She was well-known to men. Hated by their wives.
Easy on the eyes and available for a price.
To say the least, her reputation had preceded her and it was not pretty.
It had been so long since she had been treated with respect she had forgotten what it felt like. Being embraced in love was such a distant memory she wasn’t sure love still existed.
A commodity. A currency. A delicacy. An object. Used to being used. Far too familiar with familiarity.
Her life was a series of one-night-stands that in the end were always one-more-stain.
That’s what made her action both crazy and courageous.
This woman with a past heard of a man who would give her a future.
So she gathered up the shattered pieces of her life and risked it all to find Him.
She crashed the party.
Not just any party. The party. Where holy people rubbed shoulders and important people swapped stories.
The in-crowd interrupted by the outcast.
There was little left of her life. Only the unrecognizable tatters of her identity and…the Jar.
The only thing of value she had left. She brought it for Him. But when she saw Him–when she looked in those eyes–she knew that this Jar filled with all she had left wasn’t nearly enough for all He would give.
Her hands shook with fear as she timidly approached this man who seemed to look into her and see something she thought was long dead. The beauty she saw released a flood of tears from eyes that had seen too much ugly.
She knelt at His feet, her tears the water to wash and her hair the towel to dry them. Her kisses a sign that she understood who He really was.
The feeling was like none she had ever known. So pure. So real. So deep.
The weeping was not just for the losses and mistakes of the past. It was unleashing all the pent-up pain and bottled up misery of a life gone very wrong for very long.
She could feel the blistering looks of the men in the room. So many had looked at her before…but this time it was disgust instead of desire.
But she couldn’t have cared less because she felt He couldn’t have cared more.
What happened next is immortalized in each disciple’s Gospel and displayed as a trophy in the worship hall of fame.
She broke the jar.
The priceless oil seeped over the freshly-washed feet of Jesus. He would smell like this for days. The exchange was visceral, powerful…eternal.
All she had poured out for all He was.
He called it beautiful. Those around called it wasteful. He received it as worship. They rejected it as worthless.
They saw a piece of trash. He saw a priceless treasure.
How could they have such radically different perceptions for the very same event?
- The difference between the condescension of the Pharisees and compassion of Jesus lay in how they saw the woman.
- The difference between the sacrifice of the woman and the self-righteousness of the Pharisees lay in how they saw Jesus.
The whole scene has me wondering…what do I see?
When I look at ordinary situations that may well have eternal consequences, what do I see? When I face impossible people who may well be in the midst of incredible transformation, what do I see?
What do I see when confronted with the:
- Guy on the sidewalk unshaved and unbathed with head down and hand out?
- Girl on the street half-naked and half-sober with fake parts and a false smile?
- Kid at the store cocky and contemptuous with baggy pants and a crooked cap?
- Teen in Starbucks disconnected and dismissive with vacant stare and inked body?
Every one of these scenarios involves a real person with a backstory that fills in the blanks and explains everything about them that makes me question, “Why do they do that?” or “How can they act like that?”
Like the man who owed less in Jesus’ parable, I tend to feel better about myself than anyone I presume owes more. My problem is perspective.
I don’t know the story and so I fill in the blanks with my own small ideas and biased pre-conceptions. And they may well do the same as they look at me.
But Jesus never does.
He knows the whole story and desperately wants to make the story whole.
The things that I see which raise critical questions are the things that fill Jesus with creative wonder. Where I see pain, He sees potential. Where I see evil, He sees hope. Where I see ugly, He sees beauty.
Beauty in our ineffective attempts to love Him, our inadequate efforts to know Him and our insufficient shots at following Him. When we risk what’s left of our shattered lives and pour out the tears of our broken pasts, He inhales the costly fragrance of our love. It is sweet aroma.
Then he actively re-writes our story and includes it in His.
As He said to the woman, “You are forgiven…you are saved…go in peace.” Everything changed with that broken jar.
It’s very sad that those around couldn’t see it because each of them needed it too.
Every day I have a choice to see with eyes of a Pharisee or through the eyes of a Savior. I can judge a person by what they have become or witness what He helps them become.
I have the option to look at the mess they have made of their lives or embrace the message Jesus will write through their lives. The difference is clear.
What do I see?