Anointing the Feet of Jesus

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How much of what we do actually counts for kingdom interests? Do we ever think, “Now, that was doing something good for God’s work?” Maybe we’re struggling, wishing we could do more kingdom things, and thinking that all we have time for are the everyday things of life. Or maybe our schedules are full of church related responsibilities and activities, and we wish things would slow down.
Luke tells us a story of a happening in Jesus’ life. One day a Pharisee, Simon, invited Jesus to his house for dinner. As the custom of the day was, uninvited persons were allowed into the dining room. They had the privilege of standing along the wall as the invited guests enjoyed their feast. It’s easy to imagine social ranks fitting well into this scene. One of the reasons the wall standers paid an uninvited visit to a high-ranking neighbor’s house was to hear the conversation that was taking place. This was more than to make sure your neighbor wasn’t talking about you behind your back. It was an opportunity to hear the “higher-ups” dialogue and to increase your knowledge.
The door to the room where Jesus was dining, as one of noteworthy rank, was open. Who should walk in but a neighbor lady that should have known better than to come! Sure the door was open, but there are just some unwritten, understood boundaries that common sense would tell you not to pass. This neighbor was, as Luke tells it, a sinner; and whose house did she enter? It was the house of one of the religious elite of the community. This social rank “persona” had achieved such a status in life that he had no need to socialize with the “lesser” folk, and positively any physical contact was a sure way of defilement.
The lady was not forbidden entrance. Maybe Simon had a smug thought that Jesus would be pleased with him, to see him allow one of the “lowly” people admittance to his residence. Surely, that would be a Jesus way. And, really, to send her out would be rude. But hopefully she will mind her manners when present.
From the Pharisee’s perspective it was not to be so. What did she do but touch Jesus! And it wasn’t just a touch, but a whole ceremony of washing and anointing his feet. Jesus didn’t stop her, but allowed her to proceed to anoint his feet and dry them with her hair! Why did Jesus welcome this interchange with this sinner woman? May I suggest two reasons? While this woman came to her Savior as a sinner, she recognized in Jesus, not a man from the community, not a prophet who had power to do miracles, but THE MESSIAH who was come to provide spiritual deliverance. Why else did Jesus say, “Thy faith has saved you, your sins are forgiven you?” Jesus could see into her heart and mind. He had come to save sinners. Another reason is that her actions were not too far outside of the typical practice of the day. Note that Simon did not comment on what she did, but rather that because of the extent of her reputation she had no right to be doing it.
Did the woman know what she was doing? Did she quiver and shake before she entered the room? Was she wondering, “What will Simon and his friends think; what if Jesus tells me to stop?” Was she responding because of heart inspirations? How about Simon, did he know what he was doing? Was he also being driven by his heart? Both Simon and the woman were attempting to do something for Jesus. What does Jesus say about our attempts to serve Him?
Are we aching to do something big for Jesus? Do we struggle with dissatisfaction because we are just a lowly “foot washer”? Do we wish we could be the one to provide the seven sweets and seven sours for our wonderful Savior? What do you think Jesus wants from us? What does He call service? Will we learn the lessons that Jesus taught to Simon and his fellow diners that day long ago?
Jesus wants us to learn that sincere service is voluntary. Both Simon and the woman get the nod for doing what they did voluntarily. Neither was forced to do what they did. We really don’t know Simon’s motives for inviting Jesus for dinner. Two indicators that point to less than sincere motives are the facts that he neglected some common courtesies of the culture (washing Jesus’ feet and greeting him with a kiss) and also that Jesus called attention to the difference between what he did and what the woman did. Could we conclude that even though Simon appeared to be serving Christ in a profitable way, he really did not have a heart of service?
Jesus wants us to learn that service is giving before (or even without) receiving. Again, both Simon and the woman were giving. By their giving, what could they expect to receive? Simon may be in line to receive a compliment and hearty thank you for the lunch. The woman gave in such a way that it is easy to imagine that she did not have any thoughts of receiving. This is not to be misunderstood to say that if we give we will receive, or that hopefully we will receive because we gave. This struggle with service may be imbedded in our automatic thought processes because we are so accustomed to receiving as a result of giving. In school, we were taught to give good effort to receive good grades. As employers or craftsmen, we give good service to receive good payment. Service is being willing to give without the promise of reward.
Jesus wants us to learn that sincere service is motivated by love. It was very nice of Simon to invite Jesus to his house for lunch. Again, we do not know the motive of his heart. It is clear to see that the woman was motivated by love. Jesus exposed the differences in their responses; however, Jesus did not criticize Simon for what he did. Jesus did not want Simon to stop inviting people to his house for lunch, He wanted him to grow in love. Let us willingly serve as we have opportunity, and let us willingly grow in love so that our service can be perfected.
Jesus wants us to learn that service is being willing to serve in the lowliest way. Jesus wants us to know that this is an expression of the highest degree of love. No, it is not looking for the lowest form of service so that we have the self-satisfaction that we are expressing the highest degree of love. The key word here is willing. Willingness to serve indicates a heart that is emptied of self. There is something in our hearts that calls out to be noticed for duties done. This can destroy willingness for lowly or unnoticed service responsibilities. Mothers may struggle with this in the home. Church responsibilities that get labeled as mundane may cause us this struggle. It can be hard for us to willingly serve when no one seems to notice. But remember that Jesus is dining at your house. He sees what you are doing. “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42).
Jesus wants us to learn that service is not a duty owed but a gratitude response. The woman knew she was a sinner. She knew she needed a remedy for her sinfulness. In looking ahead at her life, she knew that she needed Jesus. We can relate to her struggle. Our past was sinful. It has no solution for the future. When we come to Jesus, He remedies our sin problem, too. This should inspire our service. Our response is gratefully serving for His cause and in His work.
The woman simply did the simple things that she knew needed to be done to express her love to her Savior. May God richly bless you as you likewise anoint the feet of Jesus.