- 1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a
- Psalm 5:1-8
- Galatians 2:15-21
- Luke 7:36-8:3
Congregations practice hospitality as a way of welcoming stranger and visitor into the forgiving fellowship of the church. Today’s Gospel is an example of how Jesus offers forgiveness. It is one of the few stories that appear in all four gospels (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8). Unlike the other three gospel writers, who place this story just before Jesus enters Jerusalem and connect the anointing to a preparation for death, Luke places this story early in Jesus’ ministry and uses it to highlight Jesus’ compassion and the relationship between love, forgiveness, and faith.
Masao Takenaka and Ron O’Grady write in The Bible Through Asian Eyes:
Jesus behaved in unorthodox ways for a Jewish man of his day. His attitude of friendship and acceptance of the despised and rejected people in society have made a strong impression on this woman who entered the Pharisee’s home to anoint Jesus’ feet. Knowing how upright citizens denounced prostitutes, she nevertheless had the courage to enter, uninvited, to perform a sacrificial act of love – pouring out expensive ointment upon the feet of Jesus and drying them with her hair, oblivious or uncaring of the disapproval of the other people present.
Jesus recognized her faith and her intense love for God. She displayed remorse and an overwhelming love; thus Jesus could say to her: “Your sins are forgiven” (v. 48). Jesus’ words here remind us of the peace that comes with God’s saving grace: “Your faith ahs saved you; go in peace” (v. 50).
Jesus uses this occasion to explore the relationship between love and forgiveness. The exact connection is ambiguous. Does one necessarily precede the other? The parable Jesus tells seems to indicate that love results from forgiveness. Yet the whole passage may suggest that sins are forgiven as a result of loving actions. Clearly the two – loving actions and inward grace – are intimately connected. Perhaps each enables the other. And perhaps they show us the way toward open hospitality and welcome in our communities.
As Jesus continues his ministry to bring the “good news of the kingdom of God” (8:1), he is accompanied by the twelve Apostles as well as by a number of women he had healed, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. These women provided financial support for the ministry of Jesus, as well as later being present at Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and Resurrection. The specific naming of the women illustrates once again that the ministry to proclaim God’s Kingdom is shared by and open to all.
- Read the Gospel passage from the viewpoint of Simon the Pharisee. How do you explain his attitude and actions toward Jesus and the unnamed woman? What was his understanding of the role of a prophet? How do you think he might have felt as Jesus forgave the woman’s sins?
- Read the story again from the perspective of the unnamed woman. Why do you think she sought Jesus out in the first place? How do you think she might have felt as the events unfolded?
- What do we learn about Jesus here?
- What does today’s story have in common with the previous two Sundays (healing of the centurion and the widow of Nain’s son)?
- What do the other readings for today have to do with forgiveness, repentance, sin, and God’s grace?