Tag Archives: Pharisee

Eating with Pharisees…

29 Mar

001-jesus-anointedJesus fully entered into the “hospitality” culture of his time making the most of long hours of relationship building around a meal. Luke 7:36-50 describes one such gastronomic teaching session.

Jesus is “reclining at the table” – no quick self-service here, in Simon the Pharisee’s house. The cold eyes of the religious establishment are upon him, watching his every move to see if it conforms to the Law. Everything seems nicely “kosher” until, like the proverbial fly in the soup, a woman appears in this man’s world.

And not just an ordinary woman – a notorious harlot “who had lived a sinful life in that town.”

All the religious alarm bells start to ring. The society of pure separation has been invaded by an “unclean” incarnation. One can almost hear the bouncers at the door coming to chuck her out!

Jesus doesn’t choose his religious friend’s strategy of exclusion. Instead he receives the woman and offers her true intimacy.

Her lips kiss his feet. Think about that for a minute. Her tears fall on his flesh and her long hair dries divine toes. The honest, manly purity of Christ heals years of fleshly abuse by men, redeems physicality and elevates heartfelt love above legalistic dogma.

magdalen-cleaning-Jesus-feet-with-hair-300x200-1-thumb-350x233-28357The perfume poured out generously reminds us of the holy temple sacrifices, and is a fitting epiphany to the inclusiveness that Jesus brought to the world via his living temple, his intimate physical body. His body is still alive and well today, reclining where he is invited and receiving, as a friend, the humble sinners who choose to kneel at his feet.

The Pharisees were not happy and were blind to his fulfilling of their law with sacrificial love. Their “separation mentality” couldn’t handle the “touch” – the living incarnation of God in skin. “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”

Jesus then takes the opportunity to teach Simon a lesson.

With the Cypriot bank crisis in the news a parable about lending money and forgiving debt seems quite appropriate. Two men owe money. One owes about 3,000 euros and the other 300,000 (a denarius was worth about a day’s wages). Both men have their debts cancelled…Which of the two men will love the money lender the most? Simon answers correctly saying the “one who had the bigger debt cancelled.”

How big is your own debt?

Thinking back to another story about seeing the speck of dust in our brother’s eye but being blind to the enormous plank in our own, we seem to all have a tendency to not see our own faults. Religious blindness is perhaps the worst kind. Religion can invite Jesus into the house, but he often gets a less than warm welcome by those who seem to need little forgiveness. No genuine “water” of repentance is poured on his feet, no “kiss” of grateful, intimate relationship, no “perfume” of genuine prayer and worship.

The problem for Simon was that he had forgotten how big his debt really was.

“All have sinned and fail short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

If I had been the only person in the world Jesus would still have had to die the same painful death to pay the price for my sin. We have all been forgiven much.

We all have a big debt!

This is actually quite good news, because, “he who has been forgiven little loves little…”

woman_anointing_Jesus_feetDon’t fall into the temptation of loving little. A fresh revelation this Easter of all that Christ has paid for us on the cross can push us towards a more passionate, intimate celebration of our love for him. Refuse to believe the lie that you are a pretty decent sort of person who’s trying, day by day, to be a little better…You couldn’t be worse! We all need Christ to pay our 300,000 euros.

Accept the free gift of a perfect sacrifice that’s does indeed make you righteous.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

May you find joy and hope this Easter. May you recline at Jesus’ feet, enjoying fellowship with him and overhearing his voice saying: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

893392_4755018269029_1841417389_oI trust you have enjoyed this special Easter guest post by Robert Reeve. Rob blogs at http://afruitinseason.wordpress.com/ writing inspiring devotionals to feed the soul. Do drop by and take a look.

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WDJW

1 Jun

One of these days I am going to get myself a bracelet made with WDJW on. And before you ask, no, I haven’t spelled that wrong if I wanted a “What Would Jesus Do”bracelet, I could just go and buy one. I wonder if anyone would notice the difference? And if they did, what would they think anyway? Probably that I must be a bit dyslexic, something of that ilk.

Never mind WWJD, I am more interested in WDJW: “What Did Jesus Write”. I don’t mean books. I know he never wrote a book, not that we know of anyway; anything he did write has long since bitten the dust. But speaking of dust, he did write on the floor, and that’s what I want to know. Just what did Jesus write on the ground that day? Whatever he wrote, it was pretty powerful stuff. John tells us the story:

Early the next morning Jesus went back to the Temple. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and they made her stand before them all. “Teacher”, they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?”

They said this to trap Jesus, so that they could accuse him. But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger. As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?” “No one, sir”, she answered. “Well, then”, Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.” (John 8:2-11, GNB)

Wow. What Did Jesus Write? I have some ideas, but just ideas. I won’t find out for sure till I get to ask him in person; I look forward to that, and have a few other questions lined up for that moment too.

Imagine the scene. They drag the woman in, pushing their way through the crowd to the front, interrupt Jesus in mid sermon that’s another of my questions: “What were you talking about right at that moment?”, for I cannot imagine that this caught him unawares and suspect rather that he was already preparing the crowd for what was to follow. Maybe something along the lines of: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Anyway, back to the temple… They push the woman out into the arena, and deliver their carefully contrived trick question.

Trick questions. Jesus asked his fair share of those too. Try this one, also delivered in the temple: “John’s baptismwhere did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” That sent the chief priests and elders into a tail-spin. “If we answer this way… no, we can’t do that, but there again if we answer that way… no, no, no, no, no, that won’t do either. Best say we don’t know.”

Jesus could have found himself in the same mess. “Moses did say an adulteress should die, and I can’t really just go and contradict Moses. But then if I agree, I’ll deny the Father’s love and compassion. Oh, help…” What are you supposed to do you do when neither of the two available options is acceptable? Well, like Alexander and the Gordian knot, there was a much better way.

Apparently ignoring the question, Jesus bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger. I can’t think that he was just passing the time of day or practicing his calligraphy; he wanted the crowd to get something without being told up front. But he wasn’t on a beach with fresh wet sand to inscribe a message in or writing on a steamed up window; it was the temple courts, according to Josephus “laid with stones of all sorts” throughout. It’s not easy to write something that can be read on a cold stone floor like that try it some time though perhaps a little easier than the youth-group game where you have to spell out a word to your team by writing letters in the air with your rear end…

So What Did Jesus Write? My top guess is that he quoted Leviticus 20:10. Not most Christians’ favourite book of the Bible, but Jesus seemed to appreciate it. The verse would have steadily emerged, together with a running commentary no doubt, as the onlookers gradually deciphered letter upon letter:

I… F… If, A… If a… M… A… N… If a man… C… O… M… M… I… T… S… If a man commits…

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife with the wife of his neighbor…”

Time for another barrage of questions: “Yes, that’s the one, that’s what Moses said. So, do we stone her? Any other suggestions on how to kill her? What are you waiting for? Lead the way teacher! Want us to get some stones for you?”

Jesus looked up from the floor, delivered his now infamous “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”, and then went back to writing:

“… both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death”. Let’s have that again in big letters, bold font, point size 160 please. “Both the adulterer and the adulteress.” Italics and underlined. “Both the adulterer… the adulterer… the adulterer… Both. Both. Both! BOTH!!!”

There was the woman, frightened and shamed, but where was the man? By definition it takes two to commit adultery, and one of them is a man. If she had been caught in the very act, she certainly wasn’t by herself. Where was the man? More to the point, why hadn’t he been dragged out with her to share her shame and intended punishment? What were her accusers playing at? Their well thought-out plot to trap Jesus suddenly didn’t look so well thought out and they found their own hypocrisy laid as bare as the anonymous woman’s sin for all to see.

The most surprising part of the account is still to come. In their dealings with Jesus, the temple authorities rarely seem to have been moved by conscience or an acute sense of right and wrong. Self-preservation and political astuteness were more the order of the day. But it seems that Jesus’ method wrought something deep. The older ones were the first to bow out, and one by one the rest followed suit. You see, Jesus didn’t just love that woman, and want to give her a chance to find forgiveness and life; he loved the men too, and his final words to her could just as well have been his words to them.

Jesus’ words live on, just as relevant today to all of us who have ever experienced that “aha” moment, the sudden realization of our own sin. When Jesus stoops to write on the hard stone of our lives and God’s perfect strategy brings us undeniably face to face with who we are, we do well to hear for ourselves: “I do not condemn you. Get on with life… but do not sin again.”

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