Sunday, July 28, 2013
A Different Kind of Guest
By Linda Goodman
(From Luke 7:36-50)
Good morning. My name is Rachel and I am the daughter of Simon the Pharisee. My father is a well respected man, who often invites other important men to be guests at our table. Last night, however, was different.
The word Pharisee means separate. The name serves us well, as Pharisees to not like to keep company with people who are not Jewish, or Jews who do not follow the same practices that we do. That is why I was surprised when my father announced that Jesus would be a guest in our home.
Jesus of Nazareth... .have you heard of him? He is a vagabond who keeps company with the rabble; the peasants, tax collectors and women of ill repute. Our guests are usually great men who wear the finest clothes and have servants to attend their every need.
When Jesus entered our home he was dressed in the garb of a simple peasant. I expected that, but he was not even clean! He was covered with dust from his head to his filthy feet! He looked as though he had walked miles through the wilderness without bathing for days.
My father was so disgusted that he refused to offer Jesus the simple courtesies that were normally afforded our honored guests. He did not have Jesus’ feet washed, as was the custom. Neither did he give him the expected kiss of welcome that would have been followed by the anointing of Jesus head with olive oil. My father merely said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, who has gained quite a reputation of late. Let us sit down at the table.”
The servants were just beginning to bring us our meal, when a strange woman walked through the front door. Many of the lower class pass our home when we have important, or, in this case, infamous, guests. None, however, would dare to enter our home without an invitation.
My mother gasped when she saw the woman, and when I looked at the woman’s face I understood why. This woman was the town harlot! Whenever I saw this woman walking down the road, I would cross to the other side and look away. One must not keep company with, or even acknowledge, such a vile being!
No doubt she did very well plying her chosen trade, for she wore scarlet robes made of the finest silk, and her sandals were studded with pearls and rubies. In her arms she carried an exquisite alabaster jar that was filled with sweet perfume. She must have paid a fortune for it!
She took no note of my family. She ran straight to Jesus, where she knelt at his feet and began sobbing. She cried so hard that her tears, like rain, washed over Jesus feet, turning the dirt to mud. Horrified, she undid her long hair, all the while begging, “Please forgive me, Lord. Please forgive.” She wiped Jesus’ feet clean with her own hair! Then she kissed his feet and poured the perfume from the jar on to them, gently massaging it into his skin. And Jesus let her do these things!
My horrified father muttered under his breath, “And I thought this man might be a prophet! He does not even know what this woman is!”
Jesus must have excellent hearing, for he heard every word that my father said.
“Simon, I wish to tell you a story,” Jesus announced.
“I know a banker,” Jesus continued, “who was owed money by two men. One owed him fifty silver coins. The other owed him 500 silver coins. Neither could pay his debt, and the banker decided to forgive the debts of both men. Which of these men, Simon, do you think was more grateful to the banker?”
“I do not see what that has to do with anything,” my father retorted, “but I would judge that the man who owed the banker 500 coins would have been the more grateful of the two.”
“You are correct,” Jesus told him. “Those who have been forgiven more are more grateful than those who have been forgiven little.”
Jesus turned back to the woman and placed his hand on her head as he continued speaking to my father.” Simon, I am a guest in your home, yet you did not wash my feet. You did not welcome me with a kiss or anoint my head with olive oil. This woman, on the other hand, has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. She has kissed my feet and anointed them with sweet perfume.”
I could see my father’s face turning red with rage as Jesus told him, “This woman has sinned much, and she will be forgiven much. She will be more grateful for that forgiveness than any Pharisee would be.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Go, woman. Your sins are forgiven.”
After Jesus left our home, my father and the others laughed. “What makes him think that he has the power to forgive a woman like that?” they roared. “He must think he is God!”
I did not join in the laughter. I did not laugh because I had seen that woman’s face as she left our home. I saw serenity there, and a peace that I cannot begin to understand in one so damaged.
I want that peace. Tomorrow I will go find this man Jesus. You are welcome to come with me if you like.