From our September 21, 2008 Discovery Hour Class
We have made note of the fact that Jesus is the primary character in the Gospels, but he is not the only character. The typical gospel narrative includes Jesus, the disciplines, the Pharisees, and then one or more people beyond them. It is often the case that the narratives place a person or the crowd in the middle of a dispute or question. Leland Ryken describes this presents the crowd “poised at the moment of choice.” While the Matthews gospel tends to record incidents involving persons of Jewish faith, Luke’s gospel records incidents involving a wider range of people. Thus, it “a cosmopolitan world in which people on the social and religious fringes (women, the poor, outsiders, people in shady occupations) are the ones who receive God’s grace.” Ryken, Words of Life, p. 34). The passage for today records just such an account as Jesus encounters someone Luke refers to as “a woman in the city, a sinner.”
Cultural Elements and Customs
It is important to note that while custom would allow the woman to come to a public banquet such as this after it had concluded to ask for the scraps, she was breaking custom by coming in uninvited as she does. But she is not the only one who breaks custom, Simon failed to greet Jesus as he should have. The custom for greeting guests included placing ones hands on the shoulders and offering a kiss of peace on the cheeks, providing cool water to wash the feet, and placing incense or roses on the head. It was common for Jewish women to carry an Alabaster vile of perfume around their neck. A Jewish woman would bind up their hair on their wedding day and would then never be seen in public with it unbound again.
Questions of the Text
In your group, seek to answer the following questions:
- What risks was this woman taking? What were the possible outcomes and consequences of her actions? What does this tell us about her emotional state?
- In this passage what seems to be Jesus’ main concern?
- What does Jesus see in the woman that Simon does not see? What does Jesus see in Simon?
C.S. Lewis had this to say about the doctrine of forgiveness: “We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of what we are saying. For instance, we say in the Creed ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins’. I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself why it was in the Creed. At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in. ‘If one is a Christian,’ I thought, ‘of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes without saying.’ But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we went to church. And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were right. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not nearly so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that very easily slips away if we don’t keep on polishing it up.”
Do you think C. S. Lewis is right on this point, especially his last sentence? Assume he is right, why do you think it is the case?