Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. So he went to the Pharisee’s home and took his place at the table. There was a woman who was a notorious sinner in that city. When she learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s home, she took an alabaster jar of perfume and knelt at his feet behind him. She was crying and began to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet over and over again, anointing them constantly with the perfume.
Now the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this and said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who is touching him and what kind of woman she is. She’s a sinner!” Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.””Teacher,” he replied, “say it.” “Two men were in debt to a moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other fifty. When they couldn’t pay it back, he generously canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him the most?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the larger debt canceled.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly.” Then, turning to the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You didn’t give me any water for my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t give me a kiss, but this woman, from the moment I came in, has not stopped kissing my feet. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with perfume. So I’m telling you that her sins, as many as they are, have been forgiven, and that’s why she has shown such great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven!” Those who were at the table with them began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” But Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”Luke 7:36-50
Did anything surprise you in what you read yesterday? I would hope so. This is a remarkable story, filled with surprises.
For a start just look at the title I used yesterday – Dinner at Simon’s with the Pharisees. WHAT! Dinner with the Pharisees! You have got to be kidding me. Jesus went to dinner with the Pharisees! After all that has been happening. Yes, my point exactly. Basically for the last period of time they have been out to trap Him. Constantly pestering Him in the background. It seems like there has always been a Pharisee detailed to keep on Jesus tail and find out what He is doing and criticize whenever possible. They even accompanied Him through the fields. You mean He went to dinner with THOSE Pharisees.
Surprise # 1. Well I guess the surprise is not so much that He went to dinner at Simon’s house, one of the Pharisees, but that He was even invited in the first place.
Surprise # 2 is that He accepted. You can bet at Simon’s house other pharisees were there as well.
Surprise # 3 is that it was an invitation to dinner. After all, the contention between the Pharisees and Jesus for the last number of pericopes has been over eating and drinking. It seems there is always tension between the Pharisees and Jesus over this issue. How remarkable that they all end up at the table together. There is a huge touch of irony to this event. Maybe it wasn’t a feast, but it certainly wasn’t a fast. Perhaps it was in between a lunch and a dinner – like a brunch but in the afternoon. (Joke). But they did eat together because Luke includes that comment “with the invitation”.
Surprises # 4, 5 and 6 come with what was not done. It is clear from the text that Jesus was given no water to wash His feet. No kiss of greeting and no anointing oil for His head. The water for His feet was basic. Jesus was not suggesting that Simon didn’t wash His feet personally. The lowliest household servant was the one to perform the task. The servant would be called to wash the feet of a guest as a gesture of welcome and honour. This was not done or offered. Is there is a message here? There was no kiss [philema] of greeting given. If Simon had kissed Jesus’ cheek then it would have been a kiss of equals to show respect and affection. If Simon had kissed His hand it would have been a kiss of high respect and honour. One showing deference and acknowledgement of a superior. If Simon had kissed Jesus’ feet it would have been kiss of homage indicating he was worshipping and bowing down.
Simon has called Jesus “Teacher” in verse 40. So the right and proper thing to do is to kiss His hand. But noticeably “no kiss”. And if there was no water and no kiss, there certainly wouldn’t be any anointing oil. That was the next stage up the scale of honour. One could imagine Jesus starting at the top end and going down. It was to be expected there would be no anointing oil. Jesus was hardly likely to expect it. He and Simon were not best mates. Debatable as to whether he would give Jesus a kiss, let alone what sort it would be. But he certainly ought to have called the servants to wash His feet. I think it is surprising enough in its absence to sense a message was being conveyed here. Surprise all round but mostly at the fact there was no water. That is a big surprise.
Surprise # 7 is found in the presence of the woman in the house while Jesus is there. Remember back to the Pharisees two pronged attack on Jesus at every turn. Over issues of food, eating and drinking and secondly over who He associates with. They criticized Jesus that He associated with sinners and tax collectors, the riff raff of society. The surprise in this case is that there was a notorious woman in Simon’s house. Is it Jesus’ fault she is in Simon’s house? Hardly. Not only is she there, casting aside the questions surrounding how she got there, but more to the point is how she was allowed to stay. She ought to have been thrown out of Simon’s house by Simon himself or by someone who was looking out for Simon’s reputation. But no, she is allowed to stay. They clearly know who she is and what her reputation is like but they allow her to be there as some sort of misguided test for Jesus. Do you think He didn’t know who she was? Of course He did. He then uses her as a teaching tool for them. We will look at that in the next Gem when we look in more detail at the story. For now I am just concentrating on the surprises.
(Surprise # 8) is that there was no open challenge or criticism of Jesus. One would think that having Jesus at Simon’s house they would rip into Him with their criticism but it is all so low key and non critical. The two little bits of criticism in it all were not said directly to Jesus. Namely the comment Simon made to himself about Jesus knowing who was touching him and then the comments they made to themselves over the fact that Jesus forgave her sins. It is all very “nice and polite” and yet not so polite as to do the normal things we talked about before. And these are all issues that they openly confronted Him about at other times. Remarkable – surprise surprise surprise.
Next Gem we will look at those two stories in one I told you about. Here are eight surprise quotes.
When it comes to God and the Bible be prepared to be surprised.Ian Vail
Don’t close your eyes for Bible surprises. Open your eyes wide, otherwise you will miss them.Ian Vail
God loves to surprise us, just like any Father. Open your eyes and get ready to be surprised.Ian Vail
Moments of enlightenment in the Word of God surprise us. It is not that we seize them but that they seize us.Ian Vail
Be ready for the sudden surprise visits of God. A ready person never needs to get ready.Oswald Chambers
The human race crave the experience of wonder (and surprise). There is no reality more breathtaking than Jesus Christ.John Piper
Wonder is retained by wise pondering.Ravi Zacharias
Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with the results.General George S Patton