"One of the Pharisees asked Him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee's house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood as His feet, weeping, raining tears on His feet. Letting her hair down, she dried His feet, kissed them, and anointed them with perfume.
"When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man was the prophet I thought He was, He would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over Him.'" Luke 7:36-39 (The Message).
Talk about a hypocrite! Why on earth did this nameless Pharisee ever invite Jesus for a meal?
To share a meal in Jesus' day and still today in some cultures, was much more than a gesture of hospitality. There was a great deal of symbolism in eating together.
The Hebrew word for a meal is shul, and for a table is shulkan. However, the word shulkan can also mean reconciliation or a lamb skin. What's the connection? A lamb skin was sometimes used as a kind of picnic blanket where there was no table. The meaning becomes clearer when we go back to the first Passover in Egypt.
Before the children of Israel left Egypt, they were to eat the Passover meal which included the lamb they had killed for the blood which they painted onto the door frames of their houses. The blood was the symbol of reconciliation between themselves and God and between one another. They could not travel together on their long journey through the wilderness if they were at loggerheads with one another. The lamb was sacrificed and the skin used as a table for the meal they were to eat in haste before leaving.
Eating a meal together was a witness that they had no issues with one another. They would not sit down at the table if they had anything against each other. The Passover lamb was sacrificed on God's instruction and the meal eaten in His presence because He wanted them to know that He had no issues with them. He had taken them as His people, and the blood of the lamb which foretold the sacrifice of Jesus, had reconciled them with Him.
Then why did this Pharisee invite Jesus to dinner? He was obviously putting on a show until something happened that made his unresolved antagonism rise to the surface. He was outraged when the prostitute showed up at his dinner party and washed and anointed Jesus' feet. The same old holier-than-thou arrogance surfaced in his thoughts as was the attitude of all the Pharisees.
How dare she gate-crash his house during a meal and then actually touch this Jewish man, this prophet who was supposed to be aware of whom she was! So much for Jesus, the prophet! But this was all going on in his thoughts while on the outside he was smiling and eating with Jesus.
Reconciled? No way! He was just as hostile to Him as all the other Pharisees. This dinner deal was nothing but a show, as was the rest of his empty behaviour for the benefit of the people he was trying to impress.
Knowing the Pharisees, why did Jesus ever agree to accept his invitation? Once again we see the Father mirrored in the Son. Jesus had no animosity towards anyone, not even towards the Pharisees who were out to kill Him. He was willing to "smoke the peace pipe" with anyone who sincerely came to Him. Did He know what was in the heart of this Pharisee? He certainly did when the woman showed up and did what she did.
If there are any issues between you and Jesus, they are on your side, not His. His invitation still stands: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and he with me." Revelation 3:20 (NIV).
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