There is so much God is willing to receive from us that He does not require from us. He designed us to live in intimate communion with Him, but He does not force it; He longs for it.
We see this in the story of Luke 7, where two vastly different accounts of responses to the Lord are outlined at the dinner party of Simon. I want us to see this metaphorically as believers and as churches.
First, think about Simon for a second. He sincerely wanted to meet with Jesus, spend time with Him, and honorably host Him. His approach to the Lord was the approach we all would most likely employ—friends, food, and a table for conversation and connection. I believe he had an earnest desire to personally know Jesus.
Similarly, every Sunday, in any given city, hundreds of believers will gather desiring to meet with the Lord. Jesus is always willing and ready to come meet with us, so what does He do? He comes. Jesus shows up where He is invited. I truly believe Jesus has anticipation for every weekly church service, excited to come and be with His bride. He loves to commune with His people and desires for us to know Him more intimately.
In this story, we see someone else who had the same desire as Simon, but took a drastically different approach. This woman broke all social codes and completely crashed a private party. It is amazing that she did not speak one word, however, she was by far the loudest guest. She took center stage and we can see Jesus was completely comfortable with her approaching Him in the dramatic manner she did.
Her response to Jesus, though different from anyone else in the room, affected everyone present and is really important for us to study. She wets His feet with her tears, kisses His feet with her lips, and anoints Him with perfume.
Jesus gives Simon, and us, the readers, insight into His personal experience. Jesus looks at the woman, but addresses Simon, “Simon, do you see this woman?” It’s an obvious question that He did not need to ask. Everyone saw this woman, but not everyone saw what Jesus saw when He looked at her. Jesus compares Simon’s reception of Him to the woman’s reception.
“I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume.”
He essentially says, I received no tears, no kisses, and no oil from you upon entering your home. Yet, I received all of those things from her. I believe Jesus is implying, “I was ready and willing to receive all of these things from you, but you did not offer them to me.” I was longing to receive your hurt, pain, affection, gifts, and offerings. But you did not give me these things.
THE LORD DESIRES OUR PAIN, AFFECTION, AND GIFTS
This account gives us great insight into the Lord’s desires. Jesus was willing to receive the pain (tears), affections (kisses), and gifts (oil) of everyone in the room. He anticipated it. He was open. Yet, they were not.
The humility demonstrated in Jesus is astounding. He did not force them to give something that they were not willing to give. He honored their preparations, agenda, and response to Him. He was not mad, nor upset, but humble and present. He honored their reception to Him, but He was also not willing to forbid this woman to have a different response to Him.
There is a bride emerging that is interrupting everything in our day by their intimate and extravagant offerings in response to the Lord’s presence and love. The presence of Jesus is the most transformative power on earth today. Therefore, any protocols, plans, and programs we adopt should be unto this end—His transformative power touching earth. It is not that what we are doing is wrong or not enough. But I would argue that our dinner parties need to be interrupted. Our personal and corporate agendas need to be hijacked because we allow His presence to consume and lead us into an intimate, relational and healing encounter with our dynamic, living God.
I know we could define loving God in a number of ways with various expressions, but Jesus describes this woman’s response to Him as “loving much”—and I imagine that means He felt loved much. Her example serves as a prescriptive exhortation to us on how Jesus likes to be received, and how we can rightly respond in vulnerable, intimate love to Him.
The woman’s response to Jesus broke through the formalities I imagine most of us are more comfortable with in our relationship with Jesus. Her extravagant offering and display moved Jesus, as well as challenged the others present. As He received her pain, affections, and gifts, she revealed His readiness to receive any offering in any manner.
All three things she gave the Lord are significant for us to understand as we grow in more intimately loving the Lord. First, she offered Him her tears. Tears represent the pain and, at times, even despair. Throughout scripture, we see the desperate bringing their tears to the Lord as an offering, and our tears are treasured by Him. Psalm 56:8 says that God puts our tears in His bottle. He collects them and accounts for them. Psalm 126:5 says that those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. Our tears are seeds we sow, which will return a harvest of joy when we give Him all our pain and despair. Your tears are a powerful offering of love and trust to the Lord, and He will hold and treasure the brokenhearted. He receives your surrendered pain as an offering of worship. Do not think that worship is only singing happy songs; your tears anoint Him as Lord when you bring them to Him.
Second, the woman offered her affections. Her kisses represent her deepest emotions and desires. Emotions are so crucial for us to bring to the Lord. Many in the western church are afraid to allow environments where emotions are a trusted and honored offering to the Lord. I have heard criticism of communities being too emotional or promoting emotionalism.
We must get over this hesitation. I don’t trust my emotions to lead me, but I can allow my emotions to serve and worship Him when I give them to Him and ask Him to be Lord over them. Our emotions are expressions of our reaction to people and circumstances. Depression produces emotions. Love produces emotions. Sports produce emotions. Concerts and artists produce emotions. Emotions communicate one’s beliefs and values, and are healthy expressions of our passions, fears, and desires. That said, we will offer our emotions somewhere to someone; as believers, we must offer our emotions to the Lord.
We don’t judge people who are emotional at weddings, funerals, sporting events, or the birth of a baby. Yet, for some reason, religion has wrongly relegated emotions as unacceptable and untrustworthy in the place of worship. The psalms give us example after example of those who bring offerings of joy, peace, love, and pain to the Lord—emotions. Worship the Lord by giving Him your emotions.
Lastly, we see that she brought the Lord an alabaster jar of perfume. This was an extravagant and sacrificial offering that she poured on the feet of Jesus. This was not a small or rational offering to the Lord; she wanted to give something significant and valuable. This gift is representative of her value and worth. In John 12, when Mary offers the same type of offering to the Lord, Judas remarks that the offering was a waste. It could have been sold and used to feed the poor. It was foolish and bad stewardship from an earthly perspective. Yet, this extravagant offering had eternal significance to the Lord—it was oil that would anoint His body for burial. I can only imagine how deeply it impacted the Lord’s heart. These acts of extravagant gifts and offerings can only be made in faith, and out of a revelation of God as an abundant giver.
Scripture speaks of God loving a cheerful giver. He does! And like our love, He does not demand our giving, so when it is offered willingly, He loves it. Gifts are given from the heart, and He is open to receiving whatever we desire to cheerfully give to Him.
How does this story of the courageous woman in Luke 7 impact you? Where can you relate to Simon or to her? How are you receiving His presence in your life, and what are you offering Him when He shows up?
Michael Freeland Miller is the founding and Senior Leader of UPPERROOM, and author of His House, His Presence: Calling the Church Back to God’s Original Design.