All those ceremonies!
All those extravagant, impractical, and unnecessary ceremonies.
All the bending and kneeling and adoring of Jesus.
All the weeping at His beautiful feet.
All the wetting and the washing of His feet.
All the drying of His feet with her hair.
All the kissing of His feet.
And, then, all that perfume, poured out upon His feet.
Pretentious? Presumptuous? Hypocritical? Legalistic?
No, but for this reason I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; for she loves much, and her love testifies to her faith in the Lord's forgiveness of her sins. She knows where to find and worship the Lord her God, because this Man, Christ Jesus, is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Kingdom of God is at hand in Him. There is forgiveness and salvation found in no one else. Therefore, both faith and love lay hold of the one true God in the Body of the incarnate Son.
The Pharisee says, "How dare she!?" But Jesus says, "She loves Me!."
The crowd complains, "Who is this guy!?" But the woman says, "He is my Savior!" Except, she says it, she confesses her faith in Christ and expresses her love for Him, not with words in this case, but with her lavish actions of adoration and grateful devotion. With her ceremonies.
Our Confessions rightly point to this woman as an example of the true worship of God by faith: For it is in this way that God wants to be worshiped, that is, not by attempts to give Him anything, but by the faith that seeks forgiveness and salvation in Christ Jesus. Amen. But the Confessions also note, as the Lord Jesus expressly reveals, that the woman's faith and true worship are demonstrated and manifest in her love for Him. She is not saved by her ceremonies, but her ceremonies belong to her salvation by faith in Christ Jesus.
What she did was not practical, pragmatic, or productive. It wasn't necessary. She did not "have" to do it. But it did profess Christ Jesus, and, in professing Him, it was pedagogical in catechizing us. The Lord Himself receives her ceremonies of love, and commends them as evidence of her faith and life and salvation in Him; for they are but the overflowing of His great love for her, and the evidence of His faithfulness toward her.
Another woman, Mary of Bethany, closely follows the example of this woman and her ceremonies. If it had been somewhat spontaneous the first time, had it actually become some kind of ritual thereafter? There is no need or point to conjecture. We are not bound to do any of these things, nor could we do them, exactly, in the way those faithful women were able to do then. We may, and should, wash our Lord's feet in the feet of His disciples, that is, by works of love and gifts of charity for our neighbors. The same Lord is also present for us, to love us and serve us, to forgive us and save us, in His means of grace, in His Word and Sacrament, in His Body and His Blood. We love Him, because He first loves us. And so we worship and adore Him in the House and at the Table where His Body is found and given for us.
When that second woman had the audacity to anoint the beautiful feet of Jesus with costly perfume, and she was accused of extravagance and waste, the Lord praised her worship as befitting His Cross and Passion, and, He said, wherever in the world His Gospel is preached, what she did for Him would be remembered.
All those ceremonies.