Luke 7:36-8:3 Jesus Loves Women

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain money-lender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning towards 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 wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[h] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them[a] out of their means.

Jesus Loves Women

In titling the piece this way, I may communicate some of the scandal that was in the room when she came near him.  If I had titled it as “Jesus Loves a Prostitute” it would come nearer to the scandal.  Jesus’ love of women comes through quite clearly in this passage.  Jesus was invited by a curious Pharisee to have a public dinner at his house.  The doors would have been open and the whole town would have been present.  This includes some ‘undesirables’ or sinners.  When I think of the equivalent woman turning up at a church pot luck it may be Lady Gaga or some sex slave.  In the case of Lady Gaga there would be the public notoriety that this woman’s life has been dedicated to things that are dark and self-serving.  In the comparison with a sex-slave, although this woman was known about town she may have been forced into the profession by harsh circumstances.  It would seem that she was good at her job because she had expensive perfume that she may have received from a benefactor or have paid for with her wages.  Of course, there is the possibility this was a family heirloom.  Wherever she got the expensive perfume from, she breaks it over Jesus’ feet and washes his feet with her hair and her tears.  There is something sensual (stimulating the senses) about her actions.  She is also intimate.  She has come forth from the crowd and she has singled herself out and come close enough to Jesus to touch him.  Like any disciple, she has moved from the crowd to the Master’s feet.

Simon is now satisfied that Jesus is not the prophet people thought he was.  A prophet would have known her history and would have rejected her.  However, Jesus gives a parable about his own love for this woman.  He says in affect that he has an unconditional acceptance of this woman.  He knows her history and he does not hold it against her.  Firstly, it is apparent Jesus does know her past.  Love for people is cultivated by knowing them intimately.  Pornography treats all women the same.  It treats them like inhuman cardboard cutouts.  This woman has been treated by many men as a sex object.  The men who have been with her have been with her body, but they have failed to know her in a more significant way that would qualify as love.  A woman is created to be known and to know others.  In our sexualized society, like Simon, we are afraid that if we open up to any woman other than our wife, if we inquire into their health, if we treat them like more than an object, it will be some kind of scandal.  Ironically, it is a sexualized perspective that leads to a lack of intimacy and healthy relationship, rather than leading to being with more women.

this principle also carries over into a hostage situation.  It is advised that if you are captured, you talk with your captor.  In so doing you become human to them, and they find it harder to harm you.  The principle is that as you reveal yourself to someone it is more likely they will view you appropriately, not less likely.  Simon is distanced from the prostitute.  Rather than treat her as a human being he treats her as a prostitute.  She is not someone whose services he wants to purchase.  However, that is her identity to him.

The second aspect that sets Jesus apart, is his unconditional acceptance of her.  He extends grace to her and she loves him much according to Jesus’ parable.  So, in this passage Jesus unconditionally accepts a prostitute in a sensual outpouring of her love and he challenges a religious man for his reaction of horror and shock.

As we look at this we must challenge our appropriate interplay between the sexes.  When I was a student at Moody, there was a girl on our sister floor who wouldn’t come out with her brothers any more because she had a boyfriend.  This reduced us all to potential husbands.  She was objectifying us men in the same way that pornography does.  We were of no value if we couldn’t satisfy her longings for a white-picket-fence and a pastoral husband.  I see a polarizing in North America, especially after marriage, of men and women into separate groups.  They don’t really develop a sound understanding of each other.  They treat the other sex as alien and are worried about getting too close.

Jesus is public about his connections with women.  They supply his needs and he accepts them from all walks of life.  One of his female supporters had seven demons, another had a prestigious job.  Jesus lets a woman be a woman, he lets her reveal her heart, but he does not sexualize or fantasize about these women.  He loves them with a purity that is appropriate for a sister and a mother.  In fact, in other sections of the Bible i declares that we should have familial relationships with those who are in Christ.  Jesus does not take them into the shadows and have illicit relationships with them, preying on their vulnerability and self-disclosure.  However, he does not hide from them.  He does not entreat them to become more like men, so that they can be accepted.

This passage should challenge the composition of our friendship circles and church groups.  Do we sexualize them by unnecessary exclusion?  Do we appropriately mix the groups in healthy ways?  Why does the composition of our children’s groups remain co-ed when much of our adult experience becomes gender specific?  These are thoughts to be considered and I think the path to Jesus’ purity in this area would be a thorny path to walk.  For women who feel alienated, objectified, or misunderstood, though, there is always a man who can understand them with pure motives, unconditional acceptance, and a complete knowledge.  And he accepts them as a woman.

Prayer

May men accept women with unconditional love as Jesus did.  May we seek to know them deeply and in such a way treat each woman in an appropriate way according to our relationships.  May we have purity of motives, but also not leave each other in relative isolation.  The genders were created to complement each other and we can’t do that without each other. 

Questions

  1. What incident is central to this passage?
  2. How does Jesus respond?
  3. How does Simon respond?
  4. How do men still resemble Henry Higgins in this clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Doz5w2W-jAY ?
  5. How should men relate to women in healthy ways as they grow older?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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