"Why do you say that the 'Sinner Woman' in the Gospel accounts really understood grace?"
Dear Wounded Pilgrim,
When I think about how grace works in our lives and what it produces in our lives I am drawn to consider the Gospel encounters between Jesus and the needy individuals that crossed His path. Most found healing from physical ailments, but there were others who made special discoveries into who this Jesus was and what he was about to do on the cross.
There is only one of these encounters that is mentioned in all four Gospels and that is the "Sinner Woman" who washes Jesus' feet with her tears and hair. The Pharisees, disciples, and Judas all had negative comments (each gospel account mentions a different aspect of this same encounter) and Jesus rose to the Woman's defense for her "act" as being of the highest value. Of so much value that Jesus promised the memory of it would last wherever the Gospel would go.
The Pharisees condemned the action of the Woman because it came from an individual with an open reputation as a sinner. The Disciples and Judas thought the behavior of the Woman was a waste of valuable assets for an emotional show. (The Disciples seemed to care for the poor and Judas for the loss of profits for his own use.)
Jesus understood that the Woman had a transformation of heart that overflowed with gratitude. This seems to be the work that is of the highest value and most reflective of the work of grace in the life. The Woman did what she did with the understanding that Jesus was going to the cross to completely forgive her sin and accept her as His beloved child for eternity.
Those who are forgiven much, love much; and it is from that much love that the Gospel light shines most brightly from our hearts' into a dark world. This is grace and it's work in the heart and what becomes His workmanship in us.
The Woman was not transformed into a super Christian with amazing strength of will, acts of faith, self-sacrifice, committed service, a devoted prayer warrior, Bible scholar, etc. Nor is she remembered for any of these things. She was remembered, more often than any other, as a grateful sinner who poured out her tears and "wasted" costly perfume on Jesus' feet.
This simple, honest "Sinner Woman" understood grace better than any individual (it would seem) and Jesus appears to have placed the highest value on the insights of the Woman that caused her to be so thankful and passionate.
How wrong, and proud we are to think that we can "do" anything to merit heaven (even as Christians) for it is Christ in us, the hope of Glory. Such pride tells against our own hard hearts and haughty view of self.
Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul,
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole,
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me,
Thy great salvation so rich and free.