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Evagrius, the fourth century desert father who believed that tears are God’s gift to believers to assist them in the prayer life, said: “The man who is seated in his cell and who recites psalms is like one who stands outside and seeks the king. But he who prays with tears is like one who holds the king’s feet and asks his mercy.”
The Bible says, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Ps 126:5)
The noun tear and the verb tear in the English language, two words with different meanings, share the same linguistic root for an obvious reason. Webster’s dictionary says the verb tear is “to pull or remove by force.”
A Sunday school student asked me if this was the same woman found in Matthew 26. The differences were significant. In Matthew the visitor was not labeled a sinner, the host was Simon the Leper, and the critics were the disciples. Unlike the woman in Matthew’s account who poured perfume on Jesus’ head (Mt 26:7) and body (Mt 26:12), the reputed sinner in this passage wept for her sins and poured perfume primarily on Jesus’ feet, since she considered herself unfit to anoint his head. The sinner in Luke was the only person in the Bible who cried for her sins before Jesus.
The commonly held assumption that the woman was Mary Magdalene also has no basis, since nowhere was Mary Magdalene considered a sinner; more than once, she was described as demon-possessed (Mk 16:9, Lk 8:2). Curiously, her act of kissing Jesus’ feet had more in common with Mary the brother of Lazarus, who kissed His feet (John 11:2), than Mary Magdalene.
Why did Jesus forgive the nameless woman of her sins? Her repentance was genuine. She felt deep remorse for her sins, felt horrible for what she had done, and felt ruined if salvation was denied her. Tears were her only language, and it did all the talking.
The woman’s heart was torn apart, broken into pieces, and bent out of shape. She felt the heaviness of sin, the condemnation of sin, and the penalty of sin within; so she wept softly, openly, continuously, remorsefully and bitterly for her wretched condition. She cried her eyes out, cried her tears dry, and cried her voice hoarse. She couldn’t wait for another day, another second, or another time to see Jesus. Unlike the only other person whose tears also made a strong impression on Jesus - the father who shed tears for his demon-possessed son (Mark 9:24) – the woman did not cry for anyone but herself, her guilt and her past. She didn’t just wet or soak his feet; she showered and drenched his feet. The tears didn’t just drizzle or sprinkle; they rained and poured. All other references in the Bible to the word “wet” (v 38) refer to a torrent of rain or fire and brimstone (Matt 5:45, Luke 17:29, James 5:17, Rev 11:6). Her teardrops were a pool of water to others, but an ocean of love to Jesus.
All the unwelcome visitor sought was to be near Jesus, no matter what position; to experience God’s presence, no matter how brief; and to know that access was granted to a sinner like her, no matter if forgiveness and salvation were offered. Her appearance, tears, and life were not in vain. The Lord noticed her tears (v 44). Jesus Christ made room for her, accepted her service, and received the tears, kiss, and perfume.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will
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