How Christmas Continued, 19

TRAPPED BY UNFORGIVENESS (Luke 7: 36-50)

I am one of the people who laid a trap for another human being and I fell in myself. It all began when I invited Jesus to have a meal with me. He was eager to recline with me at the table in my home. He was quite at ease and I was very tense. I had my reasons; for, I was a Pharisee. It was unorthodox for me to be hospitable with this unrecognized Teacher. I could eat with Him across the table, but I could not be cordial with Him. I could not welcome Jesus with a kiss, wash His feet or anoint His head with oil. He was not of our class. Nevertheless, I invited Him so that I could ascertain whether the rumors about Him were true? I also was hoping that something would happen that would support my suspicion. For that reason, I announced that it would be an open luncheon so that someone could come in and embarrass this self-made Prophet Sure enough, a notorious woman was in the neighborhood and became the bait for my trap. She came in unannounced and brought with her an alabaster jar of costly perfume. She took her place behind my guest and began to weep. Her tears fell on Jesus’ feet. Next, she wiped the tears off His feet with her hair, and kissed them. Then she poured her perfume on His feet.

That was precisely what I had hoped for. I could not have planned it any better. I did not have to say a single word. Her actions said it all. This tender scene of a sinful woman touching a holy man was absolutely disallowed by my society and our religious teaching. My trick to trap Jesus was working perfectly. Had Jesus been a holy person, He would have recognized this woman for who she was? To the contrary, Jesus accepted her tender expressions without hesitation or objection. From where I sat, it appeared to me that He approved of her actions. To me, this meant that Jesus was not who He said He was. I reasoned, quietly in my heart, that Jesus’ lack of recognizing this woman was proof that He was no prophet. While I was wallowing in my conclusion, Jesus interrupted me saying, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” Without hesitation, I replied, “Tell me, teacher.” What was this Man going to say that could not even identify a sinful woman? How could He possibly explain His acceptance of this woman?

I thought I had Jesus analyzed. Instead, He had read my mind and laid me out like one spreads laundry to dry. Jesus knew me better than I knew myself. I had invited to test Him and He accepted my invitation to test me. He was measuring me with the measure that I was measuring Him. While I was trying to point one finger at Him, three fingers were pointing back at me. According to our tradition, He was guilty when He allowed this nameless woman to touch and serve Him; but I was just as guilty by letting her into my house. I had staged the embarrassing situation and provided Jesus with the ammunition for a lesson on guilt. I felt hot flashes about my neck and my face began to change colors. If Jesus had stopped here, I knew that I had trapped myself. I had proven by my action that He was right. Instead of Him being the center of attention, I became the religious villain. Our law stipulated hospitality to invites and strangers and I was too good and too clean to do either. I had not kissed Him, washed His feet or anointed His head. I had not even instructed my servant to do it. Here was this woman that did what I had neglected to do and Jesus was comparing me with her. How low do you think I felt at that moment? My plot was not turning out as I had anticipated.

I had an awkward feeling. I felt that I was being grilled. I was the one sitting on a hot stove and could not get off. Jesus began to tell us a story and then demanded that I decide what the answer would be. Two men owed money to their lender. One owed fifty and one five hundred. Both were forgiven. Then He asked me, “Which of them will love him more?” What choice did I have but admit that the one who had the larger debt? Then Jesus had all of us look at the woman and said, “Her sins are forgiven because she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.” He told the woman to go in peace for her faith in Him had set her free. I had to admit publicly that I was in the wrong until He forgave her sin. That to us was blasphemy. Only God could forgive sins. Who was this Man that did what only God could do?

I began to look into Jesus’ view on forgiveness and found that He firmly believed that He could forgive sins and so could all human beings. It was forgiveness that was basic to human change and behavior. I also looked into our Scriptures and found that our Messiah or Christ would take away our iniquity and forgive us our sins. It also teaches us that we too must forgive if we want better relationships with each other. Jesus practiced our ancient laws on forgiveness. As we kept on hating and finding fault with Jesus, the more He kept on forgiving us. Even when we hung Him on a shameful cross, He kept on forgiving us. According to Jesus, we too had to forgive before God would forgive us. That was unacceptable for us who were the chosen seed of Abraham.

After the painful encounter with Jesus, I had time to ponder as to how much love we need before we are ready to forgive every transgression? If we copy the woman, then we too must shed tears of repentance, wash the feet of those we are not comfortable with and anoint them with perfume that induces them to like us. We can and must induce others to forgive us. Like the woman, we must take the initial step of love towards others to induce them to forgive us. It is the amount of love that determines the amount of forgiveness. A person that forgives his murderers must have an unspeakable resource of love. Jesus, no doubt, was such a person or a Christ that had such love worth celebrating.