I am enjoying the Gospels all over again and finding the way Jesus interacted with people, especially the Pharisees very interesting and dynamic.
Luke 7:36-50- A sinful woman anoints Jesus’ feet
Imagine you have being invited to some ones house for a dinner party and on arriving you are not greeted at all, not shown in like everyone else nor do you receive a hand shake or a hug. You would probably feel pretty embarrassed or angry and want to communicate how ripped off you feel. Or you could just storm out and think twice about returning to that persons place.
Now what if the person who was hosting the party was a big gun in your community and had only invited you to make sure you were no competition and they had no intentions of being hospitable towards you in anyway shape or form. You would probably pick this up early in the evening and confront the person or leave.
In the Gospel of Luke we read about a Pharisee that has invited Jesus to dinner. This would not have been some small uneventful gathering as it was a time for all the religious blokes to get together, show off and probably have deep discussions about the law and the meaning of life. The washing of feet, a kiss on the cheek and putting oil a guests head were all important parts of welcoming but none of this process took place with Jesus. I don’t think this Pharisees intention was to welcome Jesus into the religious community.
From the beginning of his ministry Jesus communicated love and freedom to the people around him and no doubt this would have concerned the religious elite as they had made it very hard for anyone apart from them to be free. They had their reputations to protect and power to hold on to and this guy Jesus could ruin their whole business if they were not careful. We see how this Pharisee felt towards Jesus in the way he did not welcome him like any other guest and we can assume that this was no friendly invitation.
The thing I find interesting is the fact that Jesus would have probably known exactly why he had been invited to the Pharisees house. If I was in the same situation I would probably reject the invitation or after a while of being ignored eventually get into a confrontation in front of all the guests. If Jesus had done either of these things it may have given the Pharisee more ammunition to shoot him down. As we read on we see it might as well have been Jesus who was in charge of hospitality, and it would be him who would do the shooting.
In verses 37-38 a woman who had lived a sinful life started to weep at Jesus’ feet, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
I am reading a book at the moment where the author describes this event from her perspective. This woman has been following Jesus for some time and has been impacted by his ministry. He has seen and valued her, which most men would not have done. (She may have been a prostitute) She has followed him to the house of the Pharisee and has witnessed no welcome for the man who has forgiven her and restored her life. She is so angry because she knows Jesus deserves more but wants to bless him in some way to show her thanks, so she falls at His feet not really sure what to do next and doesn’t care what anyone, especially what all the men will think.
If anyone knew how woman should conduct themselves in that day, it would have been the Pharisee and from his perspective he was probably thinking that this was an act of lustful desire toward Jesus and he was actually enjoying it (Jesus did not say stop). This would be the perfect time to show Jesus who was more religious. I can imagine the Pharisee standing up and sweeping is arm to get everyone’s attention and in verse 39 he says “If this man was a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-she is a sinner.”
I have never read Jesus flinching at any attack from the Pharisees and this would be no different. Instead he did what he does best-Tell a parable to communicate how God see’s things, and this probably had the same kind of impact that a bullet would have. Jesus goes on sharing a story of two people who owed money to a money lender, one owed more than the other. Neither of them could pay back the money so their debt was cancelled. The Pharisee knew that the one who owed the most would have loved the money lender more, but Jesus wouldn’t stop there.
The carpenter was brilliant at waiting for the right time and place for confrontation and this was not just an opportunity to make a fool out of the Pharisee in front of all his guests, but a chance for the religious leader to see truth, even if it hurt. In a couple of verses Jesus Highlights that the woman did what the Pharisee did not do and also went on to forgive her sins, which would have made the host burn with anger I think. More importantly, through telling the story about the two people in debt to the money lender and than having both their debts completely cancelled, another message was being communicated-and everybody present most likely understood.
Both the woman and the Pharisee were living a life of sin and had debt neither of them could pay back. God saw them both as sinners and was willing to cancel their debt. The Pharisees thought so highly of themselves that they wouldn’t associate with anyone who they thought were unclean and I reckon in that moment when he realised that Jesus was placing him on the same level as a prostitute and that he also needed forgiveness from God, it would have of been a massive wake up call.
Often we can be so consumed by ourselves that we get separated from the world around us. Everyone else has the problem and we lose the ability to show and receive mercy. Jesus on the other hand knew what was important to him, and it cost him his life, and knows exactly how to give grace and space. I see the impact he had on the woman who fell at his feet and I wonder how much he wants to impact our lives.