Reflections for the Week of Sunday June 12, 2016 Fourth after Pentecost

Gospel: Luke 7.36-8.3. This gospel story tells of the woman whose sins had been forgiven by Jesus when she anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment and her tears. Similar stories are told in Mt 26.6-13; Mk 14.3-9; and Jn 12.1-8, but this story in Luke is different from those. The others occur in the last week of Jesus’ life and are about Jesus’ burial, the expense of the perfume and giving to the poor. This story in Luke occurred much earlier and is about love and forgiveness. The story in John is about Mary of Bethany, but in Luke it is about ‘a sinner’. There is nothing in the Lucan account to indicate that the woman was Mary Magdalene although this interpretation has a long tradition. At any rate Luke says Jesus was at a dinner given by a Pharisee named Simon who had not anointed Jesus’ head or had His feet washed when He arrived. The woman weeps over Jesus’ feet (presumably with love and gratitude), wipes them with her hair, and anoints them with perfume. It is a fair assumption that somehow Jesus has turned the woman from her sinful ways, and her actions express her love and gratitude. Jesus is able to read Simon’s thoughts which are critical of Jesus who, Simon believes, does not recognize the woman as a sinner (probably, or at least possibly, a prostitute). Jesus asks Simon who would be loved more, a benefactor who forgave a great debt or a small one? Simon admits it would be the greater debtor. Jesus says the woman is the greater debtor compared to Simon and therefore her gratitude is greater. The woman’s sins have been forgiven and they were great! The New testament repeatedly teaches that Jesus being divine, is able to forgive sins and frequently does so. This is a central point of this passage (cf. Lk 5.21-24). Jesus’ name (Heb. Yeshua) means ‘God saves’. Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1.21). And, of course, only God can forgive the sins of others committed against Him. Many Christians are so indoctrinated with the idea (by Satan?) that we are sinners, that they deny the gospel that in Christ believers’ sins are forgiven (Rm 3.24; 2 Cor 5.21). It is not that Christians’ behavior is made perfect, but that they are given a new status in Christ. They have a new identity. They are a new creation (2 Cor 5.17). Sin is defined in Scripture as breaking the law (1 Jn 3.3) and where there is no law there is no transgression (Rm 4.15), and Rm 6.14 says Christians are no longer under the law, but have died to the law (Gal 2.19; Rm 7.4)–they are under grace. Christ’s mercy and forgiveness have set aside our sins in God’s eyes (Rm 8.31-35). This is what justification means, and it is pure grace. This is the gospel. We don’t deserve this gift and we have not earned it, but it (i.e., the forgiveness of our sins) is a free gift based on what Christ has done for us on the cross. Roman 7 tells of life under the law which condemns sin and whose letter kills. It is called the “law of sin and death” (Rm 8.2). Romans 8 tells of the gospel which Christ brought and which believers have through the Spirit which brings life and peace and is called the “law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ” (Rm 8.2). The woman shows that she understands her forgiveness by her love and gratitude. We should do the same. Lk 8.1-3 tells of the disciples who accompanied Jesus and some women who provided for Jesus out of their means. This is an interesting insight into how Jesus and the disciples received support for their ministry.

Memory Verse: You know that He appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him…No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in Him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 Jn 3.5.6,9).

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