Luke 7:36-50            “Hair Dryer”


            I want us to consider the woman who anointed Jesus. She is not given a name, though some have wrongly equated her with Mary Magdalene. WE could make up a name if we wanted to. Let us just call her Wilma, like from the Flintstones. Or, does somebody else have a good name we could use? The fact that she does not have a name tells us that she was not known to the early readers of the Gospel of Luke. All of the gospel writers drop names if the audience might know who they are. So, this woman walks into Simon the Pharisees’ abode during the dinner with Jesus, has her moment with the Lord, and apparently is gone after that.

For sure, she was not invited into the house for the meal. The question is how did she slip past the guards at the main gate? She must have snuck in, right? Or, was she a regular visitor to the house, and the sin that she carries has something to do with the Pharisee? Why didn’t the Pharisee, Simon, simply have her removed? How is it that she is allowed to sneak in and touch Jesus at all?

             I must make sure that we see this happening in the proper light and with the scene laid out correctly. Most of the time we see this scene with Jesus seated on a stool or a chair with the woman in front of him. Think back to all the representations in artwork and movies. Yet, the Bible is clear that the woman was actually behind Jesus. More likely than not, Jesus would have been reclining on the ground, leaning on his left side. So, now we can imagine correctly that the woman is at the feet of a reclining Jesus. The food of the feast is in front of Jesus, and the woman is leaning over his feet from behind.

            As she leans over Jesus, we see that her hair is falling forward, touching his feet. From behind the hair fall is an obscured face of a sorrowful woman that is shedding tears. She uses her hair then to wipe away her own tears that are galling on Jesus.

            Why is she crying? All that the bible tells us is that she is a sinner. We actually do not know or even really have any clue as to what this woman’s sin might be. Did she use the Lord’s name in vain? Did she break the Sabbath? Did she kill someone? Did she steal? Did she covet or commit adultery? In those days, it was really easy to “sin” and become therefore a sinner because of the myriad sub-statutes that were enforced by the Pharisees. Is she a sinner because she touched pork? Maybe she ate shellfish? Remember how Jesus got in trouble with this same group for simply healing on the Sabbath? Yes, even good things could get you labeled as a sinner back then.


            Okay, here we go: This is the core of the Christian message and why Jesus went to the Cross! It makes absolutely no difference what we have done wrong in our lives. And, when we start pointing out others’ sins, we have joined that circular firing squad. Humans do wrong because we are human. We fail because no matter how hard we try in this life to get things right by God, we fail.

            Personally none of us should care what sin this woman has in her life. Apparently even Jesus is not concerned with the particulars of her failings. She is now remorseful and repentant. She is shedding tears at the feet of her Lord. Let all who have sinned, not point fingers at other people (like the Pharisees) but rather come to that realization of brokenness with a contrite heart. Let us all bow at the feet of Jesus with tears in our eyes.

            Not only with tears in her eyes, wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair, the woman anoints Jesus and actually is kissing his feet. She brings an alabaster jar with precious salve. This woman is not poor. Maybe she is actually of the pharisaical class herself? She is not there to eat at the feast, or to even come forward. She stays behind Jesus and soothes him. Where would you want to be? I would want to get behind Jesus myself! Let us all make the pledge today that we will get behind Jesus!

            I love the fact that she takes the precious oil and anoints Jesus. If you recall last week, there was a question being answered by John the Baptist as to who Jesus actually was. The people are calling Jesus “A great prophet.” The Pharisees at the feast now refer to Jesus as a great prophet. Yet, this sinner woman knows who Jesus is! He is the Christ! “Christ” means “anointed.” Amazingly we see the sinner anointing Christ—not the Pharisees! Once Jesus has the oil upon him, everyone can see that he has been anointed, that he is the Christ. Cannot you see that Jesus is the anointed one? How can you miss it?! The woman came to anoint Jesus, not Simon the Pharisee.


            The host objects inwardly. The bible says that he spoke inwardly (that would be a good translation of the Greek). Jesus hears his private thoughts and reacts. Yes, Jesus can hear our private thoughts. If that is not a reason why we all need forgiveness, I do not know what is. I pray publicly as a pastor, but most of the time I pray quietly alone, and Jesus hears both. Amen to that.

            Jesus gives the parable of the two debtors. The creditor, realizing that neither can pay (that is neither can redeem themselves), forgives, relieves, excuses the burden of debt, both large and small.  Jesus then asks the question, “Who would love more? The one who is forgiven a little or a lot?”

            Lest we miss the connection that Jesus is making here, let me point it out to you most plainly: Love and forgiveness are tied together in spiritual sense. We can think of it like this: If we do not forgive, then we cannot love. If we do not love, we cannot forgive. Jesus goes so far as to infer that the greater we love, the greater is our capacity to forgive.

            All of this being said, I must point out one interesting fact about this story in Luke: The woman who is a sinner does not even ask Jesus for forgiveness. She is behind Jesus washing his feet wither tears because SHE SIMPLY LOVES JESUS!  Jesus granting her the forgiveness is merely a response to her love being displayed to him in that moment. That’s cool. Jesus in fact never commands us to forgive. He commands us all to love God and one another. If we are doing that, then the forgiveness seems to be a voluntary reflex.


            The Pharisee is not happy when Jesus forgives her. He is not happy that she loves on Jesus first. He is just not a very happy Pharisee. I feel for him—especially when Jesus tells the woman, “Your faith has saved you!” She is awarded salvation. She just got forgiven and therefore redeemed to the life eternal in the Kingdom of God. She has been invited to the greater feast with Jesus in heaven.


            Well, it can be our hope that the rest of the people in that house for the feast that day understood what just happened. Maybe in seeing and hearing the interaction between Jesus and the woman there would be tears in their own eyes. Maybe they would see that Jesus is truly the anointed one. Maybe their hearts would be filled with love rather than intrigue and suspicion.

            Strangely, Luke does not share the follow-up with the rest of the characters in this part of the Gospel. Of course, the question we ask of these others should be the question we ask of ourselves: Can we love Jesus so much? Are we behind Jesus with tears in our eyes? Are we ready to be forgiven? Are we ready for the faith that can save us?


            When we see others in this world, we have two choices, I believe: We can either see them for their sin or we can see them for their faith. It is the faith that we carry in our hearts that can save the world unto God—not our judgment of sin. Luke forces us in this telling of the gospel to ask ourselves whether we are the Pharisee named Simon or the unnamed sinner who anoints out of love.


            If I am the woman who is anointing out of faith and love, then how will I dry Jesus’ feet? My hair is way too short. If you do a study of hair in the Bible, you will see that it has great significance. In Corinthians it says that a woman’s hair is her glory. Jesus claims in the Sermon on the Mount that every hair on our hair is counted and known by God. All of Samson’s strength was in his hair, and when it was cut, his strength was cut off too.

            Yes, this woman’s hair symbolizes her “crown of glory” that she is drying his feet with. She is laying down whatever glory she might have in her life at the glory of the Lord. Jesus is her new-found glory. And, this evening meal with Simon the Pharisee becomes a sneak preview of the heavenly feast and time of worship that is to come in the Kingdom of God.

            Lastly let us just read from Revelation 4:9-11: “Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing ‘You are worthy. . . .’”  

            When we come to the feet of Jesus and cast our crowns before him, and the love in our hearts is realized and we are forgiven, then we are truly saved.