Dining with Jesus – at the house of Simon the leper. Matthew 26:6-13
We have seen this week that dining with Jesus invites the unexpected, so here we have him at the home of a healed leper. That must have been a really joyous occasion for Simon. Restored to his family (and we all understand more about isolation these days), Simon has Jesus and his disciples around for dinner to say thanks. The meal is interrupted: this time while enjoying a square meal of roasted vegetables and figs in honey with sesame seeds, a woman arrives uninvited.
She goes behind Jesus as he reclines at the low table, and tips a really sweet, pungent oil over his head. The smell fills the courtyard, and the oil runs over Jesus’ hair, into his beard, onto his clothing and onto the floor. If you were Simon, would you be a bit miffed? It doesn’t give his reaction in the Gospels, but the disciples were (pardon the pun) incensed!
Now, just imagine it (and we need to step into another’s shoes sometimes to gain perspective), the group of men following Jesus live on hand-outs. They have given up their employment when they were called to ministry, they are dependent on the goodwill of their families and friends to support them, and along comes this woman with something really expensive, that would feed them for weeks, and just chucks it over Jesus. Might just as well have thrown it away. They were really peeved: ‘What a waste!’
‘Hold on’, says Jesus, ‘hold on’. In other versions, Jesus first says to Simon, ‘you didn’t provide water for us to wash our feet, but here she is anointing my head’. Bang goes a congenial meal together. Can you just imagine Simon’s embarrassment? To his disciples, Jesus says ‘she is preparing me for burial.’ Talk about throwing a spanner in the works! The courtyard is so full of scent that you’re quite put off your food, and there is Jesus, dripping oil everywhere, a silent wretched woman sitting now at his feet. But most shocking of all, Jesus is saying, matter-of-factly, ‘I am going to die.’ God is going to die.
We are sometimes taken aback, like the disciples, when nothing seems to be going as planned. But we have 20:20 hindsight, and we know that God’s plan prevailed. So, let’s trust him…and sometimes, even embrace the unexpected.