Have you ever been in a situation where no one knew your name? Or, better yet, have you ever been in a crowd, yet, still felt all alone? You were surrounded by lots of people, but, you still felt all by yourself? Have you ever felt Nameless?
The Bible is full of women (and men) who were Nameless. Their deeds were recorded for us to witness their testimony, but for some reason, their names were left out. In the New Testament, there are stories of women whose names were not recorded, but their lives and circumstances were radically changed by Jesus.
Luke 7 tells of such a powerful story of a woman who held a very particular reputation in the community, yet we don’t know her name. We’ll call her “The Woman who was sinful”.
Jesus was invited to the home of Simon, the Pharisee. While they were dining, a woman came into the room with an expensive box of alabaster filled with expensive perfume. After pouring the perfume on Jesus’ feet, she cried tears to wash them and dried his feet with her hair.
Before we go into anymore of the story, we have to back up just a bit. How did she hear about Jesus? Why did she come to that house that evening?
Earlier in the chapter, there’s another story of another nameless woman changed by Christ. In Luke 7:11-17, Jesus saw the funeral procession of a widow laying her only son to rest. Jesus was moved with such compassion that he raised the son from the dead and gave him back to the widow. The people who witnessed this miraculous act were so amazed they spread the account all over town which then spread all through the region.
No doubt, the woman who was sinful heard about how Jesus brought the young man back to life. When she heard he was going to be at the home of Simon, she devised this outrageous plan. She must have been thinking, “if this Jesus could bring a dead man back to life, surely, He could help me?” She knew the plan was risky. Who knows what they’d do to her. But, she had to try!
Back to the dinner party. After she poured the oil on Jesus feet, Simon, the Pharisee and host of the dinner party, thought to himself, “If Jesus were really a prophet, he would know what kind of woman this is. She’s a sinner.”
Stop right there.
Can you just imagine the tone of his voice as he thought those words? Can you just hear the way the word ‘sinner’ was thick with judgement and hatred?
Even though we don’t have the benefit of knowing this woman’s name, it’s possible that Simon did. They lived in the same community. He knew who she was by reputation, yet he didn’t call her by name. In his thoughts, he called her a sinner. Instead of calling her by her name, he put a label on her based on his opinion of her.
Back up again, if you please, to the beginning of chapter 7. We read about a roman soldier, who was also nameless. Jesus healed his slave because the roman soldier believed Jesus could do the healing simply by speaking the words. But notice how the Jewish leaders in verse 4 were all in favor of this man’s request being fulfilled. Even though typically the Jews hated the Romans for occupying their country, the leaders were more than willing to let Jesus heal the slave because the roman soldier had built a synagogue for them. Their opinion of him was favorable because of the monetary gain they received from him. The label and box they placed him in was, in their minds, a good one.
The Pharisees and Jewish leaders were really good at putting labels on people and placing them into boxes according to their own perceptions and opinions. They even did the same thing to John the Baptist and Jesus in verse 33-35. They called John the Baptist demon possessed, and they called Jesus a glutton and drunkard!
We as humans, when we don’t know what to do with something, we put names and labels on people so we can figure out what kind of box to put them in. When we don’t know what to do with it, it makes us uncomfortable. We try to enforce the rules we think they need to live by. The Pharisees expected Jesus to operate in accordance with these boxes and labels. When he didn’t operate in the way they think he should, they got very upset.
Jesus took the idea of nameless labels and boxes and flips it upside. Jesus operated on the premise that your name, works or title doesn’t get you close to God. It’s your faith, submission, and surrender. It’s not your name, title, or works that moves Jesus. It’s faith, compassion, and love….In other words, it’s what’s in your heart. Jesus looks at the heart, sees your faith, and desires our actions to follow.
When we allow Jesus to fill us with His Love, he changes our identity from the inside out! When our identity is changed to be like Jesus, then the labels and boxes don’t stick. When we are known and fully loved by God, it doesn’t matter if we are nameless. It becomes more important that other nameless ones realize they are known and loved by God too!
As we begin Women of the Way 2020, please join us as we discover more Nameless Women Changed by Christ! Check out the Facebook event here!