Most public figures learn pretty quickly, and sometimes painfully, that invitations to attend social engagements don’t always turn out like we originally anticipated. Sometimes things happen that turn the event in a direction no one expected. Luke reminds us that it was just as true in Jesus’ day as it is in our own. A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 7:36-50), and the unanticipated interactions unveil important lessons that are of great value in this divisive, deceptive, and confrontational culture surrounding us today.
Fireworks on the Menu ~
For Jesus to accept an invitation to dine with a representative of a group so openly oppositional to everything He did was no doubt surprising to many, but instantly intriguing. The crowd that assembled to witness the event was not unusual. Observers tended to gather around significant social engagements like that, and this one virtually guaranteed that religious and political fireworks would erupt before it was over. No one knew quite what to expect, but no one would have anticipated the exchanges that unfolded around Simon’s table.
Compelled by something far more personal than theological debates, an unnamed woman ignored social protocols, slipped in unnoticed, and worked her way through the crowd. She managed to maneuver herself to a place just behind Jesus. As was the custom in those days, He was reclining beside the low table where the food was presented and without speaking a word, she knelt and amid muted sobs, began to pour fragrant oil on His feet. Tears dropped onto His feet from a heart filled with deep regrets and that harbored a desperate hope of finding forgiveness — and maybe even a kind of love that she had never known. Tears mingled with the oil as she tenderly kissed His feet and began to wipe them with her hair. Then without acknowledging the woman at all, Jesus engaged the indignant, self-righteous Pharisee who was internally condemning both the woman for invading his event and Jesus for allowing a sinner like her to touch Him.
And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:40–42 NKJV)
Another Unexpected Question ~
Simon reluctantly delivered the obvious answer and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” (Luke 7:43b NKJV) Then as he struggled with how to respond to Jesus’ irrelevant story and how he could use what he saw as a disgusting public demonstration, Jesus shifted the focus. With a single look, He acknowledged her bold display of repentance, hope, gratitude, and affection. Then with His gaze directed toward the broken figure weeping at His feet, He addressed Simon and asked, simply, “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7:44a NKJV)
In this case, the obvious answer turned out to be not so obvious at all. Of course Simon could see her physically, but the tragic reality was that he didn’t see her at all. What he saw was a predetermined, artificial, impersonal version of her that he had been taught from childhood. The pernicious and divisive distortion of the woman that had been implanted in his mind was all he could see. That demeaning picture had been repeated and systematically reinforced to the point that when Simon looked at her, nothing else was visible. The implanted image and the implications he had been conditioned to believe instantly triggered the response they were designed to produce.
Programmed Condemnation ~
A sense of revulsion and disdain was all the well-trained Pharisee could feel as the scene played out before him. To Simon, the woman and all those deemed to be like her, were nothing more than defiled carriers of religious and social contamination. He neither knew nor cared to know who she really was or what led her to a life filled with so much shame and regret. Personal details like that are irrelevant to those who practice and promote blanket condemnation.
This story is filled with lessons that we hope to explore in more detail later, but there’s one issue of vital importance we don’t want to miss. Jesus exposed and illustrated the impact of the blindness that results from identifying and classifying people on the basis of broad generalizations and superficial characteristics. The practice is always destructively divisive and comes at great cost, not only to the individuals that suffer because of it, but to entire nations that engage in it.
Manufacturing Social Mayhem ~
To anyone paying attention even on a superficial level, it’s obvious that those in the echelons of power in our country have joined in a determined effort to make the color of one’s skin, and/or some other generalized group classification, the basis for as many major policy decisions as possible. We are witnessing the intentional manufacturing of class conflict, and it’s being done in more ways than we can keep up with. Tech giants and other large corporate entities have joined schools, entertainment icons, and mainstream media in shoving it down America’s throat. It’s classic Marxism, but then, since true and accurate history is being eradicated from our schools, most younger people have no idea what that means. Fewer and fewer teachers have the courage to tell students how tens of millions of people have been impoverished and slaughtered by governments that adopted the very same principles they’re being indoctrinated to believe.
Since the table talk at Jesus’ dinner unexpectedly led to a discussion about Simon’s vision, another comment He made begs for our consideration in this context. It also had to do with what we see and how we see it. Jesus said:
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22–23 NKJV)
Altered Perceptions — Awful Implications ~
The contrast between the two “eyes” here is stark. The word translated here as bad is in a physical sense unhealthy, diseased, malignant, and distorted. In a moral sense, it indicates things that are evil, malicious, wicked, and mischievous. Obviously, good describes the opposite condition. Manufactured, implanted, and reinforced prejudice is virtually unmatched in its potential to alter our vision of others. It predisposes us to think of them in ways that are living exhibitions of the kind of bad that Jesus warned us about. Prejudiced vision does more than damage those toward whom it’s directed. It darkens the entire mind, heart, and body of those who practice it.
Our job is not just to condemn the bad eyes of others, but to adjust our own focus of attention. If bad eyes result from an inordinate fixation on ideas, philosophies, and behaviors that are unhealthy, diseased, malignant, and downright evil, then we must avert our gaze. Simon may have only seen what the woman represented to him, but Jesus looked beyond and beneath all that and saw her. I think His heart was broken and his voice was intense when said to the self-righteous Pharisee, “Do you see this woman?”
As followers of Jesus’ teaching, may our hearts also break, and may we boldly cry out to the One who sees who we really are … and plead with Him for eyes that can really see both the broken and the blinded.
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- “Jesus exposed and illustrated the impact of the blindness that results from identifying and classifying people on the basis of broad generalizations and superficial characteristics. The practice is always destructively divisive and costly.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The practice of blindness resulting from identifying & classifying people on the basis of broad generalizations & superficial characteristics is always destructively divisive & comes at great cost to both those who suffer & engage in it.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Fewer and fewer teachers have the courage to tell students how tens of millions of people have been impoverished and slaughtered by governments that adopted the very same principles they’re being indoctrinated to believe.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Manufactured, implanted, and reinforced prejudice is virtually unmatched in its potential to alter our vision of others. It predisposes us to think of them in ways that are living exhibitions of the kind of bad that Jesus warned us about.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Manufactured, implanted, and reinforced prejudice alters our vision of others. Prejudiced vision does more than damage those toward whom it’s directed. It darkens the entire mind, heart, and body of those who practice it.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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