25 July 2012

Lord's Supper Devotion: Debtors for Christ

The men at church take turns giving a little devotional before the Lord's Supper prayer time each week. Here is one I recently presented that I thought I'd share.
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One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "Say it, Teacher."
"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly.
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.
And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:36-50 ESV)
A description of what takes place was a common occurrence at the time when a travelling sage was in town and available. A public get together like this would be arranged, allowing local interested religious societies to gather for a meal and engage in religious study. This appears to be what is happening in this setting.

Scholars state that when the synoptics speak of “reclining” for a meal, this is to mean it is a banquet event. Middle Eastern culture gives us a clear picture of what transpires, as we find listed in the details given by H.B. Tristam.

“…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, placed in order of rank, recline, leaning on their left elbow, with their feet turned away from the table. Everyone on coming in takes off his sandles or slippers and leaves them at the door…. 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 be to imply that the visitor was one of very inferior rank…. Behind the servants the loungers of the village crowd in, not are they thought obtrusive in so doing. (Tristram, H.B., Easter Customs in Bible Lands, Pg. 36-38)
This setting indeed lends to the scenario we see, and allows for the understanding of how this women would be there, being “behind him” and yet at his feet. In oriental culture, the feet were and are considered offensive and of an unclean nature. This is also why we find in the Bible that after a victory, it is the ultimate insult to make your enemy a footstool.

Tristam goes on to tell us:
To receive a guest at the present day without kissing him on either cheek as he enters, is a marked sign of contempt, or at least a claim to a much higher social position. (Tristam, Pg. 36-38)
Simon, the host, is called out on these accounts when Yeshua charges him with “I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet,” followed up by pointing out that “You gave me no kiss.”

Here we come this morning – sitting at the table – and crouching with us is our redeemer, represented in these symbols before us. Let it never be that he is not shown the proper respect as the guest of honor in our presence.