The Rev. Frank
Go in peace, to where?
As dinner parties go, it was a disaster. Jesus was a Rabbi with a great reputation also known to be welcoming to lepers. As both a Pharisee and one cured of leprosy, how could I go wrong? Jesus was my kind of guy. He was interested in Moses’ law and yet accepting. As it turned out, Jesus was a little too accepting. Not discriminating enough for my tastes. I had hoped that Jesus was something more, a prophet at least, maybe even the one we await. Let’s face it, for a so-called humble teacher, Jesus was rude.
I thought inviting Jesus’ would do each of us some good. He, the up-and-coming teacher, me the established religious leader. I even let Jesus bring along that fishy-smelling band he calls disciples. I’m not sure what more could be expected of a host.
The dinner started well enough. Everyone is reclining at table, settled in nicely. Then she arrived. The way the women’s entrance to our courtyard works, you wouldn’t exactly say that woman broke in, but she sure barged in where she wasn’t needed, wasn’t wanted. This, other than Jesus and his band, was to be a gathering of the local religious elite. A chance to get off to ourselves for some alone time. Just the real religious elite. The ones who know how to follow Moses’ law to the letter.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m no holier than thou sort. I give to the poor. I just don’t want the lesser desirable types showing up for dinner. It’s just not done.
Remember everyone is in place. The prayers for bread and wine are behind us. Time for the meal. That’s when this “woman of the city” barges in. We all tried to ignore her groveling. She was weeping over Jesus. Pouring oil on his feet, wiping it with her hair. Disgusting. I embarrassed that Jesus did nothing to prevent the woman’s actions. I was also deeply disappointed that this would-be holy man could not just somehow know with whom he was consorting. All of us could tell she was no good.
Why would that man even permit her to be in the same room with us, much less touch him? The whole event was scandalous. What was I to do? I wanted to be a gracious host. Open up my house to some friends and an intriguing teacher. And then this!
Jesus asked to speak and added unspeakable insult to injury. He told of us all of two debtors—one owing 500 denarii, the other 50. Neither can repay their debt and the creditor forgives both debts. He asks which one loves the overly kind creditor more. Well, anyone could see that it was the man who owed 500 denarii. A common laborer works more than a year and a half to earn that money. Who wouldn’t be grateful for that sort of largesse?
Of course, the story was a trick. Jesus dropped the net into the water and I swam tight in. As the net tightened around me, I knew I spoke too quickly. Somehow this person was the one forgiven the great debt. I couldn’t see the point, but I knew answering was a mistake. After all, I’m no fool.
But Jesus couldn’t just have his little story. No. He had to point up my shortcomings. My shortcomings. I was the host!
Jesus pointed out to everyone that I had not welcomed him with respect, washing his feet and giving him the kiss of peace. Of course, I just let the rebel rabbi and his dusty disciples file in and sit down. What did he expect, really? I’m the man with the nice house, the servants, and the fine clothes. Why grovel to the would-be prophet from Galilee? No one gets anything for nothing. Earn my respect and I will give it to you. I offered the meal. Did he demand the royal treatment as well? Well too bad. Considering how things went, I’m glad.
Jesus ended the whole fiasco with blasphemy; before the main course arrived I might add. He told this sinful thing that her sins were forgiven. Forgiven? Her! He released her. Let her go. Who did he think he was anyway? Forget the parlor trick with reading my mind. Even an idiot could see that I was scandalized by their behavior—the woman and Jesus both.
I had hoped Jesus might be accepting enough to dine with me. Some still call me Simon the Leper. I have trouble getting away from the stigma of the disease. But acceptance can go too far and this woman went way too far. Who did Jesus think he was anyway. Only God can forgive sins. The audacity was astounding.
But the thing that really sticks in my mind about the whole disastrous evening was Jesus’ parting shot. I probably could have laughed it all off, but then he said those final words, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Go in peace. Really! The nerve. Go where? Where could that woman ever find peace? If she really did want forgiveness, if that woman really did want to turn toward God, then she would never be welcome back in this city again. Her old crowd wouldn’t know what to do with her and neither would we, the religious ones. Where could this weeping thing go? Who would offer her peace accept for that gaggle of Galileans?
This Jesus needs to think it all through. If God’s love and forgiveness is for everyone, then there is going to have to be some sort of community to receive those forgiven sinners, and the unforgiven ones too.
The Kingdom of God will never be a here-and-now reality unless there is a place where those fallen folks can congregate, support one another. Those forgiven sinners certainly can’t come to my house, or church, until they have proved themselves and I suspect they won’t be welcome in yours either.
Face it. Jesus was too accepting. If he was more like you and me, this movement of his might go somewhere. But I promise you. This is the last time, and I mean it the very last time, I let the likes of him in my gate. And I would advise you to steer clear of this irresponsible teaching. Jesus words sound good at first, but this reckless rabbi would turn the world upside down if anyone actually practices what he preaches.
King of Peace Episcopal Church + P.O. Box 2526 + Kingsland, Georgia 31548-2526