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Godly Women in Luke’s Gospel (3)

I Steele, Glenburn


We are introduced, in Luke 7.36, to the location in which this incident takes place. It was in the house of a Pharisee named Simon, and it is a measure of the Lord’s grace that He consented to sit at meat with such a man. Pharisees have become synonymous with legality, hypocrisy and a love of popularity and position, which traits are all exposed by the Lord Himself in this same Gospel (11.37–44). Here the man does not even afford to his desired guest the common courtesy required of any conscientious host! Let us hope that familiarity on our part with the privileges of meeting with the Lord does not diminish our sensitivity to His majestic presence.

How quickly the attention moves away from Simon to the woman. She is unnamed, but in the "behold" of Luke certainly worthy of careful attention! She "was" a sinner and had been forgiven, as v.47 makes plain, so that she has then the right to bring her worship to the Lord Jesus. Notice that her senses were in tune with where the Lord moves for she "knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house" (v.37). She knew where He was. The words of the Song of Songs come to mind: "Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women?" (6.1). Do we know with certainty where to find Him and have we a desire just to be where He is? There ought to be a drawing magnetism in the person of the Lord Jesus that pulls us away from the things of the world into His glorious presence. If we really believed that the Lord was manifestly in the midst of His gathered people would we ever be absent from the assembly meetings?

There was purposeful preparation made by this woman before she came. She brought what she had already procured in the alabaster box of ointment. The word is suggestive of freely flowing myrrh and W E Vine states that "the alabaster cruse was the best of its kind and the spikenard was one of the costliest of perfumes". Are we bringing to Him the best and does it cost us something in sacrificial preparation, or do we just come into His presence completely unprepared? Let us be aware how women in their silence add to the sacred atmosphere of the gatherings when they release a fragrance of Christ that gladdens His heart. Surely the barrenness of worship is reflective of the absence of Christ-centered Bible study in our day-to-day devotions before the Lord. May He give us the desire to search the Scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to take of the things of Christ and reveal them unto us.

It is interesting that myrrh is associated with the gifts of the wise men at His birth in Matthew 2.11 and then with the Lord at His death in Mark 15.23 as "they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh". How significant that a hundred pounds weight of myrrh and aloes was the ointment mixture compounded to anoint His precious body for the burial. Then how blessed to see, in the picture of His kingly glory recorded in Psalm 45.8, that "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces". Thus it brings before us the bitter experiences He passed through and the sweet fragrances released from the Lord Jesus that ever refreshed the heart of His Father. In Luke 7.37 it surely speaks of the fragrance of His holy manhood. What sweetness, pureness, preciousness is compounded in the perfume of this woman’s appreciation of the Perfect Man.

Attention is drawn to her lowliness as she approached and "stood at his feet behind him" (v.38). She did not come with pride or brashness but with the humbleness of spirit that ought to mark every true worshipper. How willing are we to take our place at His feet and to fall before the exceeding greatness of His majesty? As she came in no doubt it was Christ, to the exclusion of all others, who was the focus of her attention and she saw no man save Jesus only! Luke regards the emotion of the woman demonstrated in her tearfulness. This was no cold ritualistic act, but appreciation borne out of a heart full of devotion to the Lord Jesus. Her gratefulness is seen in the actions she performs at the feet of the Master: washing His feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, kissing them repeatedly with her lips and anointing them with the precious ointment. Not a word is spoken, but what an outpouring of worship that causes us to realise that the greater the understanding of forgiveness the greater is the outpouring of love! How do we measure up to this in our own souls? When last was there a moving of my inward being that caused my heart to well up and overflow with real unfeigned love that breathed, "Yea, he is altogether lovely" (Song 5.16)?

Such actions are not without objection and misrepresentation as v.39 reveals. Simon in his thoughts doubted the Lord as a prophet and despised the woman as a sinner. What the woman did opened up the way for the Lord to speak to Simon: "I have somewhat to say unto thee" (v.40). The illustration shows that Simon had failed to appreciate his position as a debtor, while the woman knew fully how much she owed to the One who freely forgave. The wonder is that He is prepared to forgive all, irrespective of how great the debt might be, and to forgive all on the very same basis. The verse by H G Spafford sums up the sentiments:

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Before we are quick to join in the condemnation let us honestly ask ourselves, "What has the Lord to say to me?". Could it be that the edge has gone off my appreciation of His suffering for me at Calvary? An unknown hymn writer reminds us,

What a debt of love we owe Thee,
Love that we can ne’er express,

and how much we ought to feel the enormity of that debt! The Lord’s condemnation of Simon is given added impact through the object lesson of the woman’s worship.

As far as Simon was concerned, there was no water of refreshment, no kiss of affection and no ointment of appreciation given to the Lord! The Lord says, "Seest thou this woman?" (v.44). Well might we all see the challenge this incident brings to formalism, coldness and a lack of wonder at the worth of the Man in the midst! Simon gave nothing to Christ. In terms of what we give to Him will He be able to say of us, "She loved much" or, "He loved much"? Oh that there might be something to refresh His heart and the hearts of the saints as well! Not the stale atmosphere of vainly repeated phrases and well-rehearsed pet themes. Not the embarrassment of stony silence from the brethren that makes the sisters squirm with discomfort. Let there be worship as described in Psalm 45.1: "My heart is welling forth with a good matter: I say what I have composed touching the King. My tongue is the pen of a ready writer" (JND).

It is telling that the same Lord who will assess our works also evaluates our worship. What commendation the woman receives as the Lord concludes, "…she loved much" (v.47). No doubt much had been forgiven and this was a cause for the depth of love she felt for her Redeemer. Could it be in any way that we have lost the reality of what it cost Him in His precious blood, in the darkness of Golgotha, to become the sin-bearer, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph 1.7). If we feel the forgiveness was little, then our love will be commensurately little!

For the woman there was the confirmation again that her sins were forgiven and the abiding compensation in His promise, "go into peace" (v.50). May such be our ongoing enjoyment as a result of what we bring to Him.

To be continued.


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