Extravagant Love (from Behind the Halo)

Shame is an ugly emotion that can eat away a person from the inside out. What does repentance look like? How do you distinguish true remorsefulness from "crocodile tears" in yourself or others?

           “Jesus, are you sure this is a good idea? If the Pharisees wouldn’t listen to John the Baptist, why do you think they’ll listen to you?” Peter said, leaning toward Jesus.

            “Yeah, Jesus. What if they’re just setting you up? Those guys are powerful; they can put us in prison based on their word against ours,” Matthew cautioned.

            As if on command, thirteen men stopped in the road, twelve pairs of eyes focused on only one of them.

           “Peter, Matthew, all of you, if I can heal the sick, including an army officer’s servant, for crying out loud, and raise the widow’s son from the dead, don’t you think I can handle a few Pharisees? I appreciate your concern, really, I do. But there’s nothing to worry about.”

          A hand touched the teacher’s sleeve. “Rabbi, maybe a couple of us should…”

          “Andrew, truly, I’ve got this. I don’t need an escort,” Jesus said, turning to look at each man. “You’ve all been working hard. Have a good meal, relax. I’ll be fine and will see you in the morning.”

           As they watched Jesus walk away, some of the men shook their heads and stroked their beards with worry. Others headed for the inn to get some supper.

          A few blocks away, Jesus was welcomed into the lavish home of Simon the Pharisee.

           “Jesus, it’s so good of you to join us. Make yourself at home. We’ll be eating shortly,” Simon told his guest, waving his hand toward tables loaded with rich, exotic foods, and surrounded by couches covered with expensive silk and velvet throws.

            Jesus made his way toward the end of one of the tables and sat down.  He was just getting comfortable when he began to hear gasps and saw other guests pointing at the door. Someone had entered. Simon’s guests began to plaster themselves against the walls, creating a wide pathway for the woman.

            “They say she’s the busiest prostitute in the city,” a voice next to Jesus hissed. “I wonder what she’s doing here. I can’t imagine Simon inviting her. Just look how she walks. Even carrying that big jar, she looks like a walking invitation.”

            Jesus’s eyes followed the woman around the room. When she stopped at his table, the guests around him quickly moved away. He didn’t flinch, even when she knelt at his feet and opened the jar of fragrant perfume. The sweetness of the perfume filled the crowded room, mingling with the hum of gossip.

            A sob ripped from the woman’s throat, followed by hot tears. She kissed his tired and weary feet, letting her tears wet them. She slowly unbound her hair and let it cascade over his feet until she covered them, gently massaging her tears and the perfume she had carried into his skin.

            From the corner of his eye, Jesus saw Simon approach. He glanced up to see a face filled with disgust.

           “Jesus, how could you…”

            “Simon, thank you for your invitation, but you have not made me feel nearly as welcome as this woman,” Jesus said to his host, returning his gaze to the woman. “You didn’t offer water to wash my dusty feet, while she’s bathed them with her tears. A proper host would have given me a proper kiss in greeting, which you didn’t, while she knelt to kiss my feet. Simon, you didn’t even have a servant bring oil to anoint my head or feet. Look! You know that perfume must have cost her dearly.”

            “But, Jesus, she’s a pros-…”

            “A sinner, Simon? My heavenly Father sent me to seek and save sinners, to lift them up, not grind them under my heel. You think she’s not worthy of being here. I tell you it’s because of her great sin, and great repentance that she has every right to come to me.

        “Never have I been shown such extravagant love as she has shown me! Trust me, Simon, when I tell you, her faith and repentance have brought about her salvation. All the sanctimonious, holier-than-thou attitudes in the world will never do the same for anyone, including you.”