Summary: In Meals with Jesus pt2 Simon the Pharisee is intrigued enough to invite Jesus to dinner, but a gatecrasher winds him up. What will you learn from this meal with Jesus?
Imagine you are at a respectable dinner party - at the local major's house. The dinner is on honour of a visiting speaker. Of course you are excited, because you've heard about the speaker and are intrigued about his views. During the meal suddenly the doorbell rings and you think nothing of it until a woman pushes her way into the room. The major's wife's face is a picture. The new arrival is wearing a tight fitting low cut blouse, a short skirt, or is it a belt and stiletto heels. She's got gaudy make up and totters as she walks in. She looks like a prostitute. She goes straight up to the visiting speaker and throws her arms around him, pulling his head to her chest. "I'll always be yours". She mutters. She begins to massage his shoulders - then you notice she is crying, mascara streaking down her cheeks.
Everyone freezes. How embarrassing. But instead of pushing her away he re reaches up puts an arm around her and says something that sounds like "And you're mine" - surely he cant have said that. She might think it is a come one. Maybe it is, maybe he is a customer.
That's a modern version of today's meal with Jesus - in Luke 7:36-50
Amazing picture painted. What do you do when you see a painting? Do you stand back and gaze at the whole thing or do you focus right in?
Reminds me off that amazing scene in "Ferris Beullers Day off" - one of the best films of my teenage years - were Ferris, Cameron and Sloane are in the institute of art in Chicago and Cameron starts staring at a Seurat. The camera keeps cutting between Camerons eye's and the Seurat zooming in each time closer and closer till you see the individual points but miss the whole.
Setting the scene
Do we look at the broad stokes or focus in, or both?!
Tom Wright writes of Luke 7 like this "Consider first the overall effect.... three characters dominate the stage: Simon the Pharisee, Jesus and the unnamed woman. The balance of the scene is superb, with Jesus keeping his pose between the outrageous adoration of the woman and the equally outrageous rudeness of his host and yet coming up with some thing fresh, something which, to the onlookers, was just as outrageous as the behaviour of the other two, The story sweeps to and fro between then with passion and power."
Last week we saw how Levi, the tax collector - who should have been God's go between had become Rome's go-between, a traitor ripping people of to collect taxes. Jesus ambushes him with follow me, putting back on his prophetic destiny. Levi responds with a great feast mixing his non-Christian and Christian friends together. The Pharisees are there, hypocritically as it turns out as they criticise Jesus for being with sinners. Jesus' response shows us that everyone needs to know God loves them, wanting to be with them and so we need to repent - to turn to God and join the party of the kingdom of God. We need to repent, whether we know we are sinful like the tax collectors or think we are already righteous like the Pharisees.
So one of the Pharisees is intrigued, Simon, invites Jesus to another feast. He wants to know more, to know whether Jesus really is The Prophet. Jesus goes, because who you eat with shows who you have solidarity with.
Houses were much more open then than ours, people could come and go and see what was happening especially at such a prestigious home. This no ordinary home - Pharisees guarded their purity closely. The Promised land had been defiled by Roman occupation, but at least devout Jews could keep their bodies pure.
They were reclining around a table - heads towards the table and feet towards the walls.
The sinful woman
Into this dinner party a sinful woman comes, bringing a jar of perfume. To the Pharisees this woman is like an infectious disease, yet Jesus is clearly accepting her. It's a shocking display of intimacy.
She lets her hair down to wipe her tears from Jesus feet. In that culture letting your hair down was what you did in the bedroom. It would be like appearing topless now in public. She kisses his feet and pours perfume on them. Is he a client? But its the only way she knows how.
He doesn't stop her. He could have said, "I appreciate what you are doing, but its not appropriate here" but he doesn't. One scholar writes "Jesus' passivity in the face of this behaviour is extremely eloquent."
As Tim Chester writes prostitution is a commercial parody of hospitality. But Jesus recognises her actions as the real thing. He reinterprets what she does as a loving act rather than an erotic act.