Thursday, September 17, 2015

Your Faith Has Saved You

The Gospel Reading for September the 17th Luke 7:36-50
 ~ The Sinful Woman and the Parable of the Two Debtors

 “36 A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. 38 Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 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 woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.’ 40 Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said. 41 ‘Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. 42 Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?’ 43 Simon said in reply, ‘The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.’ He said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but she had not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. 47 So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ 48 He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ 49 The others at table said to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ 50 But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”

 This story is a powerful lesson that illustrates the relationship between forgiveness and love. A Pharisee has invited Jesus, the controversial local Rabbi, to a banquet at this house as the honored guest. All the guests are reclining at the meal. It was a Hellenistic custom that was observed for a formal dinner (also see Mt 26:7, 20; Mk 14:3; 18). It was also the custom to greet each guest with a kiss, to offer a basin for the guests to wash their feet, and, especially in the case of an honored guest, to anoint his head and/or feet with ointment. A woman who is filled with the desire to repent her sins takes this opportunity to approach Jesus and express her sorrow and repentance in an act of humility. Jesus read the negative and judgmental thoughts of His host when He allowed the sinful woman to touch Him—to be touched by someone who was impure imparted that person’s state of “uncleanness” to the one touched. Jesus answered Simon’s thoughts by telling him a parable. In telling the parable, Jesus is making a comparison between the Pharisee Simon and the sinful woman. Admittedly the woman is the greater sinner, but she is also the most repentant and has shown Jesus the greater love, a demonstration of her repentance. Her tears and attention to Jesus is a demonstration of love and is the consequence of her forgiveness. On the other hand, the self-righteous Simon didn’t even show Jesus the common courtesies of a host. The result of the woman’s actions in her demonstration of repentance is that Jesus forgives the woman’s sins. Her faith in Jesus (verse 50) expressed by her loving action has saved her, but the implication can be made that perhaps Simon’s self-righteousness and lack of faith will condemn him. “49 The others at table said to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’” This question is similar to the question of the scribes and Pharisees in Luke 5:21 when they asked “Who but God alone can forgive sins?” St. Luke is building the tension and inviting his audience to respond in faith to answer the question for themselves. “50 But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”

The peace Jesus gives her when He blesses her is the restoration of peace and fellowship with God. The sinful woman has manifested to God greater gratitude in her love than the self-righteous Pharisee. Her repentance for the sins of her life has made her more open to God’s mercy than the Pharisee who withholds the customary courtesies a host owes toward his guest. The woman’s tears, kisses and humble anointing of Jesus’ feet reveal her openness to God in her faith that brings her salvation.

 Michael E. Hunt Copyright © 2015