Being in the doghouse with someone is something we’re all familiar with. Analyzing Christ in the doghouse isn’t something we’re used to. Yet even here he was our perfect example. Again, cultural differences prevent us from really “getting” what was conveyed to the original audiences of Luke 7:36-50. This 3-part series is about this scene with Simon the Pharisee and the parable Jesus told.
We may…infer that before the episode which the story related took place, Jesus has preached a sermon which had impressed them all, the host, the guests, and an uninvited guest, a woman…. When the synoptics speak of “reclining” for a meal indoors they mean a banquet…. We can assume a relatively formal occasion…traditional roles of guest and host are expected…entertainment is a public affair. The gateway of the court, and the door…stand open… A long, low table, or more often merely the great wooden dishes, are placed along the center of the room, and low couches on either side, on which the guests…recline, leaning on their left elbow, with their feet turned away from the table.
You may recall my recent blog in which I covered the expectation pressures for entertaining guests. This is always a community affair. The community provides the food, which is why it’s a public affair.
Everyone on coming in takes off his sandals…leaves them at the door, socks…being unknown. Servants stand behind the couches, and placing a wide, shallow basin on the ground, pour water over it on the feet of the guests. To omit this courtesy would…imply that the visitor was one of very inferior rank…. Behind the servants the loungers of the village crowd in, nor are they thought obtrusive in so doing…. [This explains] how the woman achieved access to the house and how she could stand behind Jesus at his feet…with his legs stretched out…she is ashamed to approach his face for…her sins…
We should explore more the prevalent thoughts and feelings about feet in that era.
…the feet are always placed behind the one reclining because of the offensive, unclean nature of feet in Oriental society from time immemorial until the present…the ultimate triumph for the victor and insult to the vanquished was to “make the enemy a footstool” (cf. Psalm 110:1)…. Moses is obliged to take off his unclean shoes…. John the Baptist uses the illustration of untying…shoes to express his total unworthiness….
Next week I’ll explore more the treatment of women in the first-century context. But for this week I should briefly mention the key to the tension in this story must be in what Jesus said before the meal. Note that the servants were the ones who washed feet. No servant washed Christ’s feet. This wasn’t just Simon’s silent treatment. He requested those that worked for him to cooperate in this icy atmosphere. What did Jesus say that brought this on?
One thing is for sure. Jesus responded not by leaving, not even by confronting Simon until it was required to comfort the woman kissing his feet. He taught us to respond to rude behaviors not in an offended way, but in a thoughtful-of-others way. Love drives such conduct—unconditional, self-sacrificing love.
May God give each of us more of this love.