Summary: The parable of the two debtors in the context of Simon, the woman, and Jesus, yields four tributaries of thought which flow into the one great truth of forgiveness.
Opening Statement: Just about every Saturday, a man especially given to neatness, went into his barbershop for a haircut. So this one Saturday he told his barber that he was going to Rome. The barber asked what airline he was going to take. The man responded "Delta" The barber yelled, "Delta? Are you crazy?! That plane’s food is horrible! And, you’ll never get a wink of sleep ’cause the engines are so noisy!" After a moment of silence, the barber politely asked, "What hotel are you staying at?" The man replied "The Grand Hotel." The barber again yelled, "Why are you going there?! The place is infested with roaches, and the mattresses are as hard as a rock!" Then after another moment of silence, the man said, "Oh, and guess what I’m going to do!?" "What?" asked the barber. "I’m going to see the pope!" The barber literally screamed, "You’ll never get to see the pope!! No one ever gets to see the pope up close!" Two weeks later the man came back and said that the plane and the hotel were great. The barber was astonished. (Curious) The barber asked if the man got to see the pope up close. The man stretched his arms about 2 feet apart and said, "I got to see the pope and I was this far away and he talked to me personally." "No way," said the barber. "What did he say to you?" "Where’d you get that terrible haircut?" the man replied.
Transition: Today, we’re going to be looking at a story about a man who, like the barber, could only offer insults, but who ended up feeling the worst after it was all said and done.
Text: Luke 7:36 – 7:50
Notation: In Luke’s gospel we’ve got babies, teenagers, shepherds, widows, mother-in-laws, persons of mixed race, lepers, the money-hungry, blue-collar workers, the quadriplegic, enemies, women, the demon-possessed, the guilty, and the lost, all finding a place at Jesus’ banquet. Luke shows that those who had been marginalized by society find a place in Jesus’ ministry. This is true of our story today.
Background: Jesus had reached celebrity status with the crowds by this time in His ministry. The common people loved being with Him. Jesus would have received many invitations for dinner among them. However, the leadership did not like him. Only occasionally do we see a prominent religious leader investigating Jesus without a hidden agenda. On this occasion, this particular leader seems to have had an agenda, but the setting needs to be described to see it. It was normal, when a guest arrived in a Palestinian home in the first century, to make the guest feel welcome by going through certain common courtesies.
First of all, his feet would be washed. A guest’s feet would be caked with dirt after walking in sandals on the dusty roads. So a servant would greet him at the door with a basin of water, and would wash and dry his feet.
After his feet had been cleansed, the host would come and greet him with a kiss to make him feel welcome, and let him know that he was an honored guest.
Then it was a matter of courtesy to anoint the head of the guest with some cooling oil. Maybe it was because of the hot oriental sun. Maybe some of the men were thin on top and slightly sunburned. I’m not sure exactly why, but it was customary to use oil to anoint the head of a guest.
All of these things went together to say, "You are welcome in our home." But when Jesus visited the home of this Pharisee, none of these things happened. He got nothing but a cold shoulder! Luke says that Jesus sat down at the table, without His feet being washed, without the customary kiss, or the anointing of oil. So this Pharisee invited Jesus for dinner, then snubbed Him once he was there. He intended to offend Jesus. The whole thing was a set-up. Discussing theology was secondary; he wanted to offend and insult Jesus more! They were always trying trap Jesus in some political game. But Jesus always managed to show tenderness to those who really needed it. It reads like this in Luke…
Recitation: Luke 7:36 Now one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. First century Middle Eastern meals were not eaten while sitting at a table, but while reclining on one’s side on the floor with the head closest to the low table and the feet farthest away.
7:37 Then when a woman of that town, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil. A jar made of alabaster stone was normally used for very precious substances like perfumes. It normally had a long neck, which was sealed and had to be broken off so the contents could be used. Evidently, Jesus had impacted her in some way, perhaps forgiving her and setting her free. We’re not told how Jesus impacted her; we’re only able to see the degree of her thankfulness. I think she probably just intended to give Jesus the perfume. But when she got there and saw Him, she was overcome by her emotions.