Summary: Designed to be used in conjunction with CeCe Winan’s song "Alabaster Box", this sermon challenges the Pharisee in us all.
"The Alabaster Jar"
36. Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
37. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,
38. and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner."
40. Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said.
41. "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
42. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
43. Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
44. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.
46. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.
47. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
48. Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
49. The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"
50. Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
We are in Simon’s house. We are in Simon the Pharisee’s house. We are in Simon the Pharisee’s house in Galilee.
I don’t think you understand yet. You see, we are in the house of a wealthy man living, not in the arid wastelands of the Middle-East, but in the luscious, green, mountain land of Galilee—populated with cities whose names mean "beautiful", and "delightful". A mountain bungalow owned by a Pharisee in Galilee. To be a Pharisee in Galilee took some doing. Galileans were well known for their stubborn resistance to the Law as it was interpreted by the Pharisees. It’s not that they didn’t accept the Mosaic Law. They just didn’t buy into the Pharisees’ interpretations of the Law. To be a Pharisee in Galilee….Well, that’s a little like being a Republican in Mobile, Alabama.
The setting is Idyllic. It’s the stuff Leonardo DaVinci paintings are made of…
There’s Jesus—reclining at a feast from a wealthy man’s table, sitting among teachers of Law, religious leaders, and perhaps a few other well-educated curiosity seekers—dressed in their Pharisee finest—surrounded by elegance, fine dinnerware, white tablecloths, cloth napkins folded so they look like little Levite priests marching toward the Temple, Two forks, two spoons, and a butter knife with a serrated edge, a water glass, a soda glass, a wine glass and teeny, tiny coffee cup—and at least two plates more than you ever need…why, even the dirt floor has been swept…It’s all so proper—respectable.
Then she comes in.
The room grows still as her silhouette darkens the door.
It’s obvious she doesn’t belong there—cut off jeans and dirty T-shirt. Carefully…cautiously…one step toward Jesus. Then another. As if she expects someone to point a finger at her and scream, "this is no place for your kind! Get out!" or perhaps take her forcefully in hand and see her roughly back through the door she had just mustered enough courage to enter… but no one does. They are, of course, thinking it.
Her steps quicken as she meets no resistance. The shame so heavy on her that her eyes are fixed fast on the floor. Her long hair hides the flushed face of humiliation. Perhaps Humility. But our personal concept of humility is merely a speck of the anguish—the turmoil happening in this woman’s heart. Humiliation. Only once maybe twice her eyes darted upward—looking for the teacher from Galilee. She nearly knocks over a chair or two as she works her way around the room to where Jesus is reclining.
Do not confuse this unnamed woman with Mary as so many have. Luke is such a meticulous writer and a grand historian. It is unlikely that he would kept her name from us if it were the extremely visible character of Mary Magdalene, whom he does name in a separate event (in true Luke-like form) immediately following this narrative. Neither can this be Mary of Bethany –sister of Martha and Lazarus. Although the stories are similar – their differences are distinct.