Summary: What did Simon intend to do by snubbing Jesus as he did, and what exactly was the woman doing there at the party?
Alan Calhoun, Bristol, Connecticut told of a tag sale (garage sale) he and wife had a year or so ago. They had decided to put out a mirror they’d received as a wedding gift. The reason they were selling it was that it had a gaudy aqua-colored metal frame and they just couldn’t find a room in their house where it looked good.
Shortly after the tag sale began, a man (who was looking to decorate his apartment) bought the mirror for one dollar. He was all excited, and he said as he bought it: “This is a great deal - it still has the plastic on it.” Then he peeled off the aqua-colored protective covering… to reveal a beautiful gold finished frame underneath.
Lots of people go to garage sales looking for bargains just like that. Some people have a saying about garage sales: "One man’s trash is another man’s treasure," but once in a while, someone stumbles upon a treasure that the owner doesn’t know the value of.
I. Jesus had been preaching Galilee for nearly a year now. The common people have received him gladly. Already He has healed a leper, a paralytic and dozens of other people. He has even cast out demons and raised a widow’s son from the dead – and all this has taken place before the event we see recorded here in Luke 7:36ff.
But the Pharisees had already begun to grow cold to Jesus’ influence. He didn’t pander to their crowd, and occasionally He said things that ruffled their feathers and challenged their man made rules.
They don’t like Him, but they’re not sure how to handle Him. Do they quietly ignore Him. Do they publicly oppose Him. Or do they attempt to entrap Him? Or is there another way to destroy Him? Simon the Pharisee believes he’s found that other way, a way he believes will humiliate this new teacher and render His influence useless.
II. Simon invites Jesus to a meal – then snubs Him.
Good manners in that day required the host to have his servant wash the guest’s feet. He was expected to greet his visitor with a kiss on the cheek and anoint the guest’s head with oil. Simon did none of these things, and it is apparent from our story that his actions (or lack thereof) were deliberate.
Imagine going to a party and extending your hand to someone, only to have them subtly refuse to extend their hand in return…They may even smile as they refuse, but you know – and they know – it’s intended as an insult. It’s meant to offend.
That’s pretty much what Simon intended in his behavior. BUT WHY? Why go to all the trouble invited this new teacher to your home, putting on a lavish meal and perhaps even opening your home to the community so that they can come and observe him?
I believe Simon’s objective was to nettle Jesus, to get under His skin, to throw Him off balance. He intended to goad Jesus into making a statement, or behaving in such a way that he could then use to embarrass Him and use against Jesus.
Illustration: A few years back President Clinton was being challenged by the Republican congress which was then led by Newt Gingrich. Some believe that the President successfully humiliated Congressman Gingrich and then used the situation against the congressman.
Gingrich had been traveling on Air Force One and felt that he had been snubbed and relegated to the back of the plane. If insulting Gingrich had been what the President or his aides intended – it worked beautifully. Gingrich rose to the bait and openly complained to the press about his supposed mistreatment. The result was that the congressman was publicly viewed as a spoiled child and the President became portrayed as a misunderstood statesman. It was the beginning of the end for Gingrich’s career and his threat to President Clinton.
That was Simon the Pharisee’s objective with Jesus. And it could have worked. Hebrews tells us Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus knew Simon’s behavior was intended as an insult. He knew Simon’s heart. In my own experience, I’ve had people treat me rudely too - and I haven’t always responded well to it. Even though I was a Christian, there was something galling about being mistreated in this way and my anger took over. We’ve all encountered this at one time or another and we’ve said things we shouldn’t or behaved in a less than gracious manner. I’m sure Jesus was “tempted” to respond badly to this pettiness by Simon, too. But Jesus was more gracious than I have often been. When reading of how Jesus behaved in this setting, it’s valuable for us to remember that Jesus not only came to give us life… He also came to show us how to live that life. He was a bigger man and a better man than most of us would ever hope to be, and He showed us by His behavior how we who are His followers should treat people like this Pharisee. In this situation, He simply ignored Simon’s behavior. He refused to give Simon the satisfaction of even commenting about this treatment.