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25 But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that those who rule the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. 26 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. 27 Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— 28 just as the Human One [or Son of Man] didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”
11 A little later Jesus went to a city called Nain. His disciples and a great crowd traveled with him. 12 As he approached the city gate, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When he saw her, the Lord had compassion for her and said, “Don’t cry.” 14 He stepped forward and touched the stretcher on which the dead man was being carried. Those carrying him stood still. Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up.” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
37 Meanwhile, a woman from the city, a sinner, discovered that Jesus was dining in the Pharisee’s house. She brought perfumed oil in a vase made of alabaster. 38 Standing behind him at his feet and crying, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured the oil on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw what was happening, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. He would know that she is a sinner.
40 Jesus replied, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Teacher, speak,” he said.
41 “A certain lender had two debtors. One owed enough money to pay five hundred people for a day’s work [or five-hundred denaria]. The other owed enough money for fifty. 42 When they couldn’t pay, the lender forgave the debts of them both. Which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled.”
Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”
44 Jesus turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your home, you didn’t give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair.
47 This is why I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven; so she has shown great love. The one who is forgiven little loves little.”
Jesus consistently served people with care and without condescension. He told his disciples that he (God in human flesh!) didn’t come to be served, but to serve. He showed that when he stopped in his tracks to help a grieving, widowed mother in Nain. There’s no hint in the text that he knew the woman, just that he saw her need. And while the Pharisee Simon saw only the past of the woman who entered his house, Jesus focused on how forgiveness and acceptance could make her future better.
Lord Jesus, I want to let your love’s transforming power increasingly motivate me to live a servant life. Teach me how to treat others as you treat me. Amen.
One of the things that always strikes me in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry is the way he sees the people around him. Here is the Son of God, the Messiah, followed by crowds wherever he goes. When he looks into those crowds, he sees the poor, the sick, and the grieving. He sees the rejected people on the edge of the crowd or kneeling on the floor washing his feet. Where others might see a person of no consequence, or a sinner who deserves their fate, Jesus sees a beloved child of God, the heart and soul he came to save, and to serve.
In a world where power and authority are highly valued, Jesus sees the weak and the lowly. He looks for those he can serve, heal, reassure. In our own world where power and success are highly valued, where physical beauty, style, and perfection are often defined by the number of people who want to look at our pictures or read about our lives, what do we see?
Jesus asks Simon, “Do you see this woman?” and that makes me wonder, “Who do I see?” When I look into the crowd that is social media, do I really see anyone? Do I see those I am meant to serve? Do I see someone who needs me to walk with them on a tough journey, or listen to while they tell me about their loss, or someone who would feel God’s love in a home-cooked dinner when they aren’t well? Do I listen to God’s prompting when that “little voice” says, “You should call her and see how she’s really doing”? Or do I just look at the pretty stuff and enjoy the nice, safe wall that the computer can put between me and loving my neighbor in person?
I want to see people the way Jesus sees them, but that’s scary. There’s no artificial boundary to hide behind if I see others through God’s eyes. When Simon saw the woman at Jesus’ feet, he saw her through a nice, safe filter of judgment and assumed superiority. She was a sinner, powerless and beneath notice. He didn’t have to think about her as a human being in his home, serving God with all she had.
Jesus pointed out to Simon, and to all of us, the reason it doesn’t have to be scary to really see. Like the woman sitting at Jesus’ feet in Simon’s home, we have been forgiven, so we can, in turn, give great love to all of God’s children. We can see the way Jesus does.
Lord, I want to see the world, and the people in it, through your eyes. Help me cross the barriers that might keep me safely observing and offer my fellow sinners your love and care. Amen.
* Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, “Portrait” note on “Woman Who Washed Jesus’ Feet” in The CEB Women’s Bible. Nashville: Common English Bible, 2016, p. 1301.