In humility she entered the room, making her way straight through the crowded room to Jesus, generously lathering her Savior in outrageously expensive perfume. She wept, lavishing her love for the Messiah, wiping her tears from His holy feet with her long hair. Completely abandoned, wholly surrendered, she kissed His feet. She poured out her sins at the feet of Jesus as she poured out that perfume. The room stared. It didn’t matter, the only gaze that mattered was Jesus’. The cost, the hours of work that went into the possession of that alabaster jar were just a speck in comparison of the cost Jesus would pay on the cross. She left her shame and guilt and the long list of sins in the tears that washed Jesus’ feet. Christ hadn’t hung on the cross yet, his hands weren’t pierced, and his scalp unscarred. Yet she understood the weight of her sins and the power of His saving grace. This is true worship.
First off, this account of the woman anointing and worshipping Jesus is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 7,and John 12). Further study reveals that each of the four accounts have some differences. Some people believe that the gospels recorded two or even three distinct, but similar accounts, while many believe it is the same story told from the unique perspective of each eyewitness. Some believe this account is about Mary Magdalene, while others argue it is speaking of a different Mary. From this story and the identification it gives to the woman as “a sinful woman,” many believe that Mary was a prostitute. Many theologians have studied this passage and there is no easy answer to any of these questions. We aren’t called to a blind faith and God isn’t scared of our questions. We should learn to research to learn from theologians and scholars who devote their time to finding these answers and dig into our Bibles. In studying this passage, I found many great articles by theologians who have compiled research from this account in the Bible. We will never learn all the answers, but we can’t be scared of our questions. And if you take the time to study it, history certainly doesn’t contradict Christianity. However, if we focus on analyzing and deciphering every word, it’s easy to lose sight of the true purpose of the Bible. I don’t want to ignore the questions about this story, but if we focus on that alone we will miss out on the richness and beauty it offers us.
With that aside, we can be certain that in this account Jesus was attending a dinner, a woman approached Jesus, she poured perfume on Him, the others at the dinner party were shocked and disapproved of the woman’s actions, but Jesus praised her. This is the essence of the story, and there is an important example to learn from here.
Luke’s emotional account of the scene stirs my heart. This woman understood what worship looked like. She was a woman burdened by sin, humbled by the saving power of God’s grace. Sin teaches us so much about grace, to understand and live in gratitude of grace through repentance. This woman understood that. And through this worship, she found freedom.
Isn’t this what our worship should look like? As we sing, as we serve, as we pray, as we read our Bible the world around us fades when we set our eyes on Jesus in worship. We approach Jesus in complete surrender with the boldness to sit at his feet by grace alone. We refuse to be burdened by shame, and instead respond to mercy with repentance and praise. The power of the cross pierces our heart so deeply that we must wipe our tears from Christ’s feet. We are so immersed in our love for God and so aware of the immensity and depth of the love He has shown us, that we count all costs more than worth it. We block out the angry shouts of the world and listen to the gentle whisper of Jesus. True worship drives us to our knees and lifts our eyes to God.
It’s time for us to stop trying to wrap worship up, put it in a neat box, with shiny paper and a pretty bow. Worship is so much more than singing at church. Yes, that is a way to worship, but singing as loud as you can and raising your hands on Sunday morning means nothing if you aren’t living your life every other day of the week in worship and surrender to Christ. Let’s learn from this beautiful story and enter worship in humility and find God’s grace. Then, let’s trust in God’s saving power, find freedom, and live in His peace.
Jesus says to the woman at His feet, “I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” (Mark 14:9). This is the kind of legacy I want to leave. It’s not an extraordinary feat or fame, but a legacy of surrender. It is such a beautiful picture because it reminds us that grace means we can do nothing to earn God’s favor. This act was so special because of Jesus, not because of anything this woman had done. Worship is losing yourself and turning to God. I want to be remembered as the woman at the feet of Jesus.