Everything I Know About Worship I Learned from a Prostitute

I’ve had a handful of unusual teachers in my life. A shrimp of a man who’d been excommunicated from the Amish community for owning a stereo—he taught me how to shingle a roof. A wheelchair-bound country music singer and songwriter who penned one of George Strait’s hits—he taught me the fine art of woodwork. An ex-con with a string of DWI’s—he taught me the ins and outs of the work I did in the oilfield.

You never know at whose feet you might learn something. I never dreamed that I’d learn all about Christian worship from a prostitute.

The Prostitute Who Crashed the Party

She must have snuck into Simon's house. Crashed his party. There's no way a self-respecting Pharisee would have welcomed that kind of woman under his roof.

It was bad enough that she was there. But what she did was even worse.

A banquet was going on for the religious bigwigs in town. Their special guest that day was a newcomer named Jesus. This rabbi had been making waves among the Jews by doing and saying some rather unkosher things. He couldn’t be ignored so it was best to have him over and feel him out, to see what kind of man he really was.

This woman, what does she do to Jesus? He’s reclining at table, as the Jews were wont to do at meals. So he's lying on his side with his feet outstretched behind him. And this whore, she appears out of nowhere, starts crying over the feet of Jesus, drenching them with her tears. But she doesn’t stop there. She uses her hair as a towel to wipe his dirty feet, kisses them, and tops it all off by pouring perfume over them.

Now let's think about this.
Those eyes, which had viewed countless men naked in her bed, drip tears onto the feet of the Son of God.
That hair, which had been splayed behind her as she lay there offering her sexual services, wipes the feet at which angels offer adoration.
Those hands, which had undressed strangers, touched their privates, held a few coins in exchange for their orgasms, those unclean hands cradle the feet of the most holy Messiah.
Those lips, which had…well, done what whores do with their mouths, those lips kissed the skin of the pure and spotless Lord of heaven and earth.

Scandalous is too mild a term for what went down here. This was an outrage.

And these scandalous, outrageous acts of a whore are a beautiful, sacred picture of what worship is. This woman is our rabbi. Christ reveals through her what kind of worship he desires.

The Highest Way of Worshiping Jesus is to Receive

She comes to Jesus with nothing he needs, but needing everything from him. If she brings anything, it is faith—faith which itself is a gift of God. She is defiled and unclean, with her heart’s closet full of skeletons, yet still she comes. She is a pariah in polite society, shunned by the religious do-gooders, yet still she comes. She has no good works to place upon the altar of God, yet still she comes.

Nothing, she comes to him who is everything. And in so doing, this most unlikely teacher makes us her students. She who wept upon, dried, and anointed those feet of Jesus—at her feet we now sit to learn what true worship is.

Consider what Jesus says. When Simon the Pharisee got his holier-than-thou panties in a wad over what this woman was doing, Jesus insulted him by pointing out how much a better host this prostitute was than he was. He was a guest in this Pharisees’ home, yet Simon had not washed his feet, had not kissed him, had not anointed his head. Yet this woman did what she did.

But the real question is why. Why did she do what she did? Because she believed that he forgave her. And because of that faith, she loved Jesus. “Her sins,” Jesus says, “which are many, have been forgiven, because she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then to this prostitute, Jesus says, “Your sins have been forgiven…Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

@@The highest way of worshiping Jesus is to receive from him the forgiveness of sins.@@

Of all the acts of worship in which she could engage, none was greater than coming to Jesus with faith, knowing and believing that he loved her, accepted her, forgave her, and sent her on her way in peace. Her weeping, drying, anointing—all of those were beautiful, meaningful acts of worship, but they were not the greatest.

@@The highest act of worship is not even an act we do, but a gift we receive.@@

The Prostitute in the Pew

Every Sunday, when we enter the Lord’s house, an unseen prostitute sits in the pew with us. She doesn’t say a word, but she teaches us throughout the service. No one sees her, but her every act is a lesson to us. 

We come to our Lord with a heart full of skeletons. We come to him as those shunned by many, including the spiritual elite. We come to him with no righteousness of our own but gobs of unrighteousness. We come to him with nothing, and he gives us everything.

He weeps over us with tears of love and bathes away the dirt of our immorality. He wipes clean our feet, our hands, our face, our heart and soul. He anoints us with the oil of the Spirit. He bids us recline at his own table and dine on heaven’s food, drink to the dregs the bloody wine of the Father’s love.

Yes, we respond. We pray, sing, praise, confess. But our response, a loving and grateful response, is nothing compared to what Jesus does for us. He forgives. He gives. He floods us with gifts beyond telling, all of which flow from his cross and tomb, onto and into our open mouths, outstretched hands, thirsty souls.

The Daughter of God

I’ve had a handful of rather unusual teachers in my life. But none quite like her. She taught me that the highest act of worship is not to serve God, but to be served by God; not to give to him but receive from him. 

Oh, how strange and wonderful our faith is, that everything we know about worship we learn from a prostitute, who is the forgiven daughter of our Lord of love.