A Prostitute Teaches Me How To Worship

As Christians, we often spend a lot of time wondering what is wrong with us.

We hear of martyrs on foreign soil  laying down their lives for the gospel in bloody extravagant fashion. Church history testifies of men and women who stood against fierce political and social opposition and proclaimed boldly the foolishness of the cross. In our bible reading the fearless radical passion of the early church in the book of Acts is an indictment on our listless and dry spiritual estate.

Even reading a popular book calling us to “Radical” gospel commitments doesn’t necessarily bring the quick spiritual fix we long for.

It’s enough to make any solid sincere saint at the least question their own fruit, and at the most question their very salvation.

All of this begs the question.

Thankfully, as is always the case with the most important questions, the Bible is forthcoming with a more than adequate answer. It’s found in Luke 7:36-50:

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Let’s stop there for now.

Where does such passion, boldness, and extravagant worship come from?

Party Like A Morning Star

In the verse right before this scene (Luke 7:34) Jesus speaks of eating with the “wrong people.” The Sinners and tax collectors were despised by the religious establishment. One of the Pharisees charges against Jesus was that he threw the best parties (“a drunkard”) and invited the lowest classes of a people.

They probably were jealous they weren’t invited.

Jesus turns that theory on its head in the very next scene.  Being no respecter of persons, Christ eats with the “right” person in v. 36. Pharisees were the creme de la creme of society, pillars of the first century Israeli religious system. The Pharisees were OCD in their religious zeal. They fasted frequently and even tithed out of their spice racks.

In v. 36 Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner. Dinner was a sign of intimate acquaintance in ancient Israel culture. A gesture of supreme respect towards the person invited.

Is it possible to pay outward respects to Christ and inwardly oppose him?

It takes no time for a broken vessel to rain on Simon’s party.

Party Foul Of Kanye West Proportions

In v.37 we have a very public “sinner” show up to the Pharisee’s house. The phrase “woman of the city” usually connotes sexual sin, which was probably committed as a prostitute. In that day, women were second class citizens on the level of children. For a woman to show up to a man’s dinner party uninvited was a serious party foul.

For a known prostitute to show up at a Pharisee’s dinner party uninvited was a colossal Kanye Westesque error.

The woman brings with her what is likely her most valuable possession, an alabaster flask of perfume. The expensive stone flask was probably used for her line of work. In a profound way, the jar contained her very livelihood. It was worth a healthy portion of her salary for the entire year.

Yet she pours it out in a reckless display of love.

Her only earthly security.

Her 401K Plan.

And then something even more stunning happens.

Because of our lack of historical context, the cultural significance of v. 38 is lost on us.

She washes Jesus’s feet with her glory

A woman’s hair had a weighty impact on her identity in Jewish culture.

In 1 Cor. 11:15 Paul calls a woman’s hair her “glory.”

The first century Jewish woman kept her hair up all her life. But on her wedding night when she was standing before her husband for the first time the man would reach up and take her hair down. Before the marriage was officially consummated the new husband would first see his wife’s long hair fall around her bare shoulders and back, and he would behold her there, standing in all her “glory.” Because of these implications it was scandalous for a woman to have her hair down before other men in public places.

But this woman does not care that she scandalizes the mind of mere men. She is on a solemn mission to serve at the feet of her tender Savior.

Her hair is down, she is vulnerable, she lays it all before the feet of the only man who will never use and abuse her.

And she uses her alabaster jar, her life savings plan, her only resource of earthly value and pours it on the feet of Jesus. The sandaled, dusty, unkempt feet of love. This was a slave’s job. She does it with tearful joy. Her tears were the soap that anointed the Savior’s feet.

Worship is a deeply emotional response to Christ. It is not just that, but it at least has that heartfelt component in it. Dignified stoicism is not a virtue lauded by Jesus.

This passion, boldness, and extravagant worship was a response she couldn’t hold back, no matter how her culture condemned her.

The gaze of the religious cut her to pieces. But she was pierced only by the gaze of One.

We’ll answer the original question at hand in the next post. The question(s) for now are:

What is holding me back from unhindered displays of worship for my Jesus?

What can this prostitute teach me about costly love?

Do I identify more with the Pharisee than the prostitute in this scene?

Peace and Grace til next time.

Bryan Daniels

Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

75 thoughts on “A Prostitute Teaches Me How To Worship”

  1. 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. Lk 7:47

    Perhaps she loved Him so much because she knew what she was and and she was so very, very……very thankful for forgiving one such as her. When someone knows what they really are…wretched….you have an understanding of what you owe Him…you owe Him your whole being and you have no choice but the lay at His feet.

  2. Your vivid description is perfectly refreshing, Bryan. I acted out this scene in a VBS last summer. As I began to approach Jesus, I felt sobs welling up in my throat. Before I knew it, I was weeping (in real life). I had only a glimpse of what it might have been like to have been this woman. Unclean upon approach and then cleansed by the Living Water. Forgiven and set free. And it overwhelmed me.

  3. Wow, Chief, heap-big insight! I like this! Makes me wanna “let me hair down” (even though I don’t have any… LOL)
    I am reminded of Susie Wills Yaraei’s song “Dance” on her CD “Shining” (and some of the other songs on it, her other CD “Simple,” and even her song “He’s Alive” on the CD “Worship and Warfare”).
    Also of David dancing before the Ark–I was just reading today in Graham Hancock’s book THE SIGN AND THE SEAL (about his search to determine whether the Ark might be currently located in Ethiopia)–I’m about half-way through it (500+ pages), and the particular chapter I just read this morning (!) was about him attending the festival celebrating the Ark in 1990, and the incredible display of dancing before the procession symbolizing its being transported (the Ark is not actually brought into public display). One guy described dancing was like a whirling dervish and actually passed out after his elaborate display of dancing!
    I want to be like that–so extravagant in my worship that NOTHING ELSE matters!
    Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Beautiful. I’ll add one more question that I’ve thought about when I’ve read this passage: Would I crash a party for Jesus?

  5. This is beautiful. I don’t even know what to say.

    “Church history testifies of men and women who stood against fierce political and social opposition and proclaimed boldly the foolishness of the cross. In our bible reading the fearless radical passion of the early church in the book of Acts is an indictment on our listless and dry spiritual estate.”

    I’ve thought this sentiment for a long time, which is why I’ve almost ‘worshipped’ people like William Tyndale, William Wilberforce, Henry Martyn, and other heroes of the faith.

    I’m like the prostitute in my sins (see my 20/20 blog). But I haven’t received Jesus’ love. I haven’t taken my hair down for him either. And I haven’t given him my alabastar jar – my sinful livelihood. I don’t know how…

    I have to make a choice, once and for all: God or world, God or sin, God or self. Why is this so hard? Why have these three bad things wooed me for so long? When will I give God my pain?

      1. Thanks. My questions were rhetorical, I guess. I’m just thinking aloud – about what to say and do regarding myself. I’m being honest with others in my mess.

  6. Whenever I meditate on this story, I always think “I would rather be the woman at His feet, than the man at His side.”

    But today it is the title of your post that struck me forcefully because just last night, an atheist moved me to tears with his lesson on witnessing. I found this video on a post on a blog I follow:

    The title is A Gift of a Bible, and the speaker is Penn of Penn and Teller. I can only say it is well worth the five minutes it takes to watch it.

      1. I would never have opened a Penn video if I had not found it in a Christian post. I was watching it in the beginning waiting to be offended. By the end, I was convinced it was a message God wanted His children to hear.

  7. The three questions you ask at the end are thought provoking and convicting. I am challenged to think about my attitude in worship and the One who is worthy of my worship, Christ! Thank you for your insight. God bless you!

  8. I love this post. More and more I think I would like to go to a church called “Big Fat House Full of the Worst Kind of People.” Maybe then we’d stop being so stuffy & get down to welcoming everyone and worshipping Jesus.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier – I’m new to blogging. I am so glad to read yours as well!


  9. Wow. The questions are good but the context within which you set the story is great! I’ve always wondered what happened to the woman in the story after this event. I’m sure the long-and-short of it is: she lived, she died, and she’ll be raised again. True for all of us who profess Jesus at Lord…so what is it that we’re waiting for?

  10. The question that went through my mind as I was reading this was one that hits me a lot . . .do I go to the party if the only people who are invited are people who don’t believe they’ve ever sinned?

  11. Reblogged this on Talon's Point and commented:
    Like this woman, the tax collector who stood back beating his chest, or the Centurian who quietly worshiped God in spirit and truth, we recognize our right standing is found in humility before him.

  12. Such a very “spirit” directed message. I, so easily can identify with that “woman”…like her I will never stop remembering from where the Lord Jesus Christ brought me from. Oh the wondrous grace of the LORD God to give us this most precious gift. Thank you for the inspiration…I would like to reblog if it is ok with you.
    May He bless you abundantly!

  13. Thanks Bryan…I heard God’s voice through this one. He has been telling me that its in worship, more than in ‘making declarations’ that I will see Him…seems like I will need to come undone. HallelluJah!!!!

  14. What a beautiful Post. If I recall I think that the oil also was to prepare Jesus for His burial as well. God can forgive all, love all, and redeem all who are in a fall state of grace. He reversed the curse of Dis-grace with His-Grace. Praise be to God 😀

  15. Reblogged this on noxforchristmas and commented:
    This is reblogged from Chief of the least, one of the best Christian blogs I’ve found on the net. This has always been one of my favorite stories in the Bible, and this man puts it in excellent context. Go through the comments. At the bottom is a video of Penn from Penn and Teller. I’ve gotten some atheist friends and readers. This video reminds me of those that need to see more good Christians, and less hypocrisy….

  16. More to often we feel like we are owed something but this woman had been at the lowest of lows. I believe she was ashamed and convicted of her life as a prostitute. I truly believe she was forced by the ways of man to such a lifestyle. Yes, she had a choice but in her time of despair she did not see that choice until she was in the midst of Our savior. She would give what was left of her to ask His forgiveness and be made whole.
    To me when I read this, she washed His feet with her hair and perfume therefore in all her sin she glorified Him. The others he was to dine with treated Him like He was one of them.

    We often do the blame game but this woman in all her sinful ways took ownership of her sins and sought forgiveness. Glory to God!

    I enjoyed…
    Shenine A Woman After God’s Own Heart ♥

  17. The prostitute knows who Jesus is, she knows He is God, she has come under conviction and knows she is a sinner. She sees His holiness. She loves Him so much, she offers everything–the best of everything she has for Him. Just thinking about her broken and greatful heart, her love, just brings tears to my eyes. Do I love Jesus this much? Yes.

  18. That so touches my heart. Sometimes people after they’ve been born again lose sight of the fact that they were sinners and how desperately they need Jesus. With all the convicting things found in the Old Testament, who is the only one that can provide the freedom of total and unconditional love. Well done my brother from a pure heart. We all need to be reminded of this.

  19. The Bailey Sisters 03/26/2012

    For AltoSolo,Choir,Violin and Pian
    Words and music,by Julia Montoro
    Arr.Dale Lieser
    In the midst of the noise and the happy occasion
    There was just one kneeling there in adoration
    Tears softly flowed, like ointment she poured
    On the head, on the feet,of her Savior and Lord
    She hath done what she could,
    And the work it is good.
    Precious oil, pure and sweet
    She hath poured at my feet
    For my death she prepared
    In my sorrow she shared
    She hath done,she hath done
    what she could what she could
    There were some that would scorn,
    They would try to give her blame
    He spoke the words,
    ,,She has come to praise my name’’
    Worship went on
    And the fragrance so rare
    Filled the house,
    And God’s glory was shown to us there
    Dear Saint,as you walk in this wicked world of sin,
    Sin crowding in many voices screaming out,
    Be not dismayed, keep your eyes on the Lord
    Let your life,pure and clean,praise our Savior adored
    She hath done what she could,
    And the work it is good
    Precious oil, pure and sweet
    For my death she prepared
    In my sorrow she shared
    She hath done,she hath done
    what she could, what she could

    Precious oil, pure and sweet

    She hath poured at my feet

    For my death she prepared

    In my sorrow she shared

    She hath done,she hath done

    what she could, what she could

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