Gospel Reflections for Sun June 16th

10 June 2013

Luke 7:36-8:3   Jesus annointed by a sinful woman


Chances are that a superficial look at this week's story from Luke will leave us confused and asking the question ...What was all that about? The broader story itself, seems to be continuing the theme as discussed last week; that of raising up the plight of the lowly.

But before proceeding, let's make sure that we properly pick up the context here, noting that there are several inflammatory points as highlighted: An uninvited and unaccompanied woman of very doubtful repute, gate crashes what would have been a male dominated gathering of highly righteous people and plays out this crazy anointing scene ... and Jesus approves! In a way, all that is just confirming in rather spectacular anecdotal fashion the lost and marginalized agenda of Jesus. (It also reaffirms the fact that this is a very different context to the story much later on at Bethany involving Mary, Martha and the resurrected Lazarus.)

A bit more context ... remember Jesus had been invited to dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee. This was no ordinary friendly dinner invitation. This was an invite with an agenda. It was a plan to corner Jesus and potentially provide opportunity to trap him. Already Jesus had provoked the Pharisees by suggesting that tax collectors and prostitutes had a better chance of being saved than them. They were not happy. We note that Jesus was obviously short-changed in the hospitality stakes. He was given very poor treatment upon arrival at the Pharisee's house, quite contrary to the accepted expectations of the day.

However the fact that a mini-parable is wedged right in the middle of the story, makes the whole thing extraordinarily fascinating. I found this commentary from Sermons in Seattle particularly insightful if you would like to reflect on this further. I have reproduced a small section here:

"The key to the story is one line. If you read the story carefully in the Bible, you notice that Jesus had been talking to Simon but he had been looking at the woman. Jesus turns to Simon and says, revealing his spiritual genius, “Her sins are many and they have been forgiven therefore she has great compassion."

"Jesus says that there is a connection when you realize the degree of your own sinfulness, the magnitude of your own sinfulness, the size of your own imperfections inside your soul; there is a connection with such an attitude and your degree of compassion for others."

Message for us as leaders in Lutheran Schools? 
(in the form of a prayer ... the reverse Pharisee prayer!!)

Lord, help us to recognize and appreciate the immensity of what you have done for us, so that we may respond with great compassion to all in our community and beyond. Help us NOT to be like the Pharisee in thinking that we have all the answers and in thinking that we have little for which to be forgiven. Amen