The story of a rabbi
There’s a sacred text (Luke 7:36-50) that tells the story of a rabbi who goes to have dinner at the house of a religious leader, a Pharisee. In the story, the rabbi walks into the house and he’s greeted by the Pharisee’s friends before taking a seat at the table.
Outside there’s a woman from the village, a harlot, who learns that Jesus, this rabbi, is inside the Pharisee’s house about to have a meal. She grabs the most expensive bottle of perfume, a prized commodity of that time, and runs as quickly as she can to the home where the dinner’s taking place.
Bursting through the door unannounced, she claws her way through the cloud of judgmental glances, and kneels at Jesus’ feet. She weeps uncontrollably, saturating his feet in her tears, wiping them with her hair, and anointing them with the perfume.
The Pharisees sneer at the spectacle, the host saying, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”
After a brief encounter with the Pharisee, Jesus turns and says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
This creates a flurry of conversation amongst the religious leader’s friends as they criticize and judge the young rabbi for his behavior toward the woman.
And the text says, “He ignored them.”
Lesson 1: Defy Expectations
The first thing I notice in this story is that the Pharisees expected Jesus to behave in a certain way.
Because Jesus was a rabbi, a religious teacher with a healthy band of followers, I’d imagine they had a certain amount of respect for the guy. But they also probably expected Jesus to interact with others in the same way they did. They probably were hoping Jesus might validate their religious paradigm, especially when the town harlot knelt at his feet.
But Jesus didn’t let their expectations define him; he lived outside the acceptable paradigm of prophet and messiah. Jesus embraced the woman and validated her pursuit of grace.
Lesson 2: Ignore Criticism
The second thing I notice in this story is that Jesus ignored the criticism of the religious leaders.
Their criticism was founded not only on the fact that Jesus didn’t meet their expectations, but that he operated so far outside of their paradigm his actions were deemed scandalous!
Despite, Jesus turned a deaf hear to their commentary. Jesus denied their criticism a place of influence over his life, over what he was called to do. He allowed nothing to stand between him and loving the ‘other.’
You should defy expectations and ignore criticism too
When was the last time you were in a similar situation? Perhaps you were surrounded by leaders in your field, people you know of and respect. Did it have an impact on your behavior? Did you shift who you were in the moment, even just a little?
And what happened when something in a conversation came up that challenged the social norms in the room? Perhaps it was a challenge to what you considered to be true or moral or good or right. Maybe someone was bullying someone else or maintaining a standard that marginalized a person in the room.
What did you do? Did you allow yourself to be defined by the groups expectations? Or did you remain true to who you are? Did you allow their criticisms and judgments a place of influence over your life? Or did you deny them the authority?
My prayer is that we be a people who defy expectations and ignore the limitations of criticism unjustly thrown upon us!