Hello Precious Reader! I wrote this (now) article below originally as an assignment for one of my classes of Spring 2019. The main text comes from the story of the Woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears in Luke 7:36-50. I honestly think that I was drawn to this passage because it has become a source of comfort to me pertaining to some of the unfortunate situations I have been in with fellow Believers. This story helped me to see Jesus’ heart for rejected “known” sinners, and for women with sorted pasts. As you may already know, if you are familiar with this story, what Jesus did was groundbreaking – even revolutionary for His day and time and for the religious and cultural expectations Jewish men were to follow. I could go on, and on about how Jesus consistently challenged the religious and sociopolitical norms of His time all while revealing the love, compassion, and mercy of the Father… But instead, I present a message from Luke 7:36-50 – Reclining at the Table!
Today’s message is going to be coming from Luke 7:36-50, it’s a story that many of us know very well. This passage is about the sinful woman who anointed Jesus with expensive oil and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and the response from the onlookers. Now I know that many of you might have heard this story or even read it for yourself many times. But before your mind goes into auto pilot mode, let’s see if we can find a fresh approach to this text. Now let’s read Luke 7:36:
“36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and He went into the Pharisee’s house [in the region of Galilee] and reclined at the table.”
Now the emphasis that the Amplified Bible places on this verse is on the last words “at the table.” However, the word that stood out to me in the text was the word “reclined.” Now picture this: A Pharisee named Simon had invited Jesus to have dinner at his house. Now we now from other accounts in the Bible that sometimes Jesus went to have dinner with people that were considered “sinners,” and that the Pharisees looked unfavorably on that. We also know that Jesus, on more than one occasion, fed the multitudes that stayed for days on end to hear Him preach and minister. But through all of this the Pharisees were usually not on his side. They usually were trying to entrap him, in an attempt to expose Him or to find evidence to bring charges against Him. So why on earth was Jesus having dinner with a Pharisee? Now we do know of at least one other Pharisee named Nathaniel who was not in opposition to Jesus, but even secretly met with Jesus to inquire more about His teachings and may have even been converted during his time of seeking. So what I gather from this dinner at the Pharisees’ house is that Jesus will come and fellowship if He is invited in.
Now not only was Jesus welcomed into the Pharisee’s house, He went in and made Himself comfortable. How do we know this, it’s because the text says that Jesus “reclined” at the table. In many Middle Eastern cultures, like in Pakistan, Lebanon, or Iran, it is customary to lounge or recline, with the person leaning on one side with their legs slightly bent facing the table or serving area (on the floor) on fluffy pillows or benches designed for lounging while being served a meal. So, when the “sinful woman” came into the dining room and began to wash Jesus’ feel with her tears and anoint Him with precious oil, Jesus was not sitting upright as in a modern chair or throne. Instead, He was in a relaxed and reclined position the whole time she attended to Him. While all of this is happening, Simon the Pharisee became agitated, indignant and offended at the sinful woman’s worship. Jesus, on the other hand, was not “put off” by her sin or the fact that she was getting so personal with Him. In fact, He did not even change positions at her presence.
You may be thinking: “All of this is interesting, but what is the significance of how He was sitting?” The reason this is significant, is because if Jesus was sitting upright in a modern chair, He would have been witnessing her worship by looking down on her. Nothing about Jesus’ interaction was meant to make her feel inferior ashamed, or condemned. According to traditional Jewish purity laws, it may have been possible that Jesus should not have even allowed her to touch Him in any way, as to keep Himself from being defiled. But Jesus’ comfort with and acceptance of the association with a sinful woman, who was probably a prostitute broke all kinds of socio-political rules that also challenged the legalistic approach to keeping the law Moses.
Jesus accepted this sinful woman’s love and worship, because He discerned her repentant heart. He also made a point to introduce a new perspective on forgiveness and love as motivations on how to treat people. Jesus could have easily rejected, humiliated, and publicly condemned this sinful woman for her impure past. He could have made her an example of why her sins were wrong and exposed her many moral failures to further make a case against her. He could have even used her humility and repentance against her, by mocking her that it was “too late” for her to repent now. He could have said to her, “Why repent now, everybody know what an impure sinner you are.” He could have further pointed out her many flaws and characterized her as an enemy of God and a menace to society. When she leaned in to kiss His feet, He could have jumped back and pushed her tears and kisses away while telling her how disgusting and evil she was. He had the perfect opportunity to abuse her, by treating her poorly and encouraging others to do the same. And, might I add, that perhaps that is what Simon (the Pharisee), and the other Pharisees wanted Him to do. If Jesus would have spurned and reviled this sinful woman, they probably would have welcomed Him into the “brotherhood” of Pharisees and gave Him a pat on the back. But, as we read from the text, Jesus did NOT do that. He respected her presence, and welcomed her worship. He did not call attention to her sinful past and unworthiness. Instead, He corrected and reproved the Pharisees to give them insight as to why this woman, known only for her sin, was extravagantly worshiping Jesus in that manner.
Maybe you are in the same position as this woman. I know that I find myself there often enough. Like many of you, the enemy loves to remind or teach people about my past failures or short comings, to point me out as a sinner, to attempt to reduce me down to the sins and poor decisions of my past, or to raise suspicion towards me concerning my motives, and sincerity because of bad reports or speculations about me. As soon as I want to do something for the Kingdom, the enemy tries to prophesy to me that I have sinned too great to be used of God for ministry or anything other than being a lowly, desperate sinner, who just needs to get their life together. What about you? Like this sinful woman from this story, do you know what it’s like to constantly have people showcase some of the most regrettable moments of your life, and present that to others as if that is who you are right now? Or even better, have you been told, or has it been insinuated, that you have blown it, missed your chance, and have effectively sinned too much to have any worth or value in the Kingdom? The truth is, if you want to be real about it, is that people like Simon the Pharisee will not say anything like that to your face. But the judgement will still be present in their attitude, actions, and in their hearts.
Now I can honestly say that when I usually read this story, I generally see myself in the woman’s position. But in reality there have been times that I was in the position of the Pharisee Simon. If you are real about it, you probably have been there too. Now this is okay because Simon was not trying to be evil. He just did not understand how Godly love and forgiveness works. In fact, none of them did, because after Jesus explained that because of this woman’s repentant attitude and worshipful service to Him that she was forgiven of all of her sins, in verse 49 it says that they talked among themselves wondering how He would be able to forgive her sins. So while Simon may have been critical and judgmental, we can clearly see from the text that he just truly did not understand grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness as a lifestyle like Jesus was modeling for them. His paradigm, like all others who were present, for forgiveness and repentance had to do with offering sacrifices at the Temple on special days to atone for sin. They had no idea at the time that what Jesus did set a pattern for what was coming, for the grace that would be available to all who would receive, one He paid the ultimate price for our sins.
Now let’s take a look at verse 39 again, “Now when [Simon] the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this Man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him that she is a [notorious] sinner [an outcast, devoted to sin].”’
Please note that this sinful woman from the story was an outcast. She was rejected and put out by her local community. In many cultures all over the world it is customary to shun or disassociate with or cast out people who have broken the moral/religious codes of the culture. Even in modern Judeo-Christian cultures like the Amish or Mennonites, the community will shun or disassociate with even their own family member(s) when a breach of the moral / religious code is detected. The thought is to protect the members of the community and to punish the moral failure of the fallen person(s) in an attempt to discourage anyone else from committing the same sins. Now, while it is true that there are sins that God absolutely detests, however He does not hate sinners! Shunning or pushing us away when we fall is not the Father’s response to us.
Now, there are some of y’all who are still stuck on that statement that I made about God not hating sinners. You might be wondering how I could make a statement like this, but I believe with all my heart that God does not hate sinners! Now, I am not saying that God gives the “green light” for everyone to disregard His rules and His order, or to lose their minds doing things that will bring harm to themselves or to others. But, what I am saying is that it is the sinful acts, attitudes, and lifestyles that God is disgusted by not the people who fall into that trap.
Let me paint a clearer picture for you: Just imagine that there are a set of twin girls born to a Christian family here in the United States of America. While the twin girls look identical in every way and even their voices sound similar, they are two distinct people with different personalities. One is outgoing and athletic, while the other one is introverted and creative. They are both well-loved and taught Christian values from their parents and local community, however both of them have “wild streaks” in them. The introvert will sometimes perform for anyone who will pay attention and the outgoing twin is a notorious practical joker often ambushing family and friends to get a laugh. As they get older the more distinct their personalities become. The introvert gets involved with a group that likes to use “pot” or marijuana and other drugs to “stimulate their creativity” and the outgoing twin becomes a notorious flirt switching boyfriends almost as often as she switches clothes. When their parent catch wind of what is going on with each twin what do you suppose their response will be? They raised their daughters with Christian values and provided all that they would need to make good and “Godly” choices. So should they shun their daughters for participating in sinful activities that do not reflect their Christian upbringing? Should they just turn a blind eye and pretend that there are no sin issues rising up in their kids? Can you relate to either or both of the twin girls? Have there been times in your life when you put aside your faith and Christian values to participate in sin that was appealing to you at the time? Can you relate to the parents? Have you done your best to set Godly standards for your family or community but still did not see the results that you desired? How would our Father God handle a situation like this if it were us falling short?
Remember that catch phrase from the 1990’s “What Would Jesus Do?” From the text in Luke 7:36-50 we clearly see that Jesus willingly forgives anyone who comes to Him with a repentant and worshipful heart. He did not force the woman to come to Him and repent. He did not manipulate or harass her to get her to repent, but when she was ready, she came to Him on her own accord. He was right there ready to receive her worship and grant her forgiveness. Isn’t that what a good parent would do, Jesus is reflecting the Father’s heart for this woman who is ready to change her ways. Also a good parent would show their child(ren) the error of their ways, but would also be ready to continue a loving relationship with them when they repent.
You may be asking, “What if the person does not ever repent?” Let’s remember Jesus’ demeanor and position when the sinful woman came to Him. He was relaxed, at ease, and welcoming. This lets us know that He was ready to forgive at any time. He did not have to get into the correct posture when she arrived there, or adjust Himself to be anointed by her. He was already in the position to receive and forgive her, and so He is with us, and that is also the example that He is setting for us to follow.
Everyone knows that in John 3:16 – God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. However if you keep reading through John 3:17 you would find out that: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him.” Jesus did not come to punish and shun people because of their sin. He knows that we are born sinful, it is in our DNA to sin and fall short. But what Jesus did was to take our place for the punishment that we deserve for the sins we have committed, thus freeing us from eternal death and adopting us back into God’s family as royal heirs.
If we really tell the truth about it, sometimes we follow secular culture and make forgiveness a conditional concept. For example: “If this person comes to me crying, begging, bearing gifts, and bowing down to me in the middle of a public square, then I will forgive them.” Or better yet, “I am not accepting their apology, it was not sincere enough for me…” If we are really going to follow Jesus’ example, our hearts, minds, and spirit need to already agree that forgiveness and restoration will be the outcome regardless of if or when a person comes to us with an apology.
Now, when Jesus forgave this woman, He undoubtedly and publicly set her free from her past sins and released her into a brighter future. The effect of us forgiving someone may not always be as dramatic as that. However, one thing that is for sure, we will be set free and will be demonstrating the Kingdom and the example of Jesus to all who witness. Let’s take a moment to ask God to help us agree to be ready to forgive and restore like Jesus was reclining at that table. Let’s ask Him for the grace we need to relax and remain loving to those who have not apologized or may never apologize. Let us receive the gift of forgiveness like the woman did and go forward into God’s plans for our lives!
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, ““Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation].” Even all of the good things that we do to compensate for our shortcomings is not enough, it will leave a person weary, burdened and without peace. If that is you, find a trusted person to pray with you. If you need to come to receive forgiveness or release forgiveness to someone set time before the Lord to allow Him to help you do this!
If it is you who is going through a situation where you being mistreated, or needing grace to forgive and you wonder like Peter in Matthew 18:21- “How many times should I forgive” this person? Come before the Lord now and let your capacity to forgive and extend mercy and grace be enlarged and filled.
If you want feel like that sinful woman felt that day when she had the opportunity to start fresh, come accept Christ as your personal Savior and be made new! To accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, pray this prayer:
“Dear Lord Jesus,
I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself only. I am sorry, and I repent. (I am giving up my sinful ways for Your ways Jesus) I ask you to forgive me.
I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life; I give it to you. From this day forward, help me to live every day for you and in a way that pleases you.
I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you.
*prayer adapted from https://www.learnreligions.com/a-prayer-of-salvation-701284
Thank you so much for reading! As always, if this has been encouraging to you or if you know someone who would appreciate this article, feel free to share it.