“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured 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 who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7.36-40)
What would Jesus say to you if you had the opportunity to have dinner with him?
In Luke 7 we see that Simon the Pharisee actually had this opportunity. He invited Jesus over for dinner, which was a semi-extraordinary gesture. Jesus and the Pharisees generally didn’t get along, and we know of only one other Pharisee that pursued Jesus – Nicodemus – and that was under the guise of night. But before the conversation could go in the direction that Simon planned, one of the bystanders caught Jesus’ eye. It was a “woman of the town,” which was colloquial language for a prostitute. She began to weep when she saw Jesus, and then wiped his feet with her hair.
Luke is the only one of the 4 Gospel writes that records this encounter, and I believe there was a reason for that. As the only non-Jew of the Gospel writers, Luke watched the teaching and ministry of Jesus Christ through the eyes of an outsider. It is apparent in both the construction of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts that Luke was asking the question, “Is this a spiritual revolution for all people, or is just for the Jews?”
When Luke observed this unbelievable dinner conversation he did not miss the stark contrast between the two parties involved. One was a man, the other a woman. One was religious, the other irreligious. One was highly moral, the other highly immoral. One was culturally and socially elite. The other was on the margins of the culture and society. One was the quintessential insider, the other the quintessential outsider.
Yet as significant as those contrasts were, they were not the one Luke focused most on. He focused on the biggest contrast of all. Despite both people taking a risk to get near Jesus, and despite both showing some level of genuine interest, Jesus responds completely different to them. One he rejects, and the other he holds up as a model to emulate. One leaves the encounter stagnant, unchanged, a bit annoyed. The other leaves the encounter alive, transformed, and worshipping.
This struck Luke as extremely important, and it should strike us as important too. Is it possible that you could be in the presence of Jesus and completely miss who he is and what he is calling you to? Simon proves that the answer to that question is yet. Yet this woman discovers who Jesus is, and in doing so is never the same.
What was it that the woman discovered that Simon missed?