The Woman Who Let Down Her Hair [Part 1]
Are you ready for some good news?
It’s ironic – so try to take in this, it’s a mouthful: a Pharisee thought he knew what Jesus didn’t know, but, actually, Jesus knew not only what the Pharisee didn’t think Jesus knew but also what the Pharisee thought he knew about Jesus. In the layers of irony of the scene of the Luke 7 woman who let down her hair, there’s unspeakable good news.
Today’s Text: “Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”” (Luke 7:39, ESV)
In literature, theater and cinema, the plot is often unveiled through the literary device of “irony.” Simply put, there’s irony when the reader or the audience knows more than the character knows. Irony creates a sense of yearning or frustration within the audience and joy when the irony is resolved.
For example, every December, my wife and I watch the classic Bing Crosby movie White Christmas that chronicles the entertainment career of two former soldiers and how they end up blessing their former army leader, General Waverly. Captain Bob Wallace and Private Phil Davis happen upon the old general, at his Vermont ski lodge because they were travelling with two sisters who were also entertainers. Phil had eyes for Judy and Bob was smitten with Betty.
Unfortunately, when Bob calls Ed, an old army buddy who has become a national TV show host, the Inn’s nosy housekeeper listens in to a small part of the conversation in which Ed proposes doing a sappy TV segment playing up the emotional sympathy of viewers for the old general. But Bob won’t have any of it – he refuses to play an angle at the General’s expense. Unfortunately, the busybody housekeeper only heard the first part of the conversation and, in turn, blabbed to Betty that Bob was cooking up a TV show that would make fun of the General.
Betty turns a cold shoulder to Bob, thinking that he’s not the noble man she once thought him to be. Actually, the viewers know, Bob is demonstrating that he’s even more noble that Betty could imagine. Bob’s going to spend a huge amount of his own money to just bless the general and bring business to the failing Inn. That’s irony. Betty thinks Bob’s TV plan proves him to be a selfish, opportunist when, actually, the whole plan proves Bob to be a very special human being.
The story of the woman who let down her hair and anointed Jesus’ feet is laden with that kind of irony. The Pharisee who was hosting the dinner assumed that Jesus didn’t know what a “sinner” the woman was and thus, the Pharisee assumed, Jesus’ ignorance proved that the Nazarene was no prophet. But, ironically, Jesus not only knew what sort of woman it was who was anointing Him, but Jesus also knew what sort of man the Pharisee was. Jesus was reading the Pharisee’s judgmental thoughts and demonstrating His grace at the same time. It’s ironic – many people think that Jesus is just a Sunday School figure who taught good morals but, actually, He’s the King of Kings and Savior of sinners. And that’s the Gospel!
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