by Tad Lindley
You’re probably a better person than me, but perhaps you’re not, so let me ask you this question, “Have you ever studied the people at a feast? Have you ever just looked at the faces in the crowd and thought about their names and their lives, and who they are related to, and what their relationship is to the child celebrating the birthday, or to the deceased person in the casket? Have you ever noticed someone there and thought to yourself, ‘What are they doing here? I wonder if they just came for the food?’”
If you’ve ever thought something along those lines, then you are not alone. In fact the Bible records a feast that took place in Israel in the late 20’s AD. The homeowner, Simon, was near the kitchen and he was surveying the crowd. Just like a modern Yup’ik feast, there was the main table where the elders and guests of honor were served the best food first, except in Israel in those days they ate on the floor. They ate propped up on their left side with their feet out behind them and their head shoulders and free right hand near the food in the center of the circle of eaters. Among those eating in the circle that day was Jesus.
A strange guest
While Simon studied the people, he took notice of a woman. Apparently he knew her and was familiar with her ugly reputation. He may have thought the same thought that some of us have, “What is she doing at this feast?” And then to his great frustration, she began to approach the elders and other highly respected guests, and to his amazement, she positioned herself behind the Lord as he ate. Tears began to flow down her face. She knelt down and washed Jesus dirty feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Afterward, she anointed his feet with perfume. (Luke 7:36-38) Simon was horrified.
Simon can’t believe his eyes
Simon believed in Jesus. That is why he invited him to the feast. While it is likely that he did not understand that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, he at least estimated Jesus to be a prophet. But then as the scene unfolded, Simon began to doubt the authenticity of Jesus. He began to think, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what matter of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner (Luke 7:39). It is very likely that many of the people in the room were wondering the same thing, “How can Jesus let a woman like this touch him?”
Who was she?
We don’t know whether she was a heroin dealer, or a hooker, or a husband hater, but we do know this, whatever it was, her sin was not secret. Her sin and her shame was well enough known that this important man Simon who was from the upper class of Jewish society knew of her reputation. Most important of all with respect to today’s column, is that Simon, the owner of the house, did not believe in her. And I suspect that it is entirely possible that nobody at the feast believed in her.
Nobody except Jesus
As this strange scene unfolded, Jesus read Simon’s mind as he judged this woman as unworthy to touch the feet of the Lord. Jesus began to talk to Simon. He gives him a two sentence sermon, and then in essence tells Simon, “You want to judge this lady? Then I’m going to judge you. Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gave me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet…wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven…and he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven…thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace. (Luke 7:44-50)
When nobody believes in you
It is very likely that the only person in the house that day who believed in her was Jesus. When we have burned all of our bridges and wrecked relationships and built a trail of allegations, rumors, indictments, and convictions until not a single person we know believes in us any longer. When all of those around us know without doubt that it is only a matter of time before we stumble and fall again. When we go to a community event like a feast or church or basketball and we feel the eyes of judgment and condemnation upon us, and worse yet, we know that we have earned it, there is still one who believes in us. That one is Jesus.
Jesus can turn a murderer into a minister. Jesus can turn a bootlegger into a Bible thumper. He can turn a street creature into a Sunday school teacher. He can turn an ain’t into a saint. He can take you out of the Gaslight into his marvelous light. When everyone else has given up on us, there is still Jesus waiting for us to fall at his feet with tears in repentance. He is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9) He has a plan and a purpose for each and every one of us, and that plan starts at repentance.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.