Luke 7: 36-50Emily Post would have been appalled!!! The rules of social behaviors were being broken left and right!
Simon, the Pharisee, broke every etiquette rule of the time when inviting an honored guest for a meal. It was clear Jesus wasn’t just anybody- Simon addressed him as teacher and would likely have been given the seat of honor next to Simon at the table. But even so, Simon neglected his guest. Simon needed a lesson on hospitality from Emily Post.
Simon, whether he realized it or not, sent a message to Jesus and the rest of the guests. Jesus was not really wanted or needed in Simon’s eyes. As a Pharisee, Simon was used to being treated with honor and respect and although he may have been surrounded by others with a similar status in the community, he felt superior. Maybe he had heard about Jesus and wanted to get him on his turf, catch him off guard- maybe Jesus would say something- dangerous. Simon was not disappointed.
The woman in the scripture lesson knows her position and her life situation as a sinner and knows she needs Jesus. Since Simon isn’t showing Jesus the respect he deserves, the woman is compelled to act. She is overcome by love and devotion for Jesus and gets so caught up in the emotion of the moment that she commits a social faux pas as well- she allows men to see her hair. It was a very intimate moment for a woman to unveil her hair and was intended for only her husband but she is so caught up that she let it down and used it to dry the tears from the feet of Jesus.
While Simon and the woman both break etiquette rules- Simon errs on the side of not enough respect and affection and the Woman errs on the side of too much affection.
The woman in the story is labeled as a sinner, justifiably I am sure. The woman knows her faults. She knows she has lived a sordid life, made many mistakes, poor choices, and has been ostracized from society because of it. She knows she has no hope for redemption outside Jesus Christ.
Simon, on the other hand, is also a sinner but he just doesn’t know it. In his mind, he has always done the right thing, followed the rules, and always been an upstanding member of society and yet he does not know love. He has been able to cover up his faults and short comings with this public persona. He has been faking having it all together for so long that he has begun to believe it himself.
It is a lot easier being Simon than it is the woman in the scripture lesson today. We do this all the time. When we have times of emotional stress, instead of dealing with it we dry our tears, look in the mirror and chastise ourselves and say things like “get it together.” We have phrases in our society like “fake it till you make it” “put your best foot forward” “nobody likes a cry baby” “ignore and it will all go away.”
We spend so much time trying to look good in front of others that eventually we start believing it ourselves. We, like Simon, put other people like the woman down, exaggerate their flaws and down play our own so that we can make ourselves feel better about ourselves. We don’t like admitting we have faults and failures so we say things like, well at least I don’t do –THAT and at least I don’t act like her! We are so accustomed to doing everything we can to feel superior and to be independent that we don’t realize when we are lost and need help.
The woman on the other hand is very aware of her faults. We don’t really like people like her because they draw attention to themselves. They are zealous about their feelings and beliefs. They know that they need help and they aren’t afraid to ask for it. Maybe they are grateful for things that you think are trivial or not really all that important. They are passionate and sometimes that makes people uncomfortable. We don’t really know how to deal with it so we avoid it.
Jesus sees this in Simon and the other guests and rather than point it out directly he does that thing Jesus does and tells a story- Helps the people recognize themselves without ever blaming, pointing the finger or putting people on the defensive.
The parable Jesus tells Simon and the other guests at the table has nothing to do with money. It is not really about random people it is about Simon and this woman. It is about us. Do we recognize how much we need Jesus or are we still under the delusion that we can save ourselves? Do we count our sins and say- well, it’s not really that bad. Or, can we look in the mirror and see the innumerable sins of our lives and see the blood of Christ washing them all away?
The part of this story that really caught my attention is often over looked. Jesus says the one who was forgiven the most debt loves the most but he also said they were both forgiven their debts. Both the one who owed the most and the one who owed the least are both forgiven. It is not that the woman is forgiven and Simon isn’t. They are both forgiven- one just appreciates it more.
No matter which person you identify with the most. Christ came for all, those who recognize their sins and those who don’t. Those who have tried to live a right life and failed, as well as those who never seem to make the right choices. Those who love much and those who are stingy with their emotions. Those who count their sins as many as well as those who count their sins as few. All can be forgiven and all are loved by God.
No matter who you are- Can you look at Christ on the cross and recognize that all that was for you? Christ came to save not only the woman who was a sinner but Simon, the Pharisee. Christ dinned with sinners of all sorts not just the ones labeled as such. And Christ died for sinners the same. We all need saving, whether we realize it or not. We all need Christ.
Realizing this is and acknowledging just how much we need salvation is what brings us closer to God and more profound connection with the one who knows us and loves us anyway. Instead of hiding behind our fears, being open and vulnerable with God is the way to a deeper relationship. It is honesty, desire and focus on love and the source of that love in Christ that fulfills our lives, changes us for the better and moves us to share the love of Christ with others.
This love gives us confidence to offer the same words of comfort Jesus offered-“Your sins are forgiven” and once we recognize who Christ is and that he is the source of love and our only hope for salvation- we too can leave as the woman did- in peace- knowing that faith in the one true God has saved us.