Text: Luke 7:36 – 8:3
The Rev. Dr. D. William Faupel
Jun. 12, 2016
“It’s not fair!” This statement was said in agony by the wife of my Pentecostal pastor. I had graduated from Bible College and my first week home was asked to preach at the Sunday evening service. What caused her so much distress was the fact that I spoke of the outbreak of the Charismatic Movement among mainline Protestant denominations. This was back in the 1960’s when the Pentecostal practice of speaking in an unknown tongue began appearing in mainline Protestant Churches and was most visible among Episcopalians.
All of her life, my pastor’s wife had been raised to believe that it was sinful to wear makeup. She struggled with this teaching as a teenager because she wanted to be accepted by her classmates. She was also taught that it was wrong for a woman to cut her hair or to wear dresses whose sleeves did not cover the elbow and whose hemline did not reach below the ankle. For years she had fought within herself for she was a beautiful woman and would have loved to be able to wear the latest fashions.
She had also been instructed that the people of God would never be caught dead at the cinema. Indeed, no one in our church had a television set in their home at the time. She finally had reluctantly accepted his form of discipline because of the fellowship she had experienced within her religious tradition. She had found that her experience of God in this context to be so real that it was worth the sacrifice she was called upon to make.
Then the Charismatic Movement hit full force on the Christian scene. Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists were now testifying to the same religious experience which she had enjoyed. Yet the women continued to wear make-up, dress in fashionable clothes and go to movies. And that was not all, the men continued to smoke and drink – the vilest of Pentecostal sins. Thus she cried out in church one Sunday, “My God, it is just not fair!”
I suggest to you this morning that this is the way that Simon must have felt in today’s Gospel. He was a Pharisee, a religious man and a righteous man. He kept the law. As far as his friends knew, he lived an upright moral life. He was a pillar in the community.
He had met Jesus when our Lord was teaching in the synagogue. Simeon was impressed with his thinking and wanted to learn more. So he prepared a banquet in Jesus’ honor. He had invited all of his friends, that is all of the people who were somebody of importance, so that they might have a chance to hear what Jesus had to say close up.
Simon was pleased. All the guests had accepted his invitation and had arrived on time. True, many were skeptical about this young rabbi for many rumors were flying about, but they were also curious about what he would have to say.
Everybody was there, expect the guest of honor. Jesus was late. Simon was annoyed. The dinner was scheduled to begin. Finally, our Lord arrived. He apologized and said that on his way into the city he had encountered a funeral procession and had stopped to comfort the mother of the dead man, and oh by the way, had brought him from the dead.
Simon was not impressed. He was thinking only of getting the dinner underway. So to save time, he decided to skip the normal custom of having the servants wash Jesus’ feet. Instead he urged him to come into the banquet hall and announced that dinner was to be served.
Things were just getting back to normal when Simon noted that Mary Magdalene, a lady of the evening, had just slipped in and was talking to Jesus. Simon was horrified. He was expecting her to arrive later that evening, but had instructed the servants to take her to the little studio in the back of his home where they had met in secret many times before. How did she get into the banquet hall? How dare she embarrass him like this?
At the same time, Simon was amazed and then irritated at Jesus. Our Lord seem to be fully enjoying the situation. He had engaged Mary in stimulating conversation and seemed oblivious to the winks and glances that were taking place around the table.
Simon was furious. His friends must have been right after all. This man could not possibly be a prophet. He showed no judgment, no class. Didn’t Jesus realize who this woman was?
Suddenly, the room became deathly silent. Jesus had concluded his conversation. Mary had never before experienced a man who had treated her with such dignity and respect. She was overcome with tears. She had come to Simon’s banquet hoping to embarrass him and to cause a little commotion by trying to catch the eye of the man of God.
But in His presence, for the first time in her life, she felt like a real person, someone of worth. She was overcome with emotion. The sobs increased and the tears flowed down her cheeks, splashing on our Lord’s dusty feet as he lay at table.
Mary suddenly because self-conscious. Everyone was looking at her. She looked about for a towel to wipe Jesus feet, but found none. So she slowly let down her long beautiful hair and dried her tears from Jesus feet.
The, in an act filled with irony, she took the costly perfume which she had used to allure so many men and poured it over his feet. Our Lord looked at her, his eyes smiling with amused delight. Then he spoke, “My daughter, your sins are forgiven.” She left feeling clean inside for the first time in many years.
Jesus then turned to address Simon. All evening he had been keenly aware that Simon was upset because He had been late. He knows Simon was now thinking, “God, it is not fair, that this so-called prophet of yours will show thoughtfulness and understanding to this woman, yet disregard my feelings and transgress all social etiquette.
Have you ever felt the way Simon felt? The way my pastor’s wife felt? You look at your neighbors. They seem to be so much better off that you – always talking about the cruise they had in the Mediterranean last year, when you can barely afford to get away for week, staying with your relatives.
And here you are, supposed to be in your golden years enjoying retirement, but having to work part time so you can make your next mortgage payment. Your friends seem to be so happily married, while you and your spouse have to really struggle to communicate.
“It’s not fair,” you cry out. And what you really mean but dare not say is, “God, you are not fair.” But look again at God, as He is revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ. Look into eyes. Do you not see there, love, compassion, understanding, acceptance?
Mary could see it. She had nothing that kept her from recognizing his love and acceptance. She had no education to speak of, no position in society to maintain, no wealth. She knew she was a sinner, unworthy to be called a child of God.
But like the prodigal son, she recognized the acceptance and love that was offered. She responded with her whole being and was transformed. For her, the world would never again be the same.
Simon, so much like the prodigal’s older brother did not recognize our Lord’s acceptance of him. He judged Jesus by his standards. He found Jesus to be unfair.
But what about us? Sure, there are many times when we feel that God has been unfair to us. But let’s look a little deeper. Perhaps it is we who have been unfair. Perhaps it is our blindness, our prejudice, our preconceived ideas, that keep us from experiencing God’s love.
For he is here. He has invited us to join Him at His banquet table. He is here to wash our weary feet. He is here to feed us all. Today, as we accept his invitation to feed at his table, it is my prayer that we will join in joyous fellowship, experiencing afresh the full acceptance of his love.