Scripture Jesus said, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.
Luke 7:44, NKJV
A Social Blunder
    Observance of social customs can be a very powerful factor in determining status in societies around the world. Call it etiquette, call it good manners, or call it proper social graces, but knowing what is acceptable and expected in any social interchange is like knowing how to set the thermostat on a heating system. It can make the difference between a warm welcome and a cold shoulder.
    The French use the term faux pas, literally, ‘false step,’  to designate a social blunder. Further, someone who is lacking social experience or grace, or is crude or not tactful,  is gauche, as in “It would be gauche to mention the subject.”
    Proper hospitality is a much esteemed tradition in Middle Eastern countries, both today, and in Jesus’ time. There is  a proper ritual of  exchanging greetings and salutations. The gracious host sees to the comfort and refreshment of the guest, by washing the tired, dusty feet of  the traveler, and offering cleansing oil and other amenities.
    Simon the Pharisee was apparently  curious about the attraction the itinerant teacher, Jesus, had for the multitudes, and wanted to get a close-up and personal look at Him. Not on equal terms, of course, for he gave Jesus the literal ‘cold shoulder.’ One of his Pharisee friends would have been terribly offended by the neglect of hospitality he accorded Jesus.
    One member of that multitude, a “woman of the street,” literally an untouchable to the proud Pharisees, entered and proceeded to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, and wipe them with her hair. In contrast to the gauche Simon, she welcomes Jesus by kissing His feet, and anointing them with an expensive perfume.
    “Some prophet this Jesus is,“ Simon thinks to himself. Certainly lacking in  etiquette, as shown by this social blunder of associating with a prostitute, and in Simon’s own house, too!
    Jesus perceives Simon’s attitude and motive, of course.  Jesus poses a situation that Simon probably understood quite well, for it involved money.  Two men, one  owing ten times the amount of the other, are forgiven their debts by the creditor. Who will appreciate the forgiven debt more?
     Simon answers correctly: the man who was forgiven the largest debt.  (Luke 7:40-43)
    The woman responded appropriately  with a display of gratitude and hospitality for the forgiveness of her many sins. She may have been among the least in Simon’s social standing, but she will never be the same again.
    Perhaps her name, which is not given by Luke, will be written in the most important social register of all, the Heavenly Book of Life  
(See Revelation 3:5; 20:12.)

    Simon? We are not told, but it seems likely that he maintained his standing in the wrong social register, having committed the ultimate faux pas.
December 3, 2006

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