Connections 04.10.2016: A Fool for You


Luke 7:36-50

In my reading today, one line that Jesus says stands out to me: “Simon, I have something to say to you” (Lk 7:40). That Pharisee named Simon, who had invited Jesus into his home but showed him little hospitality, watched a woman’s extravagant love for Jesus and muttered to himself. No one could hear his words. For all we know, he looked upon the scene with a composed, if superior, expression. Yet his thoughts were roiling like waves in a storm. We can imagine the path of his thoughts even beyond what Luke records:

How dare this dirty female enter my home? She’s wasted expensive oil that she probably bought with money earned through sin. She’s let down her filthy hair, contaminating my floor. She’s put her mouth on the feet of a prophet. She’s made a complete fool of herself! Jesus can’t possibly be the person he says he is. If he were, he would recoil from this woman.

These were Simon’s private thoughts. Maybe they showed up in a sneer on his face; maybe they didn’t. But Jesus wasn’t looking at Simon. Surely his eyes were on the sinful woman as she did exactly what Simon was thinking: acted like a fool. And as Jesus watched her—and loved her—he heard the words of the Pharisee as clearly as if he spoke them aloud.

“Simon, I have something to say to you.” It was like getting caught for passing notes in class—or, these days, for texting beneath the desk. I’m guessing Simon’s stomach dropped as Jesus called him out in front of his other, more honored guests. When Jesus finished his message about extravagant love—love that is humble, unashamed, even foolish—the other guests were skeptical. “Who does this guy think he is, forgiving sins?” they asked themselves (v. 49).

But what was Simon thinking? Was he red-faced and embarrassed? Was he angry and affronted? Was he aghast at what Jesus was implying? Was he appropriately chastised, ready to modify his behavior?

Of course, we don’t know. We can probably assume that his thoughts lined up with those of the other people who were like him. But maybe they didn’t. Maybe this incident made a difference in his life for the better. Maybe this woman’s willingness to make a fool of herself for the love of Jesus taught Simon about the ways that Jesus made a fool of himself for all people.

Singer/songwriter Nichole Nordeman’s song, “Fool for You,” contains these lines:

I would be a fool for you
All because you asked me to
A simpleton who’s seemingly naive
I do believe You came and made Yourself a fool for me

When we read the story of Jesus’ life, we can see how often he did the unexpected and the unorthodox. How often he behaved in ways his society perceived as ridiculous. How often he made himself a fool for the people he came to save. He spent time with outcasts, refused to be the regal and ruling Messiah, and said and did things that eventually got him killed. Foolish. But then again, as Paul wrote, “the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

I want to believe this “foolishness” so completely that I’m willing to be a fool for Jesus. How about you?

Nichole Nordeman, “Fool for You,” This Mystery, Sparrow Records, 2000.


1. What parts of this story stand out to you? What do they say about who Jesus is?
2. How do you think it felt to be Simon as the events unfolded?
3. What does it mean that Jesus made himself a fool for us?
4. Why might we view this woman’s actions as foolish?
5. Some people think Christians are “simpletons,” naïve about the world. They think Christians are fools who believe in things that are ridiculous and impossible. Why might we want to be “fools” for Jesus? What could our actions and words tell others about the story of God’s grace?

Reference Shelf

Notice also Jesus’ posture for this exchange. Luke will likely have thought of Simon’s dining room having a typical arrangement: couches arranged in a U-shape, with small tables in front of each one. Jesus will have been reclining on one of them, resting on his left elbow, facing the table in front of him as well as the faces of the other diners. He “turns toward the woman,” which would require him to turn his back to his host and the rest of the diners, and then he “says to Simon,” over his shoulder, “Do you see this woman?” Luke will have presumed that Simon, as host, will have occupied a seat in the center of the U. If Jesus had been treated as an honorable guest, he would also have been in the middle, in the place where he could talk to everybody and be the center of attention at the dinner party. But since Simon has treated him ungraciously, we should probably picture Jesus at one of the least desirable seats, at the ends of one of the legs of the U. When he asks, “do you see this woman,” it is not a rhetorical question; Simon has seen her, according to v. 39, but since she is at Jesus’ feet and at the end of the dining space, Simon cannot see her face the way Jesus can. What he judges as lewd behavior from “that sort of woman,” Jesus sees more truly as repentance and love.

“Her many sins have been forgiven her, because she loved much, but the one forgiven little loved little.” Here Jesus concludes the teaching moment, exposing the hearts of Simon and the woman. Simon felt no obligation to ask for Jesus’ forgiveness, even though he invited him only to treat him badly; Jesus’ words do not stir him to repent or to apologize or to demonstrate his true affection in some other way. Instead, Simon’s other invited guests echo the sentiment of the scribes and Pharisees at 5:21: Who is this that forgives sins? The readers already know Jesus’ answer to this objection; Simon the Pharisee should know it, too, if he has been paying attention. So the Pharisee’s status in this story moves from open-minded host (v. 39) to scandalized host (v. 39) to shabby host (vv. 44-47) to being closed-minded, unobservant, unforgiven, and judgmental (v. 49). The woman, on the other hand, moves from being a sinner (v. 37) who appears at first to be acting out her sinfulness (v. 38) to being an extravagantly generous substitute host (vv. 44-47) to being forgiven and “saved,” an exemplar of great love and great faith.

Richard B. Vinson, Luke, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2008) 236-37.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters, and watching television shows on Netflix.


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