Since all four gospels share various accounts of a woman releasing a jar of perfume over Jesus, it must be pretty important. These accounts give us insights from different people’s perspectives including a Pharisee named Simon and Jesus’s own disciples.
Let’s set the stage for Luke’s account: Simon, a powerful religious leader, invited Jesus (the new teacher in town) to come and eat with him at his house. It would be quite an honor to receive an invitation such as this.
Jesus reclined at the table and dined with religious folks, mixing and mingling with them. Suddenly they were interrupted by a woman – an uninvited guest who approached Jesus. She was weeping, and she broke a jar of perfume over Him.
Simon was appalled at what the woman was doing, and he 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)
Verse 40 of Luke chapter 7 says, “Then Jesus answered his thoughts. ‘Simon,’ he said to the Pharisee, ‘I have something to say to you.’” Simon responded, “Go ahead, Teacher.”
Jesus responded to Simon’s judgmental attitude with a parable: There was a man who lent 50 pieces of silver to one man and 500 pieces of silver to another. Neither man could pay him back, so he forgave their debts. Which of the men loved him more?
Simon answered correctly: “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” (Luke 7:43 NLT)
Then Jesus scolded Simon for being such a poor host. Simon didn’t give Jesus water to wash his hands/feet, he didn’t greet Him with a kiss on the cheek, and he didn’t offer Him oil for His head.
These were all customs that were very important in the Jewish culture, but Simon failed at them all. The “sinful woman” put Simon to shame. She bathed Jesus, kissed him and anointed Him with a costly gift.
Worship = Giving Worth
Whatever we give worth to is what we worship. This perfume was the most valuable, costly thing this woman could give Jesus. This is how she showed His worth.
Jesus didn’t just notice the love and worship of the woman, but He also noticed the lack of love and concern from Simon. Jesus notices us too when we give Him the honor He deserves, but He also notices when we hold back or judge others who are true worshippers.
I think Simon invited Jesus over for dinner because Jesus was the new “hot-shot” in town, and Simon was curious to see what Jesus was all about. Maybe Simon thought he would appear important to other by having Jesus over to his house.
Simon wanted Jesus to do something for him – but the woman came ready to do something for Jesus! She gave Him her best, her love, her worship, something very valuable, and Simon gave Him nothing but a meal and judgment.
She came to Jesus with humility and brokenness, but Simon was proud and critical. This so-called “sinful woman” understood the true meaning of worship better than this religious leader did.
Simon Didn’t Recognize True Worship
Even though Simon still saw the woman in her past, sinful state, Jesus said, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.” (Luke 7:47 NLT)
This must have astonished Simon. People (especially “religious” people) can misjudge others’ actions. Jesus saw this woman’s heart even though no one else could.
Some sources say her perfume was of great worth. It was probably a present from a male client, or she may have purchased it with money she earned as a prostitute.
This act of true worship symbolized that she was getting rid of everything that reminded her of her former life. She didn’t want anything to remain from her past life of sin – she was devoted to Jesus because of the new life He had given her.
Disciples Saw Worship as Waste
Another account of Jesus being anointed with old is told in Matthew and reads:
“Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.
The disciples were indignant when they saw this. ‘What a waste!’ they said. ‘It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.’
But Jesus, aware of this, replied, ‘Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.’”(Matt 26:7-11)
Jesus’s own disciples thought this act of worship was a waste, but He saw it as an act of love, worship, appreciation, and preparation for His death.
This woman didn’t care what others thought of her. She had one thing on her mind: to honor and thank Jesus for what He had done for her. We too need to be more concerned about what GOD thinks than what others think.
This woman had a clear understanding of and a deep appreciation for how much she had been forgiven. If we truly comprehend how Jesus has forgiven us and rescued us, this should result in our loving Him more and more too.
Worship Should Cost us Something
In 1 Chronicles, God told King David to build an altar in a certain spot. The man who owned the land was willing to give King David the land, but “King David replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!’” (1 Chronicles 21:24 NLT)
Obviously, God appreciates worship that costs us something. What is valuable to you? Your time? Your money? Your talents or abilities? Your energy or strength? Your influence?
Jesus was so valuable to the “sinful woman” that she was willing to give him something of incredible value. She had been forgiven much, so she loved much. Her love was expressed through generous worship.
Likewise, if we truly grasp what God has done for us, our love for Him will increase and we will want to give Him things that are valuable or important to us.
If you don’t want to give Jesus what is valuable to you, what does that mean about your love for Him? If you are hesitant to spend what is costly to you in order to demonstrate His value, what does that say about your devotion to Him?
Forget trying to find a true worship experience. True worship isn’t necessarily found in worship songs, and finding true worship in a church doesn’t always happen either.
True worship is found in demonstrating the worth that God has in our lives.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus was so impressed by this woman’s worship in a religious leader’s home that He told everyone “I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” (Matthew 26:13 NLT)
Oh, that our worship would please God so much that He could use it as an example for others!
~Written by Jennell Houts