Real Faith for a Real Life in a Real World.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jesus Comes to Dinner

A dramatisation based on Luke 7:36-50

Well, now I'm confused.  I don't know what to think.  You see, we Pharisees are a bit unsure of this Jesus of Nazareth fellow, to say the least.  He says a lot of good stuff but then mixes with all the wrong people.

Only the other day he was pointing out that very fact about himself, recounting what he'd heard people say: John the Baptist had a weird diet and didn't drink and we say he was demonised, Jesus eats and drinks and mixes in and we say he's a glutton and a drunkard and keeps bad company.  How does he expect us Pharisees to take him seriously when he does that kind of thing?  But there's something different about him ...

Anyway, I decided to invite him for dinner – see if I could get to the bottom of him, work out what makes him tick.  I was pleasantly surprised when he accepted.

So there we all were, reclining around the table, looking forward to some good conversation, when in comes that awful woman.  Everyone in town knows of her and what she's like; some better than they should, if you get my meaning ...  I'd have had her slung straight out if it wasn't for Jesus being there: I didn't want to give him the wrong impression.  Of all the days for her to show up ...

The affront of the woman!  She just goes straight up to Jesus and kneels down behind him, weeping.  Then the harlot actually touches him!  She cries all over his feet – and he just lets her!  Then she wipes the tears off with her hair and kisses his feet – can you believe it?  And he just lies there, letting her do all this stuff.  Then she pours perfume on his feet, and we all know how she got the money to afford that ...

At this point, I'd almost made my mind up about Jesus.  I mean, if he were really a prophet he'd have known what she was.

Then the really confusing thing happened.  I don't know if Jesus saw the look of disgust on my face or noticed I was more than a bit put out, or if he knew what was on my mind, but he began telling a story: “Two men owed money to a money-lender,” he started.  I wondered where he was going with this one and what it had to do with this woman. 

To cut a long story short, one man owed a lot – 500 denarii – the other not so much – only 50 denarii – and neither of them could pay.  The money-lender let them both off (as if ...).  “Which of them will love him more?” said Jesus.  Well, was this a trick-question, I wondered?  I mean, who loves a money-lender?  I kind-of guessed that Jesus was saying the one who was let off the bigger debt would appreciate the money-lender's leniency more, so that's what I went with.  It seems I got the answer right but then he turned the story around and applied it to me.

“Do you see this woman?” he asked me.  (Well, of course I did.  It would be difficult not to, all the fuss she caused.  As if she needed any more attention on her!)  I didn't wash his feet when he arrived but she washed his feet with her tears.  I didn't dry his feet but she used her hair to dry off her tears.  I didn't greet him with the customary kiss but she went on and on kissing his feet.  I didn't anoint his head with oil but she poured perfume all over his feet. 

But I'd done what was expected; the water and towels and servants were there if he'd wanted to use them ...

He said that her behaviour proved that her many sins had been forgiven and so she showed much love – well, she certainly has an abundance of sins that need forgiving – flagrant sins, at that.  And those who show only a little love (I assume he was talking about me) haven't had much forgiven. 
I could have taken issue with him about quantities: even 50 denarii is a debt I'd be very grateful to have cancelled!  Extremely grateful.  But I'm not sure that had much to do with his point.

To be honest, as I'm a Pharisee, I can't see there is much to forgive.  Nobody's perfect but I'm much more righteous than the woman.  I keep the law.  I make the required sacrifices, pay my tithes.

But the thing that really got us all talking was what he said to her: “Your sins are forgiven.”  Who does he think he is?  Isn't he just a rabbi?  How can he forgive sins?  Well, everyone was thinking the same: surely only God can forgive sins, and only then if the right sacrifices are offered.

That wasn't all he said.  The next bit was a shocker too: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  Faith, he said.  Can it really be that simple?  I've been a Pharisee all my life, kept the rules, upheld our traditions, done my bit for the poor and the synagogue, yet this, this ... harlot gets forgiven completely because she has faith?  How does that work?  Surely God is looking for more from us than that?

Perhaps that's the appeal of Jesus.  He seems to be offering hope to hopeless cases like this woman – a chance to get right with God and find peace.  That's what he said to her: go in peace.  How can she be at peace after all she's done?  She certainly looked happy enough as she left ... 

Well, we'll keep on eye on her; see how much she changes.  As for Jesus, he's still a puzzle ... but there's just something different about him ...