WHO DOES S/HE THINK S/HE IS? LUKE 7:36f
Bible Background: Luke has been showing us who Jesus is and what he can do. He is much more than a prophet! In this scene, by forgiving the sinful woman, he does something people believe only God can do. Matthew, Mark, and John tell a similar story, but in their gospels this happens a few days before Jesus’ arrest, and this act is connected with “anointing (him) for burial”. Luke’s context reveals Jesus’ mercy and identity further (and also reveals our own need for forgiveness!)
Digging Deeper: 1. Jesus has just been accused of ‘eating with tax collectors and sinners’, an example of how you are ‘judged by the company you keep.’ Now a Pharisee (very religious Jew) invites Jesus to his home for dinner. (These were not just private affairs, but were social gatherings, where members of the community might ‘eavesdrop.’) We don’t know Simon’s motives for inviting Jesus.
2. We do know that a woman with a sinful reputation shows up! She is not named. The male diners would be reclining on the floor, with their feet behind them. She does a couple of quite scandalous things: a) she touches a man’s feet in public; b) she lets down her hair in public; as she ‘washes’ Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair and pours ointment on them.
3. Simon is disgusted, and silently judges Jesus as “not so smart after all!” Jesus, somehow knows what Simon is thinking and speaks to Simon with a riddle about debt-forgiveness. Simon answers the riddle correctly (the one who is forgiven much will likely love much). Then Jesus’ critiques Simon’s lack of hospitality, over against the woman’s extreme devotion. What makes it so easy for us to judge people in our own minds? How do we break that habit?
4. Jesus connects this woman’s loving act with her receiving forgiveness. (It’s hard to tell which comes 1st, the love on her part? Or the forgiveness on Jesus’ part?) Jesus declares to her that “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” What does salvation look like and feel like to her?
5. Those gathered wonder “Who is this who forgives sins?” Their surprise goes back to the assumption that only God can forgive sins. Is this Jesus, standing among them, God??? What does it mean to you that God forgives you and forgives the person you despise? When and why are we tempted to rate some people as more worthy of forgiveness and some people as less worthy?