Mercy and Gratitude
‘O Jesus, the more I have known You, the more ardently I have desired You.’ (591)
This woman loved Jesus from a distance; she had witnessed His healings, listened to His teachings and been converted by His powerful love for the lost and the least. She was among them, ‘a sinful woman’, probably a prostitute. We can assume her shame and also her despair, until God revealed Himself to her.
Before she met Jesus, the face of God for her was the Pharisee’s: exacting, decent, exclusive. Her face burned with shame when a religious man looked at her. Jesus’ eyes were different; they seemed to know all about her yet did not scorn her. In truth, He seemed to see her as more than just a ‘bad girl’, as if He were pleading for something better for her.
His Mercy won her over. When she saw Him eating with the Pharisee, she wanted to run right over and give herself to Him, to thank Him, yes, to devote herself to Him. (Lk. 7: 36-50) She knew what it meant to give herself to guys, but that’s not what motivated her this time. It was gratitude; His Mercy made her want to surrender to Him and follow Him, pure and simple.
Her problem? The Pharisee eating with Him! Her liberator and her captor together! Brave-hearted, she risked rejection from the one in order to worship the Other. She endured the Pharisee’s shame for the joy set before her. Silently, she washed His feet with perfume and with tears of gratitude for His love for her. The Pharisee looked on aghast. Was Jesus naïve? Unclean? Certainly not the Savior of the world!
Jesus asked him: if one man owed a banker a hundred dollars and another man owed him a thousand, who would be more grateful for the release of the loan? This woman gave me everything in grateful response to My Mercy; you sit there detached, heady, asking me theological questions with no intention of worshipping Me. ‘Her many sins have been forgiven, and as a result, she loves Me much. But He who has been forgiven of a little will love little.’ (Lk. 7: 47)
Those of us blessed with the duo knowledge of our many sins and the Mercy that is our only Hope become true worshippers. We devote ourselves to Him gratefully because He alone has set us free. No-one or nothing else will do. Only He has the keys to life: the forgiveness of sin, the fighting chance to be reconciled to the better, truer self of His design.
Maybe that’s why Jesus commissioned the Samaritan woman to be one of the true worshippers who would devote herself to Him in Spirit and in Truth (Jn. 4: 23). An unclean woman also, exposed by the all-seeing eye of Jesus, she realized that He alone was God and could set her free. Mercy received in the form of ‘Living Water’ primed her to gratefully worship Him, thus leading the way for millions like us to do the same.
‘Thank You for Mercy, O God. Grant us courage to bypass the Pharisee (in our own hearts and in our churches) in order to worship You with gratitude. You have made Your Mercy known to us. We worship You, O God. Rescue those locked up in fear of the Pharisee. Make Your kind and all-powerful vision for their good evident to them. Use us as Your agents of Mercy in this way, we pray. May many be reunited to the Lord of Mercy through our grateful witness of Mercy.’