Suzy, SP staff in Bang Rak, Thailand, reflects on Jesus' piercing question and call to actually see her neighbors.
“Simon, I have something to say to you...Do you see this woman?" Luke 7:40, 44
There is a very familiar story in the seventh chapter of the Book of Luke in which Jesus dines at the home of Simon the Pharisee. A very sinful woman crashes the party to anoint Jesus' feet with a jar of very expensive perfume and—more significantly—with her own tears. Simon was not happy!
It's a simple story about the grace of God to forgive our sins. Our sin is a debt to God—a debt we can never repay. Our sin is never so great as to keep us from the grace of God; and our goodness can never be good enough to earn it. This is the meaning of grace. The point of the story is that our love for Jesus is directly proportional to how much we understand this grace.
But in the middle of this simple yet profound story is a question that we might almost miss in verse 44: "Then turning toward the woman [Jesus] said to Simon, "Do you see this woman?" Think about the question for a while. Not only had Simon seen this woman, he had been grumbling about her to his friends ever since she entered the room. He saw her and had already labeled her such a sinner that she cast a shadow on the integrity of anyone who would associate with her. Many think she was a prostitute. One thing Simon makes very clear is that he saw her, and she was unwelcome. She was despised…lowly…unworthy.
But it's not just the obvious nature of the question; it's the oddity in which Jesus is asking it. Jesus is conversing with Simon, but the text says while talking with Simon Jesus turns His gaze to the woman. He looks her in the eye and watches her intently. She is important to Him. An outcast, this despised woman, has grabbed the attention of the Master and He is not willing to let her go. While others whisper behind her back, Jesus engages with this woman face to face. In doing so, He restores her dignity and affirms her worth as a dearly beloved child of God. And He invited Simon into the conversation. I often wonder what Simon was thinking in this moment. He was at a crossroads of sorts.
Day in and day out, I have the chance to engage with people that much of Thai society has ignored or even despised. In all my sin and imperfection, I have to confess that often times I treat them more like a ministry project than as friends. I don't always see them as Jesus sees them. I don't always recognize the richness of their faith, the depth of their love and how much they have to offer God or myself. Too often, I am like Simon. But in the moments that I pause to heed the voice of my Savior asking me to see, I am changed beyond what I can describe.