Summary: True Christianity requires love not rigid ideology that supports oppression.
ARE YOU CHRISTIAN ENOUGH?
Luke 7: 36 – 50; Gal. 2: 11 – 16
Dr. Ezekiel Ette
A story is told of a man who wanted to become a Christian. He walked to church within a walking distance from his home. When he got there he discovered that the board of trustees was having an emergency meeting with the pastor so he waited outside for the meeting to be over. While he was waiting outside the closed door, he could not help but overheard what sounded like an argument behind the closed door. You see the elders of the church had received a complaint that the pastor was seen at a skating rink enjoying himself. No one who is a good Christian should enjoy the self in that manner because it takes away from spending time in a contemplative mood about one’s soul, one trustee noted. With such frivolity, as was alleged, it proved that they had someone as a pastor who was not a good Christian. The young man who was waiting outside left the church and as he walked away, he wondered why anybody should be a Christian.
Our story today in Luke’s Gospel is about an encounter between Jesus and a member of a sect called the Pharisee. St Luke identifies him as someone whose name was Simon, a common name at the time of Christ. The Pharisees regarded themselves as the preserver of authentic Judaism that was not tainted by Hellenism or the Greek culture. Let me remind you of a few things about the Pharisees in case you have forgotten them. The Pharisees were considered a religious as well as a social group in the time of Jesus. They were so involved in the political process that they could be classified as a political party. They claimed to be the mouth piece of the common people. In fact, the name in Greek meant those who were set apart. They considered themselves set apart from the corrupt influence of Hellenism and foreigners. The Pharisees hated those who were wealthy, and did I say they hated the Roman culture? To the Pharisees the influence of these heathens and their political system was a violation of what they saw as the Jewish traditional culture. The Pharisees hated change and they wanted things done the old fashioned way. They were very conservative. They wanted strict interpretation of the Torah or Jewish law and believed that some rules were not written down but were transmitted orally. One commentator said that because they considered themselves pious, they managed to develop 613 laws such that personal preferences became divine laws. You see with that kind of set-up, the Pharisees became judgmental and anyone who failed to live by their standard was seen as a sinner. They developed a false sense of righteousness and their own rules even became a burden to them. For example, giving a tenth to God or tithing, meant taking a tenth of an enema mixture to the temple.
In our story today from St. Luke 7 : 36 – 50, Simon the Pharisee had invited our Lord to his house for dinner. On hearing that Jesus was a guest at Simon’s house a woman with no name and simply identified as a sinner took a jar of perfume to wash the feet of Christ. The Evangelist recorded that she was weeping and with her tears she cleaned his feet and wipe them dry with her long flowing hair. The story is not about the act itself but what the evangelist is interested in is the reaction of the host who might have been at the opposite end of the room. It is possible that our Lord was sitting by the door which allowed the woman easy access without going through the host. The host on seeing the action of the woman thought to himself (v.39), this is certainly not a prophet sent by God. What the Pharisee does not know is that he is standing in front of God’s Holy Son who knows all secrets. You see, given the righteousness of the Pharisee, those who know God should not even allow those they themselves consider sinners to touch them. Simon and his group of Pharisees knew what God wants. Because of his knowledge and closeness to God, he knew that some people are not welcomed by God. Simon is so sure of what God wants that he immediately knew that Jesus is not from God.
See our Lord’s reaction in Verse 40. Jesus knew Simon’s secret thought and told him the parable of the debtors. Then he concluded in v. 48 by forgiving the sins of the woman but not that of Simon interestingly. “Your sins are forgiven” Jesus told the woman. He wanted to show Simon that he came for sinners and not for righteous people.