Yeshua, (Jesus) while He wore the clothes of humanity, hung out with the people who lived real, not the ones who spent their days in the synagogue. One would think since Yeshua was and is the Son of Man, God’s Son, that He would fit in most comfortably with the religious leaders of the day, but alas, He did not. So much so that He was called a drunkard by the religious elite because He hung out with those who drank wine, and all other manner of “sinners” who lived real. He was called out quite often by the religious leaders; He had a difficult time, it seemed, following all the “rules” as put forth by the Pharisees. Yeshua was also criticized for not following the “Law”, and yet He made it fairly plain that He had come to fulfill the “Law”, not merely to be one more who kept the “Law” to the letter. That was already being done, why would God need to send His Son to do more of the same? Yeshua was the answer to the need for the “Law”, but only a few got that.
We really don’t realize or appreciate how far off course Yeshua truly traveled to be with those who would accept Him, and the reason He was in hot water with the synagogue leaders of the day. The culture of the day prohibited the “clean” from associating with the “unclean”. Peter, his disciple, was Jewish and was not considered “unclean” even though he was quite outspoken and brash, however, some of those Yeshua called were. Matthew, for example, was a tax collector. I dare say those still in the tax-collecting biz haven’t gained much status in the eyes of many people since then! Yeshua talked with women, children, lepers, and Samaritans, none of whom the religious leaders held in high regard. In other words, Yeshua hung with people like you and me, people who woke up everyday and knew each day was an opportunity to get it right, but also knew that wasn’t going to happen.
One of the customs of the day was that Jews did not break bread with those they considered ritually unclean. Like any label I am sure the religious leaders expanded the definition to include anyone who did not meet their exceedingly high standards, much like many in the church today. Man will never meet the expectations set forth by man. Consequently, many pious Jews refused to eat with those who did not meet their impossibly high standards for fellowship. Yeshua did otherwise, which is why He was criticized often and loudly.
Today, many Jews and some Gentiles prefer not to eat with those they do not trust; a variation on this ancient custom. Meals are an intimate occasion, sharing food and conversation reserved only for those in the circle of friendship, the circle of trust. In some ways I have adopted that mindset; not to exclude “sinners” as I am no better than anyone else, rather I prefer not to send mixed messages. I may have coffee or a drink with someone I do not trust, but I will not likely share a meal with that person. Since we are not all-knowing and are not privy to the heart motivations of others, it is wise to guard our hearts; a lesson learned in my journey through life.
Yeshua (Jesus), however, was privy to the heart motivations of others when He wore the robe of humanity. His mission was to touch as many lives as would receive Him. The scriptures refer to many an occasion when Yeshua supped with the outcast, the “sinner”, and a time or two when he ate with the religious elite. One such occasion is recorded in Luke 7:36-46. A Pharisee had invited Yeshua to come to his home for dinner. Also in attendance was a “sinful woman” who brings with her an alabaster box of expensive perfume. She knelt behind Yeshua, wept, wiped her tears from His feet with her hair, then anointed His feet with the perfume. Understanding the customs of the culture makes scripture come alive, for me at least, so the word picture begs the question, “Why was there a ritually unclean woman at the home of a Pharisee, as Pharisee’s do not associate with the sinful?” Back in the day society’s homeless and hungry were allowed to attend dinners in the homes of the elite in order to gather the crumbs from the floor. This woman, so the story goes, heard that Yeshua had been invited to dine with the Pharisee and came to listen to Yeshua. The Pharisee watched the woman weeping at the feet of Yeshua, drying her tears with her hair, and anointing His feet with the perfume. Because of the Pharisee’s inflated view of his own importance, he missed the point of the scene before him and decided in his heart Yeshua had no idea who was performing this act of love, thus dismissing Yeshua as the “Messiah”. Yeshua knew the heart motivation of his host, however, and offered a parable to the Pharisee, “A certain creditor had two debtors; the one owed ten times as much as the other. When they were unable to pay him back, he canceled both their debts. Now which of them will love him more?” Shim‘on(the Pharisee) answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “Your judgment is right,” Yeshua said to him. Turning to the woman, Yeshua said, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house — you didn’t give me water for my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair! You didn’t give me a kiss; but from the time I arrived, this woman has not stopped kissing my feet! You didn’t put oil on my head, but this woman poured perfume on my feet!” (Luke 7:41-46 The Complete Jewish Bible) Yeshua told the Pharisee that the woman’s “sins” were forgiven because of her act of love, trust, and acceptance of Him. The woman had not even asked, yet was forgiven nonetheless.
For many the lesson is about salvation, and I would agree, but I also believe it teaches us that our actions speak louder than our words. The “Salvation” message is not about reciting the magic words that gain us forgiveness and entrance into heaven; the message is about our heart motivation. The story is about the heart motivations of two people; one who had an inflated sense of importance and self, judging others as he saw fit, and the other who was well aware of her flaws and shortcomings. To whom did Yeshua offer forgiveness? Not to the one who believed himself deserving, rather forgiveness was given to the one who did not see herself fit to ask. Where do you fit into the dinner party? Are you the one who sees fit to judge others, or the one who is fully aware of their imperfection…..?