On one occasion Jesus was at dinner in the home of a Pharisee when a woman entered and anointed his feet with perfume and tears. The host was skeptical, reasoning that if Jesus were a prophet he would know of her sinful lifestyle. Jesus used the occasion to correct his lack of proper manners and to commend the depth of the woman’s love (Luke 7:36-50). How Jesus responded to the situation provides insight into several remarkable qualities of Jesus: he remained open to his critics, he was not offended by the lack of courtesy, and he was appreciative of a woman’s loving concern. Let’s go through the story.
It was no secret that the Pharisees were dead set against Jesus and the message he was spreading. Prior to the incident we are discussing they had accused him of driving out demons by the prince of demons (Matt. 9:34), and even plotted how they might kill him (Mark 3:6). So to accept an invitation for dinner in the home of a Pharisee, one who was part of that powerful group that opposed him so strongly, is remarkable. It appears that Jesus’ concern for the Pharisee was far greater than the Pharisee’s disapproval of him.
During dinner a woman came with perfume and, kneeling behind Jesus, began to anoint his feet with expensive perfume, while weeping profusely and drying his feet with her hair. Although the host obviously disapproved of the woman, Jesus used the occasion to teach a lesson on love and forgiveness. He pictured a moneylender who canceled the debts of two debtors, one double the other. In answer to the question as to which debtor was more appreciative, the Rabbi correctly chose the one to whom more had been given. The application was clear. The host had not provided water for the guest to wash his feet, had not given him the customary kiss nor anointed his head with oil. The woman, had, in her own way, done all three and went away forgiven. Jesus was not offended by the rude behavior of the host and the sins of the woman were forgiven.
How Jesus’ actions and reactions in this setting apply to life is not hard to understand. To live like Jesus is to remain open to those who have taken positions on issues that are contrary to ours. In this national election period it is easy to see how not to conduct oneself. No one is moved to change his point of view by being ignored. Jesus went to dine in the house of a person we would classify an adversary. Nor was he offended by the lack of courtesy on the part of the host. What the other may or may not do has nothing to do with how we are to treat another. And the last point is obvious – Jesus showed genuine appreciation for the loving concern of the woman.
To summarize: Those who want to reflect the life of Jesus do not categorize other people, are not offended by neglect, but show appreciation wherever it is due. We’ve always called that being a lady or a gentleman.