And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned
that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an
alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she
began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her
head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.
Before this woman could anoint Jesus’ feet with her perfume, the vial or jar that contained the perfume had to be broken. However, the alabaster jar was not the only thing that was broken in this scriptural story. This woman experienced a broken heart when she realized her sinfulness. Then in gratitude for the forgiveness offered to her by Jesus, she chose to break the vile of perfume and anoint the feet of Jesus. The cost most likely was her life’s savings, yet it saved her life for eternity. In a sense, she may have been prophetically and symbolically preparing Jesus’ body for burial. She may have been one of only a few people who truly understood that the total cost of forgiveness was Jesus’ life. Not only did she anoint Jesus feet with perfume, but she also washed His feet with her tears. I believe her tears came from her broken heart. These tears exuded a fragrance as pleasing to Jesus as the aroma of the perfume from the broken bottle. Listen to a couple of scriptures. First, Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Then Paul begins II Corinthians 2:15 saying, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ…” We, and the sinful woman, become as fragrant perfume when we are broken of our sinful past.
The woman’s tears reveal brokenness in two unique ways. First, she was broken because of the remorse she felt for her former life of sin; so she shed tears of sorrow. Next, she cried tears of joy. Although still experiencing brokenness, the woman wept these tears because she realized that she had obtained something she did not deserve. Her tears were mingled with sorrow and gratitude. Psalm 30:5 says, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” I have heard it said that we can only be as happy as we have been sad. The height of our joy is determined by the depth of our sorrow. Psalm 56:8 NLT says, “You have collected all my tears in your bottle.” This is amazing to me! The Lord keeps all my tears in a bottle similar to the perfume vial. Personal tears are just as precious to the Lord as costly perfume. May we be aware of the progression of tears beginning as tears of sorrow followed by tears of joy. While one is not possible before the other, both are kept in a bottle by the Lord.
The woman’s brokenness is further revealed by her wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair. First, she washed His feet with her tears and then she dried them with her hair, not a towel. She gave of herself; she did not just use something handed to her by someone else. She served Jesus by giving of herself. In a sense, her actions were a prophetic portrayal of how Jesus would later wash the feet of His disciples. John 13:4-5 states, “so He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had wrapped around Him.” After washing their feet, Jesus explained why He had done this by saying in John 13:15-17, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Whether it be through actions by the woman or by Jesus, the message is clear that we are to be servants. Again there a progression that is significant for this woman. Restating, first she had to express tears of remorse before she could experience tears of joy. Then her tears of joy led to her desire to serve others. After she had experienced the love of Christ, she wanted to share that love with others around her.
My Reader, we are still called to apply God’s Word to our lives.
*Broken hearts and broken vials of perfume
*Tears of sorrow and tears of joy retained in God’s blessed bottle
*Towels as tokens of ourselves expressing our willingness to be servants
All of these are significant scriptural symbols of our willingness to be broken for a purpose – for God’s purpose. Each of us must have a broken heart before we can serve with our whole heart.