Faith Column: Jesus does things for a reason
When I was getting ready for this week’s sermon, I started researching the story of Jesus at Simon’s house. I am sure that some of you are aghast that Jesus did not wash his hands before going into eat. However, your reasons are probably more to do with sanitation than one of the verses in Leviticus. James W. Moore points out that a noted evangelist said that there are 577 sins that you can commit (Yes, Lord I have Sinned, p. 52). He missed a few. According to the Torah there are 619.
What we miss is the context of this story. When we start Holy Week, we usually start with the crowds on the road from Bethany and the Mount of Olives. Jesus is on the donkey. The makeshift saddle of coats is in play. We’ve got palms in our hands. Or Boston ferns, if the pastor didn’t talk to the right person at City Market when she called in the order.
But what was Jesus doing the night before?
I’ll give you a hint: Scandalizing his hosts at a dinner party. At this dinner party, it starts with him not washing his hands. And it goes downhill pretty fast.
Remember that Jesus usually does things for a reason. Jesus was not not washing his hands because he was a bad Jew, but because he had a point to make. He must have seen something. He must have notice something about Simon’s behavior. In fact, this party will take a turn a little later that leads us to believe that Simon’s behavior as a host left a lot to be desired.
Jesus was living out the parable, the saying he was about to tell.
“Now, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and platter, but your insides are stuffed with greed and wickedness. Foolish people! Didn’t the one who made the outside also make the inside? Therefore, give to those in need from the core of who you are and you will be clean all over. (Luke 11:39-41(CEB))
Jesus is talking about more than the physical here. These are people who look good on the outside, but who don’t look so good when you examine them on the inside. They are twisted up inside and they don’t know how to get out of it.
There are three sins that seem to be the infecting vices. We can be filled up with Ingratitude, Pride, and Resentment. These three vices can twist us until we can’t see the guest they have at the table. Jesus suggests that we always need to be careful to see who we have at the table. As Jesus says, give to those in need and we will be clean all over. The story of the supper before Palm Sunday ends with a woman who truly sees. She comes in and pours an expensive jar of perfume on Jesus’ feet. She welcomes the guest as Simon did not and is remembered for it. Jesus invites us to follow her example.
Pastor Deana Armstrong is the pastor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Craig.
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