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    Jun 19, 2016

    We Just Couldn't Get Enough!

    Passage: Luke 7:36-8:3

    Speaker: Vivian McCarthy

    Series: Signs and Wonders - The Healing Stories of Jesus

    Category: Faith

    Keywords: authority, compassion, faith, grace, healing, miracle

    In this story, Luke's purpose was to show Jesus' central gospel message of forgiveness and grace. Sometimes we focus on pieces of the story without actually focusing on what Jesus does. In this story, Jesus clearly shows the importance of acceptance and grace.

    Awkward!!!  Can you just imagine what the scene was like in that Pharisee’s house that night?  To be fair, we don’t really know why Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner.  He could have had pure motives:  maybe if I get to know him, I’ll have a better idea of his message.  Maybe his message is real.  Maybe he IS something special.  Maybe….

    I think I’ve always kind of assumed he invited Jesus for supper so he could grill him instead of the steaks!  Put him through the wringer.  Make him squirm.  Convince him that the law had to be upheld – that the rules were right.  And I’ve always imagined that when that interloper walked in with her expensive perfume and her unbound hair – scandalous! – he showed every bit of his disdain and disgust on his face.

    And that could be exactly what happened, but it speaks to my own bias about Simon – to what David Lose, president of Luther Seminary in Philadelphia calls “delicious judgment.”  Ouch!

    We don’t really know how Simon reacted at the end of the story.  Wouldn’t it be great if his heart was softened by Jesus’ teaching and example – and by the gratitude shown by the woman? 

    The Bible often leaves us to ponder scenes like this one.  Jesus, ever the puzzler, offers stories and parables that aren’t always understood clearly.  At the very least, I think Jesus often wants us to take responsibility and come to our own conclusions.  But way too often, we make our conclusions based on our own biases and behaviors and forget to consider what Jesus actually did in the situation.

    Who is the woman at the center of this story?  Let’s take a look at what 2 scholars have to say about her.

    Bill Loader, the Australian professor of New Testament that I like so much says this:

    In the world of the time an uninvited woman making such an approach with such equipment would be seen as acting inappropriately, or, from another perspective, professionally… Unaccompanied women bearing such oils usually belonged to the ‘sinners’. They were, like the [tax] collectors, disreputable, living at the margins and surviving, perhaps to a minor degree prospering, through their services - at least, enough to lay their hands on expensive perfume.[1]

    Lucy Hogan, preaching professor at Wesley Seminary says:

    Simon and his guests are reclining at table, and perhaps dinner is in the process of being served when this woman, this sinner, enters the home of a Pharisee, uninvited. She pours oil over the feet of Jesus and unbinds her hair to wipe his feet now wet with the oil and her copious tears. She weeps and kisses the feet of Jesus. The woman does not give us any indication of why she is doing this. We should recognize that her action, whether or not she was a sinner, would have been scandalous. Aside from the fact that she crashed the party, a woman would never have uncovered her hair before strangers.[2]

    Both of the scholars give us a glimpse as to how Jesus and the rest of the dinner party would have assumed that the woman was a sinner.  What Jesus does is seize the moment to teach them all about repentance and gratitude.

    This story is all about gratitude – even before it’s about repentance.  We don’t know if Jesus knew this woman.  As one of my favorite commentators noted, this story is told in different ways in every gospel, and in far different contexts, including when it happens, and with different casts of characters.  Context – remember?  Luke’s purpose seems to be to lay a foundation for the central gospel of forgiveness and grace. 

    Just imagine how she must have felt.  She came to thank Jesus in perhaps the only way she knew how.  She felt the healing that comes through forgiveness, and make no mistake, her healing was just as miraculous as healing of blindness or leprosy.  No “respectable” person would have thought her worthy.  Yet, the Prince of Peace reached out to the untouchable and made her whole.

    Oh – before we close, let’s go back to Simon for just a moment.  I wish we knew what happened to him, don’t you?  I wonder if Simon was able to seek forgiveness.  I wonder if he even considered that he was in need of forgiveness or if his pride and sense of entitlement buffered him to the point that he didn’t realize his own need.  On the other hand, I wonder if he “got it” and found a new peace, free from the strictures of the law in such a way that he became a man of grace and hospitality.  We’ll never know.

    Are you wondering about the title of this message?  I hope so.  It’s tied to the very end of the passage.  Did you notice how many women are mentioned at the end of the passage?  Chapter 8 begins with:  The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.  “Some women who had been cured…”  We have noted before that women weren’t usually welcomed as disciples in Jesus’ day, but these women were emboldened by their state of forgiveness – emboldened enough that they traveled with Jesus and sat with the other disciples, despite the fact that they were women.  They just couldn’t get enough!

    [1] William Loader, First Thoughts on Year C Gospel Passages.  http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LkPentecost4.htm   

    [2] Lucy Lind Hogan, Working Preacher, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2864