Faith of a Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods-Washington

“And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating at the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.”

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of The New Testament, finds it necessary to examine separate and apart from the word ‘amartia/sin’, the term ‘amartolos/ sinner’ as an adjective. Having defined sin as ‘a power hostile to God’— sinner now becomes a value judgement from the human standpoint. Although much speculation about her background and character has been projected, it is ‘A Sinful Woman Forgiven’ who is the 3rd ‘faith’ revelation in Luke’s Gospel.

There are only 3 known instances of the word ‘amartolos/sinner’ in Classical Greek. For Aristotle, his only use of sinner is in reference to “slaves of bad character”. Again, in Lycaonian inscriptions from Imperial Rome, it is used in ‘curses on the violators of graves’. I am reminded of the historical plundering of the Pharoah’s tombs, yet knowing the wealth stored in those graves I can readily see how this grave robber can be judged a sinner. For the Stoics, it is not derogatory in use but of a man’s ‘stumbling from one failing to another’ perhaps into worthlessness. We have all often wondered about the family member or friend or acquaintance who seems to have this curse— ‘can’t do nothing right’!

New Testament use of ‘amartolos/sinner’ is clearly defined by it’s Old Testament meaning and usage. 94 uses of ‘sinner’ in the OT— 68 of which are found in the Psalter alone. A clear picture of ‘the sinner’, then, can be ascertained from the Psalmist. He is the opposite of the ‘pious, righteous and godly’. He breaks the commandments and trust in his own power and wealth and understanding.

There is often a complete dismissal of God in his life. As ‘The Law—Torah’ becomes the ‘center of life’ for the OT believer, the study of and devotion to Torah is what ‘keeps from sin’. So important to the Psalmist is this understanding, that the very FIRST PSALM opens this wisdom book by saying: “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners… But his delight is in The Law of The Lord and in this law does he meditate, DAY and NIGHT!”

Joined in Bible Study last week with an awesome group of Godly men at Gordon Memorial. My thoughts and dialogue was focused upon the “Church’s Losses’ as we know them. I recalled to mind the ‘Choir Anniversaries’ and the ‘Usher Days’. The mid-week ‘Prayer Meetings’ that have become all but extinct. Now to recall the ‘Mourner’s Pew’ and it’s traditional ‘Front Pew’ seating of the… Sinner; who most especially at the time of the “Five Night Revival’, SAT THERE, on that Pew, night after night, while the Church joined him in praying for a consciousness of God to enter his life and ‘Save and Set Free from Sin’. Praying for God to no longer be ‘dismissed’ from his life! Praying for the ‘WORD of God” to become the CENTER of his life.

It is no small thing that ‘this woman who was a sinner’ dared to enter the house of a Pharisee! Had she been to the synagogue? Probably not. Had she been studying and meditating on the Law day and night? I think that would be a no. Was she pious? Righteous? Godly? Could never be in this house— a woman?

In this environment, she was indeed worthless. She did not know Torah… she knew nothing— all based upon a value judgement from the human (Pharisaic) standpoint! She knew this— I am looking for Jesus. I want to anoint him with my alabaster jar of ointment!

by email: mustardseedfaith@outlook.com