Summary: What a to do, a sinful woman entering the house of a Pharisee, and the performance that she put on at the Rabbis feet, hwy did she show so much emotion? In coming to Jesus her sins were forgiven. In coming to Jesus our sins can also.
Forgiven, Luke 7:36-50
If you've been here over the last couple of weeks you will know that I’ve been speaking on this topic of ordinary to extraordinary. The thing is that as Christians we have encountered the extraordinary in encountering God, we have discovered that by God’s grace we can be released into a freedom that is extraordinary.
The scripture passage this week came from the gospel of Luke and it tells this story about Jesus going to a blokes place for dinner. The bloke happened to be a Pharisee. The Pharisees were a group of blokes who had set themselves apart from the rest of the Jewish people, it is thought the name Pharisee means something like ‘set apart ones’ . They were a fairly legalistic group who thought they were a cut above the rest of the Jewish people. In his ministry Jesus had quite a bit to do with them. They generally didn't like the way this young Rabbi went about doing things and they let him know, but in return he let them know that they weren't as wonderful as they thought they were. The detailed Biblical events of the lead up to Easter tell the story.
So from the Bible reading, here’s Jesus over at this Pharisee blokes place for a meal. Back in the day the house would have been an open sort of a place and those there would have been reclined at the table. Part way though the meal a woman approaches Jesus, we read that she had lived a sinful life. Now there’s a lot of debate about what her sins were, some say she was a prostitute, some say she was Mary Magdalene, she may have collaborated with the occupation force - the Romans, her hair was down and for a married woman that was sinful in public, or she may have been a gossip. She may have been a foreign woman; in the culture she may just have had a husband who was a sinful man. The truth is we really don’t know what her sins were.
To explain why she was at that house; some houses then were open and people would see a Rabbi like Jesus in the house and come to the sides of the house to listen to the conversation. No TV or daily paper back in the day and this was an opportunity to learn something. The woman had just decided to wash Jesus’ feet and show her affection for him. I’m guessing because of something she had heard Jesus say before or at the time, something to do with being forgiven for the sinful things she had done.
But, I’m picking whatever it was that she had done in her past, she had really sinned big time. I get this from what Jesus says to Simon the bloke who had invited Jesus over for dinner.
Jesus asks Simon a question about a moneylender and the conclusion is that the person who had the biggest debt cancelled is going to love the money lender more. I’m picking that this lady owed a whole lot, that she had a large debt of sin. I’m guessing that if there was a sin she could commit, she had committed it. I would pick that this lady had managed a ten out of ten in the sin department.
I like how Simon is pointing the finger at Jesus and saying
“If Jesus was really a prophet he would know what kind of a woman she was.” (paraphrased) Then Jesus turns the tables on Simon by saying, “see this woman, she has washed my feet with her hair and her tears, she has kissed my feet, she has poured perfume on my feet and you have not done any of those things. (paraphrased) Jesus said this to Simon because Simon had not followed the rules of the day in regards to common courtesy. But this sinful woman had done all of what Simon failed to do and more. It was a case of Woman 3 / Simon 0.
I was at the fish and chip shop the other day and as I was waiting I read in a magazine a quote from everybody’s favourite Kiwi. Who would be everybody’s favourite Kiwi? None of the winter Olympians as they didn't win any medals; it’s Ed Hilary, Sir Ed once said: “People don’t chose to become extraordinary; they chose to do extraordinary things.”
The reason I mention this is that in this wee story there were a couple of people who were involved in some extraordinary actions. There was the woman and there was Jesus.
I get the distinct feeling that the woman knew that in approaching Jesus and washing his feet, that in kissing his feet, that in pouring the perfume over him that she knew that he could forgive her. The thing is that in the society of the day she would have been on the fringes. She might have even have been a wealthy woman but she would have not been welcome in many places because of her past actions. She would have carried a burden of shame, a burden that while it is unseen can be as crippling as any physical handicap. I’ve known of people who were where incapacitated or died as a result of shame they carried. .