Submitted by Jan on Tue, 11/06/2013 – 19:37
Year C (2012-2013)
Bible Book: Luke / Lukas
The account of a woman anointing Jesus’ feet appears in all four gospels. Mark and Mathew do not give her a name. In John’s account, she is Mary of Bethany. Luke merely calls her “a woman in the city who was a sinner” (7:37). However, her exact sin is never disclosed. No matter her background and status in society, Jesus accepted her as she was. His interpretation of her act is all that matters.
The woman’s actions in Luke’s account consist of bringing an alabaster jar of perfume, wetting Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, kissing his feet and anointing them with the oil (7:37, 38). Simon, who had invited Jesus to his house, is offended by the woman’s actions. His response is that of a typical Pharisee: righteous and judgmental. Jesus notices this, and he invites Simon to a theological discussion. One commentator calls it (the discussion) a ‘rabbinic dialogue’.
Jesus tells a parable which is addressed to Simon, but it is also meant for the ears of the other guests. He tells of a creditor who had two debtors. One who owed 50 denarii, equivalent to a little more than two months of labour in that society. The other owed 500 denarii, equivalent to about two years of work. Both are forgiven of their debts. Then Jesus asks Simon: “Which of them will love him the more?” (7:42).
Jesus then describes the contrast between Simon’s response to him, and the woman’s actions. He made it clear that this woman is to be honored for displaying her love for him. Simon had done well; but the woman had done extremely well. There is marked contrast between her love and the lukewarm hospitality of Simon, the Pharisee. “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (7:47).
Because the woman embodies love, Jesus announces to all present, and also to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven”. This also means, “You are now included in the community of the God’s people”. The sign of inclusion of women in the community is developed further in Luke 8:1-3, where Luke talks of women who traveled with Jesus.
This story humbles me each time I read it. It points to my sins and prejudices. It brings home the fact that I have no business judging other people. The command by Jesus “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1), rings loud and clear. Those that I may be tempted to look down upon, in Jesus’ view, may be more loving of Him than me.
What extravagant love! What magnanimous forgiveness!
To think about: “Are there people that God may be bringing to your mind right now that you need to welcome, support and extend compassion to?” I wonder!
Written by: Dr. Peter Okaalet, Executive Director & CEO, Okaalet and Associates Ltd. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Author: Okaalet P (Dr)