THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
June 17, 2007 (Lectionary 11)
2 Samuel 11:26—12:10, 13-15
Psalm 32 (Ps. 32:5)
1 Kings 21:1-10 (11-14) 15-21a
Psalm 5:1-8 (Ps. 5:8)
1a. TEXT: Luke 7:36-50
Lk. 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into
the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.
Lk. 7:37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he
was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.
Lk. 7:38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his
feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing
his feet and anointing them with the ointment.
Lk. 7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to
himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what
kind of woman this is who is touching him-- that she is a sinner."
Lk. 7:40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to
you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak."
Lk. 7:41 "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred
denarii, and the other fifty.
Lk. 7:42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them.
Now which of them will love him more?"
Lk. 7:43 Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the
greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly."
Lk. 7:44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see
this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she
has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.
Lk. 7:45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not
stopped kissing my feet.
Lk. 7:46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet
Lk. 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been
forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is
forgiven, loves little."
Lk. 7:48 Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
Lk. 7:49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among
themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"
Lk. 7:50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
1b. CONTEXT: Luke 7:36-50
The general theme of the two volume work of Luke-Acts relates to
beneficial actions of God in the lives of people in this world. The theme is
developed in the meaning of what God has done, first in the servant, Jesus,
and then in the servant, the church. In volume one, the Gospel, after
introducing Jesus, the work of Jesus is described in two stages. This is
followed by a report of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This lection is a portion of stage one of the report of Jesus' work. This
stage focuses on the identity of Jesus. After reporting the call of the disciples,
Luke includes his version of the Sermon on the Mount. Following the sermon
is a series of segments describing contacts by Jesus with people. In these
contacts the nature of his mission is revealed. Jesus healed the son of a
Roman Centurion. He restored life to the son of a widow. He related his
work to the ministry of John the Baptist. In this lection, Jesus contrasts his
contact with the reputable guests at a party with his contact with a woman
known to be a sinner.
2. ANALYSIS: Luke 7: 36-50
Notes from the English Text: Simon, a prominent community leader,
invited Jesus, the traveling Rabbi, to a dinner party at his home. The polite
atmosphere of the dinner was soon disrupted when a woman of the city,
known to be a sinner, approached Jesus while he was at the table. To the
shock of the host, Jesus allowed the woman to wash his feet with her tears
and dry them with her hair.
When Simon challenged his behavior, Jesus told his host a small story
about two men who owed debts they could not repay. One owed a small
amount while the other owed much. The Lender cancelled the debts of both.
Jesus then asked: "Which of the two will be more grateful?" Simon selected
the one whose cancelled debt was larger. Jesus agreed and then pointed out
the contrast between the way she had treated him and the way Simon had
treated him. The behavior of both revealed the attitudes in their hearts.
Notes on Greek words and phrases:
7:37 - [ ]; "a sinner in the city;" This arrangement of words to describe
her is a reflection of her notoriety. It does not in itself describe what kind of
7:41 - [ ]; "debtor;" This word is used only here and Luke 16:5 in the
7:42 - [ ]; "forgave;" This is a warm word for forgiveness. It is a favor
freely and graciously offered.
7:47 - [ ]; "forgiven;" This word describes a direct assurance of
forgiveness or pardon.
Notes from commentaries:
In the social setting of Jesus' day, dinner parties were often community
events. The table in the middle of the room was for invited guests. People of
the community were welcome to stand around the wall and listen in as the
guests talked. Dinner guests literally "reclined" at table. Couches were set at
angles around the table. Guests reclined with their heads near the table. The
woman who approached Jesus, left the wall and went to his feet which were
extended away from the table. With that arrangement, she could easily wash
his feet and dry them.
While the typical conclusion about the woman who was "a sinner of the
city" is that she was a prostitute, that is not necessarily so. A "sinner" could
be one guilty of immorality, like a prostitute. "Sinner" also referred to people
who engaged in a dishonorable or ritually unclean occupation. Some such
occupations were tax collector, shepherd, donkey-driver, peddler, and
tanner. Her husband or father could have followed an occupation that set
the family apart in the city.
The text does not report the cause of the woman's tears. What it does
report is her exceptional gratitude to Jesus. The implication of gratitude is
that she had already been forgiven and responded accordingly.
Simon invited Jesus to a dinner because he was a visiting Rabbi. He halfthought
he might be a prophet. His reception was polite but not warm.
Some of the expected courtesies of a host were omitted. Simon did not have
a servant wash Jesus' feet - a sign of concern for a guest's comfort when
people wore sandals and accumulated dirt in travels. He did not offer
perfumed oil for Jesus's head - a relief after walking in the hot sun. The
contrast is between the host whose hospitality is restrained and the woman
whose ministries were excessive. Jesus indicated that her care was prompted
by deep gratitude for forgiveness.
Simon was shocked that Jesus allowed a woman, a sinner, to touch him in
public. That Jesus did so weakened Simon's belief he might be a prophet. He
expected a prophet to know what kind of woman she was.
In good Rabbinic fashion, Jesus told Simon a story. "Two men borrowed
money. One owed 500 coins; the other owed 50. Neither was able to
repay the loans. The lender forgave both." Which would be more grateful,
Jesus wanted to know. Simon thought the person who had the larger debt
Simon thought Jesus did not really see the woman like he did. Jesus
questioned that: "Simon, do you see this woman?" Simon only saw her
exterior. Jesus saw deep into her heart. Jesus really was a prophet. Then,
perhaps it was obvious that Simon was unable to see her like Jesus did, Jesus
explained what was happening in her life. Her behavior was an expression of
deep gratitude for being forgiven. The character of her heart was revealed by
what she did.
Her behavior was in sharp contrast to that of Simon. His behavior had
revealed not even courteous care for Jesus at the same time her behavior
revealed deep gratitude. She had been forgiven - he had not.
3. STRATEGY: Luke 7: 36-50
The text offers several possibilities for application to human life today.
The loving, forgiving activity of God precedes the human response. The text
strongly emphasizes that the woman's grateful behavior was a RESPONSE to
what God had done for her. She did not minister to Jesus to be forgiven;
she ministered to Jesus in gratitude for having been forgiven. In a society that
can so easily require one to earn or deserve what is received, this text offers
an opportunity to explore the grace of God. If people must earn or deserve
God's love, they are "out of luck." None do. BUT they have hope because
God chooses to give love first.
A second option can focus on the grateful response of the woman to her
forgiveness. Genuine gratitude prompts one to do acts of devotion to Jesus.
While she was able to serve Jesus directly, today we serve him in the people
around us. Anyone in need, hurting, or helpless becomes "Jesus" whom we
can serve. It requires little effort to discover many we can care about.
A third option could be self-righteous blindness. The malady of Simon
exists in us today. Too easily those of us who are "reputable" stereotype
those who are not like us and label them "sinner." This text, and its "metastory"
may convict us and call us to spiritual insight and true repentance that
can accept the freely offered forgiveness of God.
A fourth option might assist the church in responding to a current issue.
While it does not use the entire lection, it does stimulate a new perception.
The question of Jesus: "Simon, Do you see this woman?" could be asked of
us. While society has often failed "to see" women, the church is worse. We
have looked at the exterior of gender or role and missed seeing God's call,
God's gifts in women. This lection could become the opportunity to "see
women." [In 1984, a guest Chaplain for the Minnesota House of
Representatives learned about women in politics. In his prayer to open the
House session, the minister asked the Lord "to bless the men" in the
chamber" and to help "the men make wise decisions." He made other
references to male legislators, none to women. When he said, "Amen," and
returned to the House retiring room, he was followed by the 19 women
House members. They let him know they did not appreciate being left out of
his prayer. He apologized and told them: "I am sure God gave his blessing to
Exegete: Brian A. Nelson, D. Min.
(Disciples of Christ, W. Lafayette, IN
LEXEGETE™ © 2007