Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A sinner like me, continued

I'm glad you have joined us today! We're studying the woman whom three of the gospels don't name, but her deed and Jesus' words to her have resonated through history. . .
Let's dive in!

Jesus had been preaching in Galilee for almost a year when this happened, according to Luke. Jesus had become an extremely popular teacher, especially among the common people, the everyday Joes like you and me. Look at his record so far -- He has healed a leprous man, a paralyzed man, and lots of other folks. He has cast out demons and even raise a widow's son from the dead. Everybody loves Him.
Well, almost everyone.
Actually, the scribes and the Pharisees couldn't stand Him. He didn't defer to them, and that hurt their egos. And He said things that challenged all of their man-made rules that they had added to God's rules. Boy, that didn't set well with them, as you can imagine!

They have tried different strategies: they tried ignoring Him, but that didn't work. They tried opposing Him openly, but that failed, too.  They've even tried to trap Him in theological questions and disputes, but He deftly turns their questions and leaves them embarrassed, and the people who are supposed to be their followers are left smiling.
This Simon that Luke mentions, though, as "Simon the Pharisee," thinks he has found a way to remove Jesus as an influence on the people. He thinks he can humiliate Him and then he and the other pompous religious leaders won't have to be bothered any more.
What does Simon do?
Well, he invites Him to a meal at his home, and then he snubs Him.
Scholars tell us that a good host in that time would make certain that when a guest arrived, one of the servants washed his feet. All of the dust and dirt, mud and grime, would be washed away, and the guest would be welcomed -- the next welcoming act would be that the servant would also anoint the visitor's head with oil.  Think just the servant had responsibilities? Not so. The host would (if he were adhering to the etiquette of the day) greet his guest with a kiss on the cheek; this was a special honor. It kinda said, "hey, you're like one of the family. Sit deep. Be comfy. Enjoy."
So when Simon did NOT do these things, it was obvious to all that he held Jesus in contempt. . .
And Simon didn't care who knew it, either.
Maybe he thought that Jesus would react by making a statement or behaving in a way that would embarrass His disciples. That He would respond to being slighted in a negative way. Perhaps Simon thought that if he treated Jesus rudely, He would become angry, and give the Pharisees something to point to.
We have all been treated rudely at one time or another in our lives. Maybe we've said something in response that wasn't very nice, or maybe we've been less than gracious in our actions. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was tempted just as we are, but without sin. He responded to this pettiness by . . .

By ignoring it.
Seriously. The Jesus Who had walked the streets of heaven, and Who could call on angels to assist Him, didn't worry about it. He didn't need Simon's approval, nor his acceptance. (Grin) Whoa, there's a lesson for us there, right? We can rise above the pettiness of this world if we stay focused on who we really are . . . we're the children of God! We have an inheritance in heaven that some will never see, and we have a hope that keeps us going in the midst of strife or sadness. Compared to those promises, who really cares if the world approves of us!
So, let's remember this example of how to handle situations like this. Jesus shows us how to live our lives -- He simply ignored Simon's bad behavior, and didn't give him the satisfaction he wanted.

Ahh, but then something changed. A woman walked into the room. Um, how shall I say this? Scholars have looked at the translations here and well, she wasn't the kind of woman that you would think Simon would have invited to this party. She was a prostitute. She may have been dressed in a way similar to other women, but perhaps more expensively. And she would have smelled nice. Let's face it, in a culture where bathing didn't happen frequently, a vial of perfume around her neck would have truly set her apart! So she is here, though she wasn't invited. Verse 37 of Luke's chapter 7 says that she "learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house."
Perhaps she was invited by a friend, or perhaps she slipped in with no invitation at all....after all, this would be like one of us entertaining some celebrity in our home. Maybe the perfume was to be a gift, so she might have stood quietly, hoping to catch His attention.
But then she started to cry.
Probably was not a part of her plan.
Probably just welled up within her and spilled out.
I think that if I had been that close to Jesus, I would have been overwhelmed, and wept, too. I think being that close to Jesus "gets to" a person. Suddenly we realize how shabby and sinful our lives are, and how empty. Something broke within this woman, and her tears begin to flow.

She's a sinner like me.
And like you.
And her tears literally fall on Jesus' unwashed feet. They would have left streaks in the dirt and the grime that Simon neglected to wash away.
How embarrassing!
She falls to her knees and begins to wipe His feet with her hair. Then she pours the perfume from her vial onto His feet, and the aroma begins to waft about the room. And she kisses His feet. She is so humbled that she doesn't care who sees her, or what they say about her actions.

Simon probably thinks this is a "Gotcha!" moment. He thinks Jesus doesn't know who this woman is. That He is unaware of her occupation. All Simon has to do, is reveal the woman, and he will destroy the teacher. So he thinks.

Join us tomorrow for our conclusion.....

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