A Thought for Today
by Terrell Tebbetts
A moving story in Luke’s gospel adds a new dimension to the promise of resurrection we just celebrated in our Easter services. The resurrection of Jesus certainly promises believers an eternal resurrection after death, but Luke lets us know we don’t need to wait till we die to experience resurrection.
In chapter 7 of Luke’s account, after Jesus had begun angering authorities by making it clear that Love was more important than the Law, one of those authorities, a Pharisee named Simon, invited Jesus to a meal at his home.
But when Jesus got there Simon omitted all the customary welcoming acts: he offered Jesus no water to wash His sandaled feet, he gave Jesus no welcoming kiss, and he did not perfume Jesus’s head. Why would he invite Jesus to a meal and then make Him feel unwelcome? He may well have been hoping to interrogate Jesus and expose Him as a fraud, his invitation more a calculated trap than a generous gift.
The custom was to hold meals in the open courtyard so that others with an interest in the special guest could enter and listen as the host talked with his guest, the diners reclining on low chaises as they ate, their feet stretching behind them.
As Jesus and Simon were so engaged, a woman came in and knelt at Jesus’ dusty feet and wept over them, washing them with her tears and drying them with her hair. Then she opened a jar of expensive perfume and anointed His now-clean feet.
Simon immediately judged both the woman and Jesus, thinking “what kind of woman” she was (probably a prostitute) and what a failure as a prophet Jesus was for letting such a woman touch him.
Jesus, reading Simon’s thoughts, immediately challenged them. The woman, Jesus explained, having sensed His loving forgiveness of her many sins, was responding to Him with great love, while Simon, believing himself practically sinless, had welcomed Jesus with little love—indeed, with insulting rudeness, omitting the simple courtesies prescribed by custom.
So Jesus pronounces the woman’s sins forgiven, saying her faith had saved her and sending her away “in peace.” He says nothing about the sin of haughty pride, which apparently still weighs on Simon’s unloving soul.
Luke has told us of that woman’s resurrection—not after her death but in this life. In the authorities she’d found only judgment and condemnation, assurance that she’d never be any better than she was.
In Jesus she found hope, hope that because of His love for her and her love for Him in return, she could be better, much better than she was, that in her better life she would live in peace with herself, with the world, and with God.
Hope of such resurrection, out of sin and into peace, is Jesus’ gift to all who come to Him in love.
Terrell Tebbetts is the Martha Heasley Cox Chair in American Literature at Lyon College. He can be reached at email@example.com