The Worshiper and the Spectator
“And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him that she is a sinner.’” – Luke 7:37-39
We all have our thoughts upon the subject of worship. But what really is worship? Webster’s defines worship as, “performing acts of adoration; to pay honor and reverence to.” Within the framework of the Christian faith, it has been suggested that worship is focusing on and responding to God; it is responding to all that God is, with all that we are.
The gospel of Luke records an event where Jesus had been invited into the home of a Pharisee by the name of Simon. But sadly, the intentions of Jesus’ host were far from pure. To begin with, Simon was anything but a good host. He did not show the hospitality customary of that day. Based upon Jewish tradition, a host would wash the feet of a guest. Simon did not do this for Jesus. Secondly, it appears that Simon invited Jesus into his home only to engage Him in a theological debate.
During the meal, a woman appears on the scene. Where does she come from, and why does she show up at this particular meal? Well, it was quite common within the first century at Jewish dinner gatherings for beggars to come in and collect the remaining leftovers. And as this particular woman came into the room, she was immediately recognized by those present and associated with her sinful life-style; for her life was a life marked by the sin of prostitution. The dinner guests were surprised by her presence. They were surprised all the more when she came to Jesus, got down on her knees and did the very thing Simon failed to do; she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them off with her hair, kissed his feet, and anointed Him with a precious ointment.
Coming to Jesus must have required great courage on her part, and her tears certainly expressed her sincerity. Yet her actions were scrutinized by Simon the Pharisee. Being an expert on the law, he knew that whoever this woman touched would be considered “ceremonial unclean.” So he thought to himself, “If Jesus were really a prophet, He would know what type of woman this really is.” In that moment, the sins of pride and self-righteousness filled his heart. Jesus and Simon saw this woman from total different perspectives. Simon saw her past, while Jesus saw her present. Simon saw a sinner, while Jesus saw her as a person.
The sinful woman and Simon the Pharisee represent the two types of people present within a worship service. There are worshipers and there are spectators. The sinful woman was a worshiper. Her focus was upon Jesus, and no one else. She wasn’t concerned with those around her; only her Master. Obviously these events transpired in a public setting, yet her act of worship was very private in nature. Her expression of love for Jesus wasn’t some public performance done for public attention. Rather, it was done for an audience of one; namely Jesus. But ironically, she did have an audience; for there was Simon the spectator. A spectator is not focused on the object of worship, but the worshipers. This most accurately describes Simon. He was less concerned with Jesus and more concerned with the actions of the woman, and he immediately detested her style of worship.
Which one are you? Are you a sincere and active worshiper or a critical spectator? Ask God today to help you be a worshiper and not a spectator. Remember, you can’t worship God properly until you know Him personally!
– Pastor Eric