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
As I said in the previous Gem, there are two stories in one here. We will look at both stories. But to begin let me make some general comments. Firstly it is interesting to note that no-one has this story apart from Luke. He is the only one who has recorded it like this. Furthermore, Luke does not have the other story of Jesus being anointed for burial by Mary in Bethany. (Matt 26:6-13; Mark 14:39; John 12:2-11) It is most likely Luke’s story takes place in Nain because that is where he last left us. That is the last time he told us where the action was taking place. If not Nain then certainly in Galilee. The other story takes place in Bethany prior to the cross event. I am not suggesting that these stories are parallel. They are not; there are two many substantial differences. But what is remarkable is that Luke doesn’t include the anointing for burial story but rather opts for this one. I will make no other comment apart from that. Interesting to say the least.
I set the scene for this story yesterday when I talked about the 8 surprises. They really are surprises and they are contrasted here in two very different people. I drew your attention to the two strands of controversy that run through this story: eating and drinking and those with whom Jesus associated. So fascinating. Not only that but we have the matter of the surprise elements and the fact that Simon INVITED Jesus to eat with him and some friends. Staggering. I have coloured the segments above to show you clearly how there is a his story and a her story. Notice how they keep bouncing back and forth between each other.
Notice too the structure of the rebuke is also aligned his and hers. Very telling. In a shame culture this is huge.
Note again how this came about. Jesus didn’t gatecrash a party at Simon’s house; He was invited there to eat. (7:36) Jesus says again later “I came to your house” (7:44) inference I was invited. In the context of all this Jesus tells Simon he has something to say to him. What He had to say was big picture stuff, keeping the main thing the main thing. And all this begs the question of what I pointed out last Gem – how was this woman even in the house if she was of the ill-repute as suggested but their comments. Action should have been taken to escort her out. Unless the pharisees allowed her to be there so they could critique Jesus or that God intended for her to be there as an object lesson. Either way we have this delightful contrastive two-way story.
- Notice how the threads of the story are interwoven together. How Jesus takes the moment and gets the best mileage out of it. You invited me here Simon and look how you have treated me.
- Notice how Jesus starts at the bottom end of the politeness continuum with the washing of feet and works His way up the scale.
- You didn’t even order your servants to wash my feet and yet you invited me. // This “bad, bad” woman washed my feet herself and DRIED MY FEET WITH HER HAIR.
- You haven’t given me a kiss of greeting of any sort // This “bad bad” woman hasn’t stopped kissing MY FEET since I came in.
(Remember the order of what to kiss to pay honour – feet aren’t included, they were considered too dirty.)
- You haven’t anointed me with oil anywhere // This “bad bad” woman has anointed MY FEET with PERFUME.
Perfume is expensive! There were numbers of places for anointing oil to be put. On the head / forehead, on the right ear, right thumb, right foot. She choses to put this expensive perfume on His FEET. The lowliest part of Jesus and to it she applies her best. Her best offering, her kisses and anointing. Wow such a response and so contrastive to Simon’s.
Notice what Jesus says He wants to tell Simon. Relating to debts that have been forgiven. Jesus pointedly contrasts him with the woman. His debt with hers. His response with hers. He does this both in words and body language. Amazing. Then He hits Simon with the punchline. The one who has been forgiven much; loves much. The woman! The one who has been forgiven little, loves little. You Simon. And whose fault is that? Yours Simon.
Luke will go on to gather stories like this a number of times in his gospel – watch out for them. He also chooses the compelling shame stories to tell a number of times too. There are more coming. All this is in the context of forgiveness and the One who forgives sin. After all, one of Luke’s favourite names for Jesus is Saviour of the World.
I have said all I intend to say about it although there is much more here to comment on but time for you to do some meditating of your own.
Kissing is a means of getting two people so close together that they can’t see anything wrong with each other.Anon
A kiss without a hug is like a flower without the fragrance.Anon
A kiss is just a pleasant reminder that two heads are better than one.Anon
Happiness is like a kiss – it feels best when you give it to someone else.Anon