Luke 7:38
And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
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(38) And stood at his feet behind him.—The common usage of the East left the court-yard of the house open while such a feast as that described was going on, and there was nothing to hinder one who had not been invited from coming even into the guest-chamber. It is possible, indeed, that the feast may have been intentionally open to all comers. Our Lord’s position has to be remembered as we read the narrative.

To wash his feet with tears.—Many different emotions may have mingled in the woman’s soul. Shame, penitence, gratitude, joy, love, all find the same natural relief. The word for “wash” should be noted as implying a “shower” of tears. It may be noted that while the tenses for this and the “wiping” imply a momentary act, those that follow for the kissing and anointing involve the idea of continuance. The act, the sobs, the fragrance of the ointment, of course attracted notice.

7:36-50 None can truly perceive how precious Christ is, and the glory of the gospel, except the broken-hearted. But while they feel they cannot enough express self-abhorrence on account of sin, and admiration of his mercy, the self-sufficient will be disgusted, because the gospel encourages such repenting sinners. The Pharisee, instead of rejoicing in the tokens of the woman's repentance, confined his thoughts to her former bad character. But without free forgiveness none of us can escape the wrath to come; this our gracious Saviour has purchased with his blood, that he may freely bestow it on every one that believes in him. Christ, by a parable, forced Simon to acknowledge that the greater sinner this woman had been, the greater love she ought to show to Him when her sins were pardoned. Learn here, that sin is a debt; and all are sinners, are debtors to Almighty God. Some sinners are greater debtors; but whether our debt be more or less, it is more than we are able to pay. God is ready to forgive; and his Son having purchased pardon for those who believe in him, his gospel promises it to them, and his Spirit seals it to repenting sinners, and gives them the comfort. Let us keep far from the proud spirit of the Pharisee, simply depending upon and rejoicing in Christ alone, and so be prepared to obey him more zealously, and more strongly to recommend him unto all around us. The more we express our sorrow for sin, and our love to Christ, the clearer evidence we have of the forgiveness of our sins. What a wonderful change does grace make upon a sinner's heart and life, as well as upon his state before God, by the full remission of all his sins through faith in the Lord Jesus!Stood at his feet behind him - They reclined, at their meals, on their left side, and their feet, therefore, were extended from the table, so that persons could easily approach them. See the notes at Matthew 23:6.

Began to wash his feet - The Jews wore sandals. These were taken off when they entered a house. It was an act of hospitality and kindness to wash the feet of a guest. "She" therefore began to show her love for the Saviour, and at the same time her humility and penitence, by pouring forth a flood of tears, and washing his feet in the manner of a servant.

Kissed his feet - The kiss was an emblem of love and affection. In this manner she testified her love for the Lord Jesus, and at the same time her humility and sense of sin by kissing his feet. There could be few expressions of penitence more deep and tender than were these. A sense of all her sins rushed over her mind; her heart burst at the remembrance of them, and at the presence of the pure Redeemer; with deep sorrow she humbled herself and sought forgiveness. She showed her love for him by a kiss of affection; her humility, by bathing his feet; her veneration, by breaking a costly box - perhaps procured by a guilty life - and anointing his feet. In this way we should all come, embracing him as the loved Redeemer, humbled at his feet, and offering all we have - all that we have gained in lives of sin, in our professions, by merchandise and toil, while we were sinners - offering "all" to his service. Thus shall we show the sincerity of our repentance, and thus shall we hear his gracious voice pronounce our sins forgiven.

38. at his feet behind him—the posture at meals being a reclining one, with the feet out behind.

began to wash, &c.—to "water with a shower." The tears, which were quite involuntary, poured down in a flood upon His naked feet, as she bent down to kiss them; and deeming them rather fouled than washed by this, she hastened to wipe them off with the only towel she had, the long tresses of her own hair, "with which slaves were wont to wash their masters' feet" [Stier].

kissed—The word signifies "to kiss fondly, to caress," or to "kiss again and again," which Lu 7:45 shows is meant here. What prompted this? Much love, springing from a sense of much forgiveness. So says He who knew her heart (Lu 7:47). Where she had met with Christ before, or what words of His had brought life to her dead heart and a sense of divine pardon to her guilty soul, we know not. But probably she was of the crowd of "publicans and sinners" whom Incarnate Compassion drew so often around Him, and heard from His lips some of those words such as never man spake, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour," &c. No personal interview had up to this time taken place between them; but she could keep her feelings no longer to herself, and having found her way to Him (and entered along with him, Lu 7:45), they burst forth in this surpassing yet most artless style, as if her whole soul would go out to Him.

See Poole on "Luke 7:37"

And stood at his feet behind him,.... Christ lay upon a bed, or couch, as was the custom of the ancients, both Jews and others, at meals, with his feet put out behind; and between the couches and the walls of the room, there was a space for servants to wait and serve, and such are therefore said to "stand at the feet"; and the phrase is used, as descriptive of servants in waiting (n); and in such a situation this woman put herself, as being also ashamed and afraid to come before Christ, and look him in the face; and here she stood weeping for her sins, and melted down with the love of Christ to her soul, and at his discourse:

and began to wash his feet with tears: which fell from her eyes in such abundance upon his feet, as she stood by him that they were like a shower of rain, as the word signifies, with which his feet were as it were bathed and washed; his shoes or sandals being off, as was the custom at eating so to do, lest they should daub the couch or bed, on which they lay (o). Her tears she used instead of water; for it was the custom first to wash the feet before they were anointed with oil, which she intended to do; and for which purpose she had brought with her an alabaster box of ointment: it is said (p) of one,

"when he came home, that his maid brought him a pot of hot water, and he washed his hands and his feet in it; then she brought him a golden basin full of oil, and he dipped his hands and his feet in it, to fulfil what is said, Deuteronomy 33:24 and after they had eaten and drank, he measured out oil, &c.''

And it is: a general rule with the Jews (q),

"that whoever anoints his feet, is obliged to washing or dipping.''

And did wipe them with the hairs of her head; which were long, and hung loose about her shoulders, it being usual and comely for women to wear long hair, 1 Corinthians 11:15. That which was her ornament and pride, and which she took great care of to nourish and put in proper form, to, render her desirable, she uses instead of a towel to wipe her Lord's feet, and her tears off of them. A like phrase is used of one by Apuleius,

"his verbis & amplexibus mollibus decantatus maritus, lachrymasque ejus suis crinibus detergens, &c. (r):''

"and kissed his feet". This was no unusual practice with the Jews; we often read of it (s):

"R. Jonathan and R. Jannai were sitting together, there came a certain man, , "and kissed the feet" of R. Jonathan.''

Again (t).

"R. Meir stood up, and Bar Chama, , "kissed his knees", or "feet".''

This custom was also used by the Greeks and Romans among their civilities, and in their salutations (u):

and anointed them with the ointment; which she brought with her.

(n) Vid Alstorphium de lectis veterum, p. 106, 107. (o) Ib. p. 123, 124. (p) T. Bab. Meuachot, fol. 85. 2.((q) T. Bab. Zebachim, fol. 26. 2. Maimon. Hilchot Biath Harnikdash, c. 5. sect. 5. (r) Metamorph. l. 5. (s) T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 15. 4. & Kiddushin, fol. 61. 3. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 49. 2. Vid. ib. fol. 63. 1.((t) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol 27. 2.((u) Vid. Aristophanem in vespis, p. 473. Arvian Epictet. l. 3. c. 26. & Alex. ab. Alex. Gen. Dier. l. 2. c. 19.

And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
Luke 7:38. στᾶσα ὀπίσω, standing behind, at His feet. The guests reclined on couches with their feet turned outwards, a posture learned by the Jews from their various masters: Persians, Greeks, Romans. In delicacy Jesus would not look round or take any notice, but let her do what she would.—κλαίουσα: excitement, tumultuous emotions, would make a burst of weeping inevitable.—ἤρξατο applies formally to βρέχειν, but really to all the descriptive verbs following. She did not wet Christ’s feet with tears of set purpose; the act was involuntary.—βρέχειν, to moisten, as rain moistens the ground: her tears fell like a thunder shower on Christ’s feet. Cf. Matthew 5:45.—ἐξέμασσε, she continued wiping. Might have been infinitive depending on ἤρξατο, but more forcible as an imperfect. Of late use in this sense. To have her hair flowing would be deemed immodest. Extremes met in that act.—κατεφίλει, kissed fervently, again and again. Judas also kissed fervently. Vide Matthew 26:49 and remarks there.—ἤλειφε: this was the one act she had come of set purpose to do; all the rest was done impulsively under the rush of feeling.

38. stood at his feet behind him] This is explained by the arrangement of the triclinia, by which the guest reposed on his elbow at the table, with his unsandalled feet outstretched on the couch. Each guest left his sandals beside the door on entering. Literally the verse is, “And standing behind beside His feet weeping, with her tears she began to bedew His feet, and with the hairs of her head she wiped them off, and was eagerly kissing His feet, and anointing them with the perfume.” As she bent over His feet her tears began to fall on them, perhaps accidentally at first, and she wiped them off with the long dishevelled hair (1 Corinthians 11:15) which shewed her shame and anguish, and then in her joy and gratitude at finding herself unrepulsed, she poured the unguent over them. The scene and its moral are beautifully expressed in the sonnet of Hartley Coleridge.

“She sat and wept beside His feet. The weight

Of sin oppressed her heart; for all the blame

And the poor malice, of the worldly shame

To her were past, extinct, and out of date:

Only the sin remained—the leprous state.

She would be melted by the heat of love,

By fires far fiercer than are blown to prove

And purge the silver ore adulterate.

She sat and wept, and with her untressed hair

Still wiped the feet she was so blest to touch;

And He wiped off the soiling of despair

From her sweet soul, because she loved so much.”

No one but a woman in the very depths of anguish would have violated all custom by appearing in public with uncovered head (1 Corinthians 11:10).

weeping] Doubtless at the contrast of His sinlessness and her own stained life. She could not have done thus to the Pharisee, who would have repelled her with execration as bringing pollution by her touch. The deepest sympathy is caused by the most perfect sinlessness. It is not impossible that on that very day she may have heard the “Come unto me” of Matthew 11:28.

kissed] The word means ‘was earnestly’ or ‘tenderly-kissing,’ as in Acts 20:37.

Luke 7:38. Ὀπίσω, behind) As being one who wished to make no ostentatious display of what she was doing. Love taught her to do that which, to one who loves not, would seem out of place [inept], and which no one would require his servant (slave) to do: and so love taught her without human instruction. Similar instances occur, ch. Luke 17:15, Luke 19:37.—θριξὶ) with the hairs, dishevelled, as in mourning. Most exquisite [refinement in her] reverence!

Verse 38. - And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. It had been, no doubt, with her a settled purpose for days, this presenting herself to the pitiful Master. She had been one of his listeners, without doubt, for some time previously, and that morning probably she made up her mind to approach him. He was a great public Teacher, and his movements would be well known in the city. She heard he was to be present at a feast in the house of the rich Pharisee Simon. It would be easier, she thought, to get close to him there than in the crowd in the marketplace or in the synagogue; so taking with her a flask of perfumed ointment, she passed into the courtyard with others, and so made her way unnoticed into the guest-chamber. As she stood behind him, and the sweet words of forgiveness and reconciliation, the pleading invitation to all heavy-laden, sin-burdened ones to come to him for peace, which she in the past days bad listened to so eagerly, came into her mind, unbidden tears rose into her eyes and fell on the Master's feet as he lay on his couch; and, after the manner of slaves with their masters, she wiped the tear-wet feet with her long hair, which she evidently loosed for this loving purpose, and then quietly poured the fragrant ointment on the feet where her tears had fallen. It was the perfume of the ointment which called the host's attention to this scene of sorrow and heartfelt penitence. Luke 7:38At his feet behind

The body of the guest rested on the couch; the feet were turned from the table toward the walls, and the left elbow rested on the table.

Wash (βρέχειν)

More literally and better, as Rev., wet, as with rain.

Wiped (ἐξέμασσεν)

See on Luke 5:2.

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