“Religious people find God useful. Christians find God beautiful.” (Tim Keller)
A religious leader named Simon invites Jesus to eat dinner in his home. As Jesus arrives, Simon doesn’t offer water to wash the dust from his sandaled feet. Simon doesn’t offer a kiss of greeting or olive oil to anoint Jesus’ head. Simon has invited Jesus, but he has also intentionally skipped their culture’s gestures of welcome and hospitality.
Then though. A woman arrives. She’s not just any woman. She’s the lowest of the low.
She’s heard that Jesus is eating at Simon’s house, and braves probable snubbing by the gathered religious crowd in order to find the Lord. She arrives with many month’s wages in her arms. She enters the room. She enters with awe-struck, penitent tears.
The gathered invitees are “reclining at table” — they’re facing inward toward a low center table with their legs and feet extending outward like spokes in a wheel. She, the uninvited, approaches.
She begins to wash the feet Simon ignored.
She not only washes, but she anoints. Using her valued, costly…
“beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind Jesus at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting 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 what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)
A Lord who forgives; who gladly loves the unlovely; who cancels debts mounted high.
A woman who knows she’s unable, needy, desperate.
A religious person who thinks he’s not.
One finds Jesus somewhat useful.
The other finds Him beautiful.
Which one are you?