Narrative Lectionary Reflection
February 19, 2017
In the early 1970s, there was a brand of aftershave that made a commercial that had a hand slap a man. He would feel his face and then say, “Thanks. I need that.”
It was an interesting commercial, mostly because I don’t think anything like it could be made today at all. It’s seem a little weird that the basis of this TV ad is having a hand slap an actor rather hard. That actor had to have one sore cheek after a day of filming.
The ad had an affect- on me. I was only about three or four at the time. I remember that my mother punished me for something and my response to her was, “Thanks. I needed that.”
That phrase is in my mind when I think about this unnamed woman who crashes Simon’s dinner party. Her need was different from mine and she expressed it in a way that showed she really needed this and was willing to do what it took to get what she needed.
This woman was deemed a “sinner.” We don’t know what made her a sinner, but whatever it was, the people in town knew. She came into the room probably feeling the hot stares of the dinner guests and Simon. But she makes a beeline to Jesus and begins washing his feet with her hair and tears. She then opens a jar of oil and begins annointing Jesus’ feet. It is a passionate scene.
What this woman wanted is forgiveness. She had lived with shame for a long time and she sees Jesus, the one that parties with tax collectors and sinners, as one that would forgive her. She could even feel that she was forgiven already. So she shows her love, her gratitude in this embarassing and “shameful” way.
It would be easy to place myself in the role of the woman, but too often I am like Simon, probably a well-meaning man, but someone who is so well-versed in the faith that I can tend to not be hungry for forgiveness and have a joy that bursts out in thankfulness to the Messiah. I’ve been in the faith long enough to think that I’m not in need of anything. We don’t want to admit our own sin and the need to be forgiven.
But I need Jesus and so do you. We all are sinners and we are in need of forgiveness. We need to know that Jesus has forgiven us. We need to feel that sense of gratitude that propels us to serve God and our sisters and brothers.
“Thanks, I needed that.” Because I do need it and so do you. And so do we all.
Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century and the Federalist.