In home group a while back we were talking about the power of storytelling and how Jesus chose to teach through storytelling so often. He could have given us detailed lists and clearly defined expectations but more often than not he told stories.
People would ask him questions and instead of a straight answer he would say something like: "the Kingdom of heaven is like a woman who lost a coin." WHAT?!?!? That can't have been the answer that they were expecting.
We came to the conclusion that Jesus told stories because he wanted followers who were inquisitive, followers who were seekers, those who were willing to put in the hard work of deciphering the meanings because of a deep conviction that these stories somehow held truths that were worth knowing.
Then we took some time to talk about our favorite stories. Mine is the story of the "sinful woman" told in Luke 7:36-50 (and pictured so vividly above by David LaChapelle).
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."
40 Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
"Tell me, teacher," he said.
41 "Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, [a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
43 Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."
48 Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"
50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."There are so many things about this story that I love. I love that this woman had a sense that it was OK to approach Jesus. I love that Jesus wasn't terribly concerned about what damage this might do to his reputation. I love that Jesus uses the worship of a "sinful woman" to show the religious leaders what true worship is like.
I also see a warning for leaders of the church. The religious leaders had neglected to honor Jesus by greeting him with a kiss, they forgot to offer Jesus a way to cleanse his feet after a long walk on dirt paths.
They had neglected the King on their presence.
It's all too easy for those of us who spend our lives in service to "church" to get stuck in the rut of just going through the motions, and we can find ourselves neglecting the King in our presence.