WHEN we read about the marriage feast at Cana of Galilee, we learned of the low tables and the couches used in the Bible land. The table was sometimes shaped like a horseshoe or a letter “U,” the couches being placed about the outer side, leaving the inner side open for the servants to come and go. It was a mark of kindness to anoint the head of a guest with oil; and in that country where the paths are rough and dusty, and where they usually wore only sandals covering the bottoms of their feet, it was refreshing to wash the feet with water on coming to the house.
It was in Galilee, soon after the raising of the widow’s son at Nain, and the coming of the messengers from John the Baptist, that the Lord was invited by a Pharisee to eat with him. They were reclining about the table, when a woman who was a sinner came in by the open door and stood at the Lord’s feet behind Him, weeping. She had brought a little alabaster jar of ointment. Alabaster is a beautiful stone like marble. The ointment was olive oil made fragrant with spices. These little jars for ointment were sometimes rosebud shape, pointed at the bottom, with a lid made fast with wax. Sometimes there was a long, slender neck which let the ointment run slowly, a few drops at a time. The woman broke the jar, and poured the ointment on the Lord’s feet. Her tears were a sign of her sorrow for what she had done wrong. The ointment showed her grateful love for the Lord who would help her to do better. To feel that the Lord helps us to leave what has been wrong and to do better, is to be forgiven.
And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.—Luke VII. 36-50.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Feet >> The outward life in contact with the world
Lord’s feet >> His human life, full of Divine beauty and power
Sitting at the Lord’s feet, and holding Him by the feet >> Acknowledging and worshiping the purity of His life
Washing the Lord’s feet >> Repenting of wrong things in ourselves, for then we increasingly behold the purity of His life
Washing His feet with tears >> The repentance through which we learn to know Him is painful to us
Olive oil, the chief ingredient in the ointment >> Love and kindness which makes our relations with others go smoothly
Sweet odors in the ointment >> Gratitude and humility which make love sweet
Faith of the woman saves her >> Real faith involves repentance, purity, love, gratitude and humility
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum