woman who was a sinner". About this anonymous female, we know three things:

We know that she was of the Jewish race, and hence, under sacred obligations. To her people, God had revealed Himself, committed His Law, and shown the way of salvation. These blessings were virtually unknown outside Israel, but commonplace within its borders. This woman, therefore, was fully responsible to know her God and to live for His glory.

We also know that she broke her solemn vows. The thirty-seventh verse tells us, "And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner..." This means more than that she was implicated by original sin or that she had--from time to time--failed her God. It suggests that she had wholly given herself up to a life of sin--most likely, prostitution.

She was, therefore, a well-known and notorious sinner. Decent men shunned her. Good women blushed in her presence. Fathers warned their sons about her. Mothers urged their daughters to avoid her example. No one but the debased wanted her, and only then to fulfil their squalid desires.

She was, then, an outcast of society--and rightly so. For it was her kind that spread deadly plagues, lowered moral standards, and "gave the enemies of the LORD occasion to blaspheme".

The woman, therefore, was an infamous sinner--and something worse--an apostate, one who "departed from the Living God".

Up to this point, there is nothing to command our respect, or even elicit our pity. But then, Jesus enters her life and changes it forever.

He is invited to the home of Simon, one of Nain's leading Pharisees. There He sits down for dinner and conversation with His host and fellow guests. But then this woman "crashes the party", and kneeling behind the Lord, kisses His feet, washes them with tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints them with oil.

This unseemly behavior shocks the uptight Pharisee and makes him think, "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".

But Jesus, knowing what was in the man, told a little story about two men in debt. One owes fifty denarii, the other, five hundred. But both were freely forgiven their obligations. Who, do you suppose, will love the creditor more?

Simon, using common sense, answers, "The one whom he forgave more".

"Precisely!" says our Lord. And then, applying the principle, explains the reception Simon gave Him compared to that of this fallen woman. Simon did little for Him, because--being self-righteous--he felt little need for a Savior. But this woman--knowing the greatness of her sin--sought Christ earnestly and returned thanks with everything she had.

From this remarkable meeting, we find much to admire in this once despised woman.

1.The deep remorse she felt for her sin. "She washed His feet with her tears". In those days, of course, men walked on unpaved roads in sandals. Their feet therefore, were not just soiled or sweaty. They were nothing short of filthy. Have you ever thought of how many tears it would take to wash the caked dirt off such feet? Yet the woman did just that. Perfume was hard-to-come-by. Thus it was never used till the feet were spic-and-span. And what could produce this basin of tears, but a true heartfelt sorrow for sin?

And the object of her sorrow was sin itself--and not just its consequences. The life of Esau proves that God does not give grace to those who only mourn sin's punishment. But Christ did respect this woman's broken heart--and bound it up, too. Thus, she must have had the rarest of all possessions: a broken and contrite heart.

2.The true repentance from her sin. Sorrow is of no value unless it brings repentance in its train. And in her case, it did. "She wiped His feet with the hair of her head". This woman was a harlot. She made her living, therefore, by attracting men. But what could be less appealing than dirty, ungroomed, and matted hair? Yet surely that was the result of her actions. The Lord's feet were first dirty and then wet. By drying them, therefore, the woman's hair must have become messy to be sure--and probably muddy, too! By performing this lowly act, therefore, she was renouncing her evil life and turning to the One who "looks only on the heart".

3.The humble and consistent service she offered Christ. "She stood at His feet behind Him and began to wash His feet". The washing of feet was reserved for the lowest household servant. But she didn't think herself above it. But not only did she humble herself before the Savior, but she served Him with a consistency, not born of impulse. Jesus said, "This woman has not ceased to kiss my feet". Whim might have caused her to fall at His feet for a minute or two, but she was there, showering her affection on Him for an extended period of time--maybe several hours. And so, if it would please her Lord, she would be content serving Him for a lifetime in the most menial of occupations. Like the Psalmist before, she "had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of her God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness".

4.The sacrifice she made for Christ. She "brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil...and anointed His feet with it". These ointments, as the case of Mary of Bethany shows, were costly. A year's wages might be spent for one. But this was no sacrifice to the redeemed harlot. Having been forgiven so much, what was a year's salary in comparison? Unlike so many who begrudge every little call for giving, this dear woman longed to spend something on her Savior. Again, she followed the Psalmist's lead: "What shall I render unto the LORD for all His benefits toward me?"

There was more than a willingness here, but an anxiety. A feeling of restlessness till she had given her Lord the gifts He so richly deserved.

But where is this spirit of giving today? Where is the hankering after charity? The yearning for generosity? Paul tells us: "In the latter days men shall be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." Little money is no excuse. About the early church it was said, "the riches of their liberality sprang from the depths of their poverty".

When Christ saved this woman, He broke her love of money (which must have been strong considering how low she stooped to get it) and replaced it with a spirit of beneficence.

5.The love she professed for Christ. "She loved much...she did not cease kissing (His) feet". Love for Christ, of course, was in her heart. But it couldn't be confined to it. It ran over into her exterior life as well.

And so it must be. A true love for Christ (like a candle) cannot be hidden under a bushel, but must shine for all to see.

How we fall down here, I'm afraid. Offended by the gushing of some, rather superficial Christians, we go to the other extreme, and hide our love for Christ.

But how different this "reserve" is from the godly men of old! "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD and to sing praises unto Thy name, O Most High, to show forth Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness at night".

It is true than some, like Judas, would "betray the Lord with a kiss". But it's equally true that others are embarrassed to openly show their love for the One who is "altogether lovely".

The reclaimed harlot, happily, was not.

6.Finally, we must admire her faith. This is what Christ singled out as exceptional in her. "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

"Faith", of course, means "believing". And to believe in anything means that there is some object of faith. And what was it for the woman?

Christ! And in particular, His power to forgive her sins--and more importantly--His willingness to do so.

When it comes to seeking forgiveness, there are two sorts of unbelief we must overcome:

a.The unbelief in Christ's power. Like the Demoniac's father, we're too wont to say, "Lord, if you can do anything, help him".

b.The unbelief in His grace. Like the leper, we say, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean". There is no question about His power to heal, but only His willingness.

But the woman, unlike these two double-minded men, "asked in faith, nothing wavering". And she found that Jesus did receive sinners--and change them into saints. And so shall we if only we follow her lead.

And thus, this woman, whose early life promised nothing but degeneracy and damnation, became a monument to grace. Moreover, it serves as a model for us. If we would gain a benefit from her life, we must follow her example (not is harlotry, of course), but in:

1.Remorse for our sins

2.Repentance from our sins

3.Humble and consistent service to our Savior

4.A spirit of generosity

5.An open love for Christ

6.And, an unwavering faith in Him, for "He that has promised is faithful".

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