Saturday, 24 March 2012

31. The woman who anointed Jesus - the fragrance of forgiveness

I remember the story from  Sunday School, circa 1974, and was puzzled by it then. 

In an impromptu after dinner appearance, an un named woman anoints Jesus' feet with perfume and tears. It's about the injustice of God's generosity and is thereby subversive, like Jesus. And when the powers that be sense subversion it doesn't always end well.

Jesus has been invited to dinner. Simon, the host, is a Pharisee and no doubt thinks he's being generous and hospitable to this strange itinerant preacher called Jesus. But while the men are 'reclining' after dinner (first Century Palestinian version of retiring to the smoking room in Edwardian England) a woman who has 'lived a sinful life' comes in and begins to weep at Jesus' feet, wiping them with her hair, kissing them and pouring perfume on them.

She's invading male space. Her actions are intimate, emotional and quite, quite embarrassing. If you're Simon. Clearly Jesus must be spiritually blind: 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is...' (Luke 7: 39).

But Jesus thinks differently. If two debtors have their debts cancelled, which one will love their master more? The one whose debt was greater. 

Oh, the unfairness of God! This woman's extravagant gestures are evidence she has already tasted forgiveness. 

With his cold hearted judgmentalism, Simon has barely dipped his toes in the shallows.

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