In last week’s post, An after-Dinner Eye Exam, we might have imagined ourselves gathered around the table with the other guests, as Jesus had dinner with a Pharisee named Simon (Luke 7:36-50). We watched as an uninvited and unexpected guest came in among the crowd. The dramatic demonstration of contrition, humility, gratitude, and love that followed was a graphic demonstration of what repentance looks like. It became a powerful tool in the hands of the Master Teacher. Jesus used that encounter to expose the demeaning, divisive, and blinding impact of prejudice. But as significant and relevant as that issue is, it’s not the only lesson we observed as we shared the table with Jesus. There are other issues that cry out for our attention this week.
Observing the dinner at Simon’s house puts a spotlight on one of the most profound and encouraging things about the life and ministry of Jesus. It highlights the incredible realization that the omnipotent Creator of the universe made Himself one of us. With the arrival of Jesus, God was no longer a distant and disembodied concept far removed from our daily lives. He was undeniably real. In Jesus, God became visible, personal . . . and close enough to touch! As a matter of fact, Jesus stood out in remarkable contrast to the most prominent leaders in virtually every culture, in that “physical contact” was neither forbidden nor avoided by Him. That issue played an interesting role in the events that unfolded at Simon’s house as we continue in Luke 7:36-50.
No Risk too Great ~
Obviously, the unnamed woman who crashed Simon’s dinner had one objective in mind, to get within touching distance of Jesus. She ignored social protocols and dismissed any and all concerns about what people would think of her. Being rejected by the hypocritical religious elites was an all too familiar experience for her, and one more example of that would not stand between her and her only hope of forgiveness and redemption. She was determined to pour out more than her perfumed ointment on Him. She would empty the contents of her heart, all the shame, all the fear, all the abuse, all the condemnation, all the rejection, all the regrets, every painful consequence of every sin she had ever committed. Stories were told everywhere about what a touch from Him could do. Perhaps she had heard and believed stories about other desperate, hopeless people, people who, for a variety of reasons, sought to touch Him. Perhaps she heard of another woman who fought through a crowd to get to Him:
And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. (Matthew 9:20–22 NKJV)
Maybe she heard other stories, like some of these:
Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well. (Mark 6:56 NKJV)
When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:1–3 NKJV)
And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. (Luke 7:12–15 NKJV)
Finding a Deeper Level of Worship ~
This woman’s belief in these reports, and in Him, made her determined to sacrifice the last particle of physical strength she had and the last vestige of courage she could muster to get to Him. She would risk the last breath of life itself to get within touching distance of Jesus, but it was not just to get something from Him. She was not just drawn to His power to heal bodies, she was inexorably compelled to worship the One who had made Himself so close to so many, and had shown such compassion to those who, like her, were rejected, broken, and destitute of hope. She wanted to worship Him, but in a way that was close and intimately personal. Falling at His feet wasn’t enough. She wanted to embrace his feet, to anoint them, to bathe them, and to offer them kisses that she had not been forced to give. She came to touch Him, not just to be touched by Him. She didn’t come to get something she wanted. She came to give all she had.
In stark opposition to the tender exposition of recognizing and deeply regretting her sins, Simon, on the other hand, wanted none of it. His first thought was to condemn Jesus for allowing a woman like that to touch Him in that way, especially in a setting like the one they were in. As the scene unfolded, Jesus made it clear that He was aware that the Pharisee had carefully avoided touching Him even in the most insignificant ways. Not only did Simon not offer the expected act of courtesy and respect Jesus deserved by washing His feet personally, he didn’t even provide the necessary items. Neither did he provide any fragrant oil for Jesus’ head. Finally, he declined to extend a greeting kiss, the cultural symbol of acceptance and recognition. His behavior indicated that actually touching Jesus, even in socially customary ways, was repulsive to him.
A Savior Ready to Receive ~
But the lesson isn’t just about touching or not touching. It’s about the underlying motives behind those responses, and it’s about the consequences associated with each decision. For the woman in the story, it may have been that the weight of her sins was more than she could continue to bear. Perhaps it was the empty loneliness of a life full of deceit and pretend relationships. The important thing for us to know is that Jesus was ready to receive everything she offered and to give her cleansing, forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life in return.
Simon was within touching distance, too, but he applied the same kind of unjust prejudice toward Jesus as he did the woman. As a prominent Pharisee, he considered himself to be acceptable to God on the basis of his religious performance and ostentatious moral superiority. To him, Jesus was more of an obstacle to his chosen way of life than an asset. He brought nothing to Jesus and wanted nothing from Him, and that’s exactly what he got.
The Real Question ~
The question for us is not whether Jesus is available and accessible. He was just as touchable to Simon as He was the broken woman worshipping at His feet — and the same is true for us today. The question is whether we’re willing to abandon our pretentious, external religiosity and our hypocritical facades and get real.
May God grant that millions of us will rise up and demonstrate the courage and determination to fight through whatever obstacles stand in our way . . . and not stop until we empty all that we have and all that we are at His feet.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “The omnipotent Creator of the universe made Himself one of us. God was no longer a distant and disembodied concept far removed from our daily lives. He was undeniably real. In Jesus, God became visible, personal, and close enough to touch.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “This woman’s belief in these reports, and in Jesus, made her determined to sacrifice the last particle of physical strength and courage she had she could muster to get to Him. She would risk the last breath of life to get within touching distance of Him.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “This woman was not just drawn to Jesus’ power to heal bodies, she was inexorably compelled to worship the One who had made Himself so close to so many, who had shown such compassion to those who were rejected, broken, and destitute of hope.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The question for us is not whether Jesus is available and accessible. He was just as touchable to Simon as He was the broken woman worshipping at His feet. The question is whether we’re willing to abandon our pretentious, external religiosity and our hypocritical facades and get real.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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