All four Gospels include stories about a woman who anoints Jesus during a meal. Three Gospels describe this anointing as happening in Jerusalem before Jesus’ arrest as a foreshadowing of his passion and resurrection: The woman prophetically anoints Jesus for burial as well as for enthronement as king. Luke instead places it in Jesus’ Galilean ministry where it describes the exuberant, extravagant joy that erupts when Jesus’ grace-filled presence transforms someone’s life.
Luke describes this unnamed woman as a sinner. In Jesus’ time, sin was as much a social as it was a moral one. When Jesus reaches across the boundaries that have excluded her and accepts her, she knows herself as forgiven.
The woman then responds to this forgiveness with extravagant joy that overflows into a bold act of love. An unexpected role reversal occurs. The unnamed woman arrives as an uninvited, unwanted guest in Simon’s house, but she suddenly takes on the role of the banquet’s host. Simon, the official host, should have ensured that Jesus’ feet were washed. Yet she, rather than Simon, performs this humble act of service, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and covering them with her kisses.
Sometimes we best proclaim our love of Jesus by our humble service to the marginalized ones he loves and forgives. In washing their feet, we wash his feet. Her joy in receiving Jesus’ forgiveness empowered her to act courageously. In the same way, our most courageous acts of ministry arise from exuberant joy rather than a sense of duty or obligation.
Lord God, may my ministry to others arise from the joy of your presence and not from a sense duty or obligation. May my humble service to others boldly proclaim my love for you. Amen.