Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 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.38 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.
39 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.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[c] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The most loving thing we can do for others is love God more than we love them. For if we love God most, we will love others best.
I know this sounds like preposterous gobbledygook to an unbeliever. How can you love someone best by loving someone else most? But those who have encountered the living Christ understand what I mean. They know the depth of love and breadth of grace that flows out from them toward others when they themselves are filled with love for God and all he is for them and means to them in Jesus. And they know the comparatively shallow and narrow love they feel toward others when their affection for God is ebbing.
There’s a reason why Jesus said the second greatest commandment is like the first: if we love God with all our heart, we will love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). It functions like faith and works; if we truly have the first, the second naturally follows.
But if God is not the love of our life, there is no way that we will truly love our neighbor as ourselves. For we will love ourselves supremely.
He First Loved Us
The reason we will love others best when we love God most is that love in its truest, purest form only comes from God, because God is love (1 John 4:7–8). Love is a fundamental part of his nature. We are only able to love him or anyone else because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). We are only able to give freely to others what we have received freely from him.
And as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:26), we are designed to love God and others in the same way that God loves God and others. God, being the most pure, perfect, powerful, and precious entity in existence, must love himself most in order to love everything else best, since everything else is “from him and through him and to him” (Romans 11:36). If God loved something or someone else more than himself he would be violating the first commandment (Exodus 20:3) and the foremost commandment (Matthew 22:37–38). For God to love something or someone more than himself would be inappropriate, perverted, immoral. Like God, we must love him supremely in order to love everything else best.
The Horrible Result of Not Loving God Most
When we (or anything else, if that’s possible) become our supreme love instead of God, love becomes distorted and diseased. Love ends up devolving into whatever we wish for it to mean.
This is a great evil, greater than we often realize. This is the world as we know it: everyone loves in the way that is right in his own eyes. Which of course means that everyone hates in the way that is right in his own eyes. They become supreme “lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:2) and live “in the passions of [their] flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” since they were “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). It is not hard to understand why there is so much confusion and conflict and heartbreak and violence in the world. We live in an anarchy of love resulting in much of the horrifying things we hear in the news.
The Greatest Love Ever Shown
But God, being rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The author and perfecter of love, Love himself, stepped into our horrible evil anarchy to redeem us (Romans 5:8), his people, and give us new life (Ephesians 2:5), and transform us from children of wrath back into children of God (John 1:12) who are able to love him supremely and therefore love each other rightly — the way he has loved us.
And how has he loved us? With the greatest love there is, the love that moves one to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). But this doesn’t mean that Jesus loved us, his friends, more than his Father. It means that Jesus loved us best because he loved his Father most (John 17:26; Mark 14:36). And “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
What May Be Our Most Loving Act Today
So we see that if we love God most, we will love others best.
I find this to be a convicting and uncomfortable truth: How we love others, particularly other Christians, reveals how we love God. The apostle John puts it bluntly: “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). Our love for each other is an indicator of the place God is holding in our hearts.
God is very good at designing things this way: our faith is revealed by our works (James 2:18), our creeds are revealed by our deeds (Luke 6:46), and our love for him is revealed by our love for others (1 John 4:20). He makes it very hard for us to fake it. And this is a great kindness (Romans 2:4).
Since the greatest and second greatest commandments are involved in these things, we know they are important to God. So perhaps the best thing we can do today is take an honest, lingering look at the way we love others, allow what we see to have its Philippians 2:12 effect on us, and ask God what he would have us do in response.
We may find that this is the most loving thing we will do for everyone else today.
“How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are!” – Song of Solomon
The picture painted here is of a man completely in love with a woman. To him, she is “beautiful.” He calls her “my darling” and repeats, “How beautiful you are!”
While this portrays human love, it also describes the kind of relationship we are to have with Jesus. We are to love Him, just as this man loved this woman. We’re to be devoted to Him…to love being with Him…and to be enraptured by His presence.
Love was so important to Jesus that He made this the focus of a critical dialogue with Peter after the Resurrection. Three times, He asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” After the third time, Peter responded strongly, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (John 21:15-17).
Jesus clearly wants to have a love relationship with His disciples—not just with a select few, but with each Believer. He desires a relationship built on love, yet many simply go through the motions. They might think that being a Christian means going to church or trying to live a “good” life. They fail to realize that Jesus offers us something so much greater! So much more profound.
Each of us needs to cultivate this love relationship with Jesus. If we don’t, our love for Him can grow cold. This could happen to anyone! Jesus even warned that in the last days, “Most people’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). He later warned the church in Ephesus that they had lost their “first love” (Revelation 2:1-4).
Today, think about your personal relationship with Jesus. Spend time alone with Him. Remember: He is not just a man from history—He is alive!
He loves you. Enter into that love relationship. Talk with Him. Listen to Him. Fellowship with Him. Fall more deeply in love with Him every day. Let Him change your life.