I was reading recently about Simon the Pharisee. (Luke 7:36-49) You may know the story – Simon invites Jesus to eat with him and He accepts. Whilst ‘getting ready to eat’ a woman of dubious virtue came into the home and anoints Jesus feet with expensive perfume, having previously washed his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. You all probably know the story. Simon was perturbed; he knew the woman’s reputation and chided Jesus in his heart, if not out loud. Jesus, being all-knowing, knew what was in Simon’s heart and so, in his gentle way, highlighted this with a story, about fictional men owing varying sums of money and being forgiven their debt. Jesus asked Simon who loved the moneylender more – and the answer given was that the one forgiven more would love more.
Recently I began to think about this is another way. Often, quite rightly, the story is told with an emphasis on the woman, how her offering was acceptable, how Jesus treated her, how she was forgiven for past sin. The story emphasises forgiveness and the acceptability of worship from humble hearts, despite past sin. But, as sometimes happens with scripture, my thoughts turned to Simon and his attitude. Why exactly did he invite Jesus to his house? Was he ‘intrigued’ by His message, titillated by new teaching, dabbling with the spiritual aspects of Jesus’ new ‘kingdom’? Simon completely failed to understand who Jesus was. He even failed to give him the simple courtesies accorded to guests. He appears to be ‘patronising’ Jesus, inviting him to be some sort of star turn for guests. What I love about the story is the inherent gentleness of Jesus. Psalm 145:8 tells us that “the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love”. So instead of berating Simon He tells the story of the two debtors. I wonder if Simon pondered his words, wondering within about whether he had things needing forgiveness. Did God highlight weakness to him, bring repentance, and awaken true humility? One of my all-time favourite verses is Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God.” So here we are today, in God’s house. Spiritual food has been prepared by people. Worship has been creatively put together as a vehicle for us to reach out to God.