Tales of the crazed wilderness Baptist seemed to ride the wind in my village. He urged people to be watchful for the coming King. Then came news of another teacher, a man some called the Messiah, the fulfillment of the prophets of old.
This Teacher turned water into wine, and the Baptist baptized Him. So strange. They said he was a carpenter’s son, certainly not what I expected of our Messiah. Rumors about Him were first carried on hidden whispers, but as time passed, they began circulating freely.
Townspeople, the rumors said, were leaving their homes, jobs, and families to follow Him. Fishermen, common people, my neighbors . . . even a scoundrel tax collector. They encountered this Teacher, then walked away from their lives, as if they were suddenly worth nothing. I was astounded by their foolishness.
He was inviting people to a greater life, the rumors said, a life of freedom.
He came to heal not just the sick, the rumors said, but to set captives free.
As stories about Him grew, I nearly believed them. Of course, I wasn’t physically ill or imprisoned. But in moments of stark honesty, I admitted my desperation to escape the life I’d scratched out for myself. I longed to be able to make decisions for myself, and to be welcomed into my community, rather than relegated to its outskirts in shame.
Suddenly, my life felt . . . defeated. Lonely. Confining.
“Bah, escape is simply not possible,” I told myself. “I’m a realist, not a dreamer.”
My life had its benefits. I was crazy for thinking there was more.
Days turned into weeks. While I tried to forget about this mysterious man, I couldn’t avoid hearing more of His teachings about Yahweh. He claimed God wasn’t wrapped up in the Law. Inconceivable! The Law was the very foundation of our culture.
All the same, I began to wonder.
What if God could see me? Love me?
What if I could approach Jehovah myself? Not just listen from behind a stone wall.
Is such a relationship even possible?
I wrestled with myself, caught between the world as I knew it and the inexplicable pull I felt toward this Teacher.
My “chosen profession” silenced my voice in the public spaces of our town, but others were freer with their words. From them, I learned the Teacher and His followers were gathering at Simon’s house.
Like everyone else in town, I knew of Simon and other members of the elite and powerful Sanhedrin. They feigned interest in the Teacher’s words only to entrap or make sport of Him.
In a moment of outrageous and uncharacteristic courage, I made up my mind. I would never be invited to the gathering, but I knew I must go.
This man was offering a way out, freedom for captives. I’d realized He wasn’t talking about physical locks and bars imprisoning me, but I was nearly strangled by chains of emptiness, shame, and desolation. I began to hunger, fiercely, for the freedom He proclaimed.
As I slipped through the shadows, the flask I’d tucked into my satchel bumped against my side.
This fragrance had cost me.
Dusk had settled by the time I neared Simon’s house. A few servants hovered outside the door. Why weren’t they inside? I didn’t want to be seen. The flask was small, but seemed heavier with each step.
Who was I trying to fool? Was there really hope for someone like me?
How dare I consider coming near the Messiah?
Fear nearly made me flee, but I crept into the main room as if physically drawn towards Him. Important men reclined at the table while servants lined the walls. I prayed no one would hear the deafening pound of my heart.
The conversation grew lively and I forced myself to move forward. Instantly, I recognized the Teacher. Simon, as host, was next to Him. Thankfully, he was too engrossed in the discussion to notice me.
In an instant, the room became silent and all eyes turned toward me as the scent of spikenard from the flask I’d opened filled the room.
By now, my tears were falling freely. I was still afraid of being cast out and punished for my audacity, but a much bigger part of me simply broke open in the presence of the Teacher, much like the remnants of the flask clutched in my hands. Suddenly, I understood I was a prisoner to my sins and only this man could bring me release and redemption.
The precious oil mixed with my tears as I anointed His feet. My long hair had fallen free of its covering and unashamedly, I used it to dry His feet.
Simon spoke, the hostility in his voice startling me from the tender moment. His voice was thick with condemnation for the Teacher for allowing me, a woman of widely-known sin, to touch Him. Yet, how often had I stifled my revulsion in submitting to Simon’s own touch? But his sin was secret, and his self-righteous indignation protected his public image, so I closed my eyes and waited to be dragged from the room.
The Teacher didn’t shout, didn’t startle, didn’t demand my immediate removal or fall prey to Simon’s manipulation. Instead, He praised my actions, reminding Simon he hadn’t provided water to wash his guest’s feet before He entered the house, hadn’t greeted Him with a kiss . . . hadn’t welcomed or honored Him as I had.
Flustered and embarrassed, Simon complained about the oil. Yes, it was costly. I should know; I paid such a high price for it.
The Teacher then told a story about the forgiveness of debts. I am not dense; I understood He was demonstrating to Simon his own sinfulness and hypocrisy.
Then the Teacher stopped talking. I felt His eyes upon me, and lifted my eyes to meet His gaze.
“Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace,” the Savior said.
After one last look at my Lord, I walked out of the room, head high, knowing I was free and a new life awaited m
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