Tuesday, August 23, 2011

5.31.2009 What A Harlot!

I didn't plan to share some of my personal thoughts on passages in the Bible but I recently read an account of an awesome woman, so how could I resist?  This post is long because I wanted you to be able to reference the text.

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.  When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume.  Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other.  But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”  “That’s right,” Jesus said.

Then he turned to the woman, but said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet.  You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.  I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”  Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
                     as recorded by Luke, chapter 7

Let's take a moment to compare the two people Jesus is dealing with here:

Simon - man, namedHarlot - woman, unnamed
Pharisee - position of religious power/authorityReligious/social outcast
perceived by society (and self) as righteousperceived by others (and self) as sinner
didn't offer usual water to clean feetwet feet w/tears & cleaned w/her hair
didn't give customary kiss of greetingdid not cease to kiss his (dirty!) feet
neglected courtesy of anointing head w/olive oilanointed his feet w/rare perfume
questions who Jesus is ("if...a prophet")has faith in Jesus (note that she acts before he speaks)
loves littleloves much
 is saved, forgiven, & gets peace

This woman - a prostitute - broke all social norms to get to Jesus because she believed he could forgive her for the mess of a life she was living.  She crashed a party full of important men!  She let down her hair and kissed the feet of a Rabbi!  She approached him with humility because she knew she was a sinner.  And rather than rejecting her, like the rest of the religious elite had done, Jesus blesses her. 

But Jesus does something else that is so important here.  Simon doesn't actually ask Jesus why he's letting this lady fall all over him - he only thinks it.  Jesus could have ignored Simon's thoughts and simply spoken to the woman - she'd still leave feeling like a new person.  But because he loves Simon, he brings up the question.  He wants Simon to know something, and I think it is this: we are all sinners, like this woman. 

Jesus, in his story, explains that each of them treated him according to what they believed about him.  Because Simon doubts Jesus' identity, he neglects to honor him; but this woman, before Jesus uttered a word to her, shows him great love.  Not only did their actions demonstrate how they viewed Jesus, but it also reflected their opinion of themselves.  Those who think they are righteous before God do not have much reason to express thankfulness for salvation; but those who know their sinful state have great cause to respond with love.

So, in this account,
  1. A lowly uneducated slut shows up a bunch of smart religious men.  She 'gets' who Jesus is.  Awesome.
  2. Jesus commends her faith, assures her of salvation (forgiveness for her sins), and grants her peace.  What a deal.
  3. Jesus desires that EVERYONE act like this harlot - acknowledge your sin, come to Jesus, be saved.  
Whether or not you 'believe' in Jesus, the big idea of this passage is a challenge to you:
How you view Jesus - and how you view yourself - will determine how you respond to him.  So, who do you say he is? 

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