Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Learning from the Story of the Woman Who Poured the Perfume on Jesus' Feet *

During the days of Jesus Christ, in the first half of the first century of the Common Era (CE), there lived an influential Jew named Simon in Jerusalem. He was a Pharisee and a halfhearted enthusiast in the teachings of Jesus. This Simon is not to be confused with the other Simon Peter who was a disciple of Jesus.

This influential Jew knew the social stigma and criticism that he might face from other influential Pharisees and wealthy Jews if he ever declared his partial attraction to Jesus.

Yet, he decided to invite Jesus and three of his disciples, Peter, James and John to his home for a social get together and meal because he was much impressed with Jesus’ personality and teachings.

Simon had other reasons also for inviting Jesus to his home. He was a wealthy Pharisee and the wealthy Pharisees of those days took much pleasure in publicly displaying their philanthropic acts of giving food to the poor people. Some Pharisees even blew a trumpet as they were about to give some alms to some beggar!

It was also a custom of these Pharisees to leave the doors of their house open when they provided a luncheon or a banquet for some distinguished guests. That was to allow the street beggars to come in and stand around the walls of the room behind the couches of the diners to receive portions of food that might be tossed to them by the privileged guests.

On this day when Simon invited Jesus and his disciples to his house for the meals, many others from the streets also came in, as usual.

Among the uninvited several from the streets, there was also a woman having a notorious past. This woman was well known throughout all Jerusalem as the former keeper of one of the so-called high-class brothels located very near to the court of the non-Jew people of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

But she had the opportunity to listen to the public discourses of Jesus in the past and she had become aware of her errors in life due to the teachings of Jesus. As a result, she had voluntarily closed up her nefarious place of business.  Having accepted the teachings of Jesus wholeheartedly in mind, she also became instrumental in influencing a good majority of her previous women associates to change their mode of living.

Yet she was not any acceptable one in the Jewish society and the influential Pharisees looked down her with utmost contempt. They still compelled her to wear her hair down as the badge of her previous taboo profession. 

When this woman came in to Simon’s house in the group of the poor on the day Simon made the arrangements for the banquet for Jesus and his three disciples, she brought with her a large flask of perfumed anointing lotion.

As Jesus, his disciples and his host reclined on the couch for eating the food; this woman approached Jesus and bent down to anoint Jesus’ feet with her perfumed lotion.

While doing this, she was also crying and her tears too fell and were wetting Jesus’ feet together with the perfumed lotion that she was pouring. Hers were the tears of gratitude she experienced in her innermost consciousness as she felt relieved from the erroneous life she had previously. This lowly human being had indeed found in Jesus some divine mercy and love that pacified and comforted her mind from remorse!

She wiped his feet with her long downed and untied hair. While doing so  she continued weeping and kissing the Master’s feet.

When the elitist host of Jesus saw all this, he thought like this:

“This man cannot be a prophet. Had he been one, he would have immediately perceived the kind of woman she is and he would not have allowed such a notorious sinner to touch him”.

Jesus could immediately sense the secret thought of his wealthy pseudo-puritanist. He told Simon like this:

“Simon, I would like to tell you a story.” Simon, hiding his inner feelings replied:

“Yes, teacher, I want to hear.” Then Jesus began to tell this for all there to hear:

“Once, there was a certain moneylender who had loaned 500 dinars to one and 50 dinars to another. But these two gentlemen could not repay their debts even after their agreed period. But the moneylender felt sympathy to both and decided to write off the debts of both. Simon, tell me, which one of the two, as per you, would feel much obliged to the moneylender?”

“I think, the 500 dinar one” Simon answered.  

“You guessed it right, Simon.” Jesus told and pointing towards the woman, he continued: 

“Simon, take a good look at this woman. I entered your house as an invited guest, yet you gave me no water for my feet. This grateful woman has washed my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of friendly greeting, but she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You neglected to anoint me with the perfumed oil, but she has anointed my feet with precious lotions. Simon, what do you think the meaning of all these? I tell you, her sins are all forgiven and that has led her to show all these gestures of gratitude. Those who receive a little forgiveness sometimes reciprocate only a little.”

Saying this Jesus turned around towards the woman, took her by the hand and lifting her up said further like this to her:

“You have indeed repented of your sins and they are forgiven. Do not be discouraged by the thoughtless and unkind attitude of your fellow beings. Go peacefully and feel the joy and liberty of the divine world henceforth even from this world itself.”

When Simon and his elite friends sat for the meals later, they began to whisper among themselves from the astonishment they had watching and listening Jesus some time earlier:

“Who he thinks he is? How dare he to say that he forgives our sins?”

Jesus could hear their murmurs. Ignoring them he said to the woman:

“Woman, go in peace; your faith has saved you.”

As Jesus rose with his disciples to leave, he turned to Simon and said:

“I know your heart Simon. I know that you are confused with your faith and your doubts. I understand that you are now agitated in your mind by your fears about your society and by your social pride by what have just happened. But I pray for you so that you may yield yourself to the light of the divine knowledge that has already brought in by your unwelcome guest. I declare all of you that the Heavenly Father has opened the doors of His heavenly administration to all who have the faith and the desire to enter. No man or no human administration can ever prevent any other human who have sincerely repented of his or her sins and sought to enter the divine world.”

Saying this, Jesus and his three associates left Simon’s house.

Later in the same evening Jesus made the long-to-be-remembered address to his apostles regarding the relative value of the status of humans with God and their progress in the long  ascend to the Centre of the Universes. 

Jesus taught them like this:

“My children! If there exists a true and living connection between a child and its father, the child is certain to progress continuously toward the father’s ideals. True, the child may at first be slow in this process, but progress in this regard would surely happen as time passes. What is important is not the quickness of the progress, but rather its certainty. Your actual achievement is not so important considering the fact that the direction of your progress is towards God. What you are becoming day by day is of more importance than what you are today.

“Some of you saw the transformed woman earlier today in Simon’s house. At this moment of time, she is living on a level which is vastly below that of Simon and his well-meaning associates. But Simon and his associates are indeed under false illusion of spiritual progress  as they are bound by meaningless ceremonies, rituals and social customs. But this woman has earnestly started out on the long and eventful search for God and her path towards attaining the spiritual worlds is not blocked by any spiritual pride or moral self satisfaction. By the established human standards, this woman is farther away from God than Simon, but her soul is in the progressive motion and she is already on the way towards her eternal goal. The soul of this woman has tremendous spiritual possibilities for the future. Likewise, there exist tremendous possibilities in each of you for the future. It is indeed better to have a small but living and growing faith than to be possessed of a great intellect full of worldly wisdom but with no desire for spiritual progress.”    

Concluding his teaching of the day, Jesus however earnestly warned his disciples against the foolishness of a child who presumes upon the love of its father. 

The Heavenly Father, he warned them, is not to be compared to a foolishly indulgent human parent who is lax, loose or ever ready to be lenient with all evil and willful recklessness of his children. 

Jesus categorically told them when he summed up:  

“My Heavenly Father is not in any way to make allowances to those acts and practices of his earthly children who are self-destructive and suicidal to all moral growth and spiritual progress by doing willful evil. Such practices are indeed repulsive in the sight of God”.

[*Adapted from the Urantia Book]

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