June 13, 2010
Proper 6 (C)
I once crashed a funeral meal. It wasn’t intentional. My wife and I were newly married and new in ministry. Both factors can contribute to a financial shortfall. The ladies of the church always were looking out for us, sending home extra food from pot-luck dinners so we wouldn’t go hungry. One day, they called to tell us they had extra food from a funeral meal.
With growling stomachs, we crossed the street to the church. Imagine our surprise to discover the family was still eating. We felt more than a bit out of place in our cut-off shorts and T-shirts. The ladies of the church apologized, and the family was kind; but we couldn’t help but feel like uninvited guests.
Jesus once felt like an uninvited guest. Ironically, He was invited. A Pharisee, Simon, invited Jesus to his home. Simon was curious about Jesus but far from committed. Hence, he failed to extend basic hospitality to the Galilean Rabbi. He didn’t wash His feet, extend a kiss of welcome or anoint Jesus’ head with oil. One slight could be attributed to carelessness, but three slights made it clear Simon was not hospitable to Jesus.
The story is complicated by the arrival of an uninvited guest. Like my wife and I at the funeral meal, this woman showed up unannounced. Unlike us, she didn’t come empty-handed. The uninvited guest carried a jar of expensive perfume, which she used to anoint Jesus. In an ironic twist, the uninvited guest became a welcome host to the Guest of Honor!
The ungracious host and the uninvited guest responded to Jesus with opposite reactions. One held Jesus at a distance while the other welcomed Him with warmth. Why would two people react to the same Savior in such unique ways? They came to Jesus with different assumptions.
When we don’t see Jesus for who He is, we miss a blessing.
Benjamin Whichote said, “None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.” Simon was confident in his own righteousness. He did not need Jesus; rather, in Simon’s mind, Jesus needed him to advance His career. Simon did not recognize his own depravity (
Simon’s self-righteousness colored his view of the woman, the uninvited guest. Simon saw this woman as one who was not worthy to touch the feet of a great teacher. She was a sinner, likely a prostitute. Simon felt that she was beyond the reach of God’s grace. Are there individuals that we see, who seem to be beyond the reach of God’s grace?
Simon’s greatest error was in his inaccurate assumptions about Jesus. Simon saw Jesus as One who held the sinful at bay if not in utter contempt. Simon, like James and John (
When we see Jesus for who He is, we win a victory.
The woman had a completely different perspective. She entered Simon’s home with tears. Her tears brimmed from a humble recognition of her own sin. Her elaborate and expensive gesture toward Jesus revealed a heart of conviction and contrition. While Simon thought Jesus needed him, the woman recognized she needed Jesus! How long has it been since you’ve wept over your sin (
The woman had an accurate understanding of Simon, as well. The narrative provides no indication that she even noticed the presence of the religious leader. While Simon was consumed with appearances, the woman was oblivious to her surroundings.
Once when my daughter was a toddler, we took her to a Winnie-the-Pooh movie. In the midst of a rather tense scene when Pooh was in trouble, she cried out as loud as her little lungs could muster, “Watch out Pooh!” She didn’t care about the crowd; she wanted to save Pooh.
This woman didn’t care about the crowd; she wanted to experience salvation. Are you willing to ignore the crowd long enough to receive God’s forgiveness?
Finally, the woman had an accurate view of the Savior. She recognized, or at least she hoped, Jesus was merciful. She hoped Jesus would release her from the guilt of sin and offer grace.
Simon saw a teacher who needed a hand; the woman saw a Savior extending a hand. Simon thought he belonged in the presence of Jesus; the woman, like someone crashing a funeral meal, recognized she didn’t. Simon did not recognize his own debt; the woman did. Do you recognize yours?