Luke 7:38

ESV and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
NIV 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.
NASB and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and she wiped them with the hair of her head, and began kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.
CSB and stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to wash his feet with her tears. She wiped his feet with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with the perfume.
NLT Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
KJV 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.

What does Luke 7:38 mean?

When Jesus speaks and heals, He is surrounded by crowds; those who want to speak with Him directly can find it difficult. A sinful woman manages to track Jesus down to show her love and appreciation personally.

A Pharisee has invited Jesus to a banquet. The dinner guests are reclining (Luke 7:36) and the doors are left open for servers and passers-by who want to listen in. The woman has found Jesus and is prepared with a flask of ointment (Luke 7:37). This is a rare opportunity, and she seems determined not to let judgmental religious leaders discourage her. Such a lesson is often missed in this story: the importance of not letting religious practices or legalism get between sinners and Jesus!

In other events, women anoint Jesus' head (Matthew 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; John 12:1–8), but since Jesus' head is toward the table, the woman is content to minister to His feet. Even lowly slaves were rarely required to wash another person's feet. John the Baptist's claim of unworthiness (Luke 3:16) and Jesus' washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:1–11) were both scandalous. Less dramatic, but similar, is that a host was not required to provide water for his guests' feet or oil for their heads. Such a gesture would be appreciated, but not necessary. The woman's ministrations show her great appreciation for, devotion to, and love for Jesus.

The woman is labeled a "sinner" (Luke 7:37). Traditionally, this has been taken to mean she is a prostitute. "A woman of the city" is sometimes interpreted much as the modern English phrase "woman of the streets." The expensive perfume is assumed to be payment from a client. Her actions, also, have been interpreted as having sexual overtones. In certain contexts, "feet" can be used as a euphemism for male sexual organs, and a woman's uncovered hair is considered intimate and provocative.

Such a reading is not necessary. "Of the city" could well mean of the city of Nain (Luke 7:11). Perfume was often left to a woman as her inheritance. Considering the context is a meal in a crowded room, it's obvious that "feet" mean Jesus' literal feet. And loose, disheveled hair is a sign of distress or mourning. The woman may be a prostitute, but the text isn't certain.

The kisses are intense; not sexual, but heartfelt, like those given to the Prodigal Son by his father (Luke 15:20). At some point in the past, this woman repented of her sins and is now expressing her devotion and gratefulness in a public, extravagant way. The Pharisee sees scandal (Luke 7:39), but Jesus sees love.
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