Saving Faith. Visible Faith.
“And Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” – Luke 7:50 NLT
One of the things that continually got Jesus into trouble with the religious leadership was His habit of forgiving people of their sins. It really upset their religious sensibilities because, in their minds, only God could forgive sins. Which is exactly why Jesus did it. He was God. And as such, He had the power and the authority to offer forgiveness of sin – but not in some willy-nilly manner. Faith had to be expressed, either verbally of visually, by the individual before Jesus could offer forgiveness of their sins. They had to illustrate belief in who He was and illustrate by their words or actions that they believed He had authority from God to help them. This tended to be people who were in great need and recognized their helplessness. They saw in Jesus a source of help and hope, and turned to Him in faith.
Such was the case of the woman in this story. She was a sinner. Her reputation as such preceded her. Luke describes her as an immoral woman, perhaps a local prostitute. But when she learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisees house, she showed up with a jar filled with expensive perfume and a plan of action. She poured the perfume mixed with her own tears on to the feet of Jesus, using her own hair as a cloth to clean them. She even kissed His feet repeatedly. These were NOT normal actions for anyone, even a prostitute. For her to walk into the house of a Pharisee, uninvited and unannounced was bold and brash, to say the least. She didn’t fit in. She would have been unwelcome and unwanted. Fingers would have been pointed. Shocked expressions and accusing whispers would have filled the room. Even the Pharisee thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” (Luke 7:39 NLT). I love that line. “She’s a sinner!” It expresses the Pharisees repulsion and shock. But it also perfectly illustrates Jesus’ point when He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10 NLT). Earlier in Luke’s account, he records Jesus statement, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:32 NLT). This woman was exactly the kind of person Jesus came to save. But the only difference between her and the Pharisee was that she recognized her sin and he couldn’t or wouldn’t. She believed in Jesus and he didn’t. Her faith in Jesus was expressed by her actions. Nowhere in this story does she say a word, and yet Jesus knows her heart because it shows up in her actions. Jesus makes a point of highlighting all that she had done to the Pharisee. “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil for my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume” (Luke 7:44-46 NLT). It wasn’t what she did that Jesus is emphasizing, but the heart behind her actions. This man, as the host, had neglected to do even the most rudimentary acts of kindness for Jesus. Why? Because he had no respect for Him. He did not believe in Him. But this woman, because she recognized her own unworthiness and valued who Jesus was and what He could do for her, went above and beyond normal protocol. And as a result, Jesus declared her sins forgiven. NOT because of what she had done. No, Jesus makes it clear. “I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love” (Luke 7:47 NLT). She was repentant. Otherwise she never would have come to Jesus. She believed in Him, or she never would have bothered coming to the home of the Pharisee that day. Her washing of Jesus’ feet was an act of thankfulness expressing her gratitude to Jesus for the forgiveness of her sins. This had been the message of John the Baptist and of Jesus from the very beginning. “Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven” (Luke 3:3 NLT). Repentance and turning to God for forgiveness. What Jesus saw in this woman was a repentant heart that had turned from sin and to God for forgiveness. And she expressed her gratitude to Jesus as the Son of God.
Her faith showed up in her actions. Her beliefs influenced her behavior. Her gratitude flowed out in good works. That is the way it should always be. James put it this way: “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds” (James 2:18 NLT). Saving faith is always a visible faith.
Father, how humbling it is to read this story and to realize just how grateful this woman was. Her actions were out of the ordinary and costly. She didn’t care what everyone else in the room thought or said. She didn’t care how much it cost her financially. She didn’t care about the potential damage to her reputation, because she knew the truth about herself. She had been a sinner in need of a Savior and she had met Him. She had received acceptance, hope and forgiveness from Jesus and expressed her thanks in her actions. May I learn from her example. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men