We’re meant to be shocked. The effusiveness of the tears, the wiping with hair, the kissing and anointing of a man’s feet are meant to be embarrassing. Something is out of control, a line has been crossed. The clinical term for this is “disinhibition”. Ordinarily we feel healthy inhibitions around violating social norms. Intoxication, drug use, mental illness, brain damage, dementia, post-traumatic stress—any of these can cause disinhibition and we cross lines. Bathing feet with tears? Wiping with hair? Non-stop kissing–of a man’s feet?
We’re told the woman is a sinner, but that’s all we know. We’re probably meant to assume that her sins are of a sexual nature, but we don’t know. And we also don’t know what the tears are about. Are they tears of remorse? Possibly. Are they tears of release and joy, the tears of a burden lifted, tears of gratitude? Possibly.
Or, perhaps they’re tears of sheer frustration, tears of weary frustration. Perhaps the woman realizes that whatever wonderful thing happens today while she’s with Jesus, tomorrow will be a lot like yesterday. Whatever conditions, whatever situation, whatever human frailty drove her sinful behavior yesterday will still be there tomorrow. Tomorrow’s sin will be a lot like yesterday’s sin.