The encounter of Jesus with the woman at the home of Simon, the Pharisee, [Luke 7: 36-50] is instructive in so many ways. The scriptural passage should be read through a couple of times. The artist depicts the scene and in doing so brings to life background information that flesh’s out the Gospel account. Note should be taken of the following:
- Meals such as this meal that Jesus had with Simon were often held in courtyards of a residence and the Public, or those interested, were encouraged to attend at the perimeters of the eating area in the courtyard to listen to the conversation engaged in by those attending the meal.
- Guests at the meal reclined on their left sides to be able to take and consume food with their right hand which was the custom of 1st century Jews.
- Jewish society at the time was patently paternalistic. Woman and children received little recognition and would not have attended the meal.
- Once the meal was completed those looking on would be permitted to come in and clean up the scraps.
- Simon had not extended to Jesus the courtesy of providing Him with water to wash His feet nor had he shared with Jesus a kiss of welcome both of which were customary.
- Simon and no doubt other invited guests had a pre-determined view of the Woman and considered her a sinner.
- Simon was scandalized that the Woman was in the eating area and at the feet of Jesus and touching Him.
- Simon was shocked that Jesus allowed himself to be touched by the Woman.
Jesus however was moved by mercy and by the great love shown by the Woman. He also no doubt took advantage of the event as a “teaching moment” not only for the benefit of the invited guests but also for the benefit of the on lookers. This encounter speaks to the desire of Jesus not only to forgive and to console the Woman but also to put the “teachers and lawyers” of the day on notice that He regarded this Woman as equal in status to the men at the meal.
The parting words of Jesus to the Woman “Your faith has saved you! Go now in peace” resonates with us today as we reflect on our own need for forgiveness. This Woman out of desperation defied the customs of her day to seek out and to encounter Jesus expecting that He could and would heal her. In the process she moved forward in her relationship with God.
As we continue to prepare for the coming of Jesus this Christmas, each of us might reflect on how we could respond to the invitation of Jesus to be in relationship with Him. What steps can we take to deepen our encounter with Jesus and feel His healing presence more effectively?