In what ways am I Simon the Pharisee?
She crashes the party and stands at Jesus’ feet as he eats and talks with the others who have been invited to Simon’s formal banquet. She is not wanted—by anyone other than Jesus. (Well, not quite true. We later find out through Jesus that God wants her, too.)
There is a lot to learn and to be challenged by if you read this story (Luke 7:36-50) and think (even pray?!) about how the patterns of this narrative—God’s Great Story—are continuing in your life.
You can identify with Jesus and ask if you are willing to receive the gifts God wishes to give you. And, you can ask God and yourself just how much you are, and are not, modeling Jesus’ open table; an open table that Jesus insisted on even when everyone else in the room wanted it to be a table with restricted fellowship.
Maybe you can identify with the woman who needed acceptance, needed to be honored for once in her life, needed the forgiveness which included Jesus’ insistence that others accept her back into fellowship, and needed the gift of God’s shalom (peace).
Or you can identify with the other guests around Simon’s table, who were sure they did not want to be contaminated by the presence of the “woman of the city,” and who form the quite understandable critique of Jesus: “Who does he think he is!”
But, take a minute and also ask how this story is still going on in your life by identifying with Simon. He is drawn to Jesus. He is a church leader—one of the leading members of the church of Jesus’ time and highly respected by most of his peers. He takes the risk of inviting Jesus to his home, and he likes a lot of what he sees. He and Jesus are flirting with a relationship that could include friendship and perhaps shared ministry as well.
BUT, Simon does not want to take the risk of publicly honoring Jesus in a more intimate way. So, as host he passes on behaving in a manner that would have really honored Jesus; Simon fails to wash Jesus’ feet, greet him with a kiss or anoint his head with oil.
It is not totally clear to me whether Jesus barrage of “You…She…” statements in verses 43-46 are saying that Simon did not have anyone perform the servant’s task for Jesus, or whether Jesus is pointing out that unlike the prostitute, Simon did not do it personally in order to honor Jesus. Either way, what is clear is that Simon does not want to go too far out on the limb with honoring Jesus in a public way. As Troy Smith said in last week’s teaching, “There is no such thing as honoring without doing it publicly. Honoring demands an audience.”
So, I ask myself and I ask you: In God’s ongoing story in history and in our lives, how much am I, are you, holding back in self-protection from going all-out to honor Jesus before the watching world?
Grace and peace,
Pastor Ron Simkins