One of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him, and He went into the Pharisee’s house, and took His place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that He was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 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 kiss His feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw it, 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.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one I suppose to whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 7:36-50

The Bridegroom service on Holy Tuesday evening is dominated by a contrast between a sinful woman and Judas. While I personally think we spend entirely too much time on Judas in the hymnology of Holy Week (there are more hymns about Judas than the Last Supper, the repentant thief, and the words of Christ from the cross), there is a lesson to be learned from Judas, and that is, just because one is a disciple doesn’t mean that one cannot fall away and succumb to temptation. There are many Christians who believe that if one merely confesses faith in Jesus Christ, that salvation is assured. The judgment of whether one is worthy to enter the Kingdom of heaven is reserved for God alone. We cannot place ourselves, or anyone else, in Paradise or in Hades because to do so would place us on the judgment seat that belongs only to the Lord. Judas is an example of why we don’t believe that salvation is a “once saved, always saved” proposition. Judas had given three years of his life to following Jesus, only to fall away. Judas poses a few questions/problems. One problem is that Judas was fulfilling a role that had to happen, someone was going to betray Jesus, so why is he punished for doing the role it seems he was called to do? The second issue is that the disciples were a pretty close-knit group of twelve. They traveled together, lived together, worked together. Why didn’t anyone pull Judas aside as darkness crept into him? Couldn’t anyone tell that there was something wrong going on inside of him?

The sinful woman is not mentioned by name in the hymns of Holy Tuesday night. The hymn of Kassiane was written by St. Kassiane, and it is not about her. The sinful woman probably refers to the woman in the Scripture quoted above, who entered into the picture as a woman of the streets and left as a forgiven child of God. She was judged by the Pharisee, who then judged Jesus for His mercy on her. The ability of Jesus to forgive is immense. Psalm 103:11-12 reads: For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” The Scriptures in so many places practically scream at us about how merciful the Lord is. The key is that we have to turn to Him. We have to trust Him. We have to take Him at His word. And we have to obey His word.

Love and sin cannot co-exist. Love is something that is expressed outwardly. It is something that is taken from us and projected onto someone else. In the moment that we are expressing love, we cannot be expressing sin. Sin is something that manifests itself inwardly. It takes root in our thoughts and then is acted upon. Sin comes from our own selfishness. Remember from the last reflection that the two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor. To love oneself is narcissism. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have self-respect or self-confidence or self-worth. Love is taken from us and projected onto someone else. Love that is projected right back at ourselves is not love at all.

It is a very comforting thought that it is not how we start but where we finish that matters in the eyes of God. Whether one labors from the first hour or comes only at the last hour, the fact is that it is the ones who come to God whom He accepts. He doesn’t impose Himself on us, or force us to turn to Him. The sinful woman came of her own volition. She knew who she was, and that what she was doing was wrong. Her eyes perceived Christ as someone special, and her heart turned from sin to service. The heart of Christ, which has the infinite capacity to forgive, embraced the woman, who up to this point had done so much wrong with her life. One critical thing, however, and that is that Christ told her to go in peace, forgiven of sin. He didn’t tell her to resume her former life or endorse what she had been doing. Repentance means that one desires to change, not just to be forgiven and continue in sin. Of course, we will all sin again and again and come back to the Lord again and again. But coming back to the Lord in repentance means that there is a desire for growth towards God and implies an effort will be made to do this.

The world is promoting the self as the highest authority, as if the newest great commandment is “love yourself.” Which, as I said, isn’t love at all. The world encourages us to express “your truth.” And it has forgotten that Christ said “I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6) The message of Christ is an invitation to love Him, to love our neighbors, and to receive eternal blessedness in the Kingdom of heaven, based on how we’ve loved God and neighbor. The judgment belongs to Him, not to us, but He “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4) and He gives us so many chances to do that in our life. As long as we are alive, it is never too late to turn to God.

While the sinful woman was offering the myrrh, the Disciple was making terms with the lawless; she rejoiced in emptying out that, which was precious; he hastened to sell Him, Who was above all price. She acknowledged the Master, he severed himself from the Master; she was set free, and Judas became a slave to the enemy. Monstrous was his callousness! Great was her repentance! Grant me this also, O Saviour, Who suffered for us, and save us. (The Praises, Holy Tuesday Evening, Service of the Bridegroom, Holy Week and Pascha, by Fr. George Papadeas, p. 99)

It’s not where we start but where we finish that matters.


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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