Monday 08 February 2021

Bible Book:

But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, 'Who is this who even forgives sins?' (v. 49)

Luke 7: 36-50 Monday 8 February 2021

Psalm 74: 1-17


This story is found in all four Gospels. The setting is a formal dinner party in the Roman style. The diners, all men, reclined on couches as they ate, leaning forward on one arm with their feet stretched out behind them. The other Gospels place the story nearer to the end of Jesus’ life, and link it to his death, as an anointing for burial. Luke tells the story to make a very different point.

 The woman is not named, but she is labelled as ‘a sinner’. Her behaviour would have surprised and shocked those present at the meal – it was socially unacceptable for women to let their hair be visible in public or to touch a man, let alone kiss his feet. Perhaps equally shocking to his fellow-diners is Jesus’ reaction – he does not reject her touch or do anything to send her away. Their reaction is summed up in the tut-tutting of Jesus’ host.

 The focus of the story shifts away from the woman as Jesus tells a parable about being in debt. It’s a situation he uses many times to illustrate God’s mercy and forgiveness. Then as now, it was very easy for people to find themselves facing unmanageable debt. A denarius was a day’s wage, so the contrast here is between two months’ pay and two years. It is not unimaginable that a money-lender might cancel a debt, in the expectation that those who benefited from such generosity would become keen personal supporters of their patron.

 Returning his attention to the woman, Jesus contrasts her generous behaviour with Simon’s stinginess, and her welcome with his half-hearted approach. Far from marking her out as a sinner, her passion for Jesus shows that she was already forgiven when she walked through the door. Her debt, large though it was, has been wiped out, and she wants the world to know what Jesus had done for her. She is the one who ‘loves more’, and she isn’t afraid to show it.

The story ends with a question: "Who is this who even forgives sins?" (v. 49) The woman’s commitment is evidence that Jesus can indeed reshape the life of a sinner – but how can he do this?


To Ponder:

  • Imagine Simon’s wife asking him "How did the dinner party go?" What do you think he might have said to her?
  •  How might you show generosity, passion and commitment in responding to Jesus?
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