Seen and Known
“Therefore, I tell you her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47
I watched from a distance for days, not daring to draw close. I am a Gentile, an outcast, living a life of sin. My sinful life was not a secret, and until recently that had not bothered me. I had money and fine clothes, my home was comfortable with rich appointments, and I answered to no one. Proud of my independence, scorning the contemptuous glares and snide comments that followed me as I boldly meandered the marketplace, I was a woman seen but never known.
But it was all different now, and I hid within a cloak of shame straining to hear the words of Jesus. For months I heard talk about this rabbi from Galilee. There were people who said he was a sorcerer, others claimed he was the Messiah. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, drove out demons. He told stories, parables really, and confronted the self-righteous religious leaders. Though all I heard puzzled me, I did not spend time dwelling on it. Until that morning I saw him, or that morning he saw me. There in Capernaum’s marketplace, amid a cacophony of shouting vendors, Hebrew and Aramaic bickering, lambs bleating, and birds flapping, a silence descended only on me as I looked up from the fish carts and saw him. Jesus looked at me, and in that look of compassion I realized he not only saw me, but Jesus also saw all the hidden empty places in me, places I didn’t even know were there. He saw me and he knew me; shame’s weight buckled my knees and I fell on the rough cobblestones, crushed by the crowd. Staggering to my feet I ran then, drawing my cloak around my face, desperate to hide, to be invisible.
I cowered in my home the rest of that day, aware of the yawning chasm of emptiness threatening to swallow me. I wanted to be alone, but the loneliness mocked me with an incomprehensible desire to be near Jesus. And so, I skirted the fringes of the crowd around him, my face hidden in shadows. I was there when he raised to life the widow’s son in Nain. I heard him answer the disciples of John who asked, “Are you the Expected One?” He said, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those that have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” The more he spoke, the more I needed to hear.
Today Jesus spoke of forgiveness. He said he came to call the sinner to repentance. Though hidden in the crowd, I knew he spoke those words just for me. I was that sinner, and he was calling me to repent. Quietly, I whispered, “Lord, forgive me! My sins are so many. Forgive me Lord.” Once again, I was on my knees jostled by the people pressing close to him, shoved aside by a group of Pharisees. Then I heard him agree to dine with one of them, a Pharisee known as Simon, a Pharisee who knew well my sins.
I ran again, but this time I was not running from my sin. This time I would face it, acknowledge it, and beg for the forgiveness Jesus offered. For the first time I saw the rich trappings and independence of my sinful life as a dark dungeon that imprisoned me. I recognized my heart’s anguish disguised as scorn, and my shame bolstered by defiance. I wanted none of this anymore. I wanted to be free from the sin that chained me. I wanted Jesus. He was all I wanted.
I grabbed an expensive alabaster jar of perfume, my most treasured possession, and with my head uncovered in full view of everyone in the village, I rushed to Simon’s house. I could no longer remain outside or hidden in the crowds. I had to be near Jesus.
He was already reclining at the table preparing to eat when I pushed my way into Simon’s home. Falling at Jesus’s feet, my tears were a torrent washing the dust from them. I vaguely heard Simon’s reproach as I dried my tears from his feet with my hair that came unbound as I dashed through the streets. Abased and vulnerable, I poured my perfume on his precious feet, anointing him with kisses and all the love stored up in my broken soul. He touched my bowed head so gently then, rebuking Simon and saying to me, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
And oh, what peace floods my soul now as shame’s heavy chains crumble around me. I have left everything behind me tonight, and I will follow Jesus wherever he is going. I will not hide in the crowds anymore. Today I met the Lord. My prideful independence is now humbled dependence, my hardened shell of scorn now a broken well of praise, and overflowing love fills all the hidden empty places. I am a woman seen, deeply known and completely forgiven by the Messiah.
- How will you respond to Jesus’ penetrating gaze of love and compassion? How will you respond to His offer of forgiveness?
- What is causing you to try to remain outside or hidden in the crowds?
- What treasure do you need to pour out at Jesus’ feet?
Jesus, thank You for seeing me when I wanted to hide, for knowing me and loving me while I was still dead in my sin. Thank You for Your forgiveness and for drawing me to You. You, Lord, are my treasure. I pour all that I am and all that I have at Your feet to use for Your glory. I love You, Lord!