Hunkered Down Devotion

Luke 7:36-40 (Voice)
36-40 Once a Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to be a guest for a meal.
Picture this:
Just as Jesus enters the man’s home and takes His place at the table, a woman from the city—notorious as a woman of ill repute—follows Him in. She has heard that Jesus will be at the Pharisee’s home, so she comes in and approaches Him, carrying an alabaster flask of perfumed oil. Then she begins to cry, she kneels down so her tears fall on Jesus’ feet, and she starts wiping His feet with her own hair. Then she actually kisses His feet, and she pours the perfumed oil on them.
Simon (thinking): Now I know this guy is a fraud. If He were a real prophet, He would have known this woman is a sinner and He would never let her get near Him, much less touch Him . . . or kiss Him!

This passage is just a portion of a fuller exchange between Jesus and Simon, which includes a wonderful parable of Jesus – if you have time today, ready the whole thing (until Luke 7:50).   Jesus tells a simple parable illuminating the truth that with great forgiveness comes great gratitude.  

This part of the story is important for a different reason.  As we look at this vignette, it is important to remember that Simon, as a Pharisee, is someone that is trying to get things ‘right’ religiously, morally, and spiritually.  We know that they were wrong on many things, but you didn’t become a Pharisee if your faith and following the rules of that faith weren’t central to your life.

That matters to us because I believe that Simon’s thoughts, actions, and words betray a critical misunderstanding of who God is and what God wants from us.  Unfortunately, that misunderstanding has managed to find it’s way into our churches and our minds as well.

While it becomes clear later in the story that Simon wasn’t necessarily all that friendly to Jesus, inviting him to his house for a meal indicates that, at the very least, he was intrigued by Jesus and wanted to get to know more about him and what he was about.

Simon is skeptical of Jesus, but he wants to know more.  So he invites him to his house, and then he watches a ‘notorious’ woman show love, affection and deference towards Jesus.  This worship the woman offers indicates to Simon that Jesus is a fraud, not because of the way the woman acts, but because of Jesus response.
In Simon’s mind, there is no way that Jesus would allow himself to be tainted by the stains that came from that woman and her sinfulness.  He has committed his religious life to removing himself as far away as possible from everything that might be ‘unclean’ or sinful, from people to pigs to work on the Sabbath.  As such, Simon assumes that Jesus – if he were really a prophet, if he were really from God, and especially if he was really the messiah as some were saying – would be even more vigilant about keeping away from anyone or anything unclean or sinful.

This is Simon’s great misunderstanding of God.  It is a misunderstanding that most of the Pharisee’s had, and sadly, that many of us have as well.  Jesus doesn’t recoil from that notorious woman because he came to earth for people just like her.  Jesus came to earth so that the notorious, the sinful, the broken, the shamed, the imperfect (in other words – all of us) might be reconciled to God and adopted into the family of God.

While Simon is a case study in misunderstanding God, this notorious woman provides a beautiful example of what it looks like when we understand exactly how God feels about us, exactly what it means that Jesus came for us, and how we should respond.  Christ’s coming is good news for all of the notorious and broken people in the world, which means it’s good news for us.  The only appropriate way to respond once we realize that is with joyful worship and gratitude.  

Sharing God’s Love, 

Prayer: Lord, we are broken, sinful, notorious even.  Remind us that you came to redeem people just like us.  Lead us to respond with gratitude and worship.  Amen.

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