Meditation On Luke 7:36-50 -- By: Vernon Keith Rempel

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 10:4 (Fall 1996)
Article: Meditation On Luke 7:36-50
Author: Vernon Keith Rempel

Meditation On Luke 7:36-50

Vernon Keith Rempel

Vernon K Rempel is Pastor of First Mennonite Church of Denver, Colorado. He says the woman anointing Jesus’ feet is one of his favorite Bible stories, on which he has based five or six sermons. This meditation was first published in the January 31, 1995, issue of Gospel Herald and is reprinted by permission of the author.

She had bound her hair into a tight, black knot. But now the dark curling tresses are loose, cascading onto Jesus’ wet feet, and all around Simon’s dining room the meal turns to stone.

The trouble is, she is a sinner. Not a private sinner with sins of the heart, suitable for repentance in silence during Sunday morning confession. Nor a sinner in the general sense that we are all sinners saved by grace. She is a known sinner, one singled out by her sin, one publicly shamed by sinfulness.

Since she does not appear with any stable man by her side, it is tempting (and titillating) for us to imagine that her sin is sexual—prostitution or habitual unchastity. But maybe it is financial malfeasance. She has means enough to buy perfume in alabaster. The parable Jesus tells on this occasion speaks of money, which may be a hint. But we have no way of knowing.

Jesus had come out of the wilderness and was starting to attract some attention. People gathered to hear him speak. They came to him for healing. John the Baptist had sent word from his jail cell, wondering whether Jesus was the one he had been waiting for. And the Pharisees noticed that he ate and drank with sinners.

The sinner from the city, the dark-haired weeper, is not doing her reputation any favors by letting down her hair onto Jesus’ feet. It is an immodest act, an act against morality and dignity, an intimate act in a public place. But she has to dry Jesus’ feet; she has cried all over them. She had come to Simon’s house meaning to honor Jesus with perfume, a humble anointing of the feet, dramatic but not scandalous. Instead, her tears come, speaking release from the depths of her heart-sickness. And now her hair is down and her shame confirmed.


She is in exactly the wrong place for such a scandal. It is like the classic “running down Main Street in your underwear” bad dream. The house belongs to Simon, the Pharisee. In this house, the law is observed. The order of

the day is propriety. Simon, of all people, does not make social mistakes, or sins, or any other disruption. His fondest goal is to live right and thereby invoke the day of God’s kingdom. The orderliness of his life, from morality to social grace, is cut from the whole cloth of his religion.<...

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